Saturday, January 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Kickoff: Duck Prosciutto!

This year I'm joining somewhere between 50-100 (depending on who I see on Twitter) in a project called Charcutepalooza: A Year of Charcuterie.

Charcuterie, for those who may be unfamiliar with it, is a French term for the art of meat preservation. It covers such time-honored processes as smoking, salting, and curing, resulting in everything from bacon to terrine to confit. Typically it involves pork (there goes that Jewish guilt again), but it doesn't always.

We're taking on a different meat preservation project every month to, as blogger Mrs. Wheelbarrow puts it, "celebrate the appropriate, thoughtful consumption of meat with a year long exploration of the age old craft of charcuterie."

This month our first project was duck breast prosciutto (an Italian term for ham). The recipe comes, as all our recipes will, from Mark Ruhlman's gorgeous book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

Today's the day for everyone's prosciutto posts, but unfortunately mine isn't quite ready yet. The butcher was out of duck breasts (partially my fault, as we had duck breast for our Christmas dinner) and I had to wait while he ordered me one. Once I got it though, I was surprised by how easy the recipe was. I split the duck breast and buried the two halves in salt overnight...

...then I seasoned them with white pepper and spices. One of the breasts has been sprinkled with black smoked sea salt for a hint of smokey flavor, while the other I seasoned with juniper for an Oregonian twist. Keith helped me tie them up in cheesecloth, where they're now hanging in the garage.

It's been fun so far to follow everyone else participating. Twitter has been bursting with off-color jokes about hanging breasts, husbands protecting our breasts, etc.; a few gung-ho kitchen goddesses are finished already and have been sharing delicious stories of snacks and dinners based on their duck breast prosciutto.

Mine still has a few more days to hang, but so far the temperatures and humidity have been just right for it in the garage. I'm surprised meat preservation isn't more popular, if it's always this easy. Salt and time do all the work! And when I'm done, I'll have two pounds of lucious home-cured prosciutto to use in a thousand different ways.

I just checked out prices for good duck prosciutto and found it going for four times the price of my duck breasts and salt. Somehow, frugality and a renewed contact with thoughtful, time-honored preservation methods make the thought of this prosciutto even more delicious.

I can't wait to try it.

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