Capicola, also known as capocollo, coppa or capicollo, is essentially a pork cut made from the pork neck or shoulder. It is a traditional Calabrian Italian salume or cold cut. In essence, 'coppa' is Italian for nape, while the name capocollo comes from capo and collo, which mean head and neck, respectively. The traditional Italian 'capocollo' is derived from the Latin term 'caput collom'.
Capicollo is very similar to the more widely known and used cured ham, prosciutto. Both these cuts are derived from pork and are cold cuts. These are even used in similar dishes.
Capocollo has been an important ingredient in Italian cooking since the ancient times. The cold cut is used in various preparations like stews, salads, soups, etc. It is also consumed as a snack and is often a part of the popular cold-cut meat platters served almost everywhere in the world.
Culinary Uses of Capocollo
Capicollo is mostly used in Italian cooking, but over time, its use has spread to other world cuisines as well. Across Europe, the ingredient is an important part of various soups, stews, casseroles and salads, to name a few. In the UK, US, Latin America, Philippines, etc., the cold cut is served as a snack, as it is or after it is fried, roasted or warmed. The meat is highly regarded for its unique and delicate flavor and soft, fatty texture. It is often more expensive than other salumi. The meat is most often used in Deli sandwiches. In various nations, it is sold as a gourmet food.
In antipasto or sandwiches like panini and Italian grinders, Capicola is often used in thinly sliced form. It also partners very well with traditional Italian pizza.
Production of Capicollo
When produced commercially, Capicola is first seasoned lightly, with red or white wine, garlic and various spices and herbs. The herbs and spices, however, differ depending on the region where the cold cut is being made. The seasoned meat is then salted and stuffed into a natural casing. It is then hung up and cured for a minimum of 6 months.
Depending of what type of wood is used for smoking and the breed of the pig selected, the taste of the meat differs.
Sweet capicollo is seasoned with garlic and salt while the hot-style capicollo is seasoned with fine crushed red peppers. The home-style capicola is the variety that is wrapped around the casing. The meat is then air dried and this intensifies the flavor.
The beef counterpart of the pork cold cut is the bresaola. A less common, cooked variant of the meat is known as coppa cotta. It is available commercially and is mostly savored as a snack.
Popular Capicola Recipes
Pork Capicollo is used in various traditional Italian dishes. Some of the popular recipes that feature the meat as an important ingredient are:
- Italian Meatloaf Filled With Capicola - The traditional Italian meatloaf stuffed with the popular meat cut and seasoned with regional kitchen herbs and spices.
- Italian Hoagie Dip - Capocollo is an important ingredient in the popular dip.
- Muffuletta - A popular American submarine-type sandwich stuffed with olives, cheese, ham, salami and capicollo.
Frequent mentions of Capicola in popular Americans series like The Sopranos and The Office, are often credit as being the reason behind the meat cut's massive popularity in the US over recent years.