Saturday, January 15, 2011

Duck Prosciutto

This post is my first installment of the meaty, year-long extravaganza called Charcutepalooza, co-created by the amazingly dedicated and hard-working Cathy Barrow of Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Kim Foster of the Yummy Mummy. There will be monthly postings by over a hundred bloggers on curing, smoking and salting all following recipes from the wonderful book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Check out the Facebook page for Charcutepalooza and see what others are up to!

I already told myself that this would be the year that I would focus on preserving meat and making cheese, and it looks like I'm certainly not alone in this endeavor. About 90% of the meat our family eats is locally-sourced. And we've worked really hard at cutting down the meat consumption, both in portion size and how many times a week we eat it. Where I live in the Hudson Valley of New York, I find it's been really simple to source great local meat. Fleisher's in Kingston, the Hudson Valley Food Network's Split and Share discussion group, and wonderful farmers and their markets every week have made it easy for me to have amazing quality local meat. (Sadly, due to where I live I can't join the Charcuterie CSA at The Piggery, based in Ithaca, with CSA drop-offs in NYC). 

However, the real reason I want to make charcuterie is because I love it. Like, a lot. I have many fond memories of standing on a chair with an apron wrapped around me twice, the gunmetal-colored meat grinder attached to the sink, a bowl beneath, watching, mesmerized by the meat being forced out the holes. (Best play-doh ever!) My parents always ground their own meat, and made sausages. We always had casings in the fridge. I love this stuff. It's in my blood. Last year I made bacon and gravlax, both amazingly delicious. And let's not forget the cost in purchasing charcuterie. So there you have it. The motivation is there. But sometimes even then I need a little kick in the pants.

Bresaola and duck prosciutto in Peter's kitchen.
Rewind. Back in June, I had the good fortune to attend a meat curing class taught by Peter at cookblog. Aside from learning something every time I read his blog, Peter also writes a great column in the local magazine Chronogram. I was totally excited to be in his gorgeous new kitchen (that he built) among a group of like-minded folks learning about curing whole-muscle cuts. My brain sort of short-circuited when I tasted some of the lovely things he served us, like the duck prosciutto and amazing bread (made by a friend of his, if I recall correctly) or the miso-cured bacon we gorged on at the end of the class. There was a good deal of eye rolling going on, and not in the sarcastic way. In the oh-my-god-did-I-just-eat-some-salty-heaven?? kind of way.

That bacon was dangerously good.
Like the good-natured dork I am, I asked the group (was I on a salt high?) "Who's going right home and making this stuff??" And everyone looked at me like wha? So, yeah, I didn't go right home and make the five things we learned, but I have an excuse. Did you happen to notice what kind of summer it was in my area? Probably not, but it was HOT. So hot that having hanging meat around was probably not the best thing in the world. Add that to the canning frenzy I was in, and I was a goner from the get go. But now it's winter, and I'm ready to make and eat some salty meat. So.

Salt - a player.
A few notes about making the prosciutto itself. First off, do you know Cooking Light has a recipe for this online? I was sort of surprised! It's basically just salt and duck, and some pepper or what have you. I chose black pepper instead of white pepper (um, didn't have white pepper...). I sort of timed this wrong by making it on New Year's Eve while busily preparing for the evening. No cheesecloth? No problem, I used an old linen. (I never buy cheesecloth; instead I use old, worn (clean) linens instead.) I hung them in the basement. Our basement in that corner is consistently 60 degrees. I'm not positive about the humidity, but I'm guessing it's about 60%. I based that on using our de-humidifier to roughly guess. So, I think it's okay barring the two little windows which let in a bit of light. I might need to shade them off if I do any more hanging of meat. (My fig tree is in that area, and it was supposed to be dormant but I just found a shoot coming off of it!)

One of the things I learned was the importance of weighing the meat before you hang it, as you can judge when your meat is done by how much weight it lost during the hanging. You want to look for a 30% weight loss. I didn't weigh the breasts until they were already hanging for two days. And I'll be honest, I'm not too scientific. I pulled them a week and two days after they were hung, and I thought they felt good (not too hard, not too soft). Once unwrapped the outside seemed like it was getting a little "jerked." Once sliced the inside was garnet, and I felt maybe a hair too pink. I think it was done though, and chose not to rehang them and risk drying them too much. I'm still wondering if I pulled them too soon; I've been known to do that. A day in the fridge has toughened them and made them darker. It tastes outrageously good, duck-y, prosciutto-y, and rich. Ta da!

A little bit of jerkification on the fat-less side.

