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How to Make Coppa: Part 1

How to Make Coppa: Part 1

In the Beginning – There Was Gabagool

In my search for purpose and a new career as an urban farmstead type, I’ve recently rekindled an interest in the art and science of curing meats.  I was inspired last month when I started poking around into the possibility of acquiring a small, but well-respected artisan meat company.  While that deal did not go through it set off a spark in my brain that has me thinking about becoming the next Sausage King of Seattle.  Could I be a 21st century Abe Froman perhaps?  Anyway, since late February I’ve studied all types of things like HAACP plans, knives, hygrometers, ph meters, good vs. bad mold and, most importantly, meat purveyors.

Over the past 2 years I’ve made bacon and pancetta at home with pretty good success.  Although my wife doesn’t like the salty-ness of some of the bacon; I have been pretty happy with as have friends I have shared with.  During a recent conversation with Mike Easton from the esteemed Il Corvo in Seattle, I was told to essentially ‘throw out’ the first Charcuterie book by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn in favor of their second book, Salumi and Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli.  In Mike’s words, ‘those recipes are just too damned salty!’  So, on I went to get my new books and try my hand at a new style of old world cuisine.

 

Her Name Was Lola the Coppa

After sampling my dad’s (Don Stefano) coppa down in California in January, I decided to try my hand at making a couple of my own.  The recipe and process are quite simple for coppa.  Coppa is made from a muscle that runs from the neck of a pig down to the 2nd or 3rd rib bone along the back.  The problem is, in this country you typically buy whole USDA pork shoulder/butt which in which the coppa is cut before the desired point on the rib.

So, you get about 2/3 of the coppa instead of the whole muscle on a European style shoulder cut.  You also need to trim it out of the shoulder so you have to figure out which muscle it is and put your butchery skills to work.  It’s not that hard to do but I did need to refer to the Salumi book for illustrative help.  Some butchers will cut a whole coppa out for you if they are working with a whole or half hog – but this seems to be a rare occasion.

I started out with 2 pork shoulders that I trimmed out the coppa on.  I’ll call them Lola and Rico.  I photo-documented the process step by step for those of you scoring at home:

Step 1 – Trimming the coppa from the butt

whole-pork-shoulder

Whole pork shoulder – pre-trimming

 

The sort of triangular piece of meat on the left side of the shoulder is the coppa.  So, we must separate it from the rest of the shoulder to do our work.

pork-shoulder-coppa-trim

Trimming the Lola the Coppa (left) from the pork shoulder/butt

 

His Name was Rico

Of course, as the story by Barry Manilow goes, Lola met Rico at the Copa.  So, here’s Rico pre-dressage…

pork-shoulder-whole-coppa

This is Rico the coppa – pre-separation from the shoulder

 

And now Rico being trimmed – in a little better fashion than Lola now that I have practice…

pork-shoulder-coppa-rico

Separating Rico from the shoulder – easier this time

 

And now for Lola and Rico side by side, all trimmed and weighed out:

coppa-side-by-side

Lola and Rico side by side – all trimmed and ready for the cure

 

Step 2: The Cure

No, I’m not going to integrate Robert Smith into this mess.  But, we have to cure Lola and Rico now.  So, here’s the process.  I used the ‘Salt Box’ method with Diamond Crystal kosher salt at 3% of the weight of the coppa.  I used no nitrates here as this level of salt will inhibit the growth of any undesirable bacteria.

This is not to say you should not use #1 cure – you can if you want an added level of safety to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum and other undesirable bacteria.

coppa-salt-box

The Salt Box method in play – curing Lola with 3% Diamond Crystal

 

They Fell in Love

Now that both Lola and Rico have been salt boxed, it’s time to add the desired herbs and spices.  For Rico, I chose to do a cure with Black Pepper, sliced garlic and ground fennel.  For the 2.75 pound coppa I used about 1.5 Tablespoons of each spice with 2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic.

coppa-ingredients

Rico’s accompaniments – Fennel Seed, Black Pepper and garlic

 

I toasted both the black pepper and fennel seed to release the oils and aromatics.  Then I cracked the black pepper with the back of a skillet and put the fennel seed in a grinder for a moment to give me this:

coppa-ingredients-2

Cracked pepper and ground fennel seed

 

For Lola, I chose to do a juniper and bay cure.  For the ingredients in this cure, I used:

  • 5 bay leaves – cracked by hand
  • 1 Tbsp of toasted, cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp crushed juniper berries
coppa-ingredients-3

Lola with her accompanying herbs and spices

 

Step 3: Bagged and Pressed

Now that Lola and Rico have been properly seasoned, they need a couple of days on the cure.

coppa-cure-bagged

Lola and Rico – bagged and ready for the curing process

For this, I sealed each bag and then put about 8# of weight in the form of landscaping cinder from my backyard (washed of course).

coppa-weighted

Each coppa has ~8# of weight on it during the curing process.

