‘Gabagool’ is a slang version of ‘Capicola’
What is Capicola then?
For those of you that do not know, capicola is a spicy deli meat similar to ham or salami.
How did it come to be known as Gabagool?
This is a slang version that has evolved over time. It comes from the Americanized version of the Italian language. This is widely known as a Napolitan (from Naples) dialect made famous by the well-known Soprano clan. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his gang are well known to have used this dialect and made it world famous.
It’s basically a mingling of Italian, and American English. This is not a language that can be easily understood by everyone. For example, if one of the Sopranos went to Italy and spoke in this way, they would certainly risk not being understood.
It doesn’t look or sound like the standard Italian language at all. It actually belongs more to the old Italian language dialects, that have evolved over time in the USA. Did you know that there’s practically an entire Italian American slang dictionary?
This is a photo of a street Pasticceria (pastry shop) in Naples, Italy:
Despite not being an Italian, if one lives in the New Jersey area he may just as well use and understand these Italian – American words. It’s known that the words describing food or being swear words are the ones that persist longer in a language. They are transmitted from one generation to another.
How is this language formed?
This dialect chops off the ending vowels and voices the unvoiced consonants, like you will see below with ‘Capicola’. Some of the syllables are deleted, some of the consonants are replaced by some other consonants and some of the vowels are moved to other places of the word.
Capicola or Gabagool has the actual Italian pronunciation like this [kapoˈkɔllo]. If you try and say it, it will just turn out like ‘Gabagool’. How are the pronunciation and the new word formed? The ‘c’ from the beggining sounds like a ‘k’ and it becomes voiced and turns into ‘g’. The voiceless consonant ‘p’ turns into a voiced like consonant ‘b’ and the ‘cola’ ending sounds like an ‘oh’ and being raised it becomes ‘ooh’.
Returning to Gabagool
Italy is well-known as being a country that knows its way around meat. Since ancient Roman times it is the pioneer in meat preparing techniques. It cures meats and makes them take special flavors and allows them to last for years.
The curing process is a meat aging process that consists basically of salting the meat, smoking it and then air drying. However, there are various cured meats types and each one is done with different spices and with different special techniques.
The meat that is usually used is pork, but they sometimes use the beef, venison or wild boar as well. Spicing is the main thing in cured meats. Usually the southern part of Italy makes spicier foods while the northern part makes milder ones. The Italian antipasto relies a lot on these cured meats. They are usually served as a starter.
Cured meats can be split in two categories
– The ones that come from whole cuts of meat.
– The ones that were molded from ground meat and stuffed into casings.
Gabagool cured meat
This is the most popular Italian cured meat. And apart from this due to its richness and the long period it takes for it to be made, it is perceived as a gourmet food. It is prized for its perfect ratio of 30 percent fat and 70 percent lean meat. This is what makes the meat moist and tender. All the above makes it more expensive than the rest of the dried Italian meats. It has a marble appearance and a rich flavor.
Gabagool first appeared in southern Italy, but nowadays it is more popular in the United States than in Italy. It can be either sweet or hot. The sweet one is spread all over with black pepper while the hot one with red pepper.
The necessary things to make a great Gabagool at home:
– 2 or 2.5 kilos of pork shoulder butt
– Red or white wine (not compulsory)
– Variety of herbs and spices (bay leaves, juniper berries, hot pepper flakes, paprika, black pepper, garlic, salt)
The making process:
– Take the salt and rub the entire piece of meat with it. Make sure it covers all the areas and no single spot is left uncovered. Use that type of coarse salt.
– Mix all the other dried ingredients well and rub them into the meat. Make sure all the nooks and crannies are covered with this mix. This way every square of the meat will take the needed flavors.
– After all the meat is well covered transfer it into a zipped locked food bag, put it in a bowl or something, put something hard on it and leave it in the refrigerator for two weeks. This is the curing process.
– After the two week wait take the meat out from the fridge and rinse off all the running water. This period the salt will have forced out all the liquids from the meat and will leave a lot of liquid in the bowl. Take the meat from the bag, wash it thoroughly under cold water and rinse it until the meat is dried.
– Now the aging process comes next. Take a wooden board and put the meat on it. Now take the paprika and cover the meat all over with it. Then you can put the meat in an UMA iDry and put it back on the refrigerator for between four to eight weeks. In the end it will have a 40% weight loss reduction. If you do not have an UMA iDry you can just place it on a rack and leave it there until it ages. If the last choice fits better for you, make sure the room temperature where you put it is between 14 to 18 degrees and the humidity between 70% and 80%. Leave it there between 5 to 10 weeks until you think it is well aged. You can check it from time to time.
When it is ready you can enjoy it. Once thinly sliced it should look like a ruby red piece of cured meat embedded in white fat. You can enjoy it like it is or in a Gabagool sandwich.
See 2 Gabagool sandwich recipes below:
1. Gabagool Sub sandwich
- Italian bread
- Thin sliced Provolone or mozzarella
- Either Genoa Salami, Mortadella or Prosciutto
- Hot cherry peppers
- Iceberg lettuce
- Thin sliced red onion
- Salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil, red wine vinegar
Putting it together
Take your choice of Italian bread and slice it in half. Put the Gabagool, then the provolone, then a mortadella slice. Now here come the spices. Add some hot cherry peppers, top it with iceberg lettuce and add some thin sliced onion rings over it. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a bit of oregano (like in almost all Italian dishes) and spray some olive oil and red wine vinegar.
2. The Gabagool sandwich
This was the Tony Soprano’s favorite.
- Smaller Italian bread
- Red sweet roasted peppers
- Sliced provolone
Putting it together:
Take the bread, slice it in half and start making the sandwich. Put the Gabagool. Then take the red sweet roasted peppers, the sliced provolone and some spices you like and there you have it.
If you want to try some real Italian food and good Gabagool and are in New York City, you can visit the Parisi’s Italian Deli in Little Itali or the Faicco’s Italian Specialities on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Your taste buds will be glad you went to any of the places above.
If you want to try gourmet antipasti, choosing Gabagool is a very good option. Despite its price, the rich taste and flavor will not let you savor too much at once. So it is worth all the money. Make sure you savor it in a nice original Italian restaurant, or at home with special friends. If you do not have any nearby, a homemade Gabagool is a great idea. Make sure you follow all the steps above and it will turn out the best cured meat you have ever tasted. Enjoy it!