Search This Blog

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Meat Month: Curing Fresh Pork Side Meat

A perk of going to a small-scale farming operation for meat is access to a larger variety of cuts. It's not just the chicken breast, ground beef, and pork chops, Welcome to My Garden (now Acorn Acres Farm) uses the whole animal. I was able to get a couple of packs of pork side meat for my curing pleasure.

I opened the pack of Fresh Pork Side Meat (sometimes labeled Fresh Pancetta) ready to cure some meat. It was tightly wrapped in thick butcher paper and thick plastic, which prevented any freezer burn and kept it fresh. The meat had soft fat with a larger proportion of meat. It was not greasy or slick like some pork. It smelled fresh and was a vibrant, natural pink color.

Typically, to make pancetta, you season the slab, let it cure in the refrigerator for a week, roll it up, and dry cure it for a couple of weeks. I was a little thrown when I opened it; it was pre-sliced. Since it was not a slab of meat, it had to alter my approach. After a couple of weeks curing in the refrigerator, I ended up with was a salty and flavorful alternative to bacon.

Curing Ingredients
*Used for approx.two pounds of meat.*
1 tablespoons whole allspice
2 tablespoons whole black or multi-colored mix of peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole juniper berries
1/3 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves finely chopped

The salt and sugar are the most important part for curing. The rest is up to you. The flavors you like and what you have on hand will give you the end result you desire. Just note that the flavors amplify during the curing process, so a little seasoning goes a long way.
  1. Mix it up.
    Mix the salt and sugar in a small bowl. Mix the rest of the dried spices in a mortar and pestle, lightly cracking the whole spices.  Mix all of the curing ingredients together.
  2. Layer it.
    Spread a layer of the curing spices onto the bottom of a 9x12 dish. Layer the sliced pork onto the layer. Spread thin layer of spices and continue to layer, alternating between spices and meat. It is okay for the meat to be slightly overlapped within each layer. Finish with a layer of spices on the top. The goal is for the meat to be covered with the mixture on both sides without it being crusted on. You should still have about a 1/4c of spices remaining when you are done. Store the extra in an airtight container. 
  3. Store it.
    Put a layer of plastic wrap directly on the meat to allow it to soak in and be sealed well. Put the dish in the refrigerator. 
  4. Keep an eye on it.
    Check it daily and add more of the curing mixture on the top and between layers as needed (as the meat soaks it up). Lightly pat dry with a paper towel prior to adding more curing mixture to soak up excess liquid that the salt and sugar are pulling out. 
It should be ready in 7-14 days, depending on how thick your slices are cut. You'll notice the meat firming up and getting slightly darker. 

Pat the excess curing mixture off of the meat and cook or freeze. It can stay in the fridge for about a week. 

Keep in mind the following points when handling raw meat.
  • Always wash your hands and your preparation surface thoroughly before and after touching the meat.
  • Cold curing still requires you to cook the meat after the curing process.  
  • The curing mixture does not include nitrates, which protect against certain bacterial growth. The use of salt and sugar, as well as keeping the meat refrigerated, and cooking thoroughly before consumption is important to protect against bacterial growth.


  1. Thank you Tani! This is exciting; we're going to try your recipe next time we have access to more pork side meat!!!

  2. I'm glad you like it. If you make a lot, you can store some in the freezer for later. We went through ours pretty fast, but were sure to freeze a few slices!