Beef Pancetta

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I like going to the weekly Launceston Harvest Market , talking to the stall holders and seeing what seasonal produce they have in stock. Lately I have been buying a lot of beef brisket from one of the stall holders Real Beef. They  have specialized in organically raised, grass-fed and dry-aged Angus Beef for over the last 30 years, and you can definitely see and taste the difference in quality.

Ingrediets:

1750g Beef brisket (100%)
48g Salt (2.75%) (Kosher)
4.38g Insta cure #2 (0.25%)
35g Raw sugar (2%)
9g Five Peppercorn Mélange (0.5%)
6-8 Juniper berries
5g Chili flakes (0.3%)
9g Thyme (0.5%) (fresh or dried)
7g Oregano (0.4%) (fresh or dried)
3-4 Garlic cloves
4g Orange peel (0.25%) (dried, pith removed) (optional)

(makes approx. 1135g finished product @ 35% weight loss).

Note – The ingredients listed are shown as a percentage of the starting weight of the meat. I have noted the percentage next to each and this way you can adjust what you will need based on the weight of your meat.
This recipe can use either beef navel or brisket. The navel is usually a lot thinner which would make it ideal for rolling into Arrotolata (rolled pancetta). I prefer Stesa (flat pancetta) that’s why I choose to use brisket.

As always when working with any food, make sure you have a nice and clean work area. Good hygiene and a clean workstation is crucial to avoiding sickness and also to ensuring an optimum end product.

Use some paper towel to pat dry the meat and tidy it up by removing any excess hanging pieces of meat, silvery skin and sinews.

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I love working with seasonal and locally sourced food. It looks, smells and tastes amazing.

Crush the peppercorns, juniper berries, chili flakes, garlic and orange peel in a mortar and pestle or use a spice grinder. Loosely chop the thyme and oregano then place all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and give everything a good mix to combine.

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Gently massage the ingredients into the meat. Make sure to completely cover the meat with this fragrant mixture. This may take a couple of minutes.

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A close up of the brisket, just because it looks so good!

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Place the meat in a zip-lock or a vacuum seal bag  and make sure to completely squeeze out all of the air from the bag. Then place the meat into your fridge to begin the curing process.

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Depending on the starting weight of your meat, it will generally take about 10-14 days in the fridge. Make sure to flip the meat over every couple of days to re-distribute the curing mixture. You can tell when it’s ready when the meat starts to become firm to the touch.

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After the fridge time is up,  remove the meat from the packaging and run it gently under some cold water to remove any excess cure and spices. Make sure you do this rinse quickly in order to avoid soaking the meat. It’s completely fine if some of the herbs and spices are still left on the meat.

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After the rinse, dry the meat with paper towel and leave it on a wire rack for 2-3 hours to dry out and firm up a little. Afterwards, weigh and record the weight of the meat; you will need this weight to help determine when the meat is ready – it should lose around 30% of its weight when ready.

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If you would like to tidy up the shape of your meat, just tie it up with a bit of kitchen twine as required. I tied mine so it was a more consistent shape along the length of the cut, which helps it to dry more evenly. I like to wrap my meat in cheesecloth for extra protection from the environment as well as to prevent the it from drying out too quickly. If you have access to natural or collagen casings you can use that also.

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Hang the meat in a cool and ventilated area, making sure to check it at least twice a week to start off with. During this process you should record weight loss and check for any signs of mold as the first couple of weeks will be critical. If there are signs of mold that is not white, then wipe it off using a paper towel dipped in red wine vinegar or brandy. All my meat has been good to date, with no signs of any other mold than white, but I like to take a preventative approach so every time I check and record weight loss I spray the meat with brandy. By using a little spray bottle I can cover all of the surfaces and as an added bonus the brandy spray helps to subtly enhance the flavour of the curing project.

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Once you have achieved the correct weight loss, the meat should feel quite firm to touch. This can take anywhere up to 4 to 6 (or more) weeks, all depending on the temperature and humidity as well as the desired weight loss that you are trying to achieve. I was aiming for 35% total weight loss, so this particular piece took me 8 weeks as it really slowed down the last few weeks after achieving 30% weight loss, due to the fat and water content in the brisket.

The final product is a beautiful, beefy pancetta that is best served sliced very thin. It makes an unique addition to a charcuterie board and I have personally enjoyed adding it to stews and fried rice as well as occasionally using the excess fat to cook with.

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