Where it is on the pig: The top half of the front leg, but hold onto your butts, because things are about to get pretty complicated.
What it is: In most American commodity butchery, the shoulder will be taken and simply sawed in half, the top becoming the Boston butt or shoulder, the bottom the picnic ham or picnic shoulder. Generally, the Boston is fattier and more tender than the picnic shoulder. But at Tails & Trotters and other specialty butchers, Bostons are broken down into three different cuts: the coppa or collar, the brisket, and the presa, or secreto.
Silverman says the coppa is the most versatile of the cuts on a pig. Coppa has fat that’s fully integrated. For any cured meat lovers, when you see coppa or capicola, that’s not a casing stuffed with fat, muscle, and lean: that’s the coppa cut. At the grocery store, when people are buying a butt roast, there’s a small, 2lb pound coppa in there.
The second cut is the brisket, which is just like a beef brisket. Pretty straightforward.
The last of the three is a cut likely only found at specialty butcher shops, or shops that get large enough animals in for it to have developed. Sometimes called a secreto — at Tails it’s also known as the presa — this muscle is on the shoulder blade bone itself, beneath and between the coppa and the brisket. Silverman described the muscle as “like a bodybuilder’s tricep.”
“We all have one, just most of us don’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Silverman says. “It’s in every pig, but until the pigs really reach a certain size, that muscle doesn’t differentiate out from the mass of the shoulder.”
What to do with it: Coppa can be grilled, roasted, braised or cured. The brisket cut is “really exceptionally suited” for brining and smoking, again similar to the beef brisket… some places will pickle them like corned beef, rub them with a spice rub, and smoke them for their porkstrami. And the big shoulder with all the elements you find at the grocery store is most commonly used in pulled pork or roasted.