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Curing At Home: Pancetta and Smoked Bacon

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 24, 2009 4:20PM

When you walk into the Spice House in Old Town with 10 pounds of pork belly strapped to your back, you're telegraphing to the employees what you need. What we were looking for was four ounces of sodium nitrate, aka "pink salt."

Turned out that the sink meat experiment awakened a sleeping giant and that giant wanted to cure more pork. So a couple weeks back we ordered the aforementioned pork belly from Twin Oak Meats at Green City Market. The downstate livestock farm sells pork belly for $6.85 per pound with a $10 deposit. Yes, we realize 10 pounds is overkill. But we're givers and some friends are getting pancetta and smoked bacon in a couple weeks.

The cure for this comes from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie. Sodium nitrate only enhances the preservation; any pinkish color in the pancetta comes from the curing itself. We went back and forth on whether or not to use pink salt for a few days. On the advice of Signature Room at the 95th chef Patrick Sheerin (who's a no pink salt chef), we're curing 2/5ths of the pork belly with pink salt, 2/5ths without. The rest is resting nicely in a marinade, then will be smoked, sliced thick and used for BLTs. The pancetta and pork belly will be cured for a week, at which point we'll hang it (this time not under our kitchen sink).