How to Cure Coppa, continued…
Hello friends and welcome back to the wonderful world of salumi and curing coppa! In this post, we’ll finish the process to dry cure coppa. If you don’t remember where we left off in our adventure with our good friends Rico and Lola – they were last seen trapped under a brick having the moisture squeezed out of them drop by drop. Please see episode 1 here for all the details…
Escape From the Cure
Episode 2 begins with the stars of show ready to emerge from their trap and to begin the next phase of their metamorphosis into delectable morsels for us to enjoy. As a reminder, we are curing coppa here – that wonderfully marbled, tender meat from the butt (shoulder) of the pig that runs from its neck down to the 4th or 5th rib along the backbone.
The coppa have been on the cure at this point for 2 days under about 8# of weight in the form of cinder block from my garden. I’ve flipped them after the first day and redistributed the cure at that time. Once I remove the brick, this is how Lola looks:
When we remove the coppa from the bag, you can see the compression of the meat and herbs:
When curing coppa we rinse to remove the rest of the ingredients from the first cure. You can rinse with water and then rub the coppa with dry white wine based on your personal preference. Pat down with paper towels to remove excess moisture once the rinse is complete.
At this stage, the coppa is ready to be seasoned with the second part of the process and stuffed for hanging.
How to Dry Cure Coppa
The second stage of the process is performed to remove extra moisture from the coppa, add the aromatics based on your recipe and, most importantly, to deepen the flavors within the meat. There is no need to use extra cure or pink salt at this point as the first salt cure does the job and will adequately prevent bacterial growth on/in the coppa.
You can use a number of flavor combinations in curing your coppa depending on your tastes. In this instance, I’ve used a tablespoon each of toasted fennel and black pepper for Lola and juniper and black pepper for Rico.
After the aromatics have been applied, it’s time to bring out the casing. In this case I’ve used 5 inch beef bung to case each coppa in and have soaked it for about 45 minutes and then rinsed it thoroughly. Typically, these will come packed in salt and can be kept in your refrigerator for 9-12 months if airtight. The salt pack needs to be removed by soaking in luke warm water. I have good a good local source in Oversea Casing here in Seattle but you can also find casings online at merchants such as Butcher and Packer.
Stuffing a large coppa into a smaller beef bung takes work. When doing so, you need to be sure to not stretch the bung too much else it will break.
When you finally finish this process (which can take a bit of time) then you need to make sure that no air bubbles are trapped in the base of the bung. Trapped air can lead to bacterial growth which = bad juju for coppa and ultimately you if you eat it. Use a sausage knife to poke holes all over the casing to remove air bubbles. Here’s a photo of me with the coppa finally nearly stuffed into the base of the bung:
The last step of this process is tying. Here you’ll need to use a bubble knot which effectively creates a little air lock between the coppa and the outside world like so:
Now, you’re cooking with gas (well, not really but I just like to say that).
Anyway, once you are knotted all up you are ready to go hang this in your drying chamber/wine fridge/basement/garage/man cave. I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a man cave that you could just walk over, grab a salami hanging from the ceiling, and eat it while cracking open a good bottle from the adjacent wine rack that would be requisite in such a set up.
Hang ’em High
Now that we’ve gone through the first cure, rubbed our coppa lovingly with aromatics, and given it a nice, cozy new home to dry in; we’re ready to hang them. Not everyone has a curing room with ideal conditions but if you have a space that stays between 55-65 degrees and 60-70% relative humidity you are in luck. Our basement in Seattle is very close to those ranges so I’m using it for now until I save my pennies and put together a proper curing room.
Before hanging your coppa, make sure to note their weight as you should be targeting about a 30% weight loss to make sure they are ‘done’. The time it takes to get there will vary based on temperature, humidity, quality of meat and water content. Here’s our lovely Rico and Lola after about 2 weeks of hanging. At this point, they’ve lost only about 15% of their original weight but have taken on a nice tone as they continue to dry.
After another 2 weeks or so, Rico and Lola continue to dry nicely. Here they are hanging out with their friend, Rollo the pancetta (more on him later).
Now we’re looking at about 25% weight loss – only a few more weeks to go!
Good things come to those who wait. And in the case of coppa it’s no different. After spending about 4.5 weeks in my basement, the coppa reaches its target weight. This may be more rapid weight loss than you experience depending on temperature, humidity levels, air flow and the moisture content of the pork. Getting to 30-35% weight loss may range anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks or more depending on conditions.
I decide to sample Rico first.
I’m overwhelmed by the depth of flavor in the coppa. The juniper is well pronounced – perhaps a bit too much but I can scale that back next time. The black pepper is just right. Most importantly, the texture and firmness are spot on. No dreaded case hardening leading to a hard shell and moist interior. The flavors are good but I think Rico could use a bit more time to dry. So, I wrap him in wax paper and pop him into the fridge to slowly age and eat over the next month or so.
After curing coppa, I’m ready to take on some other great salumi. I’m going to try my hand at pancetta tesa (flat) and arrotolata (rolled) as well as guanciale (jowel). I’m also working on several types of sausage which I’ll share on here in the near future. Stay tuned for more and be sure to check out my other posts on charcuterie and salumi here!
If you are interested in reading about more ways to cure meat then check out my selection of charcuterie preparations on The Hungry Dog Blog.