Duck Prosciutto

Yep. You heard me right. Duck prosciutto. I got Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn for Christmas. It's basically a cookbook for cured meats. If you're a fan of charcuterie and would like to try it yourself, I urge you to run, not walk, over to Ohio Farmgirl's website and buy it from Amazon through her store. Take a look at her blog while you're there. She's a talented, informative, and highly entertaining writer.

I am a prosciutto NUT. Try to take a slice of prosciutto from me, and you'll get a growl if you're lucky, a nasty bite if you're slow. I am also a huge fan of duck. And luckily enough, our ducks breed like rabbits. They hatched out over 50 this season.

To start the prosciutto, you'll need two duck breasts with the skin still on, kosher salt, ground white pepper, cheese cloth, and some kitchen string. I removed the tenderloin from the back of the breasts and gave it a quick sear. It tasted better than any steak I can remember. Make sure the breasts are dry. Find a container that will hold the breasts without them touching each other. I didn't have anything that fit very well, so I put each one in a separate glass pie pan. First, put a layer of kosher salt down in your container(s). You don't want the breasts touching the side of the container or each other. Put the breasts in meat side down. Make sure they're pushed down in the salt. Pour salt over top to cover. Make sure that they are completely covered. Wrap your container(s) in plastic wrap or foil and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Covered in Salt

Covered in Salt

After the day in the fridge, remove the breasts from the salt. Rinse them. It's okay if you don't get every single grain of salt off. Pat the breasts dry. You can let them air dry on a rack for a while if they're not completely dry. Once dry, sprinkle both sides liberally with the pepper. I've read other recipes where people use different spices, or place spices in the salt. This is where you can use your creativity. I followed the recipe since this was my first time curing meat. Throw out the salt! Don't try to get frugal.

Wrap each breast in a single layer of cheesecloth. Secure the cheesecloth with the kitchen string, leaving a length at one end to hang them. Weigh each packet and write down the weight on a piece of paper you can attach to the packet.

Once they're ready, remove them from their wrapping and inspect them. You just want to make sure there isn't any mold or anything funky. I've heard white mold is fine, just wipe it off with a vinegar and water solution. Other kinds of mold are not good and it's time to start over, with probably less humidity.

Prosciutto is best served in paper thin slices. I like to eat just prosciutto, but it's delicious with fruits, cheese, melon. You can saute it for sauces or to jazz up a dish. It makes all kinds of great hors d'oeuvres. It will last for months in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap. Honestly, I just don't know how much you would have to have to not eat it in a week.

Find someplace to hang them where the temperature stays between 50-60 degrees F. For me, it was in our pantry which is unheated. It stayed perfect. Generally, they'll need to hang about 7 days to be ready. It could be longer or shorter depending on the size of your breasts...well, the duck's breasts...and the humidity. To be honest, I missed the part about weighing, and let them hang for seven days but gave them a little squeeze(the duck breasts, not mine) every day to check progress. If you did remember to weigh them, you want them to lose 20-30% of their weight.

It turned out amazing for me. I think it probably was ready on day six. The outer edge of the meat side, was a bit jerky like, but not too bad. It darkens as it ages. The inside stays softer and lighter. It is...well, just prosciutto. It has the smooth texture and wonderful flavor. The white pepper really sets off the flavor. So, run right out and get a duck and start curing meat. You won't be sorry. All I see outside is prosciutto walking around on webbed feet. I think the geese are getting nervous.

Posted on January 8, 2013 .