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Sep 19, 2012 05:17 AM

I need an intervention--I bought a pig and have visions of charcuterie!

I just purchased a pig (which I'm splitting with a neighbor) and a small chest freezer to go with it, and as I think about how I will use it up, I keep running in my mind to a world where I have to duck as I walk through my kitchen to avoid whacking my head on all the charcuterie! I'm even starting to think about how to set up a curing chamber and keep the temp and humidity just right. Help!

In all seriousness, I'd like to try curing some of this pig. I'll get the usual assortment of roasts, chops, ground pork, etc, and the butcher can do ham, bacon, and sausage if I'd like, but where would be a good place for me to start experimenting in my fridge? I assume the jowl would be a good place to start--making Guanciale--and if I have the butcher set aside some fresh belly (not made into bacon) I can try a Pancetta. And I suppose I should try making some sausage from the ground pork. But what else should I consider as a first-timer who is working with a fairly full fridge (i.e. not much space in the there)? What else has a high success rate and is not really finicky with regard to humidity and doesn't require special equipment?

Any thoughts or help would be appreciated! Also, any resources that have been particularly helpful to you would be great to know about. I'm planning on ordering Ruhlman's Charcuterie as a starting point, and supplementing along the way. Are there better resources out there?

Finally, if it makes any difference in all of this, I live in a Condo in Boston, so I have limited space, and a smoker is not an option.



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  1. While this site focuses on game, the information is good and might give you some ideas -

    There is a significant Italian population where I live and homemade charcuterie treats often appear on the table at parties. Some are fantastic, others not so much. Your description of ducking your head made me smile because that is the scene in my friend's BIL's basement! (his family knows what they are doing

    We have been buying beef and pork off the farm (by the half) for a number of years. Make sure your cutting instructions are crystal clear. I know the butchers that process our meat and I still have to convince them to give me cuts that they deem undesirable and would rather see made into ground meat.

    1. you mentioned having the butcher set aside some belly (not made into bacon). i think bacon is the simplest place to start. i'm no charcutier, but i've made very tasty bacon on several occasions, it was simple, and that success gave me confidence that i could go on to more complicated pig projects. enjoy your pig!

      1 Reply
      1. re: chez cherie

        The OP said he doesn't have a smoker, so bacon is a no-go.

        Sausage is a good place to start. There are enough variations, and you can make small or large quantities. Curing takes practice, and you probably don't want to start with a 10 pound hunk of pork. Duck prosciutto is a great place to start curing. Straightforward, small, and fast. Ditto with salmon. Those are good ways to practice, you see quick results.

        I've worked my up from duck prosciutto and cured salmon, to a pork prosciutto I cured and aged in my basement this past winter and spring, Great results.

        You can also consider doing a ham - not a smoked Virginia ham, but a cured ham. I made one for last Easter, and it was really good. Again, relatively easy and there's a comfortable fudge factor.

        Ruhlman and Polcyn is a great place to start, great ideas. Good luck!!!