Sunday, March 20, 2011
Technically, this won't be a Babbo post, though it sort of is. There are a couple of recipes in the book that call for guanciale, which is cured jowl meat. There is a recipe in the Babbo book for guanciale, but here is the issue:
The recipe in the book is for a standard jowl, which would be about 2 pounds. I have been angling for awhile to get my hands on some Mangalitsa jowl. I could tell you all about what a Mangalitsa is, but I would be re-writing the information from the Heath Putnam Farms website, so I'll just link to them if you want to know why they are special.
Anyway, through Culinary Classics in Orlando, I got access to Mangalitsa jowl from Pasture Prime Farms, near Ocala. Here is how my e-mail conversation with Dave from Culinary Classics went, edited of nonessential material, but complete in context:
Him: Jim, I have some Mangalitsa jowl that I can send you at a good price.
Me: Ok, I'll take whatever the minimum order is. When can I give you payment info?
Before I got a reply to that, I came home to find a huge box on my doorstep. I had no idea what it even might be until I saw the return address.
Me: No freaking way!
The box was far too big for what I had ordered, or so I thought. I opened the box and saw a piece of meat that I didn't even understand. I thought it was a belly. A whole belly.
Me: I didn't order a belly.
I looked closer. It wasn't shaped like a belly. There was a label. It said it was a hog jowl. And it said its weight.
Keep in mind, one pound is a reasonable weight, and two is normal. Three is not crazy.
This one went to 11. And a half.
I'm not familiar enough with the anatomy of a pig to know how that happens, and I told Dave that I was confused and assume that the pig this came from must have weighed 1,000 pounds.
Him: It was 280 pounds hanging weight. They are all jowl.
So I took to Twitter and asked Michael Ruhlman, who wrote a book on curing meat, if I could reasonably turn this T-rex jowl into guanciale. He responded almost immediately:
Him: "Not can. Must."
Marching orders accepted. After I asked a follow-up question regarding adjusting the recipe, I have started the process.
The first thing I did was separate the lobes and for now I'm only curing the smaller one. Still, that smaller lobe is almost 4.5 pounds.
Then I trimmed off the skin.
Then I mixed salt, sugar (I usually only keep brown sugars in the house, and this is demerara) and pink salt.
Then I put the jowl in a bag with some of the salt mix, and now that bag resides in the bottom of my fridge for a week. At that point, it will get a good rinse, then hang to dry for several weeks.
Then we'll start cooking.