I haven’t posted in a week, mostly due to my migrating to a new Mac (which decided to eliminate two years’ worth of my photos in a bold totalitarian move), but also due to the length of this project.
Now that the weather is getting cooler, my basement temperature has been dropping closer to 60° F, the ideal temperature for curing meats. In preparation for this fall’s sausage making projects, I thought I’d test out the environment by making some duck prosciutto, described by Michael Ruhlman in Charcuterie as “one of the easiest dry-cured items to prepare at home.”
I bought a whole Long Island duck breast and a magret (moulard duck breast) so I could make a comparison. The magret is the larger, thicker one.
After drying the breasts, I filled the bottom of a glass baking dish with a cup and a half of kosher salt, placed the breasts on top (skin side up), and covered the tops with more kosher salt. I covered the pan with plastic wrap and put in in the fridge, where it sat for 24 hours. I had a photo of this step, but Maximum Leader for Life Mac Pro decided it wasn’t in the interest of the state for me to have it.
I rinsed off the salt, patted the breasts dry, and rubbed in about a teaspoon each of pepper on each of the breasts, top and bottom. Ruhlman calls for white pepper, which I didn’t have so I ground up some four-peppercorn blend instead.
I wrapped each breast in a layer of cheesecloth and tied each off with some string.
The hard work done, I hung the breasts in the basement from a convenient storage bracket the previous owner had instaled.
After seven days, I unwrapped what was now prosciutto and had a look. The breast had firmed up significantly.
When sliced, it looked like prosciutto.
The thicker magret breast seemed a bit raw; it still had a reddish color, rather than the cured pink color I expected.
The prosciutto from the thinner breast had a lovely taste; the fat melted on the tongue, there was a hint of the salt cure, but the essential “duckiness” still came through. The magret, which I served to some guests because it was meatier, unfortunately wasn’t dried enough. It still had some give and a bit of the raw duck taste. I’ll re-hang it for a few days and hope that it dries to a better consistency. It just might be too thick to cure properly, we’ll see.
So, for not a lot of effort, I got some tasty home-cured meat and learned that my basement was a decent curing environment. In the Bacon-Wrapped Swordfish post, I engaged on some smart-assery:
“What about the guanciale?” I hear you asking. You bring me the hog jowls, and I’ll make us guanciale.
I found two hog jowls in the Belm Research Kitchen Deep Storage Facility. Guess what’s next?