In the summer time, New York City is rife with green markets. I enjoy meandering around green markets, exploring the kind of foods that people take it upon themselves to impart an artisanal quality to, and eating the samples that vendors put out. One of the samples that stood out in my memory was Hudson Valley’s duck prosciutto. The creamy fat contrasted with the salty flesh tasted truly remarkable. However, at $22 per duck breast, I couldn’t bring myself to pay for it. Like all good DIY-ers, I decided to do it myself.
The process is remarkably simple. Acquire duck breast (which I procured from Ottomanelli’s & Sons Meat Market at $9.99/lb, which puts the homemade prosciutto at approximately less than half price than premade), salt it, and let it hang out in your fridge for about two weeks (or until it reduces to 70% of its original weight.) There isn’t a lot of hands-on work involved, but it does require some patience and some fridge real estate.
I let mine hang for 13 days, and its final weight was 70% of the original. (1.07 lbs before, 12 oz after) It tastes quite yummy, but I do think a more complicated spice rub would improve its flavor. I merely used some pepper because I didn’t have much else. Also, it’s impossible to get deli-thin slices without a meat slicer, so I had to settle for thick-cut bacon-esque strips. A local deli might agree to slice it up for you, though. Maybe be as charming as possible and hope they succumb to you?
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes 1 duck breast
1 duck breast, about 1 lb
400g of salt
200g of sugar
Whatever spices you want – maybe do some research to see what goes best with duck? (I used pepper, the original recipe used juniper berries, fennel seed, white and black peppercorns, bay leaves, and coriander seeds)
1. Wash and dry duck breast thoroughly. Score the skin in a cross-hatched fashion in order to allow the cure to penetrate it more thoroughly. Weigh the duck breast and record the start weight.
2. Mix salt and sugar to create the cure and pour about 1/3 of it into a container that would hold the duck breast, allowing for space between the duck breast and the perimeter of the container. I find that a 9×5 loaf pan works well. Pour the rest of the cure over the duck, making sure to submerge it completely in the cure. Feel free to make more of the cure in the same 2:1, salt to sugar ratio if you need more of it. Cling wrap the container and place it in your fridge for 4 days.
3. After 4 days, remove the duck breast from the cure and rinse off the cure. You will find that the cure might have become watery. That is normal. After rinsing off the cure, dry it well with paper towels and rub it down with your spices. Wrap it in cheese cloth with twine. Suspend the breast in your fridge so that its surface is not in contact with anything. Let it hang for two weeks or until the end weight is about 70% of the original weight.
4. Unwrap and eat!