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Capocollo, roasted not cured!


Capocollo after 5 hours of slow cooking
After almost 5 hours of slow cooking

Just as James Bond preferred his martini cocktail shaken not stirred, I prefer my Capocollo roasted not cured. A less well known cut outside of Italy, this is the best part of the pig’s shoulder and is highly prized in this country to produce a widely enjoyed salume called Coppa. But for anyone that has eaten pulled pork in the Carolinas or Memphis the best use of Capocollo, or Scamerita as it’s called in Tuscany, is to roast it in the oven until it begins to fall apart as you slice it. But as it's the best part of the shoulder, cooking it all the way to pulled pork is unnecessary I think, better to stop somewhere between roast pork and pulled pork.


You probably need to be a butcher to understand exactly where this cut of meat is located in the pig’s shoulder but it’s a muscle that begins in the neck (not that pigs really have necks) and continues through the fourth rib of the upper shoulder. Once the bones are removed this richly marbled meat is rolled up and tied into a simple round shape and it's great value in Italy at only 8.60 euros/kg.


A 4.5 pound boneless Capocollo, trimmed of excess fat and ready for the oven
A 4.5 pound boneless Capocollo, trimmed of excess fat and ready for the oven

It’s a muscle that gets a lot of work in a pig’s daily life so it requires slow cooking. In the US this cut is rarely separated out from the entire shoulder, or Boston Butt as it’s often known, and the cooking preference for this much bigger slab of meat tends to be a long smoking followed by barbecuing until it becomes classic pulled pork.

There are various names for this particular cut of meat outside of Italy, including pork collar, coppa roast and shoulder eye and it’s well worth trying to find because the Capocollo by itself can also be roasted conventionally so it remains moist and succulent rather than the long smoking and overcooking that pulled pork entails.

the meat counter at the main Coop in Lucca

If you're buying this in Italy it's best to go to an independent butcher or a supermarket like the Coop (pictured right) that has a meat banco staffed by a trained butcher so you can get a sufficiently large piece as it will shrink considerably in the oven. The pre-packed small cuts of Scamerita at Esselunga for example are a waste of time.


Ingredients:

2 kilos (4.5 lbs) capocollo

1 large onion, chopped

1 whole orange, chopped including zest

rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper

olive oil

large glass white wine


Directions:

1. Trim some of the excess fat from the exterior of the meat (there’s plenty of marbling on the inside to melt into the meat as it cooks).

2. Chop together 2 cloves garlic and the rosemary and thyme, add olive oil and massage into the meat together with salt and pepper.

Capocollo browned and ready for slow cooking
After initial searing, ready for slow cooking in the dutch oven

3. Place uncovered into the oven pre-heated to very high and leave for 20 minutes to seal.

4. Turn the oven down to about 155 degrees celsius, place the pork into a dutch oven, add the wine and the finely chopped onion and orange, cover with a close fitting lid and cook for about 4 hours.

5. Every hour rotate the pork in the liquid and then remove the lid of the dutch oven for the final hour so the outside of the pork starts to crisp.

6. Turn the oven back up to very high, transfer the pork to a tray with all sides exposed and allow the meat to finish crisping on the outside for up to 20 mins but keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.

7. Meanwhile, empty the liquid into a saucepan, use a hand blender to smooth it into a gravy and heat it to thicken as the pork finishes. Having trimmed the exterior fat at the start there should be hardly any fat left in the gravy.

8. Remove the pork from the oven, cover tightly with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving with the gravy.


A fully cooked capocollo
Cooked a little less than pulled pork, thereby retaining more moisture

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