A couple of years ago I got the book Charcuterie written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. I love this book, I can spend hours looking at it, but so far the only thing I've managed to actually make out of it is is my corned beef. I haven't been brave enough to try the "real" cured meats in the book, but I've been itching to do it.
A couple of weeks ago a couple of things inspired me to finally take a chance. First this post on Ruhlman's blog about a couple of women (Kim Foster andCathy Barrow) who have decided to put on a CharutePalooza challenge. The second motivator was, that my house is so damned cold that my entry way is at the perfect temperature to hang meat to cure. I figured I've got lemons, I might as well make lemonade - or more like I've got a natural meat locker, I might as well cure meat.
Their first challenge turned out to be a simple one - duck prosciutto, so I decided to give it a shot - the biggest challenge is living in Humboldt and trying to find duck breasts. I didn't want wild duck, I didn't think it would be fatty enough. Turns out there is no such thing as just duck breasts in Humboldt County grocery stores, but there is this wonderful person named Pixie who owns a great little meat market by the name of Loleta Meat Market. If you live in Humboldt, I highly recommend her homemade sausages. They're to die for! I gave Pixie a call, asked her if she had any duck. Turns out she did. Then came the hard question, "would you be willing to bone it out for me?" The answer was no. But then I asked if she could just cut out the breasts for me - that was a yes. When I showed up Friday night, 45 minutes after her closing time, she welcomed me to the back of her butcher shop, pulled out the boned duck - turns out she did bone the thing - and proceeded to tell me how much fun she had doing it, and lovingly presented every part to me. I told her what my plans were, and now I hope it comes out good, because I owe her some duck prosciutto now. She zipped it up in a bag, charged me a nominal fee and I was on my way.
Pixie rocks like Iron Maiden by the way - she's a rare creature - a female butcher. She's one of my heroes.
So, back to the duck prosciutto:
I pulled out my Charcuterie cook book, and also referenced Michael's blog for the instructions. First I packed the breasts in salt. I got a little creative - using ideas from Charcuterie and I crushed juniper berries and added them to the cure. (Those aren't bugs in the pictures - they're juniper berries - I promise. )
I covered them with plastic wrap and set them in the fridge to cure for 24 hours.
Tonight I pulled them out, rinsed them, thoroughly dried them, dusted them in white pepper, wrapped them in cheese cloth and hung them in my "meat locker" of an entry way.
Now, not being the kind of person who likes to waste food I decided I would take the legs from this duck and make duck confit. So I started that little project tonight as well. I used Ruhlman's recipe from his blog instead of the one he has in Charcuterie because it calls for olive oil, which is much cheaper then duck fat. I also used the spices he suggested on his blog. Fresh ground pepper, coriander, thyme, oregano, garlic and brown sugar. This is now curing in my refrigerator, and will spend 10 to 12 hours in a 180 degree oven tomorrow after curing for 24 hours.
Speaking of duck fat - I then decided it would be a cool idea to get as much fat out of the remaining carcass as I can, save it and use it to fry up some potatoes in later. When I'm done with that, I'll take the roasted duck, the neck, the leg bones and the giblets, throw in some onion, carrots and garlic and cover them in water and make duck stock. I bet that's going to make for some yummy soup later!
So - one duck for $20 turns into prosciutto, confit, and soup stock for another day.
So stay tuned ............ I'll be back to let you know how it all turns out.