Pancetta Arrotolata (Rolled)

Pancetta Arrotolata Recipe

Be forewarned: Pancetta is quite possibly the gateway drug. The melt-in-your-mouth quality paired with simplicity and gratification of making your own at home, will have you hooked. Before you know it you’ll be butchering a pig and building your own curing chamber for your next salumi project—or at least you’ll never buy the cheap store-bought stuff again. I’ll teach you how to make pancetta at home.

Pancetta, a Primer

Pancetta is Italian cured pork belly. But unlike it’s American counterpart, bacon, it is not smoked (aside from smoked pancetta, but that’s a different story!). Pancetta comes primarily in three forms: Arrotolata (rolled), Tesa (flat) and Steccata which can be made rolled or folded then pressed and tied between two sticks.  The rolled variety is typical of Northern Italy, while the flat variety is common to the Central and Southern regions. 

Like any salumi, the spice variations are endless. Each region, village and family has their own rich history and tradition. Black pepper, juniper, bay, garlic, thyme, oregano, and rosemary are all common.

An Introduction to Salumi

If you’re flirting with the notion of making your own salumi or salami, pancetta is an excellent introduction. It’s dead simple to make, takes the least amount of time and requires much less environmental control (more on that below).

Sodium Nitrite Prevents Botulism

In order to make rolled pancetta safely you need sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is used to prevent the growth of botulism-causing bacteria and decrease the growth risk of Listeria monocytogenes. It also retains the rosy-red color and enhances flavor. Botulism grows and thrives in anaerobic environments (environments without oxygen). The bacterium that cause botulism is present on the outside of meats. When you roll your pancetta, you are creating the perfect environment for botulism. Nitrite prevents this. If you are dead set on making pancetta without it, make the flat (tesa) kind. It’s much safer. The thick layer of black pepper (a natural antibiotic), rolled into the pancetta, also aids in preventing bacterial growth and rot.

Insta Cure #1, also called Pink Salt, is colored pink so as not to be confused with regular salt. Cure #1 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% salt. Cure #1 is commonly used in bacon, hotdogs and other products that need less or no drying time. Insta Cure #2 contains both sodium nitrite (at 6.25%) and nitrate (at 1%), with the remaining 92.75% being salt. Simply put, nitrates act as a time-released nitrite. Nitrates are employed in salumi that requires longer periods of curing and drying. The time-release of nitrite continues to protect the meat over time. If you are making pancetta which will be cooked, you can use cure #1. If you intend to make a traditional pancetta arrotolata, which is fully dried and eaten without cooking, you must use cure #2.

Nitrites/Nitrates: A World of Misinformation

There’s been a whole world of misinformation around nitrates and nitrites and how they may “increase risks of cancer”. While I won’t delve into this topic here, it’s simply not true. Dr. Terry Simpson has an excellent article, backed by a multitude of studies and references debunking the myth. I’d encourage you to read it if you’re of the “nitrates/nitrites are bad” camp. 

“Where you receive it (nitrite) actually makes no difference because nitrite is nitrite. In other words, the nitrite derived from celery or other vegetables is exactly same as the nitrite found in cured meats.” — Jeff Sindelar, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

Nitrates are commonly found in leafy greens and root vegetables like spinach, beets, celery and lettuce. The nitrate in these foods are converted to nitrite when it comes into contact with human saliva. Then, when it is swallowed, the nitrite becomes nitric oxide—an essential and critical compound used by the body to maintain normal blood pressure levels, fight infection and support the nervous system.

Here’s the kicker: Those “naturally cured” and “nitrate-free” marketed products available at your local “health food” store contain nitrite, because they use ingredients like celery juice/powder, rich in nitrite, as a “natural” curing ingredient. Moreover, the amounts of nitrite in these products is typically much higher than that of the conventional method. It’s just marketing, friends.

A Word of Caution:

On its own, pure sodium nitrite/nitrate is dangerous. This is why cure #1/#2 is dyed pink. A single teaspoon of pure sodium nitrite/nitrate ingested is enough to kill a grown man. It’s important to pay close attention to amount added to the cure. In almost all salumi this amounts to 0.25% of the total meat weight. In the example below our pork belly weighed 2,855 grams. 0.25% of that weight is 7.25 grams. That’s not a lot, and emphasizes the importance of weighing our ingredients. The reality is this: Anything used inappropriately can be dangerous. 2-4 pills of acetaminophen can be used to cure the effects of a long night of drinking, while a fist-full could cause your liver to fail, and you to die. In the same, nitrates and nitrites are only dangerous if used improperly.

