Charcuterie

The home cured duck prosciutto is done!

February 12, 2009

img_0002_2_s1

Finally. It has taken a while. The book said 1 week (the book that shall remain namless, Ruhlman). It has been closer to 5 to be honest.

I posted a while back about the start of the duck prosciutto. I had decided that after the failure of the bresaola, I had to cure something. So, I chose to cure two different types of duck breasts.

The first was a simple white pekin duck breast (well, two of them to be quite precise). The second was a moulard duck breast (often called magret). This comes from the same duck used to make foie gras. The breasts are much larger, fattier, and richer tasting than the Pekin. The idea was to cure both, and taste the differences between the two – and to ask in my mind if the difference in price is really worth it.

Well, these took much longer to cure than expected. My guess is that my humidity was higher than said authors, so they dried out slower. Much, much slower.

They are however done!! all of em. The moulard breast took longer than the pekins – obvious really since it is larger.

The more I do home charcuterie, the more I realize just how easy these whole muscle cures are, and just how remarkable the impact of salt on meat. Textures change. Flavors change. All from a little bit of salt.

So, I learnt from my bresaola errors. I kept a much better eye on the whole process, and made sure the humidity was holding proper. I mentioned in the previous post that I bought an old fridge of Craigslist, and started to use that to cure meat in. The duck breasts started in there, but then I needed the extra fridge space, so they got moved to that hanging cage contraption I built for the bresaola

I am happy to report that the cage worked perfectly. Humidity stayed good, and the little darlings dried out, slowly.

I pulled the moulard and the pekin breasts down. Ohhh, the anticipation. The weight of them was good. About a 30% weight loss. No really bad looking mold. The breasts were wrapped in a single layer of cheesecloth.. I cut through one and took a bite….

24hours on, I am still alive and kicking! yay!!!

img_7186_s

All I can say is blimey. WOW. These bad boys are really ducky. Really, really ducky. Perhaps the 1 month cure time really intensified the flavor. Certainly not the for faint of heart, or people that aren’t passionate about duck!!!

My biggest question of this whole process is “so what is the taste difference between the two breast types?”

In all honesty, and maybe this is because I haven’t eaten a ton of it yet, I don’t taste much difference. In my mind the moulard breast is slightly richer. It has a little more fat on it – which could be a good or bad thing. My preference is for a leaner piece – a more even meat/fat ratio.  Fat ratio does depend on what section of breast you cut through too. Texture is pretty comparable. Gun to my head, I do prefer the moulard. Slightly richer flavor, and more meat per slice (the breast is just bigger).

So what am I going to do with all this duck prosciutto? Being completely honest, I cannot eat a ton of it by itself in one go, like I can a good pork prosciutto. It is just so bloody rich – especially the fattier pieces. This would be excellent on a pizza. Really excellent. Sliced really thinly on a salad it would be great. Crisped up, it would add some great texture and flavor to a variety of dishes. On some bitter greens, with a poached egg – perfect.

Or this.. about as simple as you can get:

Duck Proscuitto & Spinach recipe

img_0002_3_s

So this is really just a big modification of an incredible recipe from Elizabeth David (her French Provincial Cooking book). She has a recipe for a simple salad of dandelion greens and bacon. The bacon gets slowly rendered until fat is running. This all gets poured over the dandelion greens. The pan then is quickly deglazed with a splash of white wine vinegar, which too gets poured over.

I then like to add a little fresh fines herbs and some black pepper, but that is just me. The result is just naughty. It shouldn’t taste THIS GOOD. It is so simple, and so bloody good.

If you can find dandelion greens in the winter, don’t buy them. They are just too bitter – no where near as good as the spring versions. Arugula is a perfectly fine substitution.

I had a bunch of spinach in the fridge, that was looking good, so I was using that. Winter spinach has a far more robust flavor than that through the summer, and thus goes well with the strong flavors of the duck proscuitto. The leaves are also a little coarser, a texture which gets softened slightly by the hot rendered duck fat from the prosciutto.

2 handfulls of spinach leaves, carefully washed – keeping the stalks (they are just very tasty, and a good crisp bite)

10 slices of duck prosciutto

white wine vinegar

fresh fines herbs (parsley, chervil, chives, tarragon) and freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Warm a saute pan over a medium heat. Toss in the duck prosciutto, and cook just until some fat runs. Quickly pour this over two plates of the spinach. Add a good splash of white wine vinegar to the pan, heat a little just to pick up some of the duck goodness from the pan. Pour this over the spinach also. Toss with a little fines herbs and black pepper if that is your thing.

