Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Nice cheeks Ma'am

It's been a long time, 8 months give or take since I last updated. I haven't officially been on hiatus, just really, really, really, busy sorting out moving house, arranging a wedding, DIYing said house, sorting the garden, travelling overseas with work, painting the house... and so on. I hope to start posting regularly again soon. Realistically it'll be post wedding and honeymoon period, so mid-September time.

Anyway, we were in Windsor this weekend. On Sunday we stopped at the Windsor Royal Farm Shop for a look around. While poking in the chilled meat cabinet I spotted some pig cheeks nestled amongst the chickens. I had to grab them, as I've rarely seen them in the shops (saying that, I'm sure if I looked for a few moments in Oxford's excellent covered market I could definitely find some). What I really mean is, "Given my endemic laziness, I haven't come across any pork cheeks that were presented to me at near eye-level".

So, what to do with them? There's only really one answer to that, "Guanciale" – Italian cured pork cheek. I've not had it before and have been meaning to try it. One link on Wikipedia is titled "Italy's ultimate answer to bacon", high praise indeed. Clearly I need guanciale in my life.

Having two cheeks meant that I could experiment with smoking one, and leaving the other unsmoked. I read around and decided that the larger cheek, 'big brother' as it was dubbed will be cured and cold smoked over oak. The smaller cheek, 'little brother' will be cured with curing salt #2, salt, sugar, pepper, and juniper. Big brother was cured following Jason Molnari's recipe on Cured Meats. The only change was that I used pink peppercorns (this is all getting a bit meta: a blog, involving blogging about recipes read on another blog).

Here's the spice mix for the little brother.

Big brother, left, and his younger sibling
Both cheeks were put into bags and the spice mixes added. They will cure for 2 weeks. The beauty of the equilirium method is that you can't over-cure. I'm giving the cheeks longer than the normal 10 days because fat is much more impermeable to salt than meat. After 2 weeks I'll pull these. Then it's off to the smoker for the big one, and into the curing chamber for the smaller one. 


(this is the mix I used for the smaller cheek, see the link above for the larger one)

IngredientPercentage of meat + fat
Pork cheek
Cure #2
Golden caster sugar
Black peppercorns (ground)
Thyme (dried)
Juniper berries (ground)