Earlier this month I was educated about this adventure called Charcutepalooza. Essentially it’s a year-long challenge dealing with the art of Charcuterie. All participants, using Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s book Charcuterie, will attempt one type of charcuterie each month–from salt cures to brining to pate and sausage. An emphasis is placed on using local, sustainable sources for the meat and vegetables used.
My friend Jason, also known as The Messy Epicure, alerted me to this challenge and he’s far more actually on schedule. I started late, but am going to try to catch up. For me, I’m excited to learn more about a type of cooking/food preparation that most people don’t think twice about. It’s not something people think they can do for themselves- it’s something they buy. While there are some things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do in my kitchen (like using liquid nitrogen….) this is something that anyone can do. We’ve been doing it for centuries, all over the world, to preserve food and we do it today because we enjoy it.
And I’m enjoying the process. Yes, I like to intellectualize over food and how it functions anthropologically, but I also just love the process of cooking, of being in the kitchen creating something that will bring pleasure and sustain life. It’s a very elemental thing. And this project makes both my mind and my heart happy. I’m learning about food I love to eat and in turn am following a tradition that so many others have participated in before me.
Anyway, enough Jibber-Jabber. You want to hear about the food!
So, my first project was duck prosciutto. I bought the duck breasts from a guy at the local farmer’s market who has a farm less than an hour outside the city. He was very excited to hear what I was doing and asked me to keep him appraised of all my projects. People are nice when the sun is out and you smile at them.
That being said, duck prosciutto is insanely easy to make. Three ingredients- that’s it. Stupidly easy in fact. You take duck breasts, cover them in salt for 24 hours. After the 24 hours you rinse them off and wrap them up and hang them and in a week you’ve got one of the best things in the world. Done.
The almost-burgundy colored meat is layered with this amazing fat layer that just bursts with flavor on your tongue. In fact, it’s almost indistinguishable from regular prosciutto except for the smaller slices. The trick is to slice it thinly, difficult with a knife but made easier if you let it sit in the fridge for a bit.
I dusted the duck with white pepper before wrapping and hanging, which gave it just the tiniest bite that offset the extreme saltiness of the meat. That is the one thing about this product: it is very salty. I’m not sure if there’s a way to keep it from being this salty, considering it, you know, sits entirely covered in salt for a bit. But it’s really delicious and well worth the week wait. I’m excited to throw this over some mixed greens with some olive oil and pepper. Oh man, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. This month’s challenge is brining, so there might be some corned beef and pickles headed this way soon.