I technically started cooking our Christmas dinner on October 28th with the Lemon Confit project. The rinds from those lemons will form a key part of our stuffing and I love that there has been a long process of curing to transform groceries into something we cannot readily purchase. I love the romance of it all…
There will be many ingredients served over the Holidays that are simply not at the market. Harvest fresh preserves, infused booze, homemade bread, samples of moose (and maybe deer). Many of these things simply take time to transform from ordinary to extraordinary and while much of our bounty was prepared months ago there is still time for you to create your own specialty items for the end of the month. Today and tomorrow’s post will present two such options.
Charcuterie has been a buzz word in Toronto for more than 18 months. Passionate debates argue it’s relevance or obscurity and people argue it’s merits – however many are not certain what exactly charcuterie is. The roots of this art are in preserving (much older than canning or jarring) and much of it preserves items (most often meats and, more often than not, pork) with salt. Bacon, salt-cured cod, bologna, salume, beef jerky and pancetta are all examples.
It is far more than salt-curing though. Cured salmon, pate, sausage, brining terrines and confits are all considered part of the art. The lemon confit mentioned above is an example of a vegetarian Charcuterie method. Pickles are even extended into the Charcuterie family by many authorities in the field.
It’s difficult to find the room to hang an entire leg of pork in a cool temperature so we’ve decided to try something a little smaller. I purchased a large boneless duck breast yesterday and am attempting to make Duck Prosciutto for my first time and basing my efforts on instruction from Charcuterie: the Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing which appears to be a great starters manual. The introduction by Thomas Keller gave a lot of initial credibility to the authors for me but as I read more about Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn I learned that they stood on their own two feet with no need for support.
The process is simple. Take a duck breast and bury it in salt on all sides. If you are using more than one breast, make sure they do not touch. Using a small container will conserve salt (which can be bought in bulk much cheaper than the canned version). Our duck was just over a pound and we used almost the same amount of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and wait 24 hours (ours is currently in the fridge).
Rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Flesh will feel denser and look darker. Dust with white pepper.
Wrap the breast in cheesecloth and hang in a cool, humid place (50-60 degrees or about 15 Celsius). Flesh should be stiff but not hard. If it feels squishy, hang for a day or two longer. We are using the fridge which is colder than this but warmer than outside (and safe from raccoons) – we’ll see how it goes.
Remove the cheesecloth and wrap in plastic wrap – it will last for several weeks or more.
You serve this by slicing across the bias as thin as possible.
I have tried duck Prosciutto once before and found it to be intriguing. I am hoping our results are just as tasty – will let you know in the New Year! In the meantime, there’s still time for you to try it out during the Holidays – as long as you move fast!