Hey there, food enthusiasts! Today, we’re diving into the delectable world of capocolla, the Italian and Swiss pork delicacy that’s a true flavor-packed gem. So, grab a seat and let’s embark on a culinary journey where every slice tells a story.
Capocolla: A Porky Delight
Picture this: you’re in Italy or southern Switzerland, and you’re in for a treat. What’s on the menu? Capocollo, also known as capicola or simply coppa. This mouthwatering cold cut is made from the dry-cured muscle running from the neck to the fourth or fifth rib of the pork shoulder or neck. It’s a salume, a whole-muscle wonder, dry-cured to perfection, and typically sliced paper-thin. While it may resemble the more famous cured ham or prosciutto, capocollo is in a league of its own because it’s not brined like ham usually is.
The Name Game
Before we delve deeper into this delicious creation, let’s explore the terminology. In most parts of Italy and southern Switzerland, it’s known as capocollo or coppa, a name that beautifully combines “capo” (head) and “collo” (neck). But, you’ll come across regional variations like capicollo in Campania and Calabria and capicollu in Corsica.
Now, when we venture outside Europe, the naming game gets even more interesting. In Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, it goes by Bondiola sandwich or bondiola curada. Meanwhile, in North America, you might hear it as capicola or capicolla. And for some Italian Americans, especially in New York City and the Northeast US, there’s the quirky pronunciation “gabagool.” It’s rooted in the Neapolitan language word “capecuollo.” You might remember this term from The Sopranos, where it became a well-known stereotype.
So, how is this savory masterpiece crafted? Well, it all starts with a bit of seasoning, often featuring a splash of red wine, a hint of white wine, garlic, and a medley of herbs and spices that vary by region. The meat is then gently salted and traditionally massaged, stuffed into a natural casing, and left to hang for up to six months for that perfect curing. Sometimes, it gets a rubdown with hot paprika before it’s hung up for the magic to happen. Capocolla is essentially pork’s answer to the air-dried, cured beef bresaola.
This delicacy is prized for its tender, fatty texture, and a flavor that’s nothing short of exquisite. In fact, it’s often considered a gourmet treat, making it a tad pricier than other salumi. Capocollo’s thin slices are perfect for antipasti, sandwiches like muffulettas, Italian grinders, subs, and panini, and even some traditional Italian pizza.
Varieties and a Dash of Tradition
Capocollo isn’t just a one-size-fits-all deal. There are some specific varieties that are worth noting, like Coppa Piacentina and Capocollo di Calabria. These two have the prestigious Protected Designation of Origin status under European Union law, ensuring that only products originating from those regions can bear their names.
And then there are five more Italian regions producing their own versions of capocolla, not covered under European law but designated as “Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale” by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food, and Forestry Policies:
- Capocollo della Basilicata: Hailing from Basilicata, this variety is a true delight for the taste buds.
- Capocollo del Lazio: Lazio’s take on capocollo is a culinary masterpiece in its own right.
- Capocollo di Martina Franca: This traditional capocollo from Apulia takes things up a notch by being smoked with laurel leaves, thyme, almonds, Mediterranean herbs, and even pieces of bark from Macedonian oak. Pair it with figs or Burrata for an unforgettable experience.
- Capocollo tipico senese or finocchiata: Tuscany brings its own unique twist to capocollo.
- Capocollo dell’Umbria: Last but not least, Umbria adds its flavor to the capocollo family.
So, there you have it, folks! Capocollo, a culinary treasure that’s adored far and wide. The next time you savor this Italian masterpiece, you’ll know the rich history and tradition that goes into every bite. Enjoy your culinary adventures!