Homemade Pancetta 

From The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook, by Ann M. Evans, 2016

Traditionally, farm families have prepared sausage, ham, bacon, and other pork products in the winter when it’s cold out and the meat won’t spoil. Many families make a two-day party of it to get all parts of the pig processed and preserved for the coming year. John Bledsoe and his son, who sell pork, pork belly, and all parts pork, including fatback, trotters, heads, and jowls, as well as lamb, at the market, provided the pork belly, which can be purchased by special order. When hogs are butchered, the whole bellies are split in half lengthwise; you are using just half for this recipe, though the cut is often labeled “whole pork belly” in meat markets. Pancetta creates extra layers of flavor in any dish to which it is added. 

1 pork belly with skin intact, about 10 pounds

7 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup sea or kosher salt

1/2 cup firmly packed lightbrown sugar

4 bay leaves, crushed

3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons freshly coarse-ground black pepper, plus 2 to 4 tablespoons freshly cracked

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1 tablespoon fennel and/or coriander seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 cup Spice Mixture

Spice Mixture

3 star anise pods

3 broken cinnamon sticks

3 tablespoons cumin seeds

3 teaspoons whole cloves

3 teaspoons ground coriander

1 cup kosher or sea salt

2/3 cup sugar

Grind anise, cinnamon, cumin, and cloves together in a spice grinder. Add remaining ingredients. Keep what is left over in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months for use in your next pancetta.

Lay the pork belly flat skin and fat side up, meat side down; it should be about 10pounds and will make 2 pancettas, about 9-10 inches long. Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut the skin off of the slab, pulling it back with your free hand as you cut. Trim the edges to even the belly into a rectangle. Cut it in half crosswise; even out each slab by trimming the edges. Each piece will be about an 8x10x1 inch slab of fat and meat.

In a bowl, stir together the garlic, salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, rosemary, 2 tablespoons coarse-ground pepper, sage, fennel and/or coriander, juniper berries, granulated sugar, and the ground mixed spices, mixing well. Rub the belly slabs on both sides with the seasoning mix, covering them completely and evenly. Put each slab in a resealable plastic bag and seal each bag closed, forcing out the air. Place the bags flat in the refrigerator and top each bag with a weight. I use a couple of cookbooks for weights. 

Turn the slabs every day for 7 days.The slab will become very wet. The fat will become hard.

Remove the slabs from the bags, rinse off the cure, and pat the slabs dry. Place on a tray, fat side down, meat side up. You want the fat to be on the outside as you roll your slab. Rub the meat side of each slab with the cracked peppercorns, using the larger amount if you like your pancetta peppery.

Starting at the end closest to you, roll up the slab tightly, with no air pockets. Tie the wrapped roll tightly with cotton string, tying twice around the length to create a cross on top. Then creating a netting with butchers’ knots or macramé – or just tie any knot you know how to do, securing the pancetta along its length at 1/2 to 1-inch intervals. The tighter the netting and more evenly spaced the knots, the better the roll will dry. Repeat with the second slab. 

Loop a 3 foot length of string through each pancetta at the cross on one end, then tie the string securely over a rack in the refrigerator so that there is enough space to hang each role. This may require removing a shelf. Hang the wrapped rolls from a shelf in the refrigerator so that air circulates freely around them and leave them until the meat is firm and dry, 2 to 3 weeks. 

When the pancetta is ready, reserve about one-third in the refrigerator to use. It will keep for up to 6 weeks. Put the other two-thirds in resealable plastic bags and seal closed, forcing out the air. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Makes two 5-pound rolls