Sometime in December I heard about a group called “Charcutepalooza” that was started by Mrs. Wheelbarrow and the Yummy Mummy. This group convenes together in the blogosphere for all of 2011, completing monthly challenges in the fine art of salting, smoking, and curing.
I love eating charcuterie, but it never occurred to me that these were products that I could make at home. To be honest, at first I didn’t even toy with the idea of joining. But then I started seeing photographs of the duck prosciutto that members had completed. That alone instantly convinced me to email Mrs. Wheelbarrow and join in. I’m super excited to learn about a centuries old craft, take advantage of the opportunity to use local poultry and meats, and having complete control over the ingredients I use in the charcuterie that I consume. Also, I anticipate that my end products will be much cheaper than what I can buy at any specialty store. The best part about this, is doing it with a group of people that are extremely passionate about it. Charcutepalooza really is a support group of people to share your experiences with, and the opportunity of getting to know food bloggers that you didn’t know about. At last count, over 160 food bloggers had signed up to participate. Over the next 12 months, I will be charcutepalooza-ing with this amazing group of people!
Our bible in this journey will be Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. If you are interested in charcuterie at all, I highly recommend this book. The recipes are clear and concise and it really is a joy to read. We won’t be posting the exact recipes to make charcuterie, but we will be posting recipes of what we make with our end product.
Duck Breasts Emerge from their Salt Spa Experience:
So, as I already mentioned, the first challenge was duck prosciutto. The duck prosciutto process starts something like this: you get two duck breasts. In my case I purchased an entire duck and butchered it apart myself. I ended up with two 6 ounce breast halves. You place the breasts on a flat dish and surround them with kosher salt for 24 hours. You remove them from the salt, rinse and dry them, wrap them in cheesecloth with aromatics/spices of your choice, and air dry them between 50°F and 60°F for about 7 days or until they reduce 30% in weight.
Duck Breasts After 7 Day Drying Period in Refrigerator:
My (duck) breasts reduced by about 26% in 7 days. I hung them in my refrigerator because no area in my apartment had the ideal 50°F-60°F. At the advice of Mrs. Wheelbarrow, I also placed a container with salted water next to the duck breasts which provided extra humidity in the dry refrigerator environment. This last trick really helped the duck breasts dry without becoming chewy duck jerky.
The duck breasts deepened in color and the flesh is now stiff and dense:
And voila! The moment I waited for: beautiful duck prosciutto! You can definitely taste the duck flavor, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. It is a bit salty, like any prosciutto I’ve tasted. The texture is silky and unctuous in your mouth.
The trick is to slice it thinly. I placed it in the freezer for a few minutes before I sliced it. It is perfect to serve as is.
For seven days I thought about what I wanted to make with my duck prosciutto. First I thought about making duck prosciutto lollipops: a slice of duck prosciutto wrapped around a couple of sweetened dry cherries. The sweetness and tartness of the cherries really complements the richness and saltiness of the duck prosciutto.
Then I thought about one of my favorite comfort food dishes: mac and cheese with prosciutto. There was no reason why I should not try that with duck prosciutto! Instead of using all cheddar cheese, I used half cheddar and half smoked Gouda. The smoked gouda really pairs well with the duck in the mac & cheese. The richness of the mac and cheese and the slight saltiness of the prosciutto makes for a delicious combination.
Mac & Cheese with Duck Prosciutto
• 2 cups cooked elbow pasta (slightly undercooked as it will bake in the oven)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 1/4 cup red onion
• 2 cups milk
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 teaspoons mustard powder
• pinch of cayenne pepper
• 1 cup grated cheese ( I used half smoked gouda and half cheddar)
• salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to taste
• 1/4 cup duck prosciutto diced
• 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
1 Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
2 In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter, add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and cook until golden brown. Add the milk, bay leaf, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper. Cook until thick, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and add the cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Turn the heat off.