Sliced Pancetta Arrotolata

Always Source Natural, Good Quality Meats

As with all salumi, quality and freshness of meat is of paramount importance. Find a good local butcher or source directly from a farm. Let them know what you are doing with the meat, try to get the freshest available and use it as soon as possible. For this pancetta I sourced my pork belly from Carlton Farms, one of the larger suppliers (read: competitive prices) here in Oregon that still practices ethical, natural farming. Freshness is important because bacteria multiplies over time. In fact, every 20 minutes the bacteria present on the outside of meat doubles. Reduce the possibility of bad bacteria by using fresh meat.

Special Ingredients & Tools Needed:

  1. A precision scale for spice measurement (Reference: Kitchen Essentials: Scales)
  2. A general, high-capacity scale for weighing meat (Reference: Kitchen Essentials: Scales)
  3. Butcher’s twine
  4. For Semi-dried pancetta (must be cooked): Insta Cure #1 (also called Prague Powder #1, DQ Curing Salt #1, or Pink Salt)
  5. For Fully-dried pancetta (can be eaten without cooking): Insta Cure #2 (also called Prague Powder #2, or DQ Curing Salt #2)

Making Pancetta is Simple:

  1. Grind and apply all cure to pork belly
  2. Wrap tightly with cling wrap (or vacuum seal) and store in refrigerator
  3. Cure for two weeks or more, flipping every couple days
  4. Remove from cure, rinse and dry
  5. Coat meat side thoroughly in cracked black pepper
  6. Roll, tie ends with butcher’s knot and truss tightly (this demo video is helpful)
  7. Tag with date hung and weight of meat
  8. For Semi-dried pancetta (must be cooked): Use cure #1 and Hang to dry for 3 weeks to 1 month
  9. For Fully-dried pancetta (can be eaten without cooking): Use cure #2 and Hang until enough water weight has been lost — 15-20% weight loss for a fattier pork belly — OR — 20-25% weight loss for a leaner, meatier pork belly. It should feel firm when squeezed.

Learn to weigh your ingredients:
The only way to accurately measure your dry ingredients is by weighing them. For instance, a tablespoon of Diamond kosher salt is much different in weight than a tablespoon of Morton’s kosher salt. If you are going to make salumi you cannot do so without an accurate scale. Weigh your ingredients.

Finished Pancetta Arrotolata

Pancetta Arrotolata, fully-dried 3 months at 57ºF and 77%RH; eaten without cooking

The environment for hanging:
The ideal environment for drying is 50-70ºF (10-21ºC) with 60-70% relative humidity. Pancetta can be hung to dry about anywhere: in your kitchen, basement, garage, closet, etc. It’s best, however, in an environment that get’s a bit of humidity, like above a kitchen sink. You can dry pancetta in your refrigerator, though frost-free refrigerators maintain a low humidity. If you decide to dry in a refrigerator, position a tray filled with salt water, below the pancetta. This will create a micro-climate with increased humidity.

As light makes fat go rancid, direct sunlight should be avoided. If you’ve found the perfect environment, but light is an issue, you can thoroughly wrap the pancetta in cheesecloth to keep out the light. 

The Cure:

I’ve shown my own weights here for reference. The easiest way to approach salumi is to use percentages of total meat weight. So, if your pork belly weighs 2.88 kilos (2,885 grams), your curing mixture would contain 2.75% (80.5 grams) of the meat weight in salt.

Ingredient

% of Meat Weight

Quantity (grams)

Pork BellyN/A2,885 grams
Salt2.75%80.5 grams
Insta Cure #1 OR #20.25%7.25 grams
Brown Sugar1.75%50.5 grams
Black Pepper1.8%52 grams
Red Pepper Flakes0.5%14.5 grams
Juniper Berries0.5%14.5 grams
Garlic Powder0.25%7.25 grams
Thyme, Dried0.25%7.25 grams
Bay Leaf, Dried0.15%4.3 grams

Download a Printable Worksheet

Pancetta Arrotolata WorksheetThis handy worksheet specifies percentages of ingredients for the Pancetta Recipe, with a space to record your weights. There is also space to record your Cure Start Date, Hang Date, Hang Weight and Target Weight.

