Does anyone not like cured meats? Didn’t think so. And nothing takes the cure like pork. Pork is the lone meat I still buy, in no small part because I have access to one of the better producers in Northern California, John Bledsoe. Bledsoe does his pork the old way, and his hogs root soil the way hogs ought to. They have a varied diet and are generally darker and fattier than that crap you get at the supermarket.
Can you cure wild boar? You bet, but I am out of it at the moment, a sad fact I intend to rectify soon. But even good wild pigs will lack the fat needed for most charcuterie.
One thing you can do, however, is cure the loin to make lonzino, a fabulous dry-cured cut of pork that ages into a lovely pink, slices well and tastes not unlike a good cured ham. Is it as good as prosciutto? Nope. But given how easy it is to make, I haven’t a clue why more home cooks aren’t doing it.
The only special equipment you need is curing salt and a cool place to hang your loins. You can get curing salt, Instacure No. 2 online, and your hanging place can be anywhere that isn’t bone dry (70-80 percent humidity is good) and is anywhere from 40 to 60 degrees.
You also need good pork. Lonzino highlights the innate qualities in your pork, so if it is factory-farmed you will very definitely notice – especially if it is put up next to a piece of quality pork. So do youself a favor and buy the good stuff. Niman Ranch sells it nationally, but I hope you seek out a local producer first. Bledsoe can be reached at (530) 666-1349.
LONZINO, AIR-CURED PORK LOIN
I owe salami guru Len Poli a lot for this recipe, which is an adaptation of his. All lonzino is is air-cured pork loin, a lean cut that cures easily if you follow these directions. It is best served as is, although it makes a great sandwich. You could also dice it as a substitute for any of the Spanish ham recipes that call for diced Serrano ham (and there are a lot of them). It is silky, only a little salty, and you get a hint of the spices that help cure the meat with every bite. This is a subtle meat.
Makes a 1 1/2 pound cured lonzino.
Prep Time: 24 days
- A 3 pound piece of whole pork loin or boar loin
- 45 grams kosher salt
- 15 grams sugar
- 5 grams InstaCure No. 2, also known as Prague Cure No. 2
- 10 grams black pepper
- 5 grams garlic powder
- 5 grams ground cloves
- 10 grams onion powder
- 8 grams dried thyme
- Mix all the dry ingredients. Rub them well into the loin, then put the meat into a plastic bag or wrap with plastic wrap. This is to keep it from drying out. Keep the meat refrigerated for 12 days.
- On the 12th day, remove from the wrap, rinse it off and then let it dry on a rack for 2-3 hours. I use a portable fan set on low to oscillate over the meat.
- Truss the meat with kitchen twine (the white stuff) as you would a roast. Leave a long loop at one end so you can hang the meat. You can also use pre-made sausage netting.
- Hang the meat in a cool place to dry. It needs to be humid, about 70 percent humidity. How long? At least another 12 days. It should feel firm throughout and be a pleasing red. How long can you hang it? Up to six months or more, but it will become harder and drier the longer it hangs.
- To store: Wrap tightly in butcher paper or, better yet, vacuum seal pieces of it – I cut the loin into three chunks – and freeze. Unfrozen, it will last indefinitely in the fridge, but it will continue to dry out.
NOTE: White mold is your friend. Green mold is no fun, and black mold is dangerous. At the first sight of green or black mold, wipe down the meat with a cloth wetted with vinegar.