For more food-related blogs from Georgia Pellegrini, check out her website www.GeorgiaPellegini.com.
As you can tell, I'm on a bit of curing kick these days. I'm conjuring my Italian roots. I will post recipes on how to cook some of these things soon, but I had these duck breasts that were just begging to be turned into prosciutto.
Curing meat was widespread among historical civilizations because it prevented food waste and guaranteed a food supply in the case of a poor harvest. The French and Italians were the first to raise this skill to an art form.
Local craftsmen formed guilds and produced a range of cooked or salted dried meats, which varied from region to region. The only raw product they were allowed to sell was unrendered lard. These preservation methods ensured that meats would have a longer shelf-life even in more modern times.
Duck prosciutto is simple to make at home, and is a perfect way to store the meat when you don't have time to cook it, and you just can't fit another thing in your freezer. All that it requires is salt, cheesecloth and some twine, and a cool room with good relative humidity. Even store bought or frozen meat will work well.
The flavor is gamier and richer than pig prosciutto, and the color is a deeper red. But it still has that signature chewy, delicate, salty flavor.
Once it's submerged in salt for 24 hours, it hangs for about 7 days in a cool place at 50-60 degrees, until the flesh is stiff but not hard. You can keep the skin on if you'd like and play with the seasonings — add rosemary, thyme, garlic to make it more interesting.
Store it in the refrigerator for one month or more and serve it thinly sliced with pear, crackers, cheese, or just by itself.
Here's how to do it, and if you come up with a winning combination, be sure to submit it to The Kitchen!
2 cups Kosher salt
2 duck breast filets, skin on or off
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Pour half of the salt in a non-reactive container that will hold the breasts snugly without touching. Place the duck breasts on the salt, skin-side up if the skin is still on. Pour the remaining salt on top and pack it well with your hands.
2. Cover the container with plastic and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
3. Remove the breasts from the salt, rinse them well under water, and pat them dry. They should be a deeper red and feel firm to the touch.
4. Dust the breasts with pepper and wrap them individually in cheesecloth. Tie one end with a piece of string which you can use to hang.
5. Hang in a cool place (50-60 degrees) with relative humidity for 5 to 7 days until the flesh is stiff but not hard throughout. Remove from the cheesecloth and slice thinly to serve. These will keep refrigerated for about one month or so.
Editor's note: Georgia's passion for good food began at an early age, on a boulder by the side of a creek as she caught her trout for breakfast. After Wellesley and Harvard -- and a brief stint on Wall Street -- she decided to leave the cubicle world behind and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
Upon graduating at the top of her class, she worked in two of America's best restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, as well as in one of the premier destination restaurants in Provence, France, La Chassagnette. It was there that she decided it was time to really get at the heart of where our food comes from and head to the source -- Mother Nature. She bought a shotgun and set her sites on the cutting edge of culinary creativity intent on pushing the boundaries of American gastronomy, from field to stream to table.
Her new book, "Food Heroes: Tales of 16 food artisans preserving tradition" will be coming out this year. She currently roams the world, hunting, tasting good food and meeting the good people who make it. You can read more about her work at www.GeorgiaPellegrini.com.