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Duck prosciutto April 30, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Charcutepalooza, Duck.
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I’m currently travelling overseas for a few weeks. I will have access to the internet but I will probably be a little slower to respond to comments than usual. In the meantime, here’s something I’ve scheduled…

As I started the whole Charcutepalooza thing a bit late, I’d started curing my bacon before I began on the duck – even though duck was the challenge for January. However, it was with the duck that I fully realised the lengths I was prepared to go for some cured meat, and also the unifying power of charcuterie!

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I live in an apartment with no room to either hang meat, or to install another fridge I could use for that purpose. However, it occurred to me one day that my work had an unused bar fridge which I could perhaps use for curing meat. And so the project ‘curing meat at work’ began in earnest! After I defrosted the fridge, I turned it to its highest setting, and added a bowl of water I’d put salt in. We used a ruler braced with masking tape to form a bracket we could hang the meat off (we were limited to office supplies – although we did have a lot of archives tape!).

I began the curing process at home, packing duck breasts into salt for 24 hours, then transporting them to work where I washed off the salt and wrapped them in cheesecloth-like fabric. I weighed the duck, wrote down what they weighed and also 30% less than that (their ideal finishing weight) and hung them on the bracket.

I am lucky enough to be able to drive to work, so transporting everything (the duck, cheesecloth, scales, butcher’s twine…) was not too difficult. In case you’re wondering, I left the bottom shelf in place in case the duck fell off its bracket and into the water!

By now this project had become more than just my affair! One of my colleagues (whose fridge it was originally) was all for the project, helping me defrost the fridge and setting it up to hang the duck. Another wasn’t so sure about the process but was certainly very keen to try the final product. My boss wasn’t so sure about the whole thing, but was happy enough to let me try, once I assured him I wasn’t taking the fridge away from any other use!

Every couple of days, I’d check on the duck and report back to the whole group regarding its progress. After a week, they had not lost 30% of their original weight but they did seem firm to the touch. I decided to cut one open and see what it was like.

So the lighting is not great at work, but there was no way my colleagues were going to let me take it home untasted! I did bring a sharp knife to work, so I could cut some thin slices.

I found this delicious and interesting, all at the same time. On first eating it, it didn’t taste at all like duck to me – more like heavily salted lamb, or even beef. But as I chewed more (and maybe as I ate more of the fat?) it started to take on a very intense duck flavour. My colleagues were equally impressed, only wondering why there wasn’t more to go around! I shared one of the pieces with my colleagues and took the other home to share with friends.

When I did share with friends, it was in a much more picturesque location! The only (small) reservation I had was that the centre of the duck was not quite as firm as the rest of it and I think I probably should have left it to hang for another day or so. I think this may be a problem with using a standard bar fridge instead of a wine fridge – it remains too cold (and probably too dry) and is slightly outside optimum curing conditions. However, it is still possible to cure meats this way, it just takes a bit longer.

The curing fridge has now been relocated and sits behind my desk, appropriately adorned with a ‘keep calm and eat bacon’ sign. I’ve since used it to make pancetta, which was also received with much happiness by my colleagues! Charcuterie is now a topic of general discussion in the office, and I’ve shown them that with a bit of salt, some meat, and a convenient fridge, delicious things can occur.

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