Charcuterie is not for the impatient, but if you have the patience and the desire to try new things it can be a very rewarding hobby to get into. These wild boar bellies have had quite a journey to get where they are today. They were shot by a friend of mine, Dave Frana somewhere in west Texas and made the trip all the way back to Minnesota where they finally landed in my freezer and had sat there for a month until about a month ago when I finally got off my dead lazy and did something with them. This particular batch of pork bellies have spent the last month becoming, what I believe, the best tasting pancetta I have ever tasted.
I have made Pancetta before with some pork bellies I bought at the Asian food market and it was pretty good but the belly itself seemed to lack flavor and in the end I basically had salty pork bellies with no real flavor that makes you go, hot damn. They were good and served there purpose but these bellies have a much more intense and magnificent flavor. I don't know anything about the wild pigs of west Texas but they are most certainly a flavorful animal. Being wild pigs they didn't have the same fat that a farm raised pig would have had so the rolls of pancetta aren't very big, but what they lack in size they most certainly make up for in flavor.
I am very excited to try the rest of the meat that was given to me, I have another bag of bellies and I had a bag of jowls, but they are hanging right now and with any luck I will have wild boar Guanciale in the next week. I also have a couple of whole 20-30 pound baby pigs that I am going to save for one of the summer festivals or parties that I will be cooking at. This pancetta is as I would imagine pancetta should be it is fairly salty but the thyme and juniper really stand out and as I said before the natural flavor of the meat, adds to the intensity of the flavor and the fat that is there just melts like some kind of porkified butter, it is incredible. So far of all the charcuterie projects I have tried this is my best effort.
Tonight just before I wrote this post I diced up some of this pancetta and crisped some in a pan and tossed it with corn, peas, and roasted red peppers and it added just the right amount of flavor to the veggies and was served with a mesquite roasted pork loin, it was delicious. I can't wait to share some of this with the Frana's.