Guanciale Affumicato
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Ah, Guanciale how I love thee.  What's not to love? Fat, meat and incredible marbling.  It is one of the easier pieces of salumi to make for a few reasons:

  1. With such a high fat to meat ratio, the chance of drying out too quickly is reduced.  While rancidity is certainly a concern, if you follow proper measures, you won't see the rancidity creep in.
  2. It usually comes with skin on, which is a great protector from over drying and rancidity.  It also makes for a great addition to stocks or sauces after you trim it off.
  3. It's not usually a huge cut of meat, so the drying period isn't generally that long.  It allows you pretty quick feedback as to how your spicing and conditions are treating your products.

The recipe for this guanciale is simple,

  • 2.5% salt
  • .7% black pepper

You might notice that I didn't use any cure.  I am entirely for the use of curing salts in salumi making, but with whole muscles it's fairly unimportant because there isn't the fermentation and pockets for the bad stuff to form in and you're pretty safe.  The thing to keep in mind about cure 1 or 2 is that, above providing a safety check, it also imparts a flavor.  This is why bacon doesn't taste like bacon if you don't use curing salts.  For this piece i wanted to forego this flavor and let the smoke be the star.  It worked perfectly.  Cold smoked for 72 hours with beech wood outside in the Michigan winter.

Guanciale Cut
Guanciale Cut

One question I get a lot is, " How do you cold smoke? ".  The answer is, it depends on your set up.  You can use products like Amazen smoker or Pro-Q.  You can get an attachment for your bradley.  You can also use you're existing grill set up which is what I did. We have an offset texas style smoker outside, which for those that don't know looks like a barrel with a box off to the side.  The box and "barrel" area are separated by some steel that allows the smoke to flow into the chamber while reducing the heat transfer.  If you're doing hot smoking, it helps keep the temp down below 250 and works really well.  This one however, wasn't using direct hotsmoke but rather a hot plate in the smoke box to generate the smoke. The hotplate i purchased is this one: It works just fine, it's simple and it's wide enough to put a round pan or bowl on.  You simply put that bowl or pan on top of the plate with some wood chips or pellets (in this case beech) and away you go.  The smoke pours through the box into the chamber and cold smoking is on it's way.

Guanciale Sliced
Guanciale Sliced

Now, how does it taste?  FANTASTIC!  The smoke is light, but definitely there.  The salt is perfect at 2.5% and the pork is just sweet and the fat buttery and nutty.  As the rest of our first pig comes out of the chamber, you'll continue to hear me brag about it's flavor, but it's undeniably the best pork I've ever had.  This is a highly suggested recipe that's easy to make.