Salumi and Cured Meats

Coppa

Coppa hails from the front shoulder of the pig, it has been called capocollo, coppa, or even pronounced in capicola, coppa is how we will refer to it here. This piece of meat comes from the front shoulder of the pig, in most cases this cut is a perfect balance of meat and fat. To achieve this cut it is best to talk to your local butcher and ask for the cut for making coppa, if that fails, which it has for me, then tell them you want a boned out pork shoulder/pork butt. Why is it called pork butt when it comes from the front of the animal? This is why: Some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or “high on the hog,” like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels, known as butts, for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as “Boston Butt.” Once you have the shoulder boned out it should look like this:

  • The left side of the pork butt is the shoulder and the right side is where the bone was and went to the leg.
  • The meat will be separated where the bone was.

  • The easiest way to tell where the shoulder is, is to look at where the bone was removed, typically when the butcher removes the bone there is a larger incision towards the top of the shoulder than to the back side of the shoulder. You can see that in the image above, once you have determined which side the shoulder is on you can cut it off.

  • To ensure you get a nice full piece of shoulder, cut as far to the right of the top of the shoulder (in this picture the left side of the meat) as you can before you get to the incision from the removing the bone.

  • Once the top shoulder is removed round it as best you can, traditional coppa is, save the scraps for salami. The other portion of meat we grind and make salami or fresh sausage out of it.

This is the cross-section of the shoulder muscle, you can see why it is desirable with the ratio of fat and meat that are present.

Now that you have the piece of shoulder it is time for the cure. A standard cure would consist of salt and pink salt, then it would be rubbed with a spicy red pepper before being put into casings. I tend to mix it up every time I make it so the recipe below is called Pancetta/ish coppa. I keep the mix of curing salt on hand and just pull what I need when I need it, my curing salt mix is as follows;

Curing Salt

1# Kosher Salt

8oz Sugar

2oz Pink Salt/Cure #1

Pancetta/ish- Coppa
2C Curing salt mix
2T Black Peppercorns
3T Fennel Seed
1t Fresh ground nutmeg
1t Whole juniper berries

  • Place the black peppercorns, fennel seed and juniper berries in a spice grind and pulse to develop a rough cut spice blend.
  • Mix these spice and the nutmeg with the curing salt until well blended, toss the pork shoulder in the cure and set aside.
  • Cut a long piece of butchers twine, tie a slip knot in one end and sinch it down on one end of the pork shoulder. Tie the shoulder like a roast, make sure to tie it tight to ensure that the meat holds its nice round shape. Tie the string in a loop at the other end of the shoulder, this is where you will hang the coppa from.

  • Toss the shoulder in the cure once again and place the meat, either in a vacuum bag, or in a Ziploc bag. Toss in another tablespoon of the cure and seal, press out as much air as possible.

  • Once it has been sealed, place the meat in your fridge for two weeks, flipping it over everyday.

Two Weeks Later

The two weeks may be up but there is still another month to go. Once out of the fridge remove from the package, you will notice that it is significantly firmer, this is good. You have now remove moisture from the meat and replaced it with the tasty cure. Brush the cure off with a clean paintbrush or a towel. We now want to create a brine to dip the meat in to “sanitize” it and prevent any unwanted mold from growing on it. This step may be skipped and have found that it is not always necessary.

Sanitizing Dip Yield: 1qt

22.4 floz Water

9.6 floz Distilled White Vinegar

  • Mix well.
  • Quickly dip meat in the solution than pat dry.

Once the coppa has been cleaned you can now grind about 1/2 a cup of black pepper. Put the pepper in a large pan that can also hold the coppa, and roll the meat in the pepper. Weigh the coppa and record this on a piece of tape with the date attached to the string you are hanging it from. Hang in your larder at 55°F and between 60%-65% humidity for about one month.

Here is the coppa rubbed in black pepper and hung in my larder.

After one month:

So it has been about a month and a half to actually cure this piece of meat because of the unusual amount of rain that we have been getting here in Central Oregon. Since my curing room is outside , the humidity was a little harder to control and was usually around 73% for the duration of the drying. Periodically through this month and a half, I checked the weight of the coppa, usually once a week and record the loss. Once you have reached 35% loss in weight, your coppa is finished, if it has not, then let it continue to hang until it has, again it could take two months or more depending on humidity. The longer that it hangs the more fermented it will begin to taste. Prosciutto and culatello are good examples of meat that take longer to age but obtain a nice flavor.

The white mold is good healthy mold that prevents the bad molds from forming and helps moisture control.

