Did the bresaola in the trash (see last post) damper my spirits for home curing meat? Heck no. The opposite if anything. If I screw something up, I want to get it right. If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again (apparently..)
The bresaola was intended for a party I am hosting in about 10 days from now. Since it takes about 5 weeks to salt and cure, there is no way I could do another one. I might go out and buy some, just for kicks – but there is no way I could cure it myself.
Since 10 days isn’t long in meat curing terms, my selection was somewhat limited. Limited to just a few ideas. One was a straight pancetta – which apparently should cure in time.
The other – duck proscuitto
That sounds like fun I thought.
Because I am an odd sort of fellow, I decided to try a few different things. The basic idea of duck proscuitto is that you cover a couple of duck breasts in salt for 24 hours, wrap in a single layer of cheesecloth, and hang for about a week.
A week? That could just work – even with a couple of days leeway just in case it takes longer for some reason.
Instead of just curing them in salt, I added some herbs and spices that I personally like with duck. Namely bay leaf and juniper berry. These were ground up, and rubbed over the breast before going into its little bed of salt.
I didn’t leave it there however. There are different duck breasts you can work with. Of course, you could “go wild” – this would be excellent, however I don’t have a gun, cannot shoot for shit, and don’t have time to go find some wild ducks. And America, being the land of the free, you cannot legally buy wild game. So, wild is out.
So, really domestic wise you have the Pekin, the Muscovy, and the rather special Moulard (or magret breast as some might know it). The Moulard is a cross between the Pekin and Moulard and is a rather large duck. It is the duck that get fattened up for foie gras. These are some of the best domestic ducks around – a lot of flavor, pretty fat. The breasts apparently make the best duck proscuitto, and the legs work really well for confit.
I thought it might be fun to cure breasts from a pekin duck, and also a moulard (magret breasts). I am pretty interested to find the taste difference between the two, and whether it is worth the price variation (magret breasts are more expensive).
My fellow blog readers.. you might remember that I used my rather funky hanging cage for the bresaola. You may also remember that I wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put a pan of water under it to keep up the humidity.
Well, this time I figured I would do something different. Something.. drum roll… more high tech!!
May I present.. A crusty old fridge.
Yep. A few bucks off Craigslist. Not bad. A steal if you ask me. It even has a “control console” with dials and lights.. ohhhhhhhhh.
And, if the previous owner of this fridge is reading my blog – you lied. The fridge wasn’t “very clean”. Not one bit. It took two goings at it with bleach before I considered it clean enough to put food in. Anyhow, I digress.
The idea of the fridge is that it should provide a more controlled environment for curing meat in. It should have less temperature and humidity fluctuations, and I can also cure meat year round in it – something I could never do with my hanging cage system. Come the summer, that would get pretty nasty.
There are a few things to consider with a fridge however. The first is temperature. Most fridges don’t want to run (and cannot) at 50 to 60F. So, you need an external temperature controller that switches the fridge on and off, based on a temperature probe sitting in the fridge.
Humidity control is next. I was expecting the fridge to have low humidity inside – most do when a fridge runs. So, a bowl of salty water in the bottom should give enough extra humidity to keep the humidity between 60% to 70%
Interestingly enough, humidity doesn’t need to be increased – for me it actually needs to come down a little bit. The fridge is sitting in my rather humid garage. Rather humid, because it hasn’t stopped raining in Seattle for a few days.
The problem is that the fridge isn’t turning on much at all. The garage temp is about 55F right now, which is what I have the temp controller set to. If the fridge doesn’t turn on, then it doesn’t push dry air into the fridge.
If anything, on these damp Seattle days I need to lower the humidity a bit. For this I do a couple of things. I leave the fridge door open a little bit. That helps.
If I need to reduce it a lot, I run the fridge for a few minutes, get it to where I want the humidity to be, then shut the door.
So far so good
Long term though, I want to work out a more automated system for controlling the humidity.
So what has happened to the cage????
Well, it is too small to put Drake in when he is being naughty (just kidding… ). However, I figured that I might try some more curing with it. You see, I am a stubborn bugger sometimes, and it has ticked me off that the bresaola I cured in it didn’t work out.
So, I am going to hang more meat in it. I might well switch one of these duck proscuitto’s over to it. To make it easier to work with however I have retrofitted a door into the side of it. No more having to un-staple the mesh every time I want to check the meat in there. First class all the way baby!!!
So the duck – it is in the fridge. Hanging. I will let you know in a week or so how it goes
and.. THE MEAT PARTY!!
So I have been planning a bash for some Seattle food bloggers (and one further afield), since the beginning of December.. no, wait, since Danika and I went to the unbelievably good food bloggers party hosted by WhiteOnRiceCouple, down in LA (September if my memory serves).
I have wanted to do a meat themed party for a while now. For the last few years I have really focused on cooking seafood, and I just felt like stretching my wings a bit. I have also managed to find some amazing local farms of top quality meat – that raise animals organically, naturally, and stress free (one of the main reasons I have always cooked more seafood).
To be honest, the party has got a little out of control. It was originally meant to be a small gathering of people that have really supported my blog the last couple of years. Course, as we all know, there are far too many amazing bloggers, and down right nice people out there – and it was just too hard to limit the guest list. So, it has expanded to 20.
I will give more details of the party in my next post, including a menu, and guest list!
So, I might be a little scant on blogging for next week – I am rushing around getting stuff together for the bash. It should be a lot of fun, and very, very meaty.
Happy New’s everyone