How to render duck fat

For more food-related blogs from The Kitchen's Georgia Pellegrini, check out her website www.GeorgiaPellegini.com.

In life, you need few things. Everyone has their list. Mine includes a shotgun, good whiskey or a smooth Cabernet, a butcher and an open flame.


Duck Fat Photos

Both the butcher and the shotgun provide you with good meat, the open flame with a place to cook it, and the whiskey and wine, well they just make it that much better.

I try to minimize the number of people that separate me from my food. I do pioneer girl things like curing my own bacon, canning my own fish, pickling my own peppers or today, rendering my own duck fat.

I'm a purist when it comes to animals. I save every part. Veteran hunters look at me with concern.

But rendering duck fat is pretty simple. You simply save your duck skins, as much of it as you possibly can. Don't forget to trim all the skin off the back. And if you don't have duck skin handy that you've frozen, sweet talk a local butcher into saving the skin for you.

Place all your duck skin trimmings in the bottom of a skillet or pot and add water. Put the burner on the lowest setting and let the fat render out on the stove for about 60 to 90 minutes.

The water will evaporate and the skins will become very crispy, stewing in a skillet of golden fat. It's a beautiful sight.

That's when you stop and strain it. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours and then put it in the refrigerator. It will store there for up to 1 month, or it will freeze for up to 6 months.

By the way, don't throw that duck skin away after you have rendered out the fat.

No, no, no.

Instead, spread them out on some paper towel, sprinkle with salt and let them air dry a bit. Or finish browning them in the oven if they're not quite hard enough. These are called "cracklins" and with these we will make "cracklin bread" next…just you wait and see.

Seven ounces of rendered duck fat sells for about $12. That's because it makes your food taste that much better. Butter and olive oil pale in comparison.

And to think you could make it all yourself…do it. I've given you step-by-step photo instructions.

Rendered Duck Fat

1 pound of duck fat

1. Take the fat from the duck, and put it in a skillet or pot.

2. Add water so that it is about halfway up the sides of the fat.

3. Put the burner on its lowest setting and let the liquid simmer for 60-90 minutes.

4. When it starts to look as though the simmer is dying down, watch the fat carefully. It should be a warm golden color, with smaller bubbles.

As the water evaporates, those bubbles will come closer to a boil and the remaining liquid will turn a darker golden. Eventually, the boiling bubbles will suddenly become much smaller, just back to a bare simmer, which means all the water is gone.

5. Remove it from the heat immediately and pour the fat through a fine mesh strainer. Let cool to room temperature, transfer to a glass jar and place in the refrigerator for 1 month or the freezer for 6 months.

1 pound fat = 1 cup rendered fat

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.