I recently purchased a pig from a young friend who raises them as part of her participation in 4-H. Said pig is now in my freezer, after visiting our friend, Ken.
Ever since I read Kate's post about making guanciale, I've wanted to try it. Unlike Kate, I am not a chef, but like Kate, I love experimenting and trying to make new foods in my kitchen. To date, I've made yogurt and cheese; I've fermented all sorts of vegetables (although mostly cucumbers and cabbage); I've helped Deus Ex Machina with fermented beverages (wines and beers); I've made kombucha (another fermented beverage); I've dehydrated just about anything that will fit in my dehydrator; and I've canned just about anything that can be stored in a jar.
The only thing that was holding me back from trying my hand at guanciale is having the right ingredients - specifically, I needed pig jowls.
Guanciale, I discovered from my research, is, basically, bacon, but it's more ... so much more! I've never had real guanciale (most resources I found insist that the only place to really find guanciale is in Italy, and since I've never been to Italy, it's a safe bet that I've never eaten it), but I do love some bacon, and I also love most other cured meats, including porscuitto, which is incredible, but very expensive for the good stuff (and who wants to skimp when one is eating what is already a pretty high end sort of meat).
So, when I filled out the order form for the pig we purchased, I made a note to the butcher, please save the jowls for me. And he did.
I'm very excited to give it a try, and I may screw it up ... or we may end up with some fancy bacon. Either way, it will be an exciting and interesting experience ... and the best part is the learning of a new skill, and the chance to honor this animal by using a part that is, sometimes, just tossed in the scrap heap.