Charcuterie

Here we go again (more curing)…. and a MEAT PARTY!!

January 8, 2009

CRW_6891

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 :D

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!!!

CRW_6884

So the duck – it is in the fridge. Hanging. I will let you know in a week or so how it goes :D

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

You Might Also Like

  • Cliffe January 8, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Matt, you know I can’t resist a meat party! I did attend a tech school, mind ye.

  • brittany January 8, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Can’t wait!
    And yes, I am still planning on bringing sweets! : )

  • Alex January 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Good luck, hope this one doesn’t end up feeding the foxes. Do you use the Ruhlman book? I have some Amazon vouchers burning a hole in my pocket and think I might have to invest…

  • Y January 8, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I’m loving your meaty posts, and did someone say.. MEAT PARTY? Wooohoo!

  • sue bette January 8, 2009 at 11:29 am

    looking forward to hearing about how the duck works out – the fridge system sounds great (and looks pretty mad scientist) – best of luck prepping for the meat party – I am looking forward to hearing the details!

  • Adam January 8, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Where’d you get the duck? (I’m also in Seattle) I’ve done a couple batches of bacon from the Charcuterie book and duck prosciutto is my next project.

  • mattwright January 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Adam – I got the duck from two places. The legs (for the meat party) came from Don and Joes. They special ordered them from NickyUSA. That is a top tip actually.. Nicky have great stuff, but the delivery from them is insane – between 30 and 80bucks for overnight.. Don and Joes get a delivery from them every Tuesday and Friday. If you special order, they just dump it on that truck, and you don’t pay shipping.

    I got the duck breast from https://www.dartagnan.com/ You can get it from Nicky as well, but Nicky was out when I needed it. Don and Joes often have the Magret breast in stock too.

  • Food Woolf January 10, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Bravo Matt! I can’t wait to read how it turns out! Again, another award should be given to you for your commitment–purchasing a refrigerator for a recipe has to be one of the grandest gestures of dedication I’ve seen yet!

  • White On Rice Couple January 12, 2009 at 2:14 am

    Just like that muscle pic on your header says, you’re tough and a fighter. Bring it on! More meat curing!!
    We had an amazing Charcuterie plate at a fab restaurant last week, it had everything except the lardo. If we only had an extra fridge, we’d be curing FAT, FAT, FAT!

    BTW- your guests are so friggin LUCKY!! Can’t wait to hear/read about this amazing party.

  • cindy January 12, 2009 at 5:35 am

    bummer about the breseola…and good luck with the duck and the party! brave, brave guy you are.

  • Laurie Constantino January 12, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Intimidated by trying to cure meat in Alaska, I’ve been vicariously enjoying your curing adventures and reporting on them regularly to my partner. You’ve almost got us convinced that we could do it. Your blog is great.

  • john j. August 27, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    did you use a nitrate in the cure for bresola?

  • david November 27, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I just found your site. Wonderful. Did you ever find a solution for dropping the humidity? I live in San Francisco and the temp my garage (where the curing fridge is) is about 55. So the fridge never cycles on and the RH remains around 90% which as you mentioned, turns a one week cure into a five week cure. I have a little light that I turn on in the fridge that heats up the temp probe and cycles the fridge on but something more automated would be better. How did you solve this problem yourself.

    • mattwright November 27, 2009 at 2:59 pm

      Hi David – WOW 90% is really high. At that humidity you run the risk of developing a lot of rather unsavory mold, especially if the meat is kept that high for too long. The light bulb thing is a good trick for sure, and I know a fair few people that do that. One thing with that I would watch though is that prolonged exposure to light makes fat go rancid. If that lightbulb is on quite a bit, you might have the possibility of a problem there. I know some people will use a small reptile heater to do the same job.

      What I personally do for high humidity is just wedge the door open a crack. I doubt that your actual basement has a humidity of 90% (if so, you have some house problems!) since the meat in the fridge will be giving off moisture, and raising the humidity. So, leaving the door open a crack to let out that humid air is the cheapest and easiest thing to do. When air is that humid you really need a way to exhaust it anyhow (in fact, almost all curing should have a very minor airflow, it really helps prevent bad mold).

      If you have a little cash to spare, here is a setup that works fantastically well (I think I might look into this myself next year):

      You can buy a humidity controller that is not unlike the temp. controller it sounds like you are using. The difference here is that the humidity controller will turn on one device if the humidity is too low (humidifier) and turn on another if it is too high. Here is a link to the controller: http://www.planetnatural.com/site/hum-1.html. The thing I like about this one is that there is no high-voltage to low-voltage (120V to 10V DC) wiring that is needed – just plug stuff in, and off you go.

      The big question is what to use to get humidity out. Here is where it gets fun. You can buy a small fan (much like a computer case fan) that runs off 120V. Wire that thing into a standard plug. Plug that into the humidity controller. Now, drill a decent sized hole on the lower left side of your fridge – all the way through the side. Put a bit of tube in there to make it clean. Screw this fan over that hole. You can also put mesh over this whole on the other side, to make sure nothing gets in there. Now, on the top right side of the fridge, drill 4 or 5 smaller holes (and cover those with mesh too). These are holes that will let air in.

      So, when the humidity gets too high, the fan turns on, all pulls air through the fridge – less humid air from your garage (thanks to the inlet holes).

  • OliveBacon February 8, 2011 at 6:59 am

    No way…I love this site. I’ve been wanting to get in to charcuterie a bit more this year and this site definitely sparked my desire even more to put homemade duck procuitto in my mouth.