I have finally made my Lavender Duck Prosciutto, only 5 years late in its fruition, but here it is none the less. About 6 years ago, I found a small blog site called Mike and Molly's House that I just loved. It let me romanticize the notion of getting away from it all with my family, doing the "DIY Mini Farm" thing, growing mutantly large zucchini, making a yurt or simply renovating on a shoe string budget. They were always up to simple, family shenanigan type projects, one might expect on a small mini farm. One such project was Prosciutto, or should I say Duck Prosciutto, which they did here on Instructables a while back. This intrigued me to know end, after all, I love duck, but more than that, I love good Prosciutto. Could this be a Chocolate to Peanut butter marriage? I could only hope.
As I brushed off my Google membership card, I discovered that Duck Prosciutto is nothing new, in fact they have been making it for centuries. Duck or even goose prosciutto is an old Italian tradition that originated, as best be told, in the country’s Jewish community, for whom regular prosciutto was forbidden. Some recipes, especially those around Venice and Friuli, cure the leg and thigh of large geese, while others stick to the breast meat, especially of duck. This was also a method for storing the catch, perfect for a survivalist with ducks to store as it can all be done outside, but ideally from the comfort of your kitchen. Nothing wrong with surviving in style!
Enough Prologue, what exactly does Duck Prosciutto taste like? Why, very similar to the classic "Pig" type. The salting/curing process appears to be what gives hams or bacon its peculiar flavour we all associate with it. Keep in mind, classic Prosciutto also uses Juniper berries as one of its traditional flavorings. As I am on a Lavender kick, this was my favor of the day - "See my Lavender Chicken". Fresh Lavender leaves have a similar conifer type scent and flavour, though with less "gin" like bitterness. It really accents the duck, and tastes perfect on a fall Charcuterie cutting board. The best part, it is so easy to make. Putting it together is a snap, waiting a week for it to be ready as it cures is not my favorite part, but it sure beats the 6 months for a Ham Prosciutto.
So lets give it a go, who knows, maybe you'll be hooked on the Charcuterie band-wagon and branch out to other cured meats, DIY Rattlesnake salami anyone?
Step 1: Ingredients
- 2 duck breasts - you can buy these individually or they come attached to the rest of the duck in my case. I used a King Cole duck, but you can use others. Some use Peking, or Magret which have a much higher fat load under the skin. These also tend to be much larger. Mine were about 340 grams or 3/4 of a lb
- 1-2 large boxes of coarse salt, kosher is fine
- Dried thyme
- Fresh black pepper
- 4 sprigs of fresh lavender leaves
Step 2: Butcher
If you have duck breasts already, you can skip the butcher scene. Otherwise, Grab a sharp knife.
- You may notice, my duck is missing its legs and wings. That's because I swiped them for another instructable I made last week called "Duck Confit". Like butchering a chicken, you bend back the joints and cut in freeing the wings and legs.
- The breasts are a little trickier but with practice it becomes easy. Just like a chicken, slice down the center of the breast bone.
- Gently pull one side of the breast away while at the same time allow the tip of the knife to slide along the inner ribs, freeing the meat.
- Repeat for the other side.
- Reserve the back and other bits for soup stock.
Step 3: Trim
At this point you should have 2 nice duck breasts, but they still need to be trimmed.
- Remove the fillets. You can really just pull these off.
- Trim the excess skin and fat from the perimeter of the breast, I trim a lot as I like it a little leaner. But, you lose flavour that way, you will have to decide.
- Trim any large amount of "silver" skin away. This doesn't have to be perfect as its mostly for appearances.
Step 4: Season
I season both before and after the salt cure. Here is the before.
Mince your fresh lavender and combine it with your salt, along with 1 tablespoon of dried thyme and 1 tablespoon of coarse pepper. I only used one box of salt as my breasts are smaller. You would probably need 2 boxes for larger Marget duck breasts as these are almost twice as large.
Step 5: Cure
Now we salt cure the duck. Basically the duck is encased in a salt tomb.
- Start by pouring your seasoned salt into a non-reactive dish such as a Pyrex dish. Make sure the container will hold both breasts allowing an inch around each breast. Fill to a depth of one inch.
- Lay your breasts in the container, allow at least an inch around.
- Pour the remaining salt over top, it should be completely buried by at least one inch.
- Wrap in cling wrap
- Put in your fridge and note the time, it now has to sit for at least 24 hours. More then that and you can overdo the process. Less then that and you might not get a full cure.
A food safety Side note - for anyone concerned as to, is this "Safe" to eat?, please read this link
Step 6: Rinse and Re-season
So, its been 24 hours. Or, in my case 26 hours, yes I broke the last steps rule. Oh well, life interrupted or should I say a toddler did.
- The salt in my dish was now one hard clump. After breaking the surface crust i was able to pull out the 2 breasts. They are now a much deeper red, almost purple colour and much firmer. The salt has been working hard!
- And no, just in case you were thinking you can not reuse the salt, chuck it!
- Rinse the breasts under cool running water, ensuring no salt cure remains.
- Dry the breasts very well. I simply squeezed them with some paper towel.
- Liberally dust the breasts in coarse pepper and more dried thyme. You do not need to add any more lavender.
Step 7: Wrap - Make It Purdy
Lay out a single layer of cheesecloth just large enough to wrap the breast in. In the pictures I used way, way to much and ended up trimming it back as you only want one layer of cloth. We are NOT making an Egyptian mummy here. At this point how tight you tie the breast is up to you. Tying it tighter will result in a rounder softer cut, while leaving it looser and flat will give a firmer prosciutto. I went with a tight wrap with the thought if I want it firmer I can just let it rest longer. Some people even just hang it unwrapped.
Step 8: Waiting... Ugh
Ok, so depending on where you make this, or when you make this will determine how and where you hand your duck. Mine started in the garage as it was around 50-60 degrees with it now being fall, that and I live about 4 hours away from Alaska, so its a little cooler here. But, then it began to warm up and I decided to finish it in my fridge. Either way you hang for a week. It should be firm, but not too firm. Squishy like raw meat is bad, wait a little longer. Ideally you want the duck to loose 30% of its weight. My breasts started out around 340 grams each, after 8 days they crested in at around 245 grams each, close enough for our target. I went over the 7 days which is typical. Some people prefer to let it rest for 2 weeks all the way up to several months like a ham prosciutto.
Step 9: The Reveal!
Did I mention its fall? Halloween is just several days away, which also means my Birthday soooo, this is kinda like me unwrapping a present!
How you unwrap it is up to you, the first one I carefully cut revealing my prize inside, the second one was torn open in a meat induced frenzy!
The duck has now shrunken and is much firmer, taken on a dark red hue where the fat now almost looks caramelized. Funny, its smells like prosciutto as well, you would expect a gamey duck like scent, but all you get is floral notes from the lavender, mixed with an almost bacon smell. Hmmmm, Bacon!
Step 10: Slice It, Oh-so-thin
OOOH, time to slice! Not really a step here, just find your sharpest knife and start shaving off slices as thin as you can. After a while, I gave up on my sharpest chefs knife and switched to my KYOCERA Ceramic paring knife. Perhaps someone over at Kyocera would like to sponsor instructables, hmmm, just a shameless plug to score a new knife! Seriously though, you need something seriously sharp and ceramic knifes are great. The thinner you slice it, the more tender the meat. Though, even when cut a little thick, it is still amazing.
Step 11: Mmmm Nom Nom Nom
This Lavender Duck Prosciutto was a success and a hit. Its already half gone, with my daughter disappearing with a plate load. It does look awesome, and I am kinda snacky. Off to the fridge; It's Nom Nom time!