Coppa Cabana

It’s all lead to this. Well, to be fair, the moment of truth is likely still close to two months away. I’ve long daydreamed of a simple life of working a modest pig and goat farm and producing artisan ham and goat cheese. And it’s always been a daydream, and it’s very likely to stay that way, but I’m at least a few steps closer to that ideal life. And it’s all thanks to a well prepared wedding registry and the generous folks on our invite list who have unknowingly been contributing to fueling that daydream. So, what are the magic items? A wine fridge with temp control and a copy of Michael Ruhlman’s and Brian Polcyn’s Salumi book. I’m certain that those that bought us the wine fridge – as any reasonable human being would – assumed it’ll be used to protect our extensive wine collection. Nope. After pulling out a bunch of the bottle racks and putting a pan of salted water in the bottom, I’ve hopefully recreated a temperature and humidity controlled environment in which to cure and age a variety of charcuterie and salumi (which by the way is the Italian word for all cured meat, not just salame) and maybe someday cheese.

It took me less than 24 hours to decide what I was going to produce first, but I decided on Coppa which as Ruhlman says should be one of the easier cuts to cure. The Coppa is a specific cut that comes from the shoulder of a pig and runs from the neck along the spine and spans the first few ribs. Thanks as always to my reliable, friendly, and local butcher, I am now the proud owner of a 2 1/4 pound coppa (and 5 pounds of brisket already on the brine, destined for this year’s corned beef.)

getting a salty coat

getting a salty coat

The process so far is pretty straightforward. Salt the meat thoroughly and uniformly. Weight it down and leave it to cure for a day or two in the refrigerator. Once it’s been cured and the meat has tightened up some, it’s ready to hang in the “cave” or in this case, the wine fridge. Doneness is gauged entirely by weight loss. When it’s lost 30% of the its original weight, it’s done.

the tally

the tally

And the waiting begins. Stay tuned.

hanging in wait

hanging in wait

Slow Cooker Pork Belly Confit

Some people’s holiday wishes are about fancy new cars or expensive vacations or ipods or video games. Mine tend to be far simpler. They usually involve pork, and it’s usually cooked for a long time.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I opened a Hanukkah gift — a crock pot. It pretty quickly conjured up one image. Confit. Confit of something. Anything. Then I started thinking about pork belly. Pork Belly anything. And thus, the vision was complete. I turned to my seemingly most often referred to cookbook, Ruhlman’s Charcuterie, and sure enough, there’s a recipe for pork belly confit which is actually borrowed from Jim Drohman.

The prep work started Wednesday afternoon when I placed an order at my local butcher, Let’s Meat on the Ave, here in Del Ray, for a crazy amount of locally raised pork belly. Half would go in the crock pot for confit, the other half in the freezer for bacon futures.

On Thursday afternoon, I picked up the belly, threw together the simple cure (which included such sweet and spicy ingredients as clove, cinnamon, and allspice,) and put the belly and cure in the refrigerator to cure for the next day.

all the cure ingredients

all the cure ingredients

And Friday night is when I deviated from the original recipe. Drohman’s and Ruhlman’s  version has you putting this in a 250° oven with rendered pork fat. Lacking sufficient lard and wanting to put my slow cooker to the test, I put my pork pieces in the slow cooker and topped it off with olive oil. 2 hours on the high setting, 2 hours on low setting. (Or, you could do 6-8 hours on low, if you wanted to leave it unattended.) Then I let this cool overnight. And, finally Saturday night, pulled out two portions and crisped them up in a saute pan.

cured belly ready for the slow cooker

cured belly ready for the slow cooker

More than a week had passed since the first inception, and preparation and anticipation lasted 4 days. But here I was with a crisped up confitted pork belly which I served with a reduction of apple cider, cider vinegar, and the last of the New Year’s Eve champagne from the night before. And, boy, was the wait worth it. Tender, but still meaty, and not greasy in the least. The remaining pork fat that didn’t render off was soft and pillowy, and the meat itself was deliciously spicy  from the cure. Six more portions left to sit in the fat/oil in the fridge for another day. Now, I’m thinking cassoulet for at least a couple of them…

crispy pork belly at last (with glazed carrots, parsnips, and turnips)

crispy pork belly at last (with glazed carrots, parsnips, and turnips)

Slow Cooker Pork Belly Confit

(from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book, and slightly adapted for a smaller yield and available ingredients)

  • 10 grams ground black pepper
  • 3 grams ground cinnamon
  • 1 gram ground cloves
  • 1/2 gram ground allspice
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 25 grams kosher salt
  • 3 grams pink salt (curing salt that includes sodium nitrite)
  • 3 lbs. fresh pork belly, cut into eight 6oz. portions (about 1″x2″)
  • white wine (I used a gewurztraminer I had on hand)
  • olive oil or rendered pork or duck fat
  1. Mix the first 8 ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Toss the belly pieces in the bowl with the cure.
  3. Place all of the belly pieces in an airtight container, cover with white wine. Let sit for a day, day and a half.
  4. After the pork has cured, remove the pieces and wipe off any excess cure.
  5. Place in your slow cooker and cover completely with oil or rendered fat.
  6. You can set your slow cooker to low and cook for 6-8 hours. Or run it on high for 2 hours, and then low for 2 more hours.
  7. After the all of the total cooking time, remove the pork and rendered fat or oil to cool. Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.
  8. When ready to serve, crisp each piece in a hot pan. You shouldn’t need to add an oil to the pan.
  9. The remaining pieces should keep in the oil in the refrigerator for several months.