The coppa should feel firm once it has lost the proper amount of water weight. At this point you can remove the string and brush off the black pepper, place the coppa in the fridge overnight to harden up and make it easier to slice.

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Now that the long wait is over slice the coppa as thin as possible sit back and enjoy with a little olive oil.

Duck Prosciutto

As much as I love prosciutto, it can be a very expensive investment and once it has taken its sweet time to cure and age it should be eaten quickly, although it can be portioned and placed in the freezer to make it last longer. Since I am only making prosciutto for myself I decided to use duck breasts, they are easier to work with when beginning to cure meat and it will fit in my larder better than a full pig leg. The technique that I am about to show you came from a butcher in Portland, OR, that I learned to cure meat from by the name of Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie.

For my first run of duck prosciutto I am going to use Peking duck breasts, as they are more common and cheaper. They have a decent amount of fat on the breasts and a pretty neutral duck flavor, since they are farmed and not wild. The trick to a good prosciutto is to cure and age the meat encased in fat/skin to prevent the flesh from spoiling and drying out. To ensure that the meat is fully encased in fat I am going to sew two duck breasts together by the skin. Doing this will give me a larger portion of meat to serve as well as the fat, which will absorb the flavors of the cure. I created two samples and the duck breast that was sewn together will be the first, for the second, I decided to take a different approach. I recently picked up a small amount of “Meat Glue”, or Transglutaminase/Activa (not to be confused with Activia®) from Modernistpantry.com to play and experiment with. For those that do not know what this product is you can read about it here. Instead of sewing the breast together, I “glued” them together, and after 24 hours of setting time for the glue to activate, I had conjoined duck breasts that were ready for curing.

(Franken) Duck Prosciutto


4ea Duck Breasts

1ea Leather needle

~6′ Butcher twine

2ea Pinches of Pink Salt

  • Start by laying the flesh side of the two duck breasts together to determine whether the fat will be able to encase the meat. If it doesn’t, do not worry, you will just need a little warm duck fat later to rub onto the flesh. Sprinkle a pinch of pink salt onto the flesh side of each duck breast and begin to sew them together.

I tied a loop with a knot in one end that will hold the twine in place and allow me to hang the duck after it has cured.

  • I made my needle out of a wooden skewer. Begin sewing the breast together, only penetrating and sewing the fat together all the way around the duck breasts.

And to think that the home economics classes I took in middle school would finally pay off.

  • Once sewn together, check for any parts of flesh that might be exposed, if there are any just mix a little bit of warm duck fat with ground black pepper and rub it onto those areas.

The Cure (Recipe adapted from Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie)

3/4C Salt

1/4C Sugar

1.5T Juniper Berries

1T Fresh Garlic

1T Whole Black Peppercorns

2ea Bay Leaves

1ea Sewn Duck Breast

  • Combine dry spices and pulse in a food processor.
  • In a bowl combine all ingredients, except duck and mix well.
  • Toss the duck in the cure, lay a handful of the cure onto a sheet of plastic wrap.
  • Place the duck on top followed by another handful of cure.
  • Wrap the duck and the cure tightly in the plastic to ensure that the breasts are completely covered in cure.

  • Label, date, and apply about 10# of weight on top of the duck breast, the weight will help it cure faster.  Place in the fridge and cure for seven days.

3/25/2012

  • Remove the duck from the plastic, reserving the cure, and check for firmness, it should be uniform.
  • If it is still soft in some spots, which mine was, then re-apply the cure, mine will take another three to four days.

Re-applying the cure to my duck breasts and wrapping and storing for 3-4 more days.

3/29/2012

  • Once the duck has finished curing it should feel firm.  For the one sample that I used meat glue on I did not apply any weight, and it was not entirely firm but it ended up more round than the one that was weighted, which turned out flat.
  • I brushed off the cure and hung both prosciutto’s in the larder. I wrapped one with cheesecloth and left the other unwrapped.

Wrapped prosciutto.

Weighted prosciutto

  • These will age anywhere from one month to three.

5/27/2012

The duck prosciutto is finally finished and I couldn’t be happier, well unhappy with one and very happy with the other. Final results:

  • The meat glued and un-pressed duck breast was unsuccessful, not because of the meat glue but because the breast where so thick it took too long for it to lose moisture being encased in fat. In the future I think this one would work better if I cured it longer, it was not quite firm enough and I should have left it in the cure for another week.
  • The sewn duck breasts, that were also weighted, turned out very well. The meat was encased in a very flavorful fatty skin. There isn’t much more to say about it except, Wow! Next time I will look at using Muscovy duck breasts as they are almost three times the size.

Duck prosciutto!