Download:  Pancetta Worksheet

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question

Answer

“My pork belly has been curing for a while now, but there is not much water loss and it doesn’t feel a lot firmer. Did something go wrong?”It’s not uncommon to have little to no visible loss of water. There are a few reasons for this: First, pork belly is often comprised of more fat than muscle, and fat contains little water, while muscle contains a lot of water. Second, if curing in a tightly wrapped plastic or a vacuum bag, the salt will pull out what little water is present, it will mix with the dry cure ingredients, form a brine, and then be pulled back into the meat. This is what’s referred to as equilibrium curing. Sometimes you will have visible water, sometimes you will not. Either is fine, given you give your pork belly enough time to come to equilibrium, which should be two weeks or more.
“I’ve got mold growing on my pancetta, should I be worried?”As a general rule of thumb: White, non-furry mold is desirable. Blue and green molds are acceptable, but do not taste particularly great. Mold can be washed off while drying, or before eating. Use a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water, dab on a lint-free cloth, and wipe the area to remove. Orange and red molds are often considered dangerous. If you believe you have red or orange mold, you should considering tossing everything and disinfecting your curing environment. Molds spread very quickly. If you are getting a lot of mold, your humidity may be too high.
“Should I buy pork belly with the skin on, or off?”On. You will also never find a traditionally made pancetta arrotolata without skin on; if it has been removed, then it is cased in a natural casing. The skin or casing promote a longer drying period, which allows the more subtle and nuanced flavors to develop. If you have the option, leave the skin on. You can always remove it later.
“I cannot find pork belly with the skin left on, and I do not have a casing. Can I make pancetta without skin or casing?”Absolutely. The photos on this page are of a pancetta made without skin or casing, because the pork belly was not available with skin, and I did not have a suitable casing at the time. The results will still be excellent.
“Can I let the pancetta dry in the refrigerator? You could, but it would be better in a place with more humidity. Refrigerators typically hover around 30-40%RH (relative humidity). Your pancetta will age better and avoid hardening of the outside if you dry in an environment closer to 60-80%RH as possible. You can place a tray with salt water under your pancetta in the refrigerator and this will raise the RH around it. The salt prevents mold growth and helps regulate the RH at around 60-70%.
“Can I make pancetta without nitrate or nitrite?”You can, but I would suggest you do not. Those that do are often using some sort of curing agent like a specially made celery powder to impart the nitrates/nitrites. It’s also hard to control just how much nitrite you are getting from the celery powder. What’s more, there is no difference to your body. This is not a “healthy alternative”, it’s just marketing. Use the nitrate/nitrite.
“How do I tie/truss the pancetta?”There’s a great instructional video here: How to Tie Pancetta
“How do I store it after it’s done drying?”Wrap tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. It should keep for around 3 months, if not longer.
“I’ve had my pancetta in the refrigerator for a long time. How can I tell if it’s bad?”It is cured, it’s designed to last. If it smells bad, it’s probably bad. If it’s gross and sticky, it’s likely bad. Use common sense. And for god’s sake, don’t throw away pancetta unless you really have to. There are starving children in Africa.
“What scale do you recommend for precision measurements?”I’ve documented the case for using weight measurement vs. volume measurement, and provided details on the scales that I use. That can be found here: Kitchen Essentials: Scales
“Can I use a less fattier cut than pork belly?”No. Make a salad.

