Simple Charcuterie: How to make Duck Prosciutto
Dry cured, uncooked and air dried ham sits somewhere near the pinnacle of the Charcutiere or Salumiere’s craft. A high quality Parma ham can fetch a vast price and rightly so. It’s hugely unrealistic to expect to get anything like those results in a new Miniholding. It takes a lot of skill, experience and (preferably) your own cave or the perfect curing cellar or chamber. If you don’t have those things however, don’t despair; I have a project that will provide you with a tasty product and your first step in understanding the meat curing process. This also has the benefit of being available to those who don’t eat pork products. Here we have Duck Prosciutto.
It’s fair to say that the bairns go crazy when I make this. Mia, in particular, would have me locked in the kitchen week-long making this for her so here’s the warning; if you make this once, you WILL be making it again. Lucky for me, it’s very easy. The only hard part is waiting for it to be ready.
- Duck breasts. More about this in a moment.
- 300g Fine salt per breast. We use fine sea salt.
- White pepper for dusting.
- Optional flavourings. We usually add a small handful of crushed juniper berries. There are many other ways to pimp this though. Popular additions would be a little brown sugar, crushed bay leaves, fennel, mace, rosemary, sage, garlic powder, nutmeg… The list is almost endless!
OK, so, Duck Breast. What kind? The easiest to get hold of in the UK is Gressingham duck from the supermarket and these are suitable for this. We prefer to use Free Range birds from a good butcher. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the few Free range Duck farms, you couldn’t possibly do better (short of using your own). Also, Goose works very well for this, though is much harder to source. We tend to buy whole ducks and joint the breasts and legs ourselves. It tends to be around the same price and we can use the legs for wonderful confit.
Er… None really. You will need an airtight food-grade tub that is slightly larger than the breast (we reuse a plastic tub from a Chinese takeaway), a square of cheesecloth or muslin to wrap it up (I suppose that’s a bit specialist) and a stainless steel hook (although you could just use string).
Let’s get on with it then. If you’re using whole ducks, get them jointed and refrigerate all but the breasts.
1. Rinse and dry the breasts.
2. Put 150 g of your salt into the bottom of your container along with some of the herbs, spices or sugar you are using for flavouring. Don’t overdo the extras; its important to get good salt / duck contact to ensure the cure is even.
3. Lay the duck, meat side down, onto the cure.
4. Put the remaining flavourings and salt over the breast. Ensure it is fully covered (paying special attention to ensure that it is salt, not duck against the sides of the container).
5. Put the lid on the container and place the duck into the fridge. Leave it to cure for 24 hours. If the breast is particularly large, or you are using goose breast, leave to cure for 48 hours.
6. After curing, remove the duck from the fridge. Lift it from the salt and rinse the cure off (there’s no need to be too fastidious here). Pat the breast dry with a clean towel ensuring it is fully dry. You should notice that the meat has already firmed-up a fair bit and should be darker than before. Discard the salt; there’s no use for it (unless you have an icy pavement).
7. Lightly dust the breast with white pepper. This will deter pests. You may want to weigh the breast now. See step 9.
8. Next, we need to tie the breast into some muslin and find somewhere to hang it. The ideal condition would be somewhere that is cool and has a bit of airflow. During colder months, the muslin is not strictly necessary but helps to slow down the moisture evaporation. If it dries too fast you can experience ‘case hardening’. This is where the outside dries too fast and prevents the moisture inside from escaping. These will hang for a relatively short time so the risk isn’t too great but avoid extremes of temperature and humidity.
9. If you have an average duck breast, it will need to hang for around 1 week. If you want to be more scientific about it (or you have a large breast), weigh it before you hang it to dry. It will be ready once it has lost 30 – 35% of it’s weight.
10. Unwrap your breast (titter(fnar)) and gaze upon your wonderful creation. You have made duck prosciutto and you deserve a glass of wine. (You may not drink wine, but you deserve it none the less).
What do you do with it? Well, the choice is yours really. We often have it simply with a cheeseboard and charcuterie plate with pickles. It goes well with pasta or you can put it with a salad. I like to add orange or mango to the salad which gives a very refreshing lunch. I would advise hiding it from the bairns though; what takes a week to make only takes seconds to devour!
This really is a simple and tasty entry into charcuterie. Do give it a go and impress yourself, family and your friends. It will make you want to do more meat curing though…