Home cured Coppa

May 21, 2010

how to cure coppa

When you talk to most people about cured meat, it is only a matter of time before “coppa” is talked about. Next to prosciutto, I think this certain cut is everyone’s favorite, and it is easy to see why. On a properly raised hog, you get what I consider a perfect fat-to-meat ratio for cured meat. What is more, the fat runs throughout the slice, rather than around the edge, with a few pieces of marbling. No, this fat is in the middle of the meat, providing great textural balance to the meat along with just enough of that fatty mouth feel with every bite.

Most people know coppa as a cured meat, but technically it is a certain cut of pork from the top of the shoulder. The loin of the pig ends, and the coppa begins, and wraps over the shoulder. Coppa is really a bundle of a few muscles, which are heavily used, so have a lot of flavor. Between these muscles is lovely pockets and striations of fat that gives the coppa its unique flavor and texture.

Unfortunately here in the US of A coppa can be hard to find. Throughout Europe this particular muscle bundle is sold in butcher shops all over. There is a reason for this  – it makes an absolutely bloody fantastic roast or braise. The fat layers within the meat essentially make it self basting – and with a low-and-slow approach, simple cooking yields a fantastically complex porky flavor, and smooth texture. Butchery here in the US can be a little brutal at times, especially when factory farming is concerned. Time isn’t taken to release the coppa from the shoulder bundle, and instead it is just cut through as the pig gets cut up in to pieces. If you want to find the coppa bundle to try and roast or cure and air dry as I did here, you are going to have to make friends with a butcher who is interested in doing something a little un-USA….

It was actually some work to find the coppa bundle that I cured, which you see here. Thankfully a local farm that can do custom butchery was able to cut out exactly what I needed. A wee bit of trimming here and there, and this hunk of meat was ready to go.

The process is really rather simple. The muscle bundle gets rubbed in salt, herbs and spices and left in a bag in the fridge for about 12 days. From here this meat is stuffed in to a large beef casing (beef bung casing to be precise!), tied up, and put in to the curing chamber. Here, it sits, slowly loosing weight and growing mold for a couple of months.

When the meat has lost about 35% of its weight it is ready to slice. Sliced really REALLY thin. This is a job for a meat slicer. Seriously. Not even that knife that you smuggled back from Japan is going to do the job here. Thankfully I picked up an old Hobart meat slicer few weeks ago, thanks to an absolute deal on Craigslist. It’s a litle shaky, and needs a few new parts, but otherwise she is pretty ship shape. Or is it a he? I haven’t quite worked that one out yet. It will cut ya if you aren’t too careful, and has greased nipples, so I figure it must be a … oh wait, this is just getting silly….

The biggest issue you are going to have with coppa, and almost any whole muscle of this size is case hardening. The diameter of this cut is about 4″, which is pretty big. All it takes is slightly low humidity in your curing chamber, and you end up with the outside drying out too much and forming a crust. This crust prevents moisture from inside the meat escaping, and eventually leads to the problem of rancidity.

The trick here is just to make sure you keep the humidity high for quite a while. By high I am talking 85% or so for the first three weeks. By weighing the meat every few days you can gauge the weight loss pretty well. Keeping an eye on that, and controlling the humidity well, and you are set for some fantastic cured meat after a couple of months.

The recipe I used for this one was from the fantastic “Cured Meats” blog, penned by Jason Molinari. His recipe calls for cinnamon, clove, fennel and juniper berry, along with salt and pepper. Being honest if I was to do this one again I would most likely leave out the cinnamon and clove. Becky Selengut, who tasted this with me one afternoon described its flavor perfectly “hmm, it tastes like Christmas“. That it did. Next time I going to cure with fennel, juniper and rosemary.

Still, it had a great flavor. Certainly unique, and certainly tasty. It got better with age too. A few months later (now) it is even more intense, if just a little too salty.

Home Cured Coppa – recipe from Jason Molinari

NOTES: There are no weights given here, everything is a percentage value of the meat weight – since you will never have a piece of meat that weighs exactly the same as mine – and ratios are important here.

Some books out there call for dicing up the shoulder meat into pieces, and stuffing that in to casings. I hate to argue with the author of said book, but I have never heard of a coppa like that. Spend the time to find a butcher that can cut you out a nice coppa.

The cure #2 here isn’t strictly needed since this is a whole muscle cut, but I do recommend it for color.

1 Coppa muscle bundle from pork shoulder – roughly 2 to 3lbs

Salt – 3.5%

White Pepper – 1.0%

Cloves – 0.1%

Cinnamon – 0.075%

Cure #2 – 0.25%

Juniper Berry – 0.2%

Fennel Seed –  0.35%

1 beef bung casing

bactoferm 600 (optional)

Trim the meat up into a pleasing cylindrical shape. Weigh it. Weigh out all of the salt and spices. Grind these up together in to a powder. Rub this over the meat, making sure it is really well rubbed in. Place it in a zip lock bag, squeeze the air out the best you can, and put this in the fridge. Every couple of days massage the cure in to the meat, through the bag.

Do this for 12-15 days, until the meat feels firmer. Err on the longer side if unsure.

Take the meat out of the fridge, wash the cure off, and pat dry with towel. Soak the beef bung in cold water for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until soft and pliable. Stuff the meat in to the casing, and tie it up using butchers knots and twine.

Hang this at 55F and 85% humidity for about 2.5 to 3 weeks. From here gradually lower the humidity to 75% over the course of the next couple of weeks. Weigh the meat periodically to check weight loss. A weight loss of about 35% means it is good to eat.

You can make up a solution of Bactoferm 600 (solution according to package directions) and spray this on to the coppa after stuffing in to the casing. This will provide good white mold coverage on the meat, helping regulate the moisture loss, and also help combat any nasty mold that might grow on the surface of the salumi.

