Guanciale is an Italian cured pork product, similar to bacon, that is made from the pig's jowls rather than its belly. Guanciale is frequently said to have a mellower, sweeter and more "porky" flavor than traditional bacon.
Guanciale is the main meat ingredient for genuine carbonara and amattriciana sauces. It is a specialty of Roman cuisine, and popular throughout the Lazio and even Abruzzi regions.
To make guanciale, pork cheeks (hog jowls) are cured in a salt/sugar mixture and kept in a cool place for about one week. They are then hung to air cure for at least one month and often two-three months.
To make guanciale at home (about 1 pound):
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup table salt
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme, leaves only (chopped coarsely)
- 1 pound hog jowls
Combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and thyme leaves. Place the meat in a small dish, and coat it with the salt mixture, massaging it into the meat gently. Cover the jowls with plastic or foil and place it in the refrigerator for seven days. Take the meat out of the dish, and using twine or kitchen string, hang them in the refrigerator for one month. The finished product should be dried, but relatively firm. Slice it like pancetta or bacon. Keeps for two-three weeks, and can be frozen.