The pig. Where would we be without this generous animal? The diverse flavors created by the, in my opinion, underappreciated swine, are precious to life. I do not want to think about living in a world without prosciutto, mortadella, or guanciale, to name a few. So I won’t. Instead in this series of blogs, I will take the time to revere this creature who has added much to cuisine around the world. “Moi?” (cue Miss Piggy’s voice). Si, tu! Come, let’s get piggy with it.
Capocollo. Such a distinguished sounding, and looking, word. I love how this word presents itself. It possesses 2 Cs, 3 Os, and 2 Ls. Go ahead, say it out loud. It is like a gymnastics class for your mouth, utilizing various lip, tongue, and overall mouth positioning. It is just a damn sexy word all around. Am I right? Si.
What is capocollo?
Yes, it is the obvious place to start – what IS capocollo? Capocollo, along with its long line of salumi cousins, is an Italian cured pork meat. Once the meat is graciously donated from the pig, it is brined typically with a dry rub which includes salt, obviously, but also a wide range of various spices and flavorings. Capocollo, like most Italian foods, truly reflects the regions from which it comes. Most notably there is Capocollo from Calabria, which has a beautiful color due to the addition of Calabrian chili pepper. Here is a great article that goes a bit more in depth to this specific type of capocollo. Quite bluntly, capocollo is a deliciously salty, cured Italian pork product. It. Is. Spectacular.
Where does it come from?
Well, yes, obviously the pig. It hails from a section of muscle that runs down the back of the neck and through the shoulder: capo, meaning head, and collo, meaning neck – crafty indeed. Apparently this area of the pig is highly regarded due to its fat-to-muscle ratio which enhances the tender and moist product even after the curing process. You can see the the beautiful marbling that illustrates this harmonious relationship of fat and muscle. My mouth is watering just writing about this salty sultan of flavor.
What’s in a name?
One of the most intersting facts I came across while researching this blog was the identity crisis surrounding this particular salumi. It has many different names by which it is identified: capocollo, capicola, coppo, ham-capocollo, ham-capi and my personal favorite, gabogool! Gotta love the gabogool! Thank you Sopranos! The short version is that these different names are result of regional dialect, but all refer to this deliciousness. The longer version, thank you to DiBruno Bros., can be read here. (While you are at it, you should also buy their cookbook that I wrote about in this blog)
How do you use capocollo?
While there are many, many, many uses to this particular member of the salumi family, I have a few of my most favorite ways below. First and foremost, I do truly believe that the majority of the salumi family should be consumed and savored in its natural, authentic state. But I do believe in choice. Thus, here are some alternative avenues to pursue.
PIZZA – Dough and toppings in love – it only seems right to put gabagool on pizza – Buffalo Mozzarella and Spicy Capocollo pizza. Also, my mother’s Italian calzone (while she was not Italian at all) included hot capocallo and to this day, is the best calzone I have ever consumed.
PASTA – Gut instinct is to put it in any and every thing. And that is what I will hold true. However, I am intrigued to make this pasta dish. You will probably beat me to it – so let us know how it its!
ANTIPASTI – tradition, tradition, tradition. Enough said. So put it on your next meat and cheese boards. Maybe get fancy and make it into a capocollo flower!
Again, I have to reiterate how much the Italians (as well as many other countries aside from the US) truly utilize all parts of an animal. In this case, it is the pig. There is very little waste when it comes to butchering a pig. The possibilities of textures, flavorings, and uses is endless. We know you are planning a trip to Italy soon. I mean, how could you not? While you’re here, you may as well consume as many varieties of capocollo, and all of its cousins. Take a look at our tours. You’ll find an experience that will undoubtedly satiate you! Andiamo!