Cotechino is a pork sausage prepared with a mixture of meat, lard, rind (all coarsely chopped), flavored with spices and stuffed into a casing. Its origin is mainly Emilian. The weight of a cotechino varies from 500 grams to 1 kilo, rarely it can reach 2 kilos.
The classic recipe of Modenese cotechino, handed down for centuries, includes 33% lean pork, 33% fat (throat and bacon) and 33% rind (hence the name), minced and flavored with salt and pepper. The final touch is given by the spices, aromas and wine, which vary from one company to another. Although little used, the Igp disciplinary admits the use of sugar, ascorbic acid (preservative) and monosodium glutamate (flavoring); minimum doses of nitrates are used to avoid the risk of botulinum and keep the color alive.
It should always be consumed cooked and, before cooking, it must be left to soak for at least 12 hours in cold water. When it is time to cook it, then, you need to prick the skin in several places with a large needle, to prevent the casing from bursting during cooking. Then the cotechino is wrapped in a cloth or gauze and immersed in cold water.
The sausage is left to cook in boiling water for a period that varies between two and three hours, depending on the size. The water must always boil very slowly to prevent the skin from breaking. However, if the time indicated for cooking is exceeded, there is no risk of "overcooking" it.
Cotechino should generally be served hot, with a side dish of mashed potatoes, lentils or spinach. In Emilia it sometimes accompanied by a zabaglione prepared with white wine and vinegar. A good cotechino has a good shelf life: from three weeks to three months (in the cold season), provided it is kept in a cool and airy place, preferably hung and not in contact with other cured meats.
Today there are also precooked cotechini on the market that allow to significantly reduce the cooking time. Fresh cotechino (which covers 2-3% of the market) is sold in bulk or vacuum: it must be boiled at least 2 1/2 hours and can be kept for 1 week. The precooked (cooked 1 hour and a half at 120 °) is ready in 25 'and has a duration of 2 years.