Saturday, January 26, 2013

Charcuterie: Duck Prosciutto

One of the things that I arbitrarily decided to do with my life this year was get into some level of at-home curing and preserving of meat (and other things... but meat is most enticing.)

To help me along, I have another 2012 birthday gift: Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. (With a foreward by Thomas Keller, so you know it's legit.)

I am slowly reading this book, which I think is important so that I don't, you know, poison myself, but I will admit that after getting through the stuff about general salt curing I jumped ahead in the book because I had cheated and peeked. And that meant I knew that I had a recipe for duck prosciutto.

This was the brand of duck breast that I purchased. They run something along the lines of $30/kg as is, so I didn't want to go all fancy and spend half again as much on a Magret duck breast and then ruin it - though my next one, oh. It will be Magret.

I opened up the packaging and found... it had feathers all over it. Not big, obvious feathers, but quills and feathers that had been growing in or just weren't quite plucked out just poking through .

I'm assuming it had something to do with mechanized plucking, but I spent a good 20-30 minutes pulling quills out of the skin of this duck - and STILL I didn't get them all. I was less than pleased, especially since once dry I found there were still more feathers that I had missed. Feathers I couldn't pull out of the cured skin. Observe:

Sneak preview: This is a cured duck breast even though we are not that far into the post Note the remaining feather stubs, especially on the close side of the breast.

Once everything is said and done, they don't interfere with actually eating the thing, but it still sort of bothered me. I think in the future I will be more diligent in feather removal to ensure a prettier final product.

Anyway, none of this was enough to stop me from actually curing the damn thing, so I packed it in kosher salt, as per the book's instructions, and set it in the fridge for 24 hours.

After 24 hours of the salt working its magic so that it's wet and ducky, totally messing up any plans you may have had to weigh the duck breast and the salt, then weigh the salt after you take the duck out of it. We're all well prepared people who think this thing, through, though, so I'm sure none of us were in this situation last Wednesday. Right? Right.

Anyway, the reason you do want to weigh your duck before putting it in the fridge is that at the end of the curing process the meat should have lost about 70% of its weight. You wash the salt off, pat the breast dry and sprinkle the whole thing with finely ground white pepper (or any number of spices, but I started with the white pepper as per the book's suggestion.)

Next you wrap the duck loosely in cheesecloth and hang it to dry for seven days in a cool, dry spot. 12-15C is ideal, but I got away with about 17-18C and very dry under the basement stairs, checking it every few days to make sure it wasn't developing any mold.

Completed duck prosciutto.
And that's actually all there is to it. The duck breast you see here actually dried a bit more than it needed to (losing 65% of its water weight... I went back and figured out the original weight by how much I paid for it and the price per pound) but it's still quite tasty. It's very ducky and almost smoky, even though it's not smoked at all. Definitely worth giving this a try if you have a cool dry spot and a bit of patience.

Ducky and salty (and smoky?) and yum.

Home-Cured Duck Prosciutto

One duck breast
Kosher salt
Ground white pepper
Clean the duck breast thoroughly and pat dry.

Coat the bottom of a container that's close to the same size as the duck breast so that it fits snugly and you can use less salt to pack it. Place the duck breast, skin side down, in the salt and add more salt to totally coat/pack the duck.

Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the duck from the salt, rinse it and pat dry. Sprinkle all over with ground white pepper (or seasoning of choice). Wrap lightly in cheesecloth (or, if you're fancy, tie the prosciutto), and hang in a cool, dry room for seven days, or until the breast has lost 30% of its weight.

Once completely cured, wrap the meat in plastic and store in fridge until ready to use.