People say that bacon is a trend and, in my opinion, part of it is. Bacon, by itself, is probably more of a hanger on of the surge in gourmet interests than anything else. People have always loved bacon though. The fringe movement that includes bacon salt (redundant), bacon vodka (mismatched), and baconnaise (disgusting) gives the simple pleasure of crispy meat a bad name. A positive is that, as the often too small t-shirt reads, bacon is a gateway meat.
For me, the gateway led to Guanciale.
Guanciale is a cured and dried jowl from a pig. The fat is more lucious and plentiful than on the pork belly and there is no smoke. Dishes that you have likely eaten that included (or should have included) guanciale are amatriciana and carbonara. The taste is of pure salty pork funk, but nothing that is going to completely dominate a dish.
The best part about guanciale is that it is dead simple to make given that you have patience and a cool area of your house. The hardest part is finding a jowl worthy of the wait. If you take one thing from this post, let it be that you now know how to satisfy your jowl needs. Email LouisJohn at Slagel Farms.
Based on recipe from Charcuterie
Mix ingredients and dredge jowl in cure. Seal in a plastic bag and put in nonreactive bowl in the fridge, flipping daily for a week. Once a week has passed, rinse the jowl, pat it dry and weigh the jowl (write down the weight in grams). Using a metal skewer poke a hole about an inch from the top and run butchers twine through it. Tie tightly and hang the jowl in a cool place in your house for 2 months or so.
At the two month mark, weigh the jowl again. Once it weighs 70% of what it did before hanging, it is ready. Be patient you will be rewarded.
Adapted from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano
Bring one gallon of water to a boil. Season water and drop in pasta. Cook per the directions on the box. Reserve 1/8 cup pasta water. Drain.
Slice guanciale into cubes and put in hot pan with olive oil until crisp.
Add reserved water and heat, then add pasta, egg whites, parmesean, and black pepper to taste.
Serve piping hot with a yolk on top of the pasta. Stir and enjoy.