Lomo de Cerdo

Whichever way you want to call it, lonzo or lomo has a great background.  Lonzo is from Italy and lomo is from Spain.  There is even a version from Greece that uses red wine in the cure and is referred to as lountza. This is another great piece of charcuterie history! Lomo can be and mean many things; in Spanish it means loin, traditional lomo would be beef tenderloin, and lomo de credo translates to loin of pork. Most of the lomo that I have had has been the tenderloin of pork so that is where I will begin.

This piece of cured muscle is a great way to start curing at home, the cut is small and not terribly expensive. The spices that are used are very aromatic and distinct, you should be able to pick out every spice that you put into it. The curing time is relatively short as is the hang time compared to the curing time of a whole loin because of its size.

For my lomo I am using Carlton Farms, based out of Carlton, Oregon, because they are a local and reliable source for great pork.

The Pork

~2.50# Cleaned Pork Tenderloin

The Cure

1.05oz sugar

.21oz pink salt

.07oz toasted pink peppercorns

.21oz toasted fennel seeds

.21oz toasted coriander

.84oz Kosher salt

.14oz sweet smoked paprika

2ea cloves chopped garlic

.07oz thyme leaves

.07oz cayenne pepper

.14oz Espelette

.14oz Fennel Pollen

  • Combine all of the ingredients for the cure.

  • Dry the pork with some paper towels and roll them in the cure.
  • Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and sprinkle with 1/4 of the remaining cure, place pork on top and add 1/4 more of the cure.

  • Roll the plastic around the pork tightly and place the loins in the fridge for 4 days, some recipes have said 1-2 weeks but that is for a loin of pork which is twice as thick. I went with the same curing time as my bacon to ensure that it does not get over cured. Check the pork daily and flip it over on its other side, when done the tenderloin should feel firmer than in raw form.

  • After your curing time is up, unwrap the pork and rinse under cool water to remove excess cure, and pat try with paper towels. Wrap the tenderloin in cheesecloth and hang until it has lost 30% of its weight. I am estimating it to be close to three weeks, again I have a chart that I will record the weight of the product every week to track when it is done.

Hanging lomo

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Pancetta

Pancetta is one of my favorite cured muscles, mostly because it is very similar to bacon. Pancetta is made with heavy, earthy spices such as juniper and black pepper, but is not limited to using only those. My favorite attribute to a good pancetta is its fermented flavor. It isn’t strong in a good quality pancetta but it adds a great flavor. The process can take up to 3 months with curing and air drying. I found it difficult in the beginning to roll the pancetta tight enough to remove the air so my first few batches were a flat Venetian style pancetta. It is very important that when you do a rolled pancetta, that you roll it tight and tie it properly or the meat will rot from the inside out.

This recipe comes from the book Ruhlman, Michael and Polcyn, Brian. Charcuterie, which I use as a reference to curing all meats.

Pancetta

4ea Garlic Cloves

2t Pink Salt

2oz Kosher Salt

2T Dark Brown Sugar

4T Coarse Black Pepper

2T Crushed Juniper Berries

4ea Bay Leaves

1t Nutmeg

4sprigs Thyme

5# Pork Belly

  • Combine your sugar, salt, and pink salt
  • Combine all of your spices (only half of the black pepper) and grind them in a blender
  • I usually buy skin on pork belly, if this is what you have then remove it.

Start by shaving the skin up from one corner then cut an X in it. This will create a spot to put your finger so you can pull the skin taught as you cut it off.

Shave the skin off trying not to remove too much meat.

  • Mix the spices with the curing salt mix and liberally apply to the pork belly
  • Wrap the pork tightly with plastic and place it into a pan.
  • Place another pan on top of the pork and place weights on that. Cure in the fridge for 7 days, flipping the pork over everyday.
  • After your 7 days are up, remove the pork from the plastic and rinse thoroughly. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and let sit in a drafty area for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the pork to get slightly tacky and to make it easier to roll.
  • Once it has warmed up, lay the pork out like a sideways book, it should be longer vertically. Begin rolling by grabbing the portion of the pork that is furthest from you. As you roll, press on the pork to ensure it is very tight.
  • Once rolled, you will need to tie the pork very tightly to ensure that there is no room for air in the middle. You can read about tying roast and pancetta here. Always start the tying from the middle and work your way out to force any air or gaps outwards.
  • Once tied, wrap the pork with a double layer of cheesecloth and tie both ends leaving a loop in one to hang it from.

  • The great thing about pancetta is that you don’t need a larder to cure this. The ideal temperature for “aging” the pancetta is 50°F-55°F with about 60% humidity. A normal fridge will work but it may take a little longer to dry. This drying process takes anywhere from two weeks to three months, but you will know when it is done because it will be firmer than when you put it in the fridge.