 

Homemade Pancetta Arrotolata (Rolled)
Pancetta is Italian cured pork belly. But unlike it’s American counterpart, bacon, it is not smoked. Like any salumi, the spice variations are endless. Each region, village and family has their own rich history and tradition. Black pepper, juniper, bay, garlic, thyme, oregano, and rosemary are all common.
The Meat
  1. Pork belly, skin on preferable, removed ok
The Cure
  1. 2.75% kosher salt
  2. 0.25% cure #1 — or — cure #2 (see directions)
  3. 1.75% brown sugar
  4. 1.8% whole black peppercorns
  5. 0.5% red pepper flakes
  6. 0.5% juniper berries
  7. 0.25% garlic powder
  8. 0.25% thyme, dried
  9. 0.15% bay leaf, dried
Instructions
  1. Wash the pork belly with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. This reduces the amount of bacteria present on the pork.
  2. For semi-dried pancetta (must be cooked), use cure #1 in your curing mixture.
  3. For traditional, fully-dried pancetta (can be eaten without cooking), use cure #2 in your curing mixture.
  4. Combine all of the cure ingredients in a spice grinder and pulse until ground finely.
  5. Coat the belly very well on all sides, rubbing the cure into the meat. Use all of the cure. Any which doesn't stick to the meat should be including when wrapped.
  6. Wrap belly tightly, several times, in cling wrap, or vacuum seal in a bag. Place the curing meat into the refrigerator. The meat will expel water as it cures. If using plastic wrap, something to catch drippings will come in handy. Allow the meat to cure in the fridge for two weeks, flipping every couple days.
  7. After meat has cured, remove from wrapping and rinse. Dry well.
  8. Toast peppercorns in a pan until fragrant, but not burnt. Thoroughly coat the meaty side of the belly with cracked peppercorns. Use more than you think you should.
  9. Role the meaty side with peppercorns toward the middle. The fatty skin side should face out. It's important to roll and tie the pancetta as tightly as possible. If there are air gaps inside it will rot.
  10. Tie each end with a butcher's knot, then truss the entire belly tightly.
  11. Weight the trussed belly and record the date and weight on an attached tag.
  12. Hang in an area with higher humidity, like over a kitchen sink, or in a basement. Temperature is ideally under 70F. Keep out of direct sunlight, as light makes fat go rancid. You can wrap pancetta in cheesecloth.
  13. Allow to hang for at least a month for semi-dried pancetta, which should be cooked before eaten. For pancetta that is fully cured and dried, hang until 20% of the weight is lost; after which it will be safe to eat without cooking.
Notes
  1. Traditional pancetta arrotolata is always fully dried and eaten raw, sliced very thinly like a prosciutto. It is worth the additional drying time. You will also never find a traditional arrotolata that does not have the skin left on the belly, or is not cased in some natural casing like a bung. Skin and casing promote a longer drying period, which allows the more subtle and nuanced flavors to develop. If you're patient, it's worth it. If not, pancetta without the protective skin or casings is just as worth pursuing.
Our Daily Brine http://ourdailybrine.com/

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36 Responses to “Pancetta Arrotolata (Rolled)”

  1. johnahibblebble January 20, 2014 at 2:27 am #

    Hey great post Kyle! Really comprehensive overview of what pancetta is and the truth about nitrates which I fully agree with. This blog has great potential (: cant wait to read more!

    • Kyle Hildebrant January 20, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      Thanks, John. I appreciate that. I still have a bit I want to add to this post so it’s clear. Question: I was considering putting together recipe “work sheets” that you could print out. This would have the ingredient, the percentage, and a blank to record your own measurement based on meat weight. Essentially like the table above, but without the weights. Would that be something you would find helpful? If not you, maybe others with less salumi experience?

      • John Hibble January 22, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

        That’s a great idea Kyle. When I first started curing meats I used to do just that. I’d diligently record starting weights and salt and then track weight loss as the meat dehydrated. I created a blank chart where I’d plot the weight loss against time. This was great learning. Now I still measure but I tend to just write it on a kitchen calendar or even on the plastic when I vac-pack meats during curing.

        • Kyle Hildebrant January 22, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

          I’ve made a chart. I’ll post in the next day or two. You’ll have to let me know what you think.

      • paulomarin October 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

        Hey Kyle… Just a note to say I loved your post.. Will buy the pork belly tomorrow and do it your way.
        I also thought it would be great if you could do a post on Porchetta and in the future, a curing chamber. I am curious to know your thoughts.. thanks… Paulo Marin… Thousand Oaks, CA

        • Kyle Hildebrant October 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

          Paulo — Thank you kindly. I’ve been considering a porchetta post. I’ll put that on my (long) list of things I need to complete and post. And the curing chamber, I’ve been meaning to do that as well. That’s actually toward the top of my list. In the meantime, my fellow salumi maker Jason has a post on the topic. It’s from a while back, but has all the information necessary.

