As much as I love prosciutto, it can be a very expensive investment and once it has taken its sweet time to cure and age it should be eaten quickly, although it can be portioned and placed in the freezer to make it last longer. Since I am only making prosciutto for myself I decided to use duck breasts, they are easier to work with when beginning to cure meat and it will fit in my larder better than a full pig leg. The technique that I am about to show you came from a butcher in Portland, OR, that I learned to cure meat from by the name of Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie.
For my first run of duck prosciutto I am going to use Peking duck breasts, as they are more common and cheaper. They have a decent amount of fat on the breasts and a pretty neutral duck flavor, since they are farmed and not wild. The trick to a good prosciutto is to cure and age the meat encased in fat/skin to prevent the flesh from spoiling and drying out. To ensure that the meat is fully encased in fat I am going to sew two duck breasts together by the skin. Doing this will give me a larger portion of meat to serve as well as the fat, which will absorb the flavors of the cure. I created two samples and the duck breast that was sewn together will be the first, for the second, I decided to take a different approach. I recently picked up a small amount of “Meat Glue”, or Transglutaminase/Activa (not to be confused with Activia®) from Modernistpantry.com to play and experiment with. For those that do not know what this product is you can read about it here. Instead of sewing the breast together, I “glued” them together, and after 24 hours of setting time for the glue to activate, I had conjoined duck breasts that were ready for curing.
(Franken) Duck Prosciutto
4ea Duck Breasts
1ea Leather needle
~6′ Butcher twine
2ea Pinches of Pink Salt
- Start by laying the flesh side of the two duck breasts together to determine whether the fat will be able to encase the meat. If it doesn’t, do not worry, you will just need a little warm duck fat later to rub onto the flesh. Sprinkle a pinch of pink salt onto the flesh side of each duck breast and begin to sew them together.
- I made my needle out of a wooden skewer. Begin sewing the breast together, only penetrating and sewing the fat together all the way around the duck breasts.
- Once sewn together, check for any parts of flesh that might be exposed, if there are any just mix a little bit of warm duck fat with ground black pepper and rub it onto those areas.
The Cure (Recipe adapted from Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie)
1.5T Juniper Berries
1T Fresh Garlic
1T Whole Black Peppercorns
2ea Bay Leaves
1ea Sewn Duck Breast
- Combine dry spices and pulse in a food processor.
- In a bowl combine all ingredients, except duck and mix well.
- Toss the duck in the cure, lay a handful of the cure onto a sheet of plastic wrap.
- Place the duck on top followed by another handful of cure.
- Wrap the duck and the cure tightly in the plastic to ensure that the breasts are completely covered in cure.
- Label, date, and apply about 10# of weight on top of the duck breast, the weight will help it cure faster. Place in the fridge and cure for seven days.
- Remove the duck from the plastic, reserving the cure, and check for firmness, it should be uniform.
- If it is still soft in some spots, which mine was, then re-apply the cure, mine will take another three to four days.
- Once the duck has finished curing it should feel firm. For the one sample that I used meat glue on I did not apply any weight, and it was not entirely firm but it ended up more round than the one that was weighted, which turned out flat.
- I brushed off the cure and hung both prosciutto’s in the larder. I wrapped one with cheesecloth and left the other unwrapped.
- These will age anywhere from one month to three.
The duck prosciutto is finally finished and I couldn’t be happier, well unhappy with one and very happy with the other. Final results:
- The meat glued and un-pressed duck breast was unsuccessful, not because of the meat glue but because the breast where so thick it took too long for it to lose moisture being encased in fat. In the future I think this one would work better if I cured it longer, it was not quite firm enough and I should have left it in the cure for another week.
- The sewn duck breasts, that were also weighted, turned out very well. The meat was encased in a very flavorful fatty skin. There isn’t much more to say about it except, Wow! Next time I will look at using Muscovy duck breasts as they are almost three times the size.