Simple Charcuterie: How to make Confit Duck
Confit Duck is a pretty classic French dish and is one of the oldest forms of meat preservation. You can buy this tinned, but it’s incredibly expensive. We’ve been making duck prosciutto for some time here at The Miniholding. A whole duck works out at around the same cost as 2 breasts, so this is pretty much a byproduct of that process.
- 2 whole ducks.
- 600 grams (21 Oz) Fine salt.
- 2 tsp thyme (fresh, if possible) (plus any other flavourings you want)
- 2 jars of duck or goose fat (only needed the first time)
Simply halve the recipe if you only have one duck. The rest of the method is the same.
A quick note on timing. This project / recipe takes around a day to complete (with around 1/2 – 1 hour active time). I find it best to start on a Friday or Saturday evening. Early on Saturday could also work.
First of all, we want to joint the ducks. The wings are pretty useless so we mainly want the legs and breasts. This is very similar to jointing a chicken and I’ll have a guide on that soon for those who don’t know how to do it. An alternative would be either to get the butcher to do it for you, or just buy legs and an extra jar of fat.
Put the breasts aside. These are lovely pan roasted but we often turn them into duck ‘prosciutto’. There’ll be a guide for that here on the blog in the next couple of weeks.
Take all the rest of the skin from the carcass ensuring as much fat is collected as possible. Place this into a heavy-based frying pan or skillet. Try to avoid adding too much meat. The rest of the carcass can be used to make a stock (i often add it to a bunch of chicken carcasses). This time around, the cats got a surprise treat.
If you’re doing this in the evening, refrigerate the legs until just before you go to bed. If you’re doing it early in the morning press ahead now.
Pour about one third of the salt into a non-reactive food grade box along with any herbs and spices we have chosen to add.
Place the legs on top of the cure (salt mix) skin side up and pour the rest of the salt over the top. Ensure that each piece is completely immersed in the cure. This should then be placed into the fridge for 6 – 8 hours.
Now is a good time to render the duck fat. put around 50ml of water (1 3/4 Floz) into the frying pan with the duck skin. Heat this at a very low temperature for around 2 hours occasionally moving the contents around to make sure it doesn’t stick or burn. Once fully rendered, put it to one side to cool.
After 6 – 8 hours, or first thing in the morning, we need to take all the salt off the legs. Some say just to brush it off. I give them a very quick rinse and dry immediately with a clean towel. I find it’s very easy for this to get too salty. The quick rinse eliminates this without rehydrating the meat. You’ll find that the meat has darkened in colour.
Pre-heat the oven to it’s lowest setting
Put the duck fat into a heavy, oven resistant, saucepan that is only slightly larger than the volume required for the legs. Very gently heat on the hob (stove) and when the fat is soft enough, gently lower the legs in ensuring, once again, that they are fully covered by the fat. Bring it all to a very low simmer for around 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes simmering, place a lid on the saucepan and place in the low oven. Here we are going to leave it for around 8 hours. We want the duck legs very soft and tender, but not quite falling apart. Some recipes will do this at 150° C (300° F) for around 3 hours instead. If you’re pushed for time you could do it that way.
Once the time is up we should have super-succulent legs (duck legs, obviously; I couldn’t comment on any others). Take the pan out of the stove and let it cool for around half an hour (unless you can’t resist eating them).
When the duck legs and fat have cooled sufficiently, they can be prepared for storage. Simply place the legs in a tub and cover with the fat, as always ensuring they are covered. Leave until room temperature and then refrigerate.
If there is any meat showing through, you can top-up with more duck / goose fat, or use pork lard.
If your containers are transparent, cover them in foil as light will make the fat rancid.
The stored product will reportedly last for many months. We keep ours in the fridge but some will store in a cool dark place (like an old-fashioned pantry if you have one). We very much struggle to keep ours more than a few weeks before temptation gets the better of us.
The fat can be used again for the next batch but eventually will get too salty. Some will discard it all after every 3rd or 4th use. I tend to discard around a 3rd of the mixture each time (using it for roast potatoes) and top-up with fresh fat rendered from the current duck.
Once ready to use, warm the fat until just liquid and lift out the legs. Then use in your favourite recipe. We tend to have ours either with parmentier potatoes, red wine and cherry gravy and green veg, or with a green salad with fresh orange pieces. They’d also go brilliantly in a cassoulet.
I do hope you enjoy the process. Let us know how you got on and what you enjoyed them with.