I got nothing. Here it is, February 15, the deadline for this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge, and all I got is meat hanging in a fridge. And it’s going to hang a little longer yet, at least.
Sure, perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to overachieve and do both guanciale AND pancetta, but since my results with last year’s guanciale were so stellar and so easy, I thought, why not? And besides, I had gone to the trouble of creating a curing chamber so I could control the temperature and humidity.
About that. At first, I thought our basement might have been temperate enough to where I would only have to manage humidity, so I purchased a storage cabinet. But after reading Matt’s very thorough and helpful post and getting, among other things, a hygrometer, I realized that both the temperature and humidity were going to be at issue. So, a fridge was in our future.
Fine. This is what Craigslist is for, right? Almost immediately, I landed a medium-sized mini fridge from someone just a couple blocks away. Perfect! Unfortunately, it became clear that even at its lowest setting, the temperature was going to be too low, and any attempt to raise it would result in the wee freezer dripping water all over the place. Not the kind of humidity enhancement I was looking for.
Back to Craigslist, where I finally found a wine fridge. At its lowest setting, the temperature was optimal, right around 55ºF. However, the humidity was definitely low. So, following advice from Cathy at Mrs. Wheelbarrow, I set a tray of salt water in the bottom, with a towel to wick moisture for evaporation. One day later, 75% humidity. Optimal.
Or is it? I cured my hog jowls and pork belly according to the directions, then brought them down and hung them in the chamber. And waited. At first, everything seemed fine. The temperature and humidity remained constant, and the meat seemed to be doing its thing. Until.
Yesterday I went down for my at least once daily visit to check on things, and noticed a small amount of blue-green mold on the top of the pancetta. OK, no panic. Michael Ruhlman himself said to just swab it down with vinegar. Which I did. But here we are a couple weeks nigh, and the meat seems as plump and pink and, bluntly, uncured as it did two weeks ago, only now it’s fighting mold. So the pancetta? We’ll see. But for sure, it’s not happening today.
The guanciale looks to be about right. Think I’ll stick with the jowls from now on.