Eat straight away.

This makes an excellent side dish to robust pastas, even pizza. Heck, I just had it as lunch with some bread when I was taking these photos.
And finally – the basic method for making duck prosciutto (adapted from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book):

img_0002_1_s

Basic Duck Proscuitto Recipe and Technique

1 whole duck breast – split into two (what you would most likely call two breasts)

kosher salt

cheesecloth

string

Trim off the tenderloin from the breasts if it is still on. Rub the breasts with some kosher salt. In a dish big enough to fit both breasts without them touching, pour in about 1/2″ if salt. Press the breasts, flesh side to the salt, into the dish. Completely cover with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 24 hours.

Remove from the fridge, and rinse off the salt. Dry well. Take the weight of each breast. Wrap each breast in a single layer of cheesecloth. Tie with string. Hang in a cool place with decent humidity (55F, and 60% humidity is ideal) until the breasts feel firm to the touch, and they have lost about 30% of their initial weight.

You can further flavor these however you wish. When you rub the salt into the breast at the start, you can certainly mix in some herbs and spices if you wish. Bay and juniper berry are classic flavors with duck. For my cure here, I used both in initial rub of salt. I could have used more, the flavor of both was overwhelmed by the duck. Next time I might try some five spice powder, just for giggles.

img_7200_s

You Might Also Like

  • mike February 12, 2009 at 7:46 am

    That salad looks fantastic! Very glad to see that the duck prosciutto worked out better than your bresaola. Cured meats can be very finicky – but are certainly well worth the effort.

  • Laurie Constantino February 12, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Terrific post. I’m very impressed. I’m curious, how does your prosciutto compare to that you bought from D’Artagnan?

  • Y February 12, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Matt, what can I say.. it looks awesome! And congrats on still being alive! ;)

    But seriously, I’m in awe. Now I’m wondering if I can replicate your success, without the cage fabtraption, or the spare fridge.

  • nina February 12, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Darn, I am sorry to hear that your bresaola did not work out……the duck breasts have wonderful color and I can imagine the taste being really intense.

  • Alex February 12, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    What a great recipe to let the duck just sing (or quack). So impressed by this. We’re picking up an old fridge this weekend so it’ll be charcuterie time soon. Ruhlman to be recommended?

  • thehungryengineer (april) February 12, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Duck prosciutto was my first try at a charcuterie project (though I used a recipe that called for hanging it to dry in the refrigerator). It was delicious, and I enjoyed the process. I received the Ruhlman/Polcyn book for xmas and have been looking for a next good home curing project to try. Any recommendations?

  • Jeff B February 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I’ll second your comment about how relatively easy it is to dry cure meats. I started on this adventure about the same time you did and was concerned when I read about your bresaola casualty. Luckily I used much smaller pieces (ends trimmed off an eye round destined for my smoker) for my first attempt and met with a fair amount of success. Its certainly trickier getting the salt right when curing small pieces, but hanging it at 55* and 50% RH, they dried up in no time. I’m drying the meat in a darkroom in my basement, which I’m now humidifying for my next attempt which is a smallish (1#) coppa.

  • Anticiplate February 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Congratulations! Was the duck prosciutto I had at your house home cured?

  • colloquial cook February 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Amazing, once more… When I stay at my parents’, in France, we get it from the poultry monger, and make salads with dandelion or frisée. My dad makes a mustard, lemon juice salt and pepper mix at the bottom of the salad bowl, puts the greens on top, and then pour the warm oil and magret on the whole thing, then tosses the salad, and off to the table! The contrast between the warm duck and the cold and tangy dandelion is simply to die for. Next step, curing our own magret :-)

  • mattwright February 12, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Laurie: You know what, I didn’t really eat enough of the D’artagan one to compare – but from what I can tell – mine is a little bit richer, with more flavor. Most likely from the long(ish) hanging time

    Y: If you wrap the breast in a couple of layers of cheesecloth, you could quite happily hang it in your regular fridge. The cheesecloth will stop it drying out too fast (since a fridge has low humidity).

    Alex: My recommendation with the book is to read it through fully, and use your noggin. I find some parts are really well spelled out, and gives you a sense of how important correct environmental conditions are.. other sections no so much (when they should be).

    April: I suggest starting with some simple whole muscle cures – like duck proscuitto, or bresaola.

    JeffB – let me know how the coppa comes out!

    Anticiplate – nope, that was from D’artagan on the East Coast – my stuff wasn’t done in time to serve at the party

    Colloquial: Sounds lovely – I might do that for my next lunch! Cheers!!

