Well honestly, who doesn't like Bacon ? even if you are a vegetarian, cooking bacon releases some of those aromatic chemical compounds that we are hard wired to respond to and get your mouth watering. So here we go lets make Bacon ! and Pancetta while we are at it.
Seeing as you are going to all the trouble, go to an organic butcher and choose a lovely piece of belly pork from a well-reared, happy pig, who ate well, ran around and had a generally happy existence. If you can get a nice old breed like old spot or in the authors case, black Iberian pig, so much the better.
Sadly these days, there is far too much Bacon which never sees a days curing and is just pumped full of chemicals and nitrates, brine, sliced and packed. This type of Bacon often as not is cruelly produced in industrial agri-business horror shows and is not what we are about, nor do we condone.
The first steps are basically the same for both Bacon and Pancetta. The only difference is after the wet cure, the bacon is smoked and the Pancetta air dried.
2.5 kg Organic Belly Pork
250g of mineral rich Sea Salt and some crushed black pepper.
For Pancetta, you will also need a nice herb and spice rub, think Juniper, thyme (or Zahtar), Garlic, fennel seed, black pepper, red pepper, bay leaves and even Star anise. A little of each ground together. No fixed rules here.
Typically when people cure Bacon, they use Nitrates, either Sodium nitrate or Potassium nitrate also known as saltpetre. The reason is not just to keep the color of your meat pink but to kill botulinum bacteria during the cure. I choose to do it without, using Raw honey instead and trusting its bactericidal qualities to do this instead. Raw honey cured bacon also has a more complex mellow sweetness than that conferred by any kind of sugar. cane, brown, treacle whatever. You choose what you do. If you feel unsafe use the nitrates here is a place you can get curing salts. Excellent site. Sausagemaking.org
Cut the meat into two equal pieces and salt liberally covering every surface. Place on a rack sitting on a roasting tin or equivalent container to catch the dripping salt and water.. Place in the fridge for two days.
For the Bacon
After two days, much of the excess moisture has been drawn out. Brush off the remaining excess salt ( cover don't smother) add crushed pepper and cover liberally with about 120g of Raw Honey of your choice and put in a ziplock type bag and place in the fridge for 7 days. Place a weight about 10 lbs or 5-6 kgs on the meat,( like a baking dish filled with water) Turn the bacon once daily. After 7 days remove, pat dry and then smoke for 2-3 hours*** your bacon is now ready, get those eggs poaching and the toast on. Slice your bacon really thin and fry as normal.
**** there are lots of online resources about smoking meat, don't be intimidated, you just need a ventilated chamber with a source of smoke at the bottom. Improvise, I used a broken old blanket chest and a small electric hotplate with some oak wood shaving soaked overnight.
For the Pancetta
Do exactly the same as the bacon, except rub in your spice mix to coat the entire piece of meat. After 10 days remove from the fridge, pat dry, cover in muslin, tie up with twine and hang to air dry in a cool, dry, dark, airy space. Let hang for 3 weeks, Pancetta is ready. Now lock the door. They have all been laughing at you for a month, but all of a sudden they want a taste...you decide.