This is best eaten just as is – however if you wanted to go all fancy, may I suggest slicing a bunch rather thinly, and arranging this on a plate. In the center top it with a little baby arugula, and then drissling the whole thing with good olive oil and a little lemon?

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  • Sommer @ A Spicy Perspective May 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I LOVE your photos in this post–fabulous! Thanks for all the great information.

  • noëlle {simmer down!} May 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    LOVE that first photo! Glad this was such a success for you.

  • j biesinger May 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I always wondered if the end of the butt away from the blade bone wasn’t part of the coppa. It seems similar in terms of fat to meat and it seems like it would be in the neck region of the hog. I cut it out of a butt once and cured it and it seemed to work. maybe you could shed some light on this.

    great post!

  • Jackie Baisa May 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    This isn’t something I would make (yet…) but I really enjoyed ready about the delicacies of making it (particularly humidity… makes perfect sense!) I also adore your photos. (And I’m dreadfully envious of your slicer!!)

    Fabulous blog, thanks.

  • brian baxter May 21, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    looks great. I’ve got a couple working right now that I have high hopes for…

  • Heather May 21, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Meat chips! I want to snack on this all day. Once our crazy wet weather settles down I can start thinking about home charcuterie.

  • nina May 22, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Not only are you a genius for making your own coppa, that first photgraph is just too beautiful!!

  • Leah May 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Wow, that’s a sexy coppa. The color is so vibrant. Nice work explaining the muscle and the butchery. It made for a really fascinating post. Will you make culatello next (and send me some!)?

  • M. May 24, 2010 at 4:33 am

    this looks and sounds great….I love cured coppa, but doubt will be making it at home, luckily for me it is easy to find in my city,
    I absolutely love first photo….so eye catching!

  • Dawn (KitchenTravels) May 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Brilliant! One of my favorite cured meats, and you’ve done a beautiful job making your own. Wow, I am seriously impressed.

  • Scott May 25, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Looks great, Matt. Yes, Coppa as a cut is a real pain in the arse to find. Luckily, the 2 times I was able to procure them they were both top notch. One was a berkshire, and of course, my latest Mangalitsa monster. Great looking slicer, BTW, nice to see you held out for the real deal.

  • Michael May 27, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Hi Matt; Nice article, and thanks for sharing!

    Question — what special equipment do you need to control temp and humidity like that? Sounds like this is beyond even most professional kitchens!

  • zenchef June 7, 2010 at 3:46 am

    I read this post when you just posted it and i must have been distracted before i could comment on it. Just wanted to tell you how amazing that first photo of the coppa drying out in the sun is. One of the best shot i ever seen. Besides that, the accomplishment of making your own coppa deserves its own standing ovation. Beautiful work, Matt!

  • Andre June 17, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Hi Matt, I have made a pancetta and so far so good (see picture ). I also attached a picture of a poor excuse of an attempt to make Prosciutto with wild boar like grandma used to do in the old country. This friend of mine just does not listen and as you can see the ugly mold is doing well. We’ll taste the pancetta for the 4th of july party and I just can’t wait. Your readers might be interested to see what the wrong mold looks like . Thanks for all you do ! Andre
    Sorry I could attach the pics so go to and I’ll put them there .

  • Valentina June 30, 2010 at 7:45 am

    This photo is out-of-this-world! I enjoy your content and your images so much, Matt.

  • nick July 1, 2010 at 3:27 am

    im loving it. i got a question i hope you can help me with. i have a curing setup (derived from your guidance). my piles of delicious “happy” pork products are increasing and am wondering:
    can i dry/hang my coppa in the same place i am hanging my pancetta, prosciutto, duck prosciutto? just wondering as i am about to start a coppa and adding moldy bacteria stuff and assuming that once introduced to the box, it would be jumping all over to my other meats….
    any advice would be great. thanks

  • matt July 1, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Hi Nick – congrats on getting lots of happy pork products!

    You can certainly hang the coppa in the same place as your other meats. If the bacteria is good, there is nothing wrong with it cultivating on other meats as well. If there is anything you don’t want bacteria on, you can just wipe that piece in question with vinegar. Personally I never mind mold on stuff.

    My only consideration would be that of humidity. When you first start to dry it you want a higher humidity than you would towards the end. I would place your coppa close to your humidifier if you are using one, that should do the trick.

  • nick July 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Matt… your knowledge is much appreciated! duck prosciutto is done today!

  • Yue Edwards September 6, 2010 at 2:39 am

    haha, this photo is so artistic!! though i know you shot it indoors, it looks as if shot in the sun, which comes from the left above and the blue wall is like dark blue sky~~

  • JC February 19, 2011 at 10:30 am

    speaking about 35% weight loss, is it start weight before curing or start weight before drying?

    • mattwright February 20, 2011 at 5:59 am

      JC – that is the weight after curing, but before drying. Case it, tie it up then weigh it. Also go by feel as well. The meat should be firm all the way through, will little give. that can often be 45% loss.

  • Sir Bobbington March 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Matt. Loving the website – I’m in the process of converting a small fridge into a curing chamber after many years of relying on basic recipes and natural climatic conditions. I’ve a quick query – when using the bactoferm for the ‘good mold’ does it need a high temperature to activate it i.e. does it need ‘fermenting’ like a starter culture in a salami or chorizo?

    • mattwright March 15, 2011 at 2:54 am

      Sir Bobbington – The bactoferm works best when it is added before fermentation – the extra heat from the fermentation step really helps to get those good molds going. However it isn’t critical. I spray my whole muscles down with the stuff, which I don’t ferment and normally get decent growth on them.