As meat cures, doubt dissipates
Proof is in the taste of home-cured coppa and pancetta
Elegant and clear: Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn give elegant, clear and inviting descriptions of home meat curing in "Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing." (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
Coppa with black pepper
Note: Adapted from "Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing," by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. The meat: The coppa cut comes from the muscle that starts right behind the ear, against the spine and runs above the first six ribs where it begins to segue into the loin. Ask your butcher to cut it for you.
1/2 cup coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or more as needed
1 to 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, toasted, roughly cracked
Dry white wine for rinsing meat, optional
Black peppercorns, toasted, finely ground
1. Weigh coppa; dredge in salt until it covers all surfaces of the meat. Put it in a 2.5 gallon zip-close plastic bag. Add the cracked peppercorns to the bag. Mark the bag with the coppa's weight and the date. Squeeze as much air out of it as possible; seal the bag.
2. Put the coppa on a baking sheet. Put another pan on top of the coppa; weight it down with 8 pounds of weights, such as large cans of food or heavy books. Refrigerate for 1 day per every 2 pounds. Midway through the curing, flip the coppa, redistributing the salt and pepper as you do so; weight it down again.
3. Remove the coppa from the bag; rinse it under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels; rub with the wine if you wish. Weigh the meat if you intend to determine doneness by weight. Dust with finely ground pepper, evenly coating all surfaces.
4. Tie the coppa with butcher string as you would a roast; hang it in a drying chamber for 4 to 6 weeks, or until it has lost 30 percent of its weight.
To hang the coppa, you want a space with good air circulation, temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees and about 70 percent humidity, such as a spare closet on an outer wall or even a cool basement, but the authors say a wine or mini fridge can also do the trick.