This is the excel spread sheet that I made to calculate the loss of moisture in the meat over 2.5 months. After weighing the product each week I will be able to see how much liquid it lost in a weeks time. The 1 and 2 are for each of the samples.

Home Cured Bacon

I feel that bacon has become a fad…Everywhere! I don’t really know how I feel about it, I am still trying to figure it out, like how are sunglasses from the 80’s coming back into fashion, and neon…? Bacon seems to be coming up in everything that we make, and honestly I like mine sliced thick and cooked in a hot skillet to get it nice and crispy on the outside. I will admit that I do make a jam with bacon and apples for my pork dish but the reality of it is, it tastes like salt and smoke. the fat can definitely pick up some great flavors, but again the most prominent flavor is the smoke. I have mimicked the flavor before by smoking cherry tomatoes, and lettuces, I know smoked lettuce sounds weird, but more creative than throwing bacon on it. To show my own personal love for bacon, here is how I make my savory style bacon, that will leave your mouth-watering for more every time.

I have had a little feedback on curing bacon with sodium nitrite and I feel that some people may not have all of the information. With the hundreds of pounds of bacon that I have made, pink salt (curing salt) is a necessary ingredient during the curing process. Not only does it prevent botulism, but the pork belly seems less salty when I did a side by side test. The fact is, you need the nitrites in the pork to help the curing process, even bacon that says “all natural” contains these nitrites, how? A mixture of celery seed or extract with salt creates nitrites, they are able to call it all natural because you are not using a processed sodium nitrite. After the whole curing process the amount of nitrites left are very minimal, after the cooking process it is even smaller. Nitrites are found in a variety of vegetables including, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, parsley, and turnips. Some vegetables have shown to contain 2500mg of nitrites such as spinach, cured meats, on average contain 10-20mg. Most research on negative effects of nitrites on humans predates discovery of nitric oxide’s importance to human metabolism and human endogenous metabolism of nitrite. It takes 71mg of sodium nitrite for it to be fatal to humans, the nitrate found in salami’s is as compound itself is not harmful, and is among the antioxidants found in fresh vegetables.

Savory Bacon

The Cure

1# Kosher Salt

8oz White Sugar

2oz Pink Curing Salt (AKA Curing Salt #1)

The Rest of the Bacon

~3# Pork Belly (I prefer skin on, its cheaper and easy to remove after the bacon has cooked)

2ea Shallots

4ea Garlic Cloves

4sprigs Rosemary

Pink Salt, DO NOT EVER EAT OR SEASON FOOD WITH IT! Red dye is added to ensure that it is not confused for sugar or salt in commercial and home kitchens. Always store separately from your sugars and salts.

  • Start by combining all of the ingredients for the cure and mixing well.
  • Slice the shallots, smash the garlic with your knife and have the herbs rinsed and ready to use.
  • Sprinkle the pork liberally with the curing salt mix on both sides. Be sure to rub the cure on the sides of the meat as well. Store the leftover cure in a tightly sealed container and away from other ingredients in the kitchen.

  • Next lay out a sheet of plastic large enough to wrap the belly with and place 3/4 of the shallot, herbs, and garlic. Lift the belly and place the flesh side down on the herbs.
  • Place the remaining ingredients on the skin side of the pork belly, sprinkle with a little more cure, and wrap the whole thing with plastic.

  • Place the belly in a pan large enough to hold it and place another pan on top with some weight in it. I use large cans.
  • Let this bacon sit in your refrigerator for three days.
  • After three days rinse and pat dry with towels put the pork back into the fridge uncovered for 12-24 hours. This will form the pellicle.

Pork belly with a pellicle, hard to see the pellicle but by touching it it should feel tacky.

  • The next day put your pork into the smoker, I use one made by Alto-Shaam, it is a commercial smoker that heats as well. The heat is fairly moist which is fine for this application but I would prefer it to be a little dryer.

  • Smoke and cook your bacon at 250°F until the internal temp reaches 150°F, this should take about 2 hours.  Once the bacon is at temp slice a piece off, because I know it will be irresistible like bread right out of the oven, and enjoy it.

Smoked and sliced bacon, this pig was a little large, most bellies are less than an inch and a half thick, this one was almost 3 inches!

  • Once cooled slice the bacon and sear it in a hot pan.

I like to use thin French style cast iron sautee pans because they get hot quick, and once you start cooking they stay hot.

I would not recommend eating this bacon "extra crispy" it gets a little tough when over cooked.