Posts Tagged ‘Guanciale’

Quest for the Holy Pig Jowl

February 17th, 2018

What used to be a Boston annoyance over the decades here has long turned to sport. Sudden and profound quests are part of the province.

The latest was pig-jowl bacon, guanciale in Italian.

Depending on the Italian or Italian-American who’s handy, you’ll hear variations on pronunciation. Invariably, as with English speakers, you may get corrected to reflect the nuance of how someone grew up hearing it from grocer or grandmother. We really shouldn’t get offended by such trivial emotional tics.

Regardless, in context, the salumeria will understand you in context and if they carry guanciale cheerfully offer you a choice of pieces.

Say it with me

The bacon name comes from Italian for cheek, as it uses a pig jowl, a fatty but very porky flavor cut. Mince it finely, the fat cooks away and leaves strong pork taste, more powerful and satisfying than pancetta or other bacon. That’s remarkable in that guanciale is seasoned with herbs and spices, then air cured, but not smoked.

Go here for details on curing and using guanciale. The image above is of a piece I bought in Boston yesterday at Salumeria Italiana.

If you want to try your luck pronouncing your bacon order, go with

  • gwan-chi-ah-lay
  • ɡwanˈtʃaːle
  • WAHN-chall-eh

 

The third version, with the silent g seems the most authentic, although I heard all three in my quest. Do put the stress on the first syllable.

Joy of the hunt

I long accepted that finding things that were obvious and common during my decade in Manhattan are not up here. I confess that I now enjoy the regular quests. Just lately, I figured to get some jowl bacon and sure enough, it was a deal.

Reading about the right and righteous recipes for spaghetti carbonara, I quickly learned that the best versions I’d had were surely made with guanciale and not pancetta. So…

I headed to an Italian grocery in the far end of my Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston. It is the one favored by late mayor Tom Menino, who lived nearby it. If you go to Tutto Italiano’s site, be aware that it automatically plays Italian mood music non-stop. (To turn this off, you need to locate the AUDIO GALLERY menu off the Media tab, then find the tune playing and hit the pause button.)

Over the years, I’ve bought vinegars, wines, cheeses, gelato and more there. They also had a six or seven foot cheese hanging in the center of the store. They are famous there for their lunches, particularly subs. Get there by 11 so you can get your sandwich. The jolly staff is in no rush, but make a great one for each customer.

All is flux

I had figured to pick up a few things for Valentine’s dinner, plus a piece of guanciale. Hah!

First, the cheese is gone. Second, they no longer make and sell gelato. While I got dinner and some bombs for dessert, I left without the bacon.

Son (making my dinner) to father to brother called and responded they had no guanciale. They also did not know where to find it and thought only they might be able to order some.

Well, the tubes know all. The net knew that Salumeria in the North End carried guanciale. I was headed the next day to the nearby Haymarket and detoured.

So, this was a big disappointment cured (pardon) quickly by a short quest. Salumeria does indeed carry guanciale, always. My grocer was astonished that Tutto did not have and as much as I by the fact they didn’t know where to send me.

I’ll fix that on my next visit to Tutto. I promise to be gentle in my ridicule.