I still have no idea how to pronounce this one. Guanciale is essentially a pancetta/bacon type product but created from the jowl. When I was told that it tastes twice as strong as bacon I knew I had to get hold of some. It’s the main ingredient in a traditional carbonara (nowadays most people outside of Rome use bacon or pancetta) as well as being the key ingredient in all’amatriciana sauce.
Turns out getting hold of it is exceptionally hard. After being turned away from two Italian shops I decided it might be easier and more fun just to make it myself. Once again I had sourcing problems, most butchers would sell me pig cheek or a whole head but not just the jowl itself. Fortunately a new butcher had opened up near my father in Pembrokeshire who were able to help out.
I did a standard dry cure much the same as my bacon article (http://www.wellhungfood.com/home/charcuterie-and-curing/smoked-streaky-bacon/) although this time I added a few extra flavourings for good measure. After about a week curing in the fridge I washed off the salt and hung it up for around a month to cure in my newly rediscovered meat safe.
How did it taste? Fantastic, it has a huge amount of fat on it which really adds to the flavour and the meat has a much more intense flavouring. Whilst this extra strength may be a little too much in a bacon sandwich it is just what is needed to really smash a pasta sauce.
If you do get hold of some or make some make sure you try a Carbonara with it. A proper Carbonara should just be pasta, eggs, guanciale, pecorino and lots of black pepper. Whilst a parmesan and streaky bacon version is much more convenient I thoroughly recommend you try eating it as it was originally intended, even if just once for comparison. Oh and don’t even consider ever putting cream in it.