Jason Price | Seattle, Wa

Management Consultant, Entrepreneur, Urban Farmer

link to home page of Jason Price Seattle

Down at the Coppa!

In the Beginning - There was Gabagool

by Jason Price, Seattle, WA

pic of sliced coppa - photo by jason price seattle

Sliced Coppa

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

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 (I just got one of these thanks to the folks at Bill the Butcher - more to come...) - 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

pic of whole pork shoulder - photo by jason price, seattle

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.

trimming the coppa from the pork shoulder butt - photo by Jason Price, seattle

Trimming Lola the Coppa 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...

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

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

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

two coppa side-by-side - photo by Jason Price Seattle

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 at 3% of the weight of the coppa. I used no nitrates here as the salt (and future casing) will be enough to keep the bad mold juju away.

coppa salt box - photo by jason price seattle

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 - photo by jason price seattle

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 - photo by jason price seattle

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 Tablespoon of toasted, cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp crushed juniper berries

coppa ingredients 3 - photo by jason price, seattle

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 - photo by jason price, seattle

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 - photo by jason price, seattle

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

And Now We Wait...

The coppa stay in this state for 2 days - 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 over the course of 2-4 weeks while they lose about 30% of their weight.

Step 4: Escape from the Cure

Our curing process continues 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:

coppa first cure bag - photo by jason price, seattle

Lola after the first cure

When we remove the coppa from the bag, you can see the compression of the meat and herbs:

coppa after the first cure is complete - photo by jason price, seattle

Coppa after the first cure is complete

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.

cured coppa after rinsing - photo by jason price, seattle

The coppa after being rinsed

At this stage, the coppa is ready to be seasoned with the second part of the process and stuffed for hanging.

Step 5: Adding Aromatics for Drying

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.

coppa after second cure applied - photo by jason price, seattle

Lola dusted with fennel and black pepper

Step 6: Casing the Coppa

After the aromatics have been applied, it's time to bring out the casing. In this case I've used 5cm 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.

coppa next to bung - photo by jason price, seattle

Rico next to his friend, the beef bung

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.

stuffing the coppa into a bung - photo by jason price, seattle

Stuffing the coppa into its new home - the beef bung

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. Here's a photo of me with the coppa finally nearly stuffed into the base of the bung:

stuffing a coppa part 2 - photo by jason price, seattle

The coppa nearly stuffed

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:

tying the bubble knot at the end of the coppa - photo by jason price, seattle

The elusive but essential bubble knot

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.

Step 7: Hang'em High and Dry

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 every one 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.

coppa tied and ready to hang - photo by jason price, seattle

Coppa ready to hang

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.

assembled coppa prior to hanging - photo by jason price, seattle

Coppa ready for the basement to dry

After another 2 weeks or so, Rico and Lola are ready to roll. Here they are hanging out with their friend, Rollo the pancetta (more on him later).

coppa hanging with guanciale - photo by Jason Price, Seattle

Coppa after two weeks of drying

Now we're looking at about 25% weight loss - only a few more days to go!

Step 8: The Reveal

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. I decide to sample Rico first.

coppa, the finished product - photo by jason price, seattle

Coppa - Simply delicious!

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.

What's Next

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!

Also, check out my post on 'How to Make Guanciale' by clicking here.

Feeds of Interest

  • recipes from grandma | jason price, seattle
  • urban chicken raising by jason price, seattle
  • great wines of the world i have tasted by jason price, seattle
  • all about heritage pigs by jason price, seattle
  • great chefs of seattle by jason price, seattle
  • the art of making charcuterie by jason price, seattle