Pancetta, A Bacon By Any Other Name

Among the benefits of carrying on this obsession with food in a public format is that from time to time I get an unexpected gift of some fabulous homemade food. I have been the undeserving fortunate recipient of jars of lovely sauerkraut from Vivienne, a pot of beautiful golden Seville orange marmalade from Julie, and most recently, a pound of picture-perfect pancetta from Gonzalo. 

Pancetta is Italian for bacon. The only way bacon can possibly be better is when it rides in on its Italian Ducati. 

Wikipedia has this to say about the bacon of the people of the boot: "Pancetta is an Italian cured meat similar to American bacon. It is pork that has been salt cured, salted and spiced (nutmeg, pepper, fennel, dried ground hot peppers and garlic are often featured), and dried for about three months (but usually not smoked). There are many varieties, and each part of Italy produces its own type. In Corsica, it is considered a regional flavour.

Pancetta can be rolled (the most common type available outside of Italy), or straight (with all the 

fat on one side). The straight variety is more common in Italy than elsewhere, especially where 

home-made pancetta is still produced.

When served on its own, the rolled pancetta is presented in very thin slices. More often it is used to flavour other dishes, especially pasta sauces. Recipes such as all’amatriciana often contain pancetta as a substitute for guanciale, which is much more difficult to find outside of Italy."

Gonzalo says that after starting out with a couple of 5 lb. batches, when his butcher told him there was an entire pork belly available he thought - what the heck, and brought home a whole lot o' bacon.  He reminds me that pancetta is not a food, rather a seasoning. (Ha! - I bet you can't eat just one crispy pancetta bit...)  And he goes on to say:

"It will please you to know that all the ingredients except the pepper and salt are local: garlic, rosemary, thyme from the garden, and the juniper berries gathered in the Waterloo Recreation Area."

I was inspired by the pancetta (and also a dozen Harnois eggs) to finally make my own fettucine (those 6 egg yolks in there make it as yellow as a dandelion), with the pasta machine and everything.  And since I used the pancetta to flavor a bolognese sauce that I made with tomatoes I grew last summer and some of that Needle Lane beef, I felt like I was eating a meal that tasted like Michigan.  Not to mention that we had finally made a trip to the Lone Oak winery that day and were mightily impressed with how the caramel-y flavors of their Merlot complemented the sweetness of the sauce.  Michigan food with Michigan wine is wonderful. Watch your bacon, California. We sneak up on you. 

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