          • paulomarin October 24, 2014 at 3:16 am #

            SATURDAY IS THE DAY :)
            Kyle… I am all set to make my Pancetta this weekend “A LA KYLE”
            Bought all the ingredients and will try to keep a “step-by-step” record with pictures to share with you.. Also, on November 4th, I fly to Applegate, Oregon for a 2 day class with the good people from Farmstead Meatsmith on how to process a pig for Charcuterie. You ought to check them out ( http://www.farmsteadmeatsmith.com ).
            Once again….Thanks!. I could not have started if it was not for your inspirational instructions my friend.
            Best,
            Paulo

          • Kyle Hildebrant November 6, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

            Paulo — So glad to hear it. Just returning from China. How was the butchery course? The Portland Meat Collective also offers a lot of great workshops on the topic. Be sure to let us know how the pancetta turns out. You can post photos on the ODB Facebook page, if interested.

          • paulomarin November 7, 2014 at 6:56 am #

            Kyle,
            It was an amazing thing… I got a lot of pictures an videos. I will go to Facebook. However, I have the video of the slaughter which I tell you, was the most humane thing I have ever seen. Brandon is a master. People need to see this.
            I can’t wait to show you some stuff..

            Best

            Paulo

  2. jean hildebrant January 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Looks beautiful and very thorough. It’s full of great information and easy to follow. Makes me think even I could do this ;-)
    Love seeing you fulfill one of your dreams!
    Mom

    • Kyle Hildebrant January 29, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

      Thanks, Mom. You’re more than capable. You should give it a try sometime.

  3. stephanie February 3, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    What!?! Homemade pancetta!? Seriously amazing. And how cute is that comment from your mom?

    :)

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 3, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      Stephanie,

      You have to try it! It’s easy, but rewarding. Do it.

  4. Tra February 12, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Great post! I’m so tempted now. The only issue is I don’t know how my roommates will deal with raw meat hanging out in our shoebox kitchen for a while. Any odor/sanitary precaution?

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 12, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      Thanks, Tra. If you hang in kitchen, and are concerned about flies or something “getting on it”, you can simply wrap it in a bit of cheesecloth. Because it’s mostly fat, and most of that fat is wrapped toward the outside, there’s very little odor of any kind. You’d have to get your nose right up to it to smell it. Even then it’s not a bad smell. I’d say give it a go. You can also dry it in your fridge if you have space for it to hang in there. It’s less ideal and will dry quicker than you want it to, but many people do so.

      • Tra February 13, 2014 at 11:30 am #

        Just got the porkbelly slab during my lunch break and super excited to work with it tonight. I was timid tho so I got a baby piece (a little over 2 pounds). Does that affect the curing and drying time at all?

        • Kyle Hildebrant February 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

          Congrats! It wont affect the curing time (as long as you use the method here and weigh your salt; using the exact amount). I’ve actually got one in the cure right now that’s been there for three weeks because I have not had time to tie and hang it. Just leave it in for two weeks. It should dry quicker though. You can eat it raw when it’s lost about 15-20% of it’s weight (which really all depends upon how fatty it is—super fatty maybe 10%). It should feel pretty firm when you touch/squish it. If it feels “squishy” let it dry longer. That Work Sheet should be helpful if you print it out. Good luck.

  5. innersyncstudio March 5, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    I’m lovin’ it Kyle. Could be doing the pancetta this week already. My belly has been frozen so I plan to thaw it out thoroughly and get started. I’d like to get your thoughts on something. Whether I’m doing a whole muscle coppa, a pancetta, or anything else that requires a curing/brining stage before drying (I too have been vacuum-sealing) I have seen so many variations… i.e. seal first with only the kosher salt and cure for X days… then take out and wash off, then add your spice mix… and then seal back up for X days. Then, I see where you mix the spices and the cure and everything all at once and leave until you remove and hang to dry (flipping of course). I’m trying to get my head around the washing off part. Seems if you mixed all your spices in early, you’d be washing them off too. I know those flavors should be inside the meat by that time, but, still, I’d like to have that layer of spices on the outside remain. I haven’t seen this discussed much anywhere. The pancetta is handled quite differently than how I handled my coppa. Thanks!

