Capocollo from Calabria is a dry-cured pork neck. This delicacy was first introduced to southern Italy by the colonies of ancient Magna Graecia. The meat is boned and salted for about 4 to 8 days, then rinsed in vinegar, rubbed with peppercorns and coated in chili powder. Cased in ‘pelle di sugna’, the inner lining of a pig stomach, the pork neck is tied and left to mature for at least 100 days.
Depending on the geographical location, there are different versions. In northern Italy it is called Coppa while in the central-south Capocollo and it’s one of the most popular Italian cured meats, always present in appetizers.
Together with Pancetta, Sausages and Soppressata, Capocollo is a cured meat that can boast the DOP mark. Traditionally, these cured meats were prepared in natural environments – there were no cold rooms – so, to avoid contamination, it was preferred to prepare them in winter with low temperatures. A natural barrier was created against the proliferation of parasites. Salt, chilli and smoke became a protective mantle for the meat in order to increase the chances of preserving the whole product. The conservation of cold cuts in the cellars allowed the formation on their surface of a layer of green mold which, as we know today, are the starting point of penicillin, the first antibiotic discovered by Alexander Fleming.
The fat of the Capocollo is eaten. The spread in Calabria of this cured meat took place, almost certainly, in the Great Greek era. Today with Capocollo various first courses are prepared. Its most common use is for appetizers, especially in the Calabrian cutting board, or as a base for a frugal meal typical of our culinary tradition. On summer evenings it is the protagonist of many tables. The tomato salad dressed with salt, extra virgin olive oil and red Tropea onion is embellished with half a centimetre thick slices of Capocollo. Cut into strips on bread, it accompanies in a sumptuous way the evening dinner, substantial but at the same time, light.