  • MyLastBite February 12, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    stunning photographs

  • Agorm February 12, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Your breasts are beautiful! I have 2 curing in the basement right now. How did you know that they weren’t done after a week? Were they squishy?

  • mattwright February 12, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Agorm – thanks, I have been working out… !
    By two things – feel, and weight. After a week they still felt pretty raw – they were squishy, and very flexible. They hadn’t lost much weight either. You want to aim for 30% (ish) weight loss – that is about right. The feel test is a good one though, they should be firm, with very little give, but you should still be able to bend them.

  • Food Woolf February 12, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Gorgeous duck prosciut’! I wish I was a neighbor so I could help you work your way through these babies! Great simple recipe to give you reason to plow through and sample for many days to come.
    Here’s to your fortitude!

  • Peter February 12, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    This is a delight to view and read about. I’m on a charcuterie kick and I’d like to try some duck prosciutto myself.

  • mlle noelle February 12, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    I came across your photo on Tastespotting and had to click… I have the Charcuterie book as well but so far have only made fresh sausages and patés, nothing cured. I want to delve into it though, and will definitely use your blog as a reference. Thanks!

    -Noelle

    P.S. One of the authors of that book, Brian Polcyn (sp?) has a couple restaurants near where I live (Detroit area) and I have sadly not been to them yet, but when I make it there I’ll have to report back :)

  • Carolyn Jung February 13, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I’ve had duck proscuitto at Incanto restaurant in San Francisco, and loved it. Also had it at Father’s Office in Los Angeles. Loved that, too. I think I need to work up my courage to try making it myself, though.

  • elra February 13, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Impressive, I am in awe! I never had duck proscuitto before, sounds really delicious.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • sue bette February 13, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Congrats Matt – the prosciutto looks lovely! I’m inspired to get curing!!

  • Hank February 14, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Well done! Ready for mortadella yet?
    ;-)
    You’ve got two of my typical servings for duck prosciutto (salads and on eggs), but honestly? I usually just slice it thin and eat it with a glass of red wine while watching sports or cooking shows…

  • helen February 14, 2009 at 1:33 am

    I’m so glad they turned out! I was at a jamón tasting the other day, and the producer instructed us to place each sliver of meat on our tongues to let it warm up before savouring it. The difference in flavour was definitely more pronounced. I would do the same with your prosciutto, if some made it my way… :)

  • Lang February 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Yikes, an extra month of curing? You must have been freaking out! Nice work, Matt. And how did you know when it was finished? BTW, a slab of duck prosciutto might make a good portable lunch while stalking the clam flats…

  • Aran February 15, 2009 at 12:17 am

    looks amazing!

  • degan February 16, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    wow, that looks amazing!

  • rachel February 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I am so impressed with your beautiful Duck prosciutto a patient labour of nothing but love i imagine, the colour is deeply magnificent and I bet the fat is luscious.
    I wonder if thin slices would be good with fruit – I am thinking of the fine combination that is prociutto with figs or melon.

  • mallory elise February 17, 2009 at 12:41 am

    aww that’s fantastic, i can’t beleive you actually made that. impressive. and the photos with the cheesecloth wrappings are stunning, great texture. hehe i think you should go down and stand on the corner outside of Salumi’s with samples and shout ha! you’re not the only one in town!

  • White On Rice Couple February 19, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Everyone said it already here, but we’ll say it again…this is amazing!!! The skin, the meat, the color….everything about it is fabulous. How much are you charging per pound? Do you take pay pal payments?

  • Jessica @ Bring Your Appetite February 25, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Wow, the colour of that proscuitto is just amazing! I am a huge duck fan, so I think I would really enjoy this. This post has definitely inspired me to try this for myself.

  • Niamh February 26, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Oh wow! You’ve exceded yourself! This looks amazing and I just love that Elizabeth David recipe. I’ll be trying it. And the homecuring. Yum!

