Personally I think pork jowls are a thing of beauty.
On the other hand, I can totally see how many people might not agree. So, a warning in advance that this post contains some unadulterated and extremely graphic images of pork in all its natural glory.
If you're not into photos of large chunks of partly cured meat - well - you should probably just skip this one.
'Cause here it comes
Today I released my guanciale.
A week after mixing up a very simple salt cure (recipe to follow) and throwing my pork jowls into two separate ziploc bags with equal amounts of said cure; I removed the jowls from their refrigerated holding cell, washed off the remaining cure and hung them to dry further.
I have to say that the entire inside of my fridge smells like the salt cure right now. Not that I mind in the least. The fridge smells like thyme and garlic and pepper and chili flakes - totally covers up for any smells of boiled cabbage or salt beef, or salt fish - or any other smelly Daddy delicacy that I could swear permeates the actual structure of the refrigerator.
I wanted to show you a couple of photos of the guanciale before I washed off the excess cure and left it to hang.
First up we have the skin side of the jowl:
Yum. I can't wait to slice into that goodness!
And the meaty flesh side of the jowl:
All that salty fat is going to be amazing in carbonara - which I'm counting the days until I can make in the traditional fashion.
Of course that's just the beginning of my adventures with guanciale - not to mention with home charcuterie.
I'm might be jumping ahead a few steps in difficulty, but I'm totally thinking about taking on nduja as my next challenge.
I should really not watch television. Especially No Reservations. Especially episodes that involve Chris Cosentino. Especially when he's cooking with offal.
Too late now.
I'll just keep that in mind for next time.
Guanicale Cure (for 2 pork jowls)
Adapted from Charcuterie: Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
1 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic (mashed with flat side of knife)
30 black peppercorns (cracked with pan or flat side of knife)
2 large bunches of thyme
My addition: Handful of crushed pepper flakes
Rinse jowls and pat dry.
Remove stray tissue.
Remove glands (smally fatty discs).
Prepare cure, combine ingredients.
Place jowls in two non-reactive containers or ziploc bags.
Pour cure (1/2 for each jowl) in the ziploc bag.
Distribute over jowl and rub in thoroughly.
Refrigerate jowls until they fell stiff all through (4-7 days).
Redistribute cure over jowls every other day.
When ready remove from container or bag.
Rinse well under cold water to remove residual cure.
Pat jowl dry.
With knife poke hole in one corner and slip long piece of butcher's string through it.
Hang jowls in cool dry place until completely stiff to touch but not hard (1-3 weeks).Can be refrigerated upo to 3 weeks or frozen 4 months or longer.