    • Kyle Hildebrant March 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

      A few of us were having a conversation about this the other day. The same sort of question was raised: “If salt is pulling water out of meat, wouldn’t it make sense to season after this, so the seasoning stays in contact with meat?” Something like that.

      Here’s the reasoning to do both at the same time: Seasoning penetrates deepest through osmosis. When using the equilibrium curing method we are using an exact amount of salt, and we are either vacuum sealing, or wrapping tightly with cling wrap. When salt draws the water out from the meat it mixes with the spices creating a spiced brine. This salt/spice/water mixture (brine) is then eventually pulled back into the meat—that’s the equilibrium part. The brine mixture seasons the meat better (deeper) than a post-salted, dry-rub method would.

      A far as washing off goes: You can always apply a dry rub of spices before hanging. This will have little affect on the taste of the meat inside, but will be present when slicing and tasting that outer portion of the cut. In the instance of the pancetta recipe here, we are doing that with the black pepper. It serves as seasoning and an antiseptic. It was traditionally used purely as an antiseptic to prevent botulism and rot when rolling. Because we have cure #1 present here, it’s mostly for flavor.

      Does that make sense? Did I answer your question? If you want that dry-spice rub on the outside, I’d just reapply some fresh spice afterward.

  6. Jason Morgan March 13, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Kyle, I did it just as you suggested and also appreciated the little note sheet to figure out my weights. This is the first time I’ve used things like brown sugar, thyme and bay leaves in a project. It smelled great and I hope I can bring it to fruition to enjoy it! It’s in the fridge and I’ll flip it a few times before putting it in the chamber. Here are pics: https://www.facebook.com/allmorgan/posts/10202173344629736?notif_t=like – Inspiring post. I’ll be watching for more!

    • Kyle Hildebrant March 13, 2014 at 10:31 am #

      Jason — It makes me very happy to hear that this has inspired your first pancetta. I’ll say sorry now. It’s a slippery slope… and as I’m sure you’re starting to find with your other salumi projects, a rewarding one as well. Keep us posted. (p.s. Your link didn’t work for me).

  7. Keith B. March 20, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to post such interesting recipes for people new to charcuterie, like myself. I was inspired by your recipe for pancetta, in fact, that is what I am writing in regards.

    I’m ten days into the cure, and it doesn’t seem to be working the way I would expect it to. I say this for a couple of reasons. I am not seeing any sort of buildup of water or liquid. There are a few drops of water on the inside of the bag, but not a significant amount. Even the thinnest portions of the belly are not firming up like they should.

    I should probably mention that up until now, all of the bacon I have made has been brined, rather than made with a dry cure, so I may be expecting something other than what I will get.

    I took the liberty of creating a Excel spreadsheet, based on your worksheet. I double checked it by inputting the values that you gave in your example. The start weight (trimmed) of my belly was 2380 g. I then added 66g of (Kosher) salt, and 6 gram Sodium Nitrate.

    My questions, then, are my results typical? Does this sound like it will all work? Or should I add some extra salt to give it a boost… or extra time? Can you even make an assessment based on the information I have given you?

    My experience is fairly limited thus far. I have done a number of batches of ‘American’ style bacon, some peameal, some smoked pork hocks and loins and a batch of smoked andouille. Any suggestions or input would be greatly appreciated.

    I look forward to you reply.

    • Kyle Hildebrant March 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

      Keith —

      Thanks for reaching out. It’s really not that uncommon to not see a lot of water loss. There’s a few reasons for that:
      The first being that it’s likely that the majority of this belly is fat. Fat contains very little water, while meat contains a lot of water. Second, if brining in tightly wrapped plastic or a vac bag, the salt will pull out what water is there, it will mix with the dry rub, form a brine, and then be pulled back into the meat. This is what we refer to as equilibrium curing. We use an exact amount of salt and that eventually reaches an equilibrium where the water is pulled out, salinated, and then pulled back in.

      So, long story short, it’s pretty normal. Sometimes I get some water floating around in the bag, sometimes I do not. Most all the time it eventually gets soaked back into the meat (given enough time), which is good.

