Inspired by Michael Ruhlman, Hank Shaw & Matt Wright
2 lb pork jowl
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme
In a heavy duty plastic bag, combine all your ingredients. Shake and massage the ingredients around the jowl. Place it in the fridge for 4-7 days, turning the bag daily. The jowl will exude liquid and make its own brine. When the jowl is stiff after at least 4 days (depending on the thickness), remove from the bag and rinse well. Pat it dry.
Weigh the jowl. You want it to loose about 30% of it’s water during drying process, so it’s good to have a starting weight. Mine weighed 1045 grams, or 2.3 lbs after salting, making my finishing weight around 730 grams, or 2lbs. I kept the skin on my pork jowl, which can cause the process to take a bit longer. Cut a hole about an inch from the edge of the jowl and put a butcher’s hook or string through it. Hang the jowl in a cool place, preferably below 60 degrees for 2-4 weeks. I used my wine fridge with a pan of heavily salted water in the bottom for humidity. My jowl took 5 weeks to dry. Some people like to dry it even longer for a more robust flavor. Weigh your jowl every week to see how it’s doing. If it dries to quickly on the outside it may halt the drying process, so be sure you have a little humidity to slow things down.
When you think it’s done, cut off a little chunk, remove the skin and fry it crisp. The guanciale should have a good, savory, porky flavor. As you use the guanciale, save the skin for that pot of beans you’ve been meaning to make. Take off a hunk for the fridge and freeze the rest in a well wrapped package. And make my Sweet Corn Polenta with Guanciale before the summer is over!