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21sept2013_2_robins-bday-captains-shack_gumbo_getting-happyNothing better than a good, bone-in grilled pork chop! Or pork loin! Or pork shoulder! Or pork ribs! Or pork tenderloin! Ever grill hog jowl or pork cheeks? Do you really know and understand the cuts of pork, where they come from on the hog and what they are used for? Here is a great link for Pork Cuts Glossary, some really great information from The Nibble. Here is a start in understanding hog jowl or pig cheeks from Wikipedia.

Pork jowl (alternately called jowl bacon or, especially in the Southern United States, hog jowl) is cured and smoked cheeks of pork. Hog jowl is a staple of soul food, but is also used outside the United States; the Italian variant is called guanciale … Jowl bacon can be fried and eaten as a main course, similar to streaky bacon, such as in a traditional full English breakfast. Often, it is used as a seasoning for beans, black-eyed peas or with cooked with leafy green vegetables such as collard greens or turnip greens in a traditional Southeastern meal. A Southern US tradition of eating black-eyed peas and greens with either pork jowls or fatback on New Year’s Day to ensure prosperity throughout the new year goes back hundreds of years. Jowl meat may also be chopped and used as a garnish, similar to bacon bits, or served in sandwich form. Pork jowl can be used as a binding ingredient in pork liver sausages such as liverwurst and braunschweiger [and scrapple]. Because pork jowl is cured, like many other cuts of pork, it has been a traditional wintertime food as it is able to be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.

I have heard of guanciale, but what is it?

Guanciale (Italian pronunciation: [ɡwanˈtʃaːle]) is an Italian cured meat or salami product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. Its name is derived from guancia, Italian for cheek. Guanciale is similar to the jowl bacon of the United States … Pork cheek is rubbed with salt, sugar, and spices (typically ground black pepper or red pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic) and cured for three weeks or until it loses approximately 30% of its original weight. Its flavor is stronger than other pork products, such as pancetta, and its texture is more delicate. Upon cooking, the fat typically melts away giving great depth of flavor to the dishes and sauces it is used in … Guanciale may be cut and eaten directly in small portions, but is often used as a pasta ingredient. It is used in dishes like spaghetti alla carbonara and sauces like sugo all’amatriciana … It is a specialty of central Italy, particularly Umbria and Lazio. Pancetta, a cured Italian bacon which is normally not smoked, is sometimes used as a substitute when guanciale is not available.

Pork jowl is also called Pork Chaps; Bajoues (French); Guanciale (Italian); Bochechas de porco (Portuguese). Interesting. If you would like to see a chart of the cuts of pork, check this link from Culinary Arts Cuts of Pork. Enjoy the info and have a great grilling season or smoking season. A great source for pork and other fresh meats in the Boise area is Homestead Natural Foods (they are also at the Boise Farmers Market in Boise at 10th and Grove each Saturaday). Thanks Ed, for the discussion on pork products this morning. It’s always great to chat with you. Cheers!