Like running, some of these blog projects are sprints and other are marathons. Last Saturday, serendipitously a project that I had started in early fall was finally ready for consumption on the same day that I finished my first half marathon (in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures no less). While the running project requires far more perseverance than patience, the pride is really no less great when the results surprise you in such a good way. Especially since, for me, being patient has always been more difficult than being willful and like the half marathon as compared to a 5k, this is a more advanced project, but certainly handle-able with the right preparation.

All analogies to running aside, this project also shows that starting with something beautiful and doing your best to stay out of its way will, in most cases, give you the best results. I started with a pasture raised Berkshire collar from Slagel Farm that I got from Rob at Butcher & Larder. I should step back and snark that I really don’t need to say from where I got my meat since I get nearly all of it from Butcher & Larder, but it is part of my writing process for now. This is a beast of a cut of pork (seen before in a First Birthday BBQ for my dear baby girl) taken from the shoulder of the beast and runs from neck to loin. We left the fat cap on, which is often times cured for lardo, and removed the skin to be used to enrich a giant pot of beans.

The cure to turn the collar into coppa (looking back, at relaunch, I would have named this blog “From Collar to Coppa” to better reflect the new focus of the blog) traditionally consists of a basic salt (both kosher and #2) cure coupled with white pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. I really am not a fan of cinnamon or white pepper in long cured projects and have found that throwing the kitchen sink in the cure makes it taste like nothing instead of accenting the pork. In other words, keep it simple and as I mentioned it above, get the hell out of the way. I replaced the cinnamon with another sweeter spice, fennel seeds, and the white pepper with black pepper. The pinch of cayenne was there to add a subtle note of heat.

After toasting and grinding the whole spices, I added them with the salt cure and cayenne to the coppa and sealed it up in a vacuum bag for two weeks. I have been using these bags for two reasons recently. First, they are clean. Pork juice in your fridge makes your spouse upset which makes curing meat a dangerous hobby. Second, in a vac-seal bag, the cure is in constant contact with the meat. This can only be good.

After drying out the cured collar, I wrapped it in cheesecloth and tied it into a roll. The whole bit was weighed and hung in my wine fridge with a 50% salt solution in a mason jar to keep humidity in the chamber. Every month or so, until I became impatient, I checked the weight of the drying coppa and inspected for off smells, over dried bits, or mold. At the bottom of the post, there is a chart with relative weights for each weigh in to give you an idea of how my coppa progressed.

When the coppa finally had lost 30% of its hanging weight, I removed the cheesecloth to find something that I can only describe as an item that hopefully held more inner beauty than outer. The bright red had browned and the luscious white fat had turned a beige color, but hope was still alive as I had seen cured meats hold extreme inner beautiful even when covered with beneficial exterior molds.

Once I took the leap and sliced through the meat, I was happy to see that there was beauty inside. Beautifully red/pink with a little give, the coppa had dried evenly. The smell of clove, fennel, and black pepper were all over, but the pork was absolutely beautiful. The cap, streaks, and marbling were amazingly white against the dried flesh. Not wanting to ruin my first taste, I waited until I had an excuse to visit the Butcher Shop and had them slice a small bit off for the weekend.

Needless to say, it didn’t last the weekend. It barely lasted a few hours. The flavors of pork were amazing. Not too salty and not to dry. The clove, fennel, and black pepper were aparent, but the heat was barely noticeable from the cayenne, which is a good thing. I left the slices on the board for the afternoon and as the temperature came up the fat softened a little to the point where I would do this every time I serve this going forward. The give that the fat hat and the slight texture difference in the coppa was enough to make it just that much more enjoyable.

Coppa

  • 2300 grams pork collar

The cure

  • 80g salt
  • 25 g black pepper
  • 6 grams #2
  • 2 g each cloves, fennel
  • pinch cayenne

Step one: Combine the cure and rub entire mixture on collar. Seal in a bag, I vac-sealed, but a zip top would do just fine. Chill for 2 weeks flipping and redistributing the cure every few days.

Step two: Rinse cured collar and dry completely overnight in the fridge.

Step three: Wrap cured collar in cheese cloth and hand at 55 degrees until the coppa weighs 30% less than hanging weight.

To give a detailed exhibit of how this pastured Berkshire coppa dried, time-wise, I kept a log of check-ins. I purchased the collar on September 17 and finished curing it on October 1. I used a wine fridge with a jar of half water and half salt (refilling as needed).

Date

Weight

Weight Loss

September 17

2,300 grams

N/A

October 1

2,350 grams

0%

October 26

1,900 grams

19%

November 26

1,800 grams

23%

December 15

1,730 grams

26%

December 26

1,660 grams

29%

January 21

1,650 grams

30%

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