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Charcutepalooza Challenge #1 – Duck Prosciutto, or Beak to Tail Feather Eating

I love duck! I find it hard to go past duck on a restaurant menu – I’ve been buying whole ducks for years and turning them into many gourmet delights, so even before I signed up to this challenge, my first venture into the world of charcuterie was always going to be duck prosciutto. Sadly, with the timings of this project, it actually ended up being my second project, but boy oh boy was it worth waiting for, and I’m already planning the next batch.


I always used to buy duck breasts, but the cost of duck in Sydney is significantly higher than Manchester and not wanting to miss out on my favourite meat following our move Down Under, I started to buy whole ducks and taught myself to joint it. Now I find the butchering process very satisfying and never think twice about buying a whole bird.  Not liking waste, I had to work out what to do with the rest of the bird, which is where the beak to tail feather eating comes in.  I’ve always liked the idea of nose to tail eating, so why not apply the same idea to a duck?!

Obviously, the first priority was the breasts, they were removed and trimmed, and set in their bowl of salt.  They weren’t quite as big as the recipe required, but big enough to do the job. So breasts sorted, now for the legs. Confit it the obvious answer, but as I got into sausage making last year, any spare duck legs I have now get turned straight into duck and pistachio sausages. I really should do some more experimenting with flavours but these sausages are so good I find it hard to experiment, in case the next flavour combination just isn’t quite as good.

So that’s the duck sorted right? Wrong! Next step, off with the skin, which gets gently fried in a pan with some water to provide me with duck fat for roast potatoes, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a supply of fat for my roasties, and duck fat really does make the best roasties ever.

So surely you can bin the rest? Not a chance, there is still the carcass, neck and all, to be boiled up with onions, celery, carrot, garlic herbs and peppercorns to make a pot full of stock. It doesn’t taste vastly different to chicken stock, but has the fantastic flavour of homemade stock that you cannot compare to even the best packet stock. I also can’t remember the last time I bought stock.

I feel I’ve gone a little off track, but it’s all important for the final dish.  Back to the prosciutto. The duck was placed in the fridge, nestled in it’s salty bed, for twenty four hours before it was wrapped in muslin and hung in the newly converted curing fridge.  The idea is to hang it in a cool, humid place for a week, or until it has lost about 30% of it’s weight.  I’m not a very patient person, so I have to confess I weighed it every day, in the hope that the smaller breasts would cure more quickly! But alas, at day seven they had only lost 18% of their weight. I put out a plea for help on twitter, and the advice was they may only loose about 24% as all meat is different, it was also suggested that I go with look and feel. I waited patiently for another two days, but the breasts didn’t lose any more weight so I declared them done. Hooray!

I am fortunate enough to be doing this challenge in the Southern Hemisphere, where the duck prosciutto challenge was perfectly timed with fig season. I was hoping to use the figs from our garden, but unfortunately the local birds are also huge fig fans so I only managed to rescue one small specimen, but one is better than none! Prosciutto and figs are a match made in heaven, so

Duck prosciutto with figs had to be a combination to die for. And I wasn’t wrong, with a bit of buffalo mozzarella for good measure it made a heavenly entrée that I will be repeating time and time again in fig season.

With the duck breasts being quite small they were quite difficult to slice thinly. A meat slicer is on my wish list, but it hasn’t materialised just yet, so in the mean time its sharpen the knife and do your best.  But actually, no meat slicer is not a bad thing, as it lead me to the other recipe, Duck Sausages with Puy Lentils (made with duck prosciutto instead of pancetta, which is still curing in the fridge). Bingo! This also included all but one element of my beak to tail feather eating.

The Puy lentil recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s braised Puy lentils with rosemary and garlic, from his first book, The Naked Chef. I substituted the chicken stock for duck stock, the pancetta for duck prosciutto and of course accompanied it with the duck sausages. I could’ve fried the prosciutto in the duck fat, but I am a little conscious that I might end up 2 stone heavier at the end of the Charcutepalooza year, so I’ll save that for the roasties.

The sausage recipe is however all my own. It only makes a small quantity, as I developed it when looking for a way to use leftover duck legs, but you could always double or triple the recipe if you wanted to make more.

Duck and Pistachio Sausages

2 duck legs (approx 350g meat once bones removed)
250g pork belly (no rind, minced)
60g breadcrumbs
30ml brandy
60g pistachios chopped
5g salt
pepper to taste

Mince the duck meat on the finest setting.

Mix all the ingredients together and mix for ten minutes until well combined.

Stuff mixture into the sausage casings and enjoy.

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