This is a faster curing process than many would prescribe. The weight of the bricks placed on top of each coppa help to distribute the cure more rapidly by speeding up osmosis. If you are not weighing down the coppa then you may want to increase your curing time to anywhere from 2-3 days/pound of meat.

 

And Now We Wait…

The coppa stay refrigerated in this state for 2 days (1 day for each kilo of meat) – flipping halfway through the process while redistributing the cure between flips.  Once they have been through the first cure, they’ll be rinsed and encased in beef bung with more herbs to dry for at least 4 weeks up to 12 months while they lose 30-40% of their weight. Drying time will vary based on many factors including the fat and water content of the pork as well as ambient temperature and humidity in your room or chamber.

To read part two of this story on curing coppa please click here.

I’ll also be writing more about charcuterie and salumi going forward trying various Mediterranean techniques on different cuts of meat.  Here’s another one of my favorites – How to Make Tonno di Maiale.  Stay tuned!

15 Comments

  1. Dad, are we there yet?

  2. Hi Jason. This is Tony Bartlett from south Africa..
    Please could you explain what you mean by Beef bung. Many thanks

    • Hi Tony – thanks for reading and good question. Before I started doing this I had no idea what one was. Beef Bung, also known as beef cap, is the terminal end of the large intestine in a cow. They typically come in 4.5″ or 5″ diameter sizes and are ideal for coppa, mortadella and bologna. Here’s a good link with a diagram to show you what’s what inside the cow: http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/x6556e/x6556e03.htm

      Enjoy!

  3. Hello on your ing you have 1# kosher salt, 8 oz sugar, 2oz pink/cure #1. Then you say 2 c curing salt mix. I’m not sure what you mean. Can you please explain it. Thanks for your time. Joan

    • Hi Joan – I’m not sure I follow you. Can you specify what part of the post you are referring to?

  4. I left an 800 and 1000g piece of coppa in salt/pink salt/spice mix for 3 days. I’m worried it wasn’t long enough as I am seeing that folks leave them for 10-14 days. After about 7 days, they are still softer than the lomo and bresaola I salt cured for 12-14 days. I weighed the 800 g and it has lost about 100 g of weight. Is it possible to place them back in salt if they didn’t cure long enough?

    • If you’ve removed it from the cure and rinsed it already I would not suggest putting it back into a salt cure. For 3 days you should be good to go if you used weight to compress the coppa during the curing process.

  5. How long do you leave the meat in the salt? Do you just put it in the box ?

    • I do 1 day for every two pounds of meat. Flip every other day.

  6. Hi Jason, I have followed you recipe and have had my coppa hanging for about 3 weeks now. I have two questions for you:

    1. There is mold that is growing on the outside of the beef bung, is this typical or did I do something wrong? How do you characterize bad mold juju from good mold if there is such a thing?

    2. Is the 30% weight loss goal taken from before or after you put it in the salt cure?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Todd – thanks for the note.

      The mold is typical and you did nothing wrong. If it’s white mold then just leave it. If it’s dark mold (green or black) then take a damp cloth soaked with white wine and wipe it down.

      As far as weight loss goes – you want to measure from the point after you’ve taken it off the cure.

      Happy curing!

  7. Jason — Well, I began the cure to my first salumi before my bung arrived (that just sounds so wrong on so many lower levels). So I went with the Youtube where the guy wraps the meat in a paper bag. I wanted to use your rub ingredients, but must say that since no one had juniper berries, I bought a Christmas wreath at the Fred Meyer here in Newport and dehydrated them slightly before crushing and applying. I unwrapped the meat and sliced it so thin on my commercial Fleetwood™ that I could almost read your blog post through the slices. IT TURNED OUT WONDERFULLY! I now have my bung, elastic sock and a big bottle full of juniper berries. All set for the next neck muscles. Thank you so much for your posts. Now I need to find a way to make the guanciale for my bucatini all’amastriciana and I’ll be set! Ciao4niao, Jacob

    • That’s awesome – I love the urban foraging aspect of your juniper berry acquisition!

  8. Can you clarify what the “salt box” cure is and provide instructions for that? Basically just coat it in salt??

    • Hi Jerry – yes, it’s basically coating the meat with the cure. However, you want to brush off any excess as too much will leave you with a very salty product.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Curing Coppa: Part 2 | The Hungry Dog Blog | Jason Price, Seattle - […] last seen trapped under a brick having the moisture squeezed out of them drop by drop.  Please see episode…
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