3 Add in the cooked pasta and the duck prosciutto. Combine well. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Mix the bread crumbs and olive oil or butter and sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.
Our next charcutepalooza adventure is to explore curing with salt even further by making bacon and/or pancetta. And so we move from breast to belly. I already have great plans for this upcoming challenge and I’m really excited to get started. I may even try to make some salt cod to bring you my grandmother’s recipe for Panamanian Bacalao.
I hope this post inspires you and gets you thinking about maybe making your own charcuterie. Or at least I hope you will want to enjoy a charcuterie platter on your next night out at a restaurant.
WOW!! I can’t imagine how amazing that mac & cheese was. I just started truly enjoying Duck prosciutto, we have it at the wine bar I’m working at and they are paying around $26.00 per pound for the stuff. I am really impressed with all of you making your own charcuterie, sounds like great times.How hard is it, and do you need any new equipment?? I know you did not for this one, but what about other meats??
Wonderful post! I love the mac & cheese idea, and I *really* love the prosciutto & cherry poppers. Gonna go try that right now 🙂
This is a fabulous post! Love that you not only cover the basic preparation, but you also give two What-To-Do-With ideas. Excellent! Love both your ideas. This should be a feature of Charcutapalooza posts. Well done.
My (duck) breasts… I love you! Hee hee. I am sure it’s delicious and it looks so good, too. A treat for the eyes as well as the palate. Excelente! The list of dishes that I want to try next time I am chez OneVanillaBean keeps getting longer and longer. 🙂
Great post! The prosciutto looks great. Love the ways you used it too.
Paul–no special equipment so far. Just a kitchen scale. Moving on to the next projects, a wine fridge would be helpful if you don’t have ideal conditions, and definitely need some pink salt. I also was amazed at how good it was, really love the stuff now.
Mr. Ruhlman–Such an honor! Thank you, your comment means a lot.
Annie–I promise duck fat fries next time you come visit :O)
Janis–thank you, the mac & cheese was pretty tasty.
Absolutely fabulous! Everything got bumped on my list! Ordering book today ;-). Thanks for the encouragement that this is EASY.
Terrific post. Your photography is just luscious. And I love the mac and cheese idea, especially.
What a great way to incorporate the final product! I may just have to make some mac & cheese to go with the rest of my duck prosciutto.
I love the sucre/sale aspect to your ‘recipe’- here in Prunlandia, we would us a perfect plump tart sweet dried plum. It highlights the duck and all it’s sweet salty flavor. Brava! oh, and the Panamanian Bacalao!!!
Well done – isn’t it satisfying to taste your own charcuterie! So excited you’re in this! And [faints] Ruhlman commented! WOW!
Annapet–I do hope you try making it. It is really easy and you will be rewarded with a delicious end product.
Mrs. Wheelbarrow–thanks for stopping by. Your charcutepalooza posts really inspired me to try this!
Brian–definitely try the duck prosciutto in Mac & cheese 🙂
Kate–A dried plum would be perfect! I am really looking forward to making the bacalao, it is one of my favorite Panamanian dishes.
Mardi–thank you! Yes, it is such an amazing feeling to have that finished product in your hands and knowing that you made it
I noticed you tweeting about this but wasn’t sure what you were doing – I’d never manage to make this but I would definitely eat it. Love duck, never seen it done this way.
I was excited to read this because Sunday will be day 7 for me and the breast is almost at its appropriate weight. I have no idea what to serve it with but your idea of freezing it a little first makes complete sense in order to slice it thinly.
I noticed that your cheesecloth seems to have soaked up the moisture but mine is bone dry; does that mean something?
Oh boy M.R. put the pressure on to post with eating ideas…I am just going to shove it in my mouth and relish it purely on its own.
Sarah–Thank you for stopping by!
Natalie–That is actually a brand new piece of cheese cloth I cut to use for the photo. The one used to wrap the duck was dry and dirty too. I’m sure you will love the duck prosciutto just as is!