The noble swine, clown of the barnyard, terror of the forest, generous provider of robust haunches that yield to the alchemy of master curers, we are indebted for these the crowning achievements of the charcutier’s art.
And yet — and yet, one can experience the thrill of home curing rich red meat and luscious white fat in the privacy of your own cool cellar or clean backyard shed.
Duck. Long Island ducks. Waddling with great self-importance at Iancono farm in East Hampton, their plump breasts leading the way like a much-decorated general proudly displaying his many victories and achievements.
Surrender those breasts Mr. Duck, you are being promoted to Duck Prosciutto!
A project best started when the chill of late fall has well settled in, thick filets of fresh duck breast will cure in the cool air in three weeks or so, resulting a firm, gently herb-infused “prosciutto” perfect for splashy holiday gatherings as well as private enjoyment on cold winter nights.
Did I mention it’s crazy easy? It is.
RECIPE: DUCK PROSCIUTTO
2 large, fresh duck breast halve, cut free of all bones
2 T. whole black peppercorns
1 T. whole juniper berries
1/4 c. sea salt
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
If starting with a whole duck, liberate the breasts from the carcass in neat thick slabs. Trim the edges so that the fatty skin lines up neatly with the lobes of meat.
Crush the peppercorns, juniper berries, thyme and bay leaf in a mortar. Add the salt and crush some more until the mixture is the consistency of resembles coarse sand.
Pat the salt mixture evenly on both sides of the breast, pressing down into the meat and skin. Place on a plate, cover with wrap, and refrigerate for 48 hours.
Remove the breasts from the fridge, they will be slightly withered. Wipe off the salt/spice mixture well, and thoroughly dry with paper towels.
Cut two lengths of cheese cloth about 18 inches long. Tightly roll up the duck breasts in the cheesecloth, mummy-style. Secure the top and bottom with twine. The wrap needs to be even and snug. The cheesecloth should wrap around the duck 3-4 times to hold their shape while allowing cool air to slowly draw the moisture from the meat.
Hang the sausage-shaped mummies in a cool, dry, dark place that will maintain a consistent temperature in the mid 40sº. Our pool shed is shaded by a stand of pine trees, and this custom Tiffany box curing cabinet provided peace of mind (the shed is secure but there’s all sorts of critters roaming out there. Our prosciuttos were not molested in any way.
Hang for at least two weeks, three weeks is good too. Unwrap the meat. Do a common sense check for odor, mold, evidence of unpleasantness.
Cut a sample slice — the meat should be dark, firm and dry. The layer of fat will also be firm and almost waxy.
Taste. You like? Good.
If you don’t have a deli-style meat slicer, you can wrap the duck prosciutto in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for one hour. This will sufficiently stiffen the meat to allow slicing on the thin setting of a mandolin.
I like to butter a bread stick and wrap the duck prosciutto slices around them, candy-cane style. But that’s just me – serve these slices as you would with other air-cured hams.Print This Post