I have a new curing project for you, and I’m excited because it’s so easy! Duck Ham. There’s no heat involved in this one, just an overnight cure and then air-drying– and this duck ham only takes a week from start to finish! So if you would like to try making your own cured meats at home but are feeling a little intimidated, this is a great one for you to get started with. This is another project that I am sharing from one of my favorite books, Food DIY. According to Tim Hayward, this is a prosciutto- style cure, and these smaller pieces of duck (you can also use rabbit) yield safe and beautiful results. Let’s get started!
Making Duck Ham
What You’ll Need
- 2 tsp (10g) fresh or dried thyme, rosemary or juniper (I used thyme)
- 1 tsp (5g) freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 1/4 cup (200g) coarse sea salt
- 1 duck breast
- butcher’s string
- cheesecloth or muslin cloth
- recommended: a kitchen scale, like this one
What to Do
1. Mix the salt and the herbs together to form the curing mixture.
2. Coat the duck breast with the curing mixture, add the rest to a ziplock freezer bag or a class container, and put the duck breast in. If you’re using a bag, then press out all the air when sealing. Let sit for 24 hours. [Note: next time I do it, I will remove the skin with a sharp knife first, leaving as much of the layer of fat beneath intact. This is what I recommend you do, too.]
3. Wash the cure mixture off of the duck breast, pat it dry with a clean kitchen towel, and grind some fresh black pepper onto it, pressing it in a little. You will notice that the little slab of meat is now much more dense and kind of stiff– this is from the dehydration caused by the curing salts drawing out the moisture from the duck breast.
4. Wrap it up in muslin, and tie with butcher’s string. The instructions in Food DIY said to “tie it tightly in several places,” but I really didn’