“Mule’s Bollocks”: A Delicacy with a Heart of White Lard
Coglioni di mulo are a type of cured pork meat from Abruzzo, nowadays produced on a larger scale in Norcia, the capital of Umbrian charcuterie
Coglioni di mulo are a type of cured pork meat, whose peculiar denomination, literally meaning “mule’s bollocks” is due to the oval shape and to the fact that “balls” of meat are usually sold two by two, tied with strings. Although no mule is involved in the making, it comes from an area in the Abruzzo Apennines, where the mule was highly regarded by the locals. Its original name was mortadella di Campotosto, since it is made with minced meat, similarly to mortadella. Coglioni di mulo can be perfectly paired with a Montefalco Rosso doc, a medium-bodied red wine, with an intense bouquet and delicately tannic.
The original product – Around 80% of a piece of coglioni di mulo is a mix of lean meats, entrails and at least 25% ham. 20% is pancetta. The meat is ground and forced through a metal plate with holes with a 2-4 mm diameter. The pink mass is then seasoned with salt, ground and whole pepper grains and marinated in white wine for 24 hours. When filling the casing, a bar of lard 20x20x110mm is wedged into the middle of the marinated mixture. The cased meat is left to cure for two weeks in a smokehouse fuelled with oak and beech wood. Like in the past, the casing is hand-sewn and the cased pieces of meat are hung on wooden poles. The coglioni di mulo are subsequently taken to a ventilated room for the last stage of dry-curing. Three months later, the final product weighs 330g and shows a white hard of lard surrounded by fine-grain pink meat.
The Umbrian version – The “mule’s bollocks” from Norcia are less artisanal than the original Capotosto version. They are made with a mixture of coarsely-minced ham, pancetta and guanciale jowl meat, with a fat content of 30-35%, put into a casing. A stick of lard seasoned with pepper and garlic is then inserted, so that it will release its flavour during the aging. The casing is punctured to let the moisture and extra air come out. The “bollocks” are tied together two by two with a string and subsequently left to rest for 30-45 days in rooms whose floor is regularly wet. The resulting humidity will cause the formation of white and grey mould, which helps preserve the meat.