Guanciale sounds so much better than “pork cheek bacon,” or “face bacon,” doesn’t it?
But that’s what it is: bacon made from the pig’s cheeks. It’s everything you want from bacon but more so: porky, fatty, crispy, salty, delicious.
The recipe is the same as making bacon. Really, the hard part is getting a pig’s head. If you have the opportunity to get a pig’s head, do it! Everything you can make from the pig head is delicious.
To protect the squeamish (conveniently, because I forgot to take photos) I’ve left out the start of this process.
It goes like this: With a sharp knife, carve the cheeks from each side of the pig head. If the head has the skin on, keep that too; if not, don’t worry, the guanciale will come out just fine without the skin. Dredge the cheeks in salt, add a bit of pepper if you want, and then let it sit, covered, in the fridge for about 5 days. Rinse it off, dry it, and it’s done. If you like, you can continue to age it at 55 degrees and 85% humidity for another week or so, until it firms up a bit.
Then, simply slice it and use it like bacon.
Dredge the pork cheeks generously in salt, with a bit of pepper if you like. Cover and refridgerate, in the salt, for 5 days. You can turn the cheeks a few times, or put weight on them at this stage, if you want. After 5 days in the salt, rinse the cheeks and pat dry. Age them at 55 degrees and 85% relative humidity for approximately one week. Use as you would bacon.