Porchetta Bacon?….What is Porchetta?

porchettaStanding in line in Montalcino, Italy at an open air market… waiting hungrily for a slice of that whole, deboned, herb rubbed, salty, roasted pig on the butcher’s counter.  The one with the perfectly crispy skin.

“Sliced or on a sandwich’ the server asks each patron in Italian as they step up to the counter.  ‘Sliced’, I say when it is my turn.  He grabs his knife and slices away at the aromatic roast until I tell him to stop.  He hands me pork slices, wrapped in butcher paper, and I cannot wait to sit down and dig in for my first taste of porchetta.

So, what exactly is porchetta?  It is a dish that originated in central Italy in the province of Rome.  It is a whole pig, deboned, arranged in layers of meat and fat and salt and herbs and then roasted to perfection.  The skin is crisp, the meat is salty and tastes of herbs like garlic, and thyme and rosemary and fennel.  It is pig perfection.

I took inspiration and created the recipe for my ‘Porchetta Bacon’.  The dry cure is filled with savory herbs that lend themselves well to the flavor and aroma of this bacon.

Ventreche? – WHAT IS IT?

I’ve been researching bacon from around the world.  I mean, the U.S. is not the only place that cures pork into the delicious awesomeness that is bacon.  The Italians have pancetta, the Irish have rashers, and evidently the French have ventreche.

What is it and what makes it different than all the other bacons?  Well, I am glad that you asked.  Apparently, in Gascony they have a lightly cured bacon called ventreche.  Unlike the bacon we are used to here in the U.S., ventreche is lightly cured using salt only.  No nitrites and other herbs and spices during the curing process.  It is very simply pork belly rubbed with salt, placed in a cool place to cure for 2 to 4 days, rinsed, rubbed down with black pepper and then smoked.

Ventreche is used in many recipes in Gascony from soup bases, to vegetable dishes, for searing meat like duck breast, or wonderful things like mushrooms seared in the rendered fat…  although I see no reason why we can’t use it in New England clam chowder, or on a pizza, or maybe even fried up crisp along-side some sunny side up eggs.  MMMmmmm mmmm good.

So, I tried my hand at it.  Admittedly, I had to borrow a recipe I found online here.  It was very simple to cure and I love any recipe which enhances the flavor of the main ingredient.

After curing, I smoked it lightly with hickory and cherry.  I then let it cool and sliced into it.  I fried up a slice in a skillet and tasted it….  wow, so good.  Unlike what we think of as bacon, it was more like really good roasted pork belly.

Gonna have to try some recipes using it as a base…  render it down and saute some veggies or something.

BTW – the picture is of the ventreche that I made.

Happy eating.