Coppa hails from the front shoulder of the pig, it has been called capocollo, coppa, or even pronounced in capicola, coppa is how we will refer to it here. This piece of meat comes from the front shoulder of the pig, in most cases this cut is a perfect balance of meat and fat. To achieve this cut it is best to talk to your local butcher and ask for the cut for making coppa, if that fails, which it has for me, then tell them you want a boned out pork shoulder/pork butt. Why is it called pork butt when it comes from the front of the animal? This is why: Some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or “high on the hog,” like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels, known as butts, for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as “Boston Butt.” Once you have the shoulder boned out it should look like this:
- The left side of the pork butt is the shoulder and the right side is where the bone was and went to the leg.
- The meat will be separated where the bone was.
- The easiest way to tell where the shoulder is, is to look at where the bone was removed, typically when the butcher removes the bone there is a larger incision towards the top of the shoulder than to the back side of the shoulder. You can see that in the image above, once you have determined which side the shoulder is on you can cut it off.
- To ensure you get a nice full piece of shoulder, cut as far to the right of the top of the shoulder (in this picture the left side of the meat) as you can before you get to the incision from the removing the bone.
- Once the top shoulder is removed round it as best you can, traditional coppa is, save the scraps for salami. The other portion of meat we grind and make salami or fresh sausage out of it.
This is the cross-section of the shoulder muscle, you can see why it is desirable with the ratio of fat and meat that are present.
Now that you have the piece of shoulder it is time for the cure. A standard cure would consist of salt and pink salt, then it would be rubbed with a spicy red pepper before being put into casings. I tend to mix it up every time I make it so the recipe below is called Pancetta/ish coppa. I keep the mix of curing salt on hand and just pull what I need when I need it, my curing salt mix is as follows;
1# Kosher Salt
2oz Pink Salt/Cure #1
2C Curing salt mix
2T Black Peppercorns
3T Fennel Seed
1t Fresh ground nutmeg
1t Whole juniper berries
- Place the black peppercorns, fennel seed and juniper berries in a spice grind and pulse to develop a rough cut spice blend.
- Mix these spice and the nutmeg with the curing salt until well blended, toss the pork shoulder in the cure and set aside.
- Cut a long piece of butchers twine, tie a slip knot in one end and sinch it down on one end of the pork shoulder. Tie the shoulder like a roast, make sure to tie it tight to ensure that the meat holds its nice round shape. Tie the string in a loop at the other end of the shoulder, this is where you will hang the coppa from.
- Toss the shoulder in the cure once again and place the meat, either in a vacuum bag, or in a Ziploc bag. Toss in another tablespoon of the cure and seal, press out as much air as possible.
- Once it has been sealed, place the meat in your fridge for two weeks, flipping it over everyday.
Two Weeks Later
The two weeks may be up but there is still another month to go. Once out of the fridge remove from the package, you will notice that it is significantly firmer, this is good. You have now remove moisture from the meat and replaced it with the tasty cure. Brush the cure off with a clean paintbrush or a towel. We now want to create a brine to dip the meat in to “sanitize” it and prevent any unwanted mold from growing on it. This step may be skipped and have found that it is not always necessary.
Sanitizing Dip Yield: 1qt
22.4 floz Water
9.6 floz Distilled White Vinegar
- Mix well.
- Quickly dip meat in the solution than pat dry.
Once the coppa has been cleaned you can now grind about 1/2 a cup of black pepper. Put the pepper in a large pan that can also hold the coppa, and roll the meat in the pepper. Weigh the coppa and record this on a piece of tape with the date attached to the string you are hanging it from. Hang in your larder at 55°F and between 60%-65% humidity for about one month.
Here is the coppa rubbed in black pepper and hung in my larder.
After one month:
So it has been about a month and a half to actually cure this piece of meat because of the unusual amount of rain that we have been getting here in Central Oregon. Since my curing room is outside , the humidity was a little harder to control and was usually around 73% for the duration of the drying. Periodically through this month and a half, I checked the weight of the coppa, usually once a week and record the loss. Once you have reached 35% loss in weight, your coppa is finished, if it has not, then let it continue to hang until it has, again it could take two months or more depending on humidity. The longer that it hangs the more fermented it will begin to taste. Prosciutto and culatello are good examples of meat that take longer to age but obtain a nice flavor.
The white mold is good healthy mold that prevents the bad molds from forming and helps moisture control.
The coppa should feel firm once it has lost the proper amount of water weight. At this point you can remove the string and brush off the black pepper, place the coppa in the fridge overnight to harden up and make it easier to slice.
Now that the long wait is over slice the coppa as thin as possible sit back and enjoy with a little olive oil.