Coppa – Here’s Where Curing Pork Gets Serious

Home cured CoppaCoppa. This is the one where I’ll look back and say ‘that’s where it really began.’ Of all the curing I’ve done in the past year this coppa is my best. I’ve wanted to make some since I first got Salumi but had to learn how to walk first with some smaller, quicker cures. I’m now jogging. As I slowly progress to bigger, more flavorful cuts, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a whole leg hanging in the curing fridge. When that time comes please remember, it began with coppa.

The coppa is part of the pig’s neck muscle, with nice layers of fat inside, unlike the lean lonza.  However, like the lonza it is a whole muscle and therefore easy to cure and hang.  Cured and dried, it is similar to prosciutto but without the looooong wait. So, where can you find the highly desirable coppa cut? As always you can go to your local butcher and order it, but if you’re an enterprising home cook who makes sausage and buys whole pork shoulders (Boston butt), then you already have a coppa. You just have to free it from the rest of the shoulder and I encourage you to do this. It’s very satisfying to cut it out yourself and you’re probably going to pay as much for the whole shoulder as you would for just the coppa from the butcher.

On a boneless Boston butt (so named because Boston butchers would cut up a pig in a way to fit the shoulder into a barrel or ‘butt’ for shipping) there’s an incision along one side/corner where the shoulder-blade bone was removed. The meat above the shoulder-blade incision is the area you want and the coppa is the round looking group of muscles running along the top opposite the incision side.  You can trim it one of three ways: a straight cut, following the seam of fat, or if it hasn’t been boned follow the seam by the bone. Confused? Here’s a good video showing the three ways. I tried the first two methods since the pork shoulders I was working with were boneless. Both worked fine but the straight cut is definitely the easiest. Depending on how you do this you’ll end up with a cut more or less around 3 pounds. Of course, you’re going to use the rest of the shoulder meat for making some sausage right?

Side Roam: The weekend I started the coppa was like a pork fabrication Breaking Bad episode; a pork-a-polooza of sorts. Over two days I ended up curing bacon and gunaciale, making breakfast sausage and stuffing some mango-poblano sausage, and finally curing some coppa. 20 lbs of pork. Cheryl was quite happy with the activity.

I made two separate coppa, one seasoned with juniper berries and bay leaves and the other with peppercorns and fennel pollen. The cures and are very similar, the juniper berry/bay leaf one has more aromatics than the fennel one, but the techniques are the same. I love the flavors imparted by the juniper berries and bay leaves. They take about 5-6 weeks to cure and lose the 30% of weight. Both are absolutely delicious!

Coppa Cured with Bay Leaves and Juniper Berries (adapted from Salumi Ruhlman & Polcyn)

  • 3-4 lb coppa
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs black peppercorns, cracked in a mortar with pestle
  • 2 Tbs coriander seeds, toasted
  • 2 Tbs thyme
  • 4-6 bay leaves, crushed
  • White wine
  • Kitchen twine

Using the salt-box method dredge the coppa in the salt covering it completely. Place in a Ziploc bag. Add the peppercorns, coriander, thyme, and bay leaves. Mix around.

Squeeze the air out of the bag and close it up. Weigh it.

Put the coppa between two baking sheets and weigh it down with something that weighs around 8 lbs. I’ve got a cast iron Dutch oven which does the trick.

Refrigerate the coppa one day for each 2 lbs it weighs. (I tend to round up, so for a 3 lb coppa I’ll let it sit in the fridge for 2 days). Flip it over halfway through the fridge time and redistribute the cure. Don’t worry about the flattened looking state of it. You’re going to tie up a like a roast so it’ll get that round shape back.

After the fridge time is up, remove the coppa from the bag and rinse off the cure with cold water. Dry the coppa then rub some wine onto it.

Seasonings

  • 1 Tbs black peppercorns, crushed and cracked
  • 1 Tbs juniper berries
  • 1 Tbs thyme
  • 3-4 crushed bay leaves

Combine the aromatics and rub all over the outside of the coppa coating it completely. Using the kitchen twine tie the coppa up like a roast. Weight the cured coppa and record the weight. Hang in the curing chamber until it loses 30% of the recorded weight, about 5-6 weeks.

Black Peppercorn and Fennel Pollen Coppa

  • 3-4 lb coppa
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs black peppercorns, cracked
  • White wine

Seasonings

  • 1 Tbs black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 Tbs fennel pollen

Exact same method and technique as above just changing out the cure and seasonings.

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6 comments

      1. I turned out great. I used juniper berries, thyme and black pepper. I have a new on in the fridge which is red pepper flakes and hot paprika. Before I hang it I might put some more of the same along with a little cayenne and brown sugar. What do you think?

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