      I’d give your belly a bit longer. Let it go for 2 weeks, just to make sure all is well. It’s never going to get hard, but it should a little firmer to the touch. It will never be as firm as meat will be, because not much cellular change is happening with the fat portion. Other whole-muscle salumi will get a lot firmer that pancetta. it’s simply a question of how much meat vs. fat.

      I wouldn’t add more salt. 3% (2.75% salt and the ,.25% curing salt) is about the top end. You can go as low as 2-2.5% total. But above 3% is going to give you some really salty product.

      Good luck! Hope that’s helpful.

      • Keith B. March 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

        Thank you for your response. It’s good to know that things are more or less on track. As things stand now, It will finish it’s two weeks of curing this coming Saturday. I’ll let you know how it works out, if you like. I’m pretty sure I took some early pics, so will take a bit more up to the hanging stage.

        I really appreciate, both your original post, but also your willingness to help out and answer my questions. And as a bonus, I learned a few new things, too!

  8. Christian Spinillo April 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    One note about the above. While one teaspoon of -only- nitrates has the potential to kill you, curing salt is only 6.25% nitrite in cure #1 and 6.25% nitrite/ 1% nitrate in cure #2. You should obviously be careful and understand the dangers, it’s important to note that the nitrate/trite level is a small percentage of the overall cure.

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 7, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Christian — You are correct. I had intended to relate that via “…On its own, sodium nitrite/nitrate is dangerous…”, but I see how that could be interpreted as cure #1/#2. I will revise for clarity. But as you mentioned, regardless, it should be handled with care.

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 7, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      I updated this language now and included “pure” before. Hopefully this is a bit more clear.

  9. La Tavola Marche (@LaTavolaMarche) April 28, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Ciao Kyle- Great post, thought you would enjoy my short vid on making rolled pancetta at our friends pig farm in Italy. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fv8wiYW5S1o We offer knife in hand whole hog butchery courses at our farm, inn & cooking school La Tavola Marche, hope you can make it out one day you would dig it!

  10. dong-ha kwak June 13, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    This really helped me a lot! I just followed your recipe and had great result out of it. Too bad I can’t post the pictures here. Thanks again!

    • Kyle Hildebrant June 15, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

      Excellent. Happy to hear it. It would be nice if there was an easy way to share images… but I guess that’s a good task for social media.

  11. Jan Heijstek July 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    Exellent presentation/explanation! Thank you Kyle

  12. donario2012 October 17, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    I know this is late in the game considering you posted this almost a year ago, but I have a question regarding the percentages. I too created a spreadsheet in Excel so that I could easily equate weights based on how much meat I am using. I used your percentages as a reference but am receiving slightly varying results. For example,

    What is 0.25% of 2885
    = 0.25% * 2885
    = 0.0025 * 2885
    = 7.2125

    I realize this seems nominal, but your example calls out 7.25

    I ask this only because I have cured bacon a few times and my first time was by volume and was a disaster. The second round was closer, but still was off. I’d hate to put the effort into a pancetta and patiently wait a few months only to find out it didn’t work out.

    Thanks,
    Donario

    • Kyle Hildebrant October 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

      Donario, It’s never too late in the game. To your question: It’s simply rounded. (1) Very few people have scales that have a resolution greater than 0.01g / 0.00035oz. There are scientific scales with that resolution, but they are astronomically expensive; (2) calculating anything to a degree smaller than 1/100th of a gram is pretty ridiculous and unnecessary—and trust me, I’m all about precision and ridiculousness. Moreover, you’re talking a few grains that would make absolutely zero difference in the outcome. In short: 7.25 is close enough.

      As for your failures with volumes, unfortunately, that’s all to common—and it seems even more so with bacon, as that’s one of the first “curing” recipes that people typically take on. I’ve written on the topic of volume vs. weight measurements.

  13. Roy November 13, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    Great recipe Kyle!
    Here is my rolled belly, pre-aging!
    http://i.imgur.com/EbuNifB.jpg

    Can’t wait until I can try it!

    • Kyle Hildebrant November 24, 2014 at 10:09 am #

      That’s awesome, Roy. I love seeing these photos. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Roy November 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Thank you for the recipe!

    Small question, it’s been 2 weeks since I hung the pancetta. It’s sitting at ~60% humidity but the skin feels really dry and hard while just underneath the meat feels quite soft (lost about 10% weight). Is that okay or will I get case hardening?

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