When I take out a duck prosciutto and cut thin slices off of it, people are amazed and delighted that something so complex in flavour can be prepared at home.
I am preparing a couple, one plain, one spiced this week, so that the students on our Fruits of the Garden course can taste what to expect from the fruits of their labour.
If you are thinking about home-curing this is a great place to start. The resulting prosciutto is rich, has great depth and best of all you will see the results in just over a week.
Any duck breast will work. Magret or Moulard breasts give excellent results but have a higher fat content. Barbary duck has little fat but excellent flavour.
A single breast (in the U.S. they are often packaged as a pair) will serve up to 8 at one sitting.
Duck breasts vary in weight from 210g\8oz to 450g\1lb.
Ensure that hands and nails are clean when handling the duck breast. Disposable gloves can be used.
Let your nose be your guide. If anything goes wrong with the process, your nose will tell you. Anything that has not cured correctly will smell bad.
- 1 duck breast
- Equal weight in sea or kosher salt, more maybe needed
- Freshly ground white pepper
- Spice mixture (optional) - 6 juniper berries, a bay leaf, clove of galic, ¼ star anise, crushed with 1 Tbl of salt
Tools of the Trade
- Non-metallic dish (a little bigger than the duck breast)
- Cling film\Plastic wrap
- Muslin or cheesecloth
Put enough of the salt into the dish, so that the bottom is completely obscured (½ cm or ¼ inch).
Wash and dry the duck breast. If using the spice mixture, rub it all over the breast and skin. Lay the breast, skin side up, on the bed of salt.
Cover the breast with enough salt to bury it. It is important that all of the breast is submerged (salt draws out moisture, thus denying bacteria the environment required to thrive).
Cover with film\wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Uncover the duck breast. It should be more dense, firmer to the touch and the colour will have deepened. If not, recover with the salt, film\wrap and continue to refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
Rinse the duck breast under running water to wash off any salt, then dry thoroughly with paper towel. Sprinkle the breast with white pepper, a thorough dusting, and wrap in muslin\cheesecloth. Tie both ends with string and hang the duck breast, for 6-8 days, in a cool humid environment circa 13°C\55°F (a variation of 2°C\5°F either way will work). A wine fridge or cellar is perfect, but when I started out, I found that a big coolbox with a daily ice-pack and a bowl of salt water, placed on the bottom, served me well.
The breast will feel firm to the touch when ready. If there is any sponginess, give it another day or two.
Unwrap when ready. Slice thinly on the bias (at an angle approaching 45°) and serve.
To store, wrap the duck prosciutto in waxed paper, then foil. It will keep for several weeks. Use as required
When un-wrapping a little surface bacteria is normal, many salamis are sold with a white bloom on them, it can be wiped away with a little vinegar if desired.
Excellent served with rocket\arugula or melon. In the photo above I served it with a baby turnip and a sweet chili sauce to compliment the star anise spice.