Meat and Cheese

The cooler months are perfect for dry curing; humidity and temperature is much easier to control. The weather started changing recently in Philadelphia, so to celebrate I hung my first prosciutto of of the season. I mixed up the dry rub this time; running rosemary, black peppercorns and truffle sea salt through a round in my mortar and doubling the amount of rub used on previous ducks.

Claire and I took the prosciutto down earlier today and made a meat and cheese plate featuring the duck and joined by seared foie gras and sweetbread sausages, a truffle infused cow’s milk cheese, cumin infused cheese and a very garlicky cow’s milk cheese.

I made use of the meat slicer that Claire got me for Christmas, slicing the duck a little thicker than DiBruno’s usually does for a more solid bite.

As the fall progresses, I’m going to start experimenting with fermented cured sausages; until then… I’m going to enjoy the rest of this duck!


Duck Prosciutto

I first tried duck prosciutto at DiBruno Brother’s in the Italian Market here in Philadelphia. Thinly sliced; salty, fatty and perfectly paired with melon or a nice strong cheese. The downside was price: $35/lb or thereabouts.

My cooking partner/Little Chef Claire and I took the bull by the horns and decided to try our hands at home curing our own prosciutto. My New Years Resolution for 2010 was to get into dry curing, so this simple project was a good starting point. The recipe we used was taken from Ruhlman’s excellent “Charcuterie: The craft of salting, smoking, and curing”.

We headed back to the Italian Market and stopped into D’Angelo Brothers. Sonny set me up with a nice fatty Moulard Magret duck’s breast. These ducks are raised to produce Foie Gras and are extra fatty. The breast itself was just over a pound and came from a local organic farm.

Total cost: $19.

The breast was packed in kosher salt and allowed to sit for 24hrs. I mean packed. I used half a box of salt to make sure the meat was fully covered. Wrapped the container in plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator to start the curing process. I was like a kid at Christmas waiting the 24 hours. Patience when it comes to delicious foodstuffs is not exactly my strong point. Once the clock hit 24hrs I removed the breast from the salt, washed it thoroughly and started the next step: Seasoning.

We mixed cracked black pepper corns and course sea salt and rubbed the duck down with it. Claire topped it with a fresh sprig of Rosemary, wrapped it with one full wrap of cheesecloth and tied it with butcher’s twine in preparation for the drying process.

This is where patience came back into play: The duck had to cure a week. Seven days with it hanging in my basement (which is luckily temperature and humidity controlled) before I could cut it down, unwrap it and get to the business of eating it. Every day I watched the butcher’s string getting looser; over the course of the drying process the duck breast loses about 20%+ of it’s weight. I had to make adjustments to the wrapping, check the heat/humidity and check the time to see how many days were left.

At seven full days I finally got a chance to unwrap it. I shaved a few thin slices off and decided that it could stay hanging an additional day or two. We re-wrapped it and put it back on the hook. Two days later it was ready to go. Tangy. Pungent. Gamey. We served it for the first time with a few cheeses and dry cured salami. The taste was spectacular as was knowing that Claire and I made it.

Subsequent breasts have been rubbed with truffle salt and other spices to vary the taste.

This is a simple process that’s very fun to DIY…. why buy it when you can make it!