Of all the dry cured meat projects that I do, Spicy Capocollo (coppa for short) has got to my my all time favorite! It’s buttery, balanced, spicy, a little smoky, and so easy to make. Generally coppa is made under very specific parameters with controlled humidity and temperature (check out our post on how to build a dry curing chamber), but today I’m going to show you how to make it in your house refrigerator.
Making dry cured meat isn’t very complicated. We first cure the meat then we dry it. It’s literally those 2 steps. The first step (curing the meat) is all about 2 things: preserving/protecting the meat from harmful bacteria and infusing lots of flavor. The method we will be using to cure our meat is called the equilibrium cure. I really like this method as it’s not only incredibly easy to do but it’s also the most reliable and safest way to cure your meat. This method allows us to perfectly season/cure our meat without any concern of over/under salting. What’s also great about this technique is that you can work at your own pace (meaning if you can’t get to the meat immediately and it needs to sit in the fridge a few more days you don’t need to worry about it becoming too salty or over seasoned). This method is contrary to the alternative method called “Salt Boxing”. Salt boxing simply means you take a bunch of salt and encase your meat in it. Salt boxing is very unreliable and often produces a piece of meat that is extremely salty. We can talk about the 2 techniques in a different post. Once our meat has been cured we begin the process of drying.
How long should my meat cure?
Curing the meat is all about time. Once you add the necessary salt and spices you simply need to wait long enough for those spices to penetrate the meat. Our goal is to have 100% penetration. Depending on the size of your muscle will completely determine how long you leave it in your refrigerator. I found this great calculator that breaks it down for you. Click on the tab “Brining Time” and input the information. Be sure to add 20% to the answer so ensure that your cure gets fully penetrated. Bookmark this page as you will certainly find it useful when you start dry curing lots of meat
Are curing salts necessary for this recipe?
This is a tricky topic that can be quickly misunderstood so I want to tread lightly as I explain how this works. Curing salts (Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate) are added to recipes for protection against harmful bacteria, especially botulism. Botulism is a deadly bacteria that grows in anaerobic conditions (no oxygen). If you create an anaerobic environment and Clostridium botulinum spores are introduced (by contamination) they could grow to infect your dry cured meat. As an example conditions like this could exist when smoking meats at low temperatures or making salami. In the case of salami the meat is ground (this is where possible contamination could take place), it’s then stuffed tightly into a casing (this is the anaerobic environment), then hung to dry for several months. For both of these examples I would ALWAYS recommend the use of curing salts.
In the case of whole muscle curing the situation is slightly different. Freshly and properly butchered whole muscles are sterile inside and because botulism can’t grow on the outside of the muscle there is no cause for concern. With that being said there are a few things to consider when selecting a whole muscle to dry cure.
- Try and buy the freshest possible piece you can get for your dry curing project
- Inspect the muscle to make sure there are no knife gashes or punctures of any type
When it comes to charcuterie fresh is always better. Get to know your butcher (or the grocery store butcher) and find out when they receive fresh merchandise. More importantly though you’ll need to inspect the muscle that you plan on using to ensure that it doesn’t have any knife punctures or gashes in it. These cuts can introduce unwanted bacteria to your already sterile muscle. If you can follow these 2 pieces of advice you can safely cure your whole muscle using only salt.
So why are curing salts added to whole muscle dry curing projects if they are technically not necessary. Well, often people will add curing salt to preserve the color of the finished product or some will add curing salts to enhance the flavor. Some even add curing salts as an extra layer of protection for the “unknown”. Everyone has their own reasons. I can tell you this, if you are unsure or you don’t want to take any chances, my advice to you would be to simply add the appropriate amount of curing salt to your muscle. In the recipe below I’ve added curing salts as an optional ingredient in the event you feel like you want to add it.
Drying in your home refrigerator
Drying meats inside of your home refrigerator can be tricky because of the low humidity and high air speed. Both of these factors are almost certainly going to produce an overly dried piece of charcuterie. The trick to making this happen is having a unique wrap around our coppa that controls the moisture loss. I have used lots of different product over the past 10 years that claim to do this and the one I like the most is The Sausage Makers Dry Aging Wraps. These wraps were developed for dry aging beef but in my experiments I’ve found that they produce some pretty good charcuterie as well.
When you use these dry aging wraps, simply (and carefully) place the coppa on the sheet and begin to wrap the muscle with your dry aging sheet. As you fold the wrap around the meat you will want to press out any air pockets. Once it’s fully wrapped place the netting around the meat, weigh it, record the weight, and place it in your refrigerator till you lose the appropriate amount of weight. I like 35% for this recipe. That’s it!!
I hope you enjoy this week’s video and recipe. If you give this a go be sure to let me know how your came out and if you have any questions ask away in the comment section below.
Here are a few things you might find useful when making this recipe
- Dry Aging Sheets (for drying in your home refrigerator)
- Butchers Twine & Dispenser/Cutter
- Iodophor Sanitizer
- Waterproof Digital Scale
- Extra Large Cutting Boards (use discount code 2GUYS15 for 15% off)
- Heavy Duty Vacuum Sealer
Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. If you make this at home I’d love to hear about how it came out!!
If you want to see the different things that we use in operation our be sure to check out our new Amazon Store.