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.

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