  • Claire March 3, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Wonderful inspiration. Thank you for being the brave guinea pig for all of us curious folks out here. While you’re at it, any ideas for cured buffalo? I’m the lucky owner of a whole one in my garage freezer. It’s so lean I’m not sure it would be the best meat choice but the flavor is amazing…

  • more than meats October 4, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    i have sucessfully made this prosciutto many times and have found that using the same method as gravlax helps cut down the hanging time roll the breasts in a coupla cups of kosher salt using cling wrap pierce the bottom and put it on a rack uder a glass bowl to catch the drippings drying time is about 15-20 days,some sugar with the salt helps with the shaprness of the salt

  • mark December 22, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Great post.
    I’ve just completed the 24 hour salt cure of some Peking duck breasts following the Ruhlman recipe.
    One thing I didn’t do though is split the breasts, as I only read your post after curing them – good suggestion, as it does make it easier to handle etc ;-)
    I decided not to split the breasts after they were cured as I was worried that this would make them more susceptible to spoiling when I dry them out since the newly exposed cut meat/fat would not have had the exterior cure. What do you think?
    Since mine aren’t split, this does make wrapping them a little tricky – another good reason to split them ;-) I decided to wrap the unsplit breast in a couple of layers of cheesecloth, and then fold to wrap – meat on the outside, with butchers string.
    For the drying process, do you think it’s ok that the skin side touch each other – they are seperated with a couple of layers of cheesecloth? I have them drying in a storage locker that is around 55-60f / 13-15c.

  • michael December 23, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    …curious that your cure took so long (just google-landed on this site after doing some back-up research on prosciutto). I’ve made Duck prosciutto many times, never let it hang longer than two weeks, and in fact found that if I did, it dried out TOO much, got almost hard. And I’ve always just hung it in my regular fridge. I’ve pretty much settled on a week and a half as the ideal….and I’m still very much alive, and happy with the smooth, silky, but firm texture. Wrapping it with a few sprigs of rosemary adds a nice tone….

  • Jeff February 15, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Quick question, at anytime during the process do you remove the skin on the breast? If so, when?

  • mattwright February 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Michael – just hanging in your fridge is going to give a fast cure, since a fridge is really dry, 30% humidity or so.

    Jeff – I left the skin on, you can trim it off when you slice, or just cut through it and eat

  • Vicki March 14, 2010 at 3:50 am

    I just unwrapped mine, after 3 days in salt/sugar/spices, hanging for 10 days (in the fridge at night, on the counter during the day), got almost 30% weight loss. Delicious!

  • swee April 19, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Looks fabulous, but dont know how I can try it because I live in a tropical country when temp and humidity is equally high.

    What I would be interested to know how to prepare the cabbage that usually accompanied charcuterie a la style German. The charcuterie addition I will resign to having to purchase them, at least I hope to make my own pickled cabbage.

  • Chris October 13, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I have followed the recipe above and i have the same book and a few others too, great source of knowledge! This is all very new to me only my second home cure first was a air dried ham which tastes very nice indeed , small piece with a just a 6 week hang(very short but just a trial. I have also built a very simple home cold smoker and the two duck breasts have had a 10 hour smoke over oak before the airing. Will let you know the results.
    i Really like your website by the way keep up the good work!

    Chris

  • James October 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Mate – stumbled upon your site by accident – glad I did. I am a professional chef and have to say your forays into curing is commendable. Not some thing to be expected from too many people. Your results look good and I am going to use a few of your procedures and recipes in my kitchen. Keep posting and enjoy your work.

  • Nick January 31, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Hi Matt!

    Took the plunge and started my own Duck Prosciutto in a mini fridge and Im just two days away from its “due date”. Very excited!

    I have been monitoring it for the last few days and the meat side of the breast feels nice and stiff and aside from just a tiny bit of white/greyish mould ( I understand its normal) I am happy with it. The fat sides on the other hand are much softer in texture and that is what worries me….is this normal for cured fat to have a different “feel” than the meat side despite hanging for the same amount of time?

    My other concern is that when I tied the breasts up in cheesecloth I was quite aggressive in my tying and instead of a perfect shaped duck shaped breast like yours my has rolled slightly causing the fat to peel away slightly from the breast during the drying. I know pockets are bad news but there is no sign of mould/ or strange smells from the area. Do you think things will still be safe?

    I guess im just looking for some reassurance that its fine or a…Dont eat it..your going to die advice. This being my first attempt I’m still not sure of proper feel or texture. Thanks for any response.

    Cheers

    • mattwright January 31, 2011 at 5:48 am

      It is normal for the fat to feel softer than the meat. Fat has less water content than meat – so when you air dry something more moisture comes out of the meat than the fat – because there is more to loose. So you end up with the meat feeling radically different to when you started, but the fat still feeling rather, er – fatty.

      I haven’t had the fat pull away before. I would just make sure nothing dicey is growing in that area. I would wipe the area in question down with some white vinegar however. As for saying whether you can eat it or not – sorry, I can never answer those questions. The lawyer that I don’t have would shoot me!