I don't have a recipe with which to showcase this, though I'm sure I'll just invite some friends over and eat it up, tout suite. Maybe with a champagne cocktail with elderberry syrup in it. Or in a risotto. That sounds just perfect.


  1. It turned out gorgeous Julia! That class you took sounds fun too!

  2. Leesie a/k/a SeasLifeJanuary 15, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Oh goodness! Reading this post made me think about my days growing up. My father also ground his own meats and made his own sausage from time to time. Fortunately for us, there was a great little store in Tenafly, NJ that made all that good stuff. The owner made the best sorpressa, salumi, etc. and we were also lucky to have on hand whatever we brought back from Italy in those days.

    You make everything seem so easy and fun. Enjoy the duck proscuitto and thanks for sharing. And I really, really want to be your neighbor! I adore you, your talents, and your writing.

    P.S. Can you tell us more about your fig tree some time? I must have one.

  3. Just gorgeous. Aaaaand - I am now obsessed with the thought of miso and bacon.

  4. We missed you at today's class... and I made pastrami yesterday.

  5. Meg - Thanks, Meg! It was a great class!

    Leesie - What great memories, Leesie. We had wonderful "pork stores" around the corner from us; wish I had that sometimes. But then I wouldn't be making my own!
    I have a post on fig trees in the pipe line. I'll try to get it going soon...
    And thank you for such compliments! It makes doing what I do that much more rewarding!!

    Cathy - Thanks! And: I know!

    Peter - Aw, man! Your update the other day sounded awesome. I'm sorry to have missed it. But I know there will be more...

  6. This is going to be fun! I have made mega sausages and a real proscuitto once, but love the duck to find decent duck breast in California and of course a dark spot.

  7. ah, duck prosciutto, fantabulous! you're such an allround fooderista. your blog is sensational!
    thanks, m

  8. oooh what fun! Thanks for the link, I'm going to sign up. I have the book already! Maybe I'll have to add some ducks to our flock.

  9. Two By The Sea - Glad you're doing it! Real prosciutto sounds amazing. I'll get there one day...

    Michael - That's much appreciated coming from someone who knows good food. Thank you, as always!

    Erin - Good! Can't wait to see what you do. What kind of ducks do you keep? Do you butcher them yourself?

  10. This is outrageous, and so beautiful. It's far ahead of what I feel able to take on -- you can look for me with my training wheels, making yogurt and perhaps hopping around the living room trying for butter -- but I take it as fine inspiration. I do want to get better at locally sourcing meat, which is one reason I'm still jonesing for a freezer. And you can bet I'm not going to be buying any more cheesecloth! I always learn something from you.

  11. I won't be participating (now that I'm back at my 50 hour plus a week job--long story--I'm struggling just to do the basics!), but I'm so excited you are, becasue it will so fun to read about your adventures. (Not as fun as sampling, but c'est la vie). I've of course perused the charcuterie book and it's in the "maybe someday" file of my brain. (I'm a little intimidated, to say the least. Yes, it's been done for centuries, so it's not that high tech--silly in a way how these things can be scary when they are techniques as old as time and it's only 100 years we haven't been regularly passing it down, maybe?) You may have seen the discussions of charcuterie in Bertolli's "Cooking by hand" and there's even a section on it in Tanis's new book (how to make chorizo). Not as comprehensive, but I'm sure fun to read nonetheless.
    And finally--duck prosciutto: wow!

  12. I just went duck hunting not too long ago. This duck prosciutto is such a great idea. The platter of duck prosciutto really looks fabulous for entertaining.

  13. Beautiful! My friend Leah @BeyerBeware features Hunk of Meat Mondays on her blog that I participate in. Maybe you could link this up to it? Also my other friend Ott, A is doing an IronChef Challenge on Duck right now that ends soon. Maple Leaf Farms in Indiana raises duck and Ott, A has ton of great recipes on duck. On the prairie of North Dakota where I live we have ducks all over in our fields and often have duck in the fall. Maybe I can manage to make this Duck Prosciutto a less busy life?

  14. Shae - You always make me laugh! Thank you!

    Sara - How do you do it?? Wow. I bow before you. That sounds painful. Good luck! You know, I always worry about these things. I'll eat anything, but as I get to know more I worry more. It's weird, you'd think you'd get more bold, but you don't.

    Katie - Thanks for all that great information! I'll have to check all that good duck stuff out. Do you hunt duck? It doesn't take much to make this. You can be busy as you want!

  15. Georgia - When are you taking a rest? You've been a prolific hunter lately; I've been following you! I'm sure you've made this before, no?