I finally took some much needed time off over the holidays with two goals; get some rest, and do something with the three Fraser Valley ducks I had in the freezer. I have had a copy of Michael Ruhlmans book Charcouterie for a while now and have been wanting to try the duck proscuito.
I decided to make proscuitto with the breasts, make confit for rillette with the legs and thighs, render the fat for cooking the confit, and make litres of my favourite stock.
I’m floating around the food blogs today and I discovered this endevour “Charcutepalooza”. Started by “Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy”. What a brilliant idea! Each month they will focus on a new curing project and foodies will report thier experiences both good and bad. January is Duck proscuitto month so I am excited to report on my endevours.
I carved up the three ducks, carefully removing the breast meat, trying to get as much from the bone as possible. Ducks are always a little more finicky than chickens. In the good ol’days, we used to have to butcher chickens at a pace of at least one a minute! If anyone saw me working on these guys, you would have thought I was performing surgery with my face inches from the carcass and honing my knife more often than it was layed on the flesh.
All carved up, four of the breasts were equal in size while two were rather small and ended up in a frying pan with a generous amount of fresh cracked pepper and a couple drops of white balsamic vinegar. (I find it heightens the duck flavour and the hint of sweetness lends itself to the gorgeous fats.)
For the curing mixture i decided to stack the breasts in a bowl with a layer of kosher salt and fresh thyme, two duck breasts, then a layer of kosher salt and orange rind, two more duck breasts, and topped with a layer of kosher salt and cinnimon. Two of the breast will be influenced by the thyme and orange, while two of the breasts will be influenced by orange and cinnimon.
I let them cure for two days, gave them a good rinse, patted them dry and let them sit for a few hours. Wrapped lightly in cheese cloth, tied with twine, they have been hanging in my fridge for two weeks now. I opted out of monitoring the curing by measuring weight loss and instead went with the old traditional (lazy) method of determining doneness by texture and density of feel.
When they were first hung, there was a fair amount of give when squeezed between the fingers. After two weeks, two of the breasts are quite noticeably firmer and the other two are not far behind. I also did not label them in an effort to see if the flavours are noticeable.
Choosing the piece that feels firmer than the rest, I make my first few slices, the texture and color look perfect. As thin as I can, I slice a piece and place it on my tongue. I can taste the slight gaminess from the duck, the fat has a beautiful consistency and starts to melt, I can pick out a background flavor of cinnamon, BUUUUUUUT… it’s too salty.
Damn. The 48 hours was too long. Oh well..
I will let the others continue to hang and check into them over the next six months. I will try to find recipes that can reduce the impression of salt, if anyone has suggestions, I am open to ideas. Cheers.