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Guanciale Project: Day 1

12.11.10

Today was day 1 of a pretty major charcuterie project – the dry curing of pork jowl. Not that jowl is tricky to cure, what makes this a big project is that we did not one jowl, not a pair of jowls, but 20. Yep. 20 pig jowls. Why? A friend wanted to do some R&D on having the cured product available for commercial use. Plus, it was essentially a waste product as sadly, most of the pig heads around here go in the bin at the kill site. What a waste. A good example of how food abounds, but just isn’t distributed properly. I’ve calculated about 5-7 lbs of meat off the head. The 10 pigs these jowls came from would have had 50-70lbs of usable food in the head. At least we spared the jowls.

These jowls were unlike any I’d seen – and I buy whole pigs from this farmer regularly. The difference: the place they have their pigs butchered cut big slashes into the jowl – which seemed tragic at first. You can see them in the photo below. My current theory is they do it for inspection, as the jowl has lots of glands – I’ve seen most pig kidneys slashed like this for inspection when you get a side. The plus side is it will cure quickly. Another plus side is it allowed us to easily locate and remove the many, many glands I’m fairly sure we’d have missed had the slashes not been made. Begs the question of edibility of the glands if the jowl’s left whole for this preparation. The only downside I can think of so far is aesthetic and potential inconvenience at slicing time.

So today was trim, gland removal, and cure day. They will spend up to 3 weeks curing in my root cellar at 2C before being removed, rinsed, and hung to dry cure for roughly 2 months in my curing room. We used this recipe, minus the herbs which we’ll add to some pieces pre-hanging for dry curing. Now we wait.

8 Responses

  1. bc @ wobbly says:

    Kevin, that’s some good looking pork jowl! Here we make a paté out of the head.

  2. It looks similar to the belly… how is the taste? Can you do a confit of it like the belly? And why the dry cure? Is that your favourite way of eating it, or the preferred way, or the only way?
    Valerie

  3. And…. what does a gland look like?

  4. BC – paté makes sense. I’ve been giving some thought to alternatives to roasting them on butchering day, as when doing 2-3 pigs in a day, it’s a bit much to deal with at once.

    Valerie – similar. Taste is similar. It’s the texture that’s different – more of a crunchy texture. Confit would be quite doable, but the amount of fat is about 70% normally on a jowl, so would be even fattier than belly, and may not become as supple in texture as the belly. You can quick cure and smoke like bacon, but I’m not a big fan due to all the fat. Dry cured, the fat’s tasty – for a point of reference, think of salt cured fat on prosciutto: pleasant. There’s lots of ways to skin this cat – just happens to be the first choice for us at this point.

    Oh. Should have photo’d a gland. It looks like a green-brown shiny goober about the size of a marble or bigger. Not pleasant to look at.

  5. “It looks like a green-brown shiny goober about the size of a marble or bigger.”

    Best description of a gland ever.

    Can’t wait to see the resutls.

  6. Great information…. thank you!! I love this learning experience. Truly. There is something primordial about it and from the depths of my memories from “back and back”, I am compelled, and engaged and feel a standing ovation from those before me whenever I learn more.
    :)

  7. [...] was the day the plethora of guanciale was due to hang. They’d cured for a week, had released a couple tbsp maybe of fluid per, and [...]

  8. [...] put up 20 pork jowls December 11, and it’s finally at a place I’d hope it would get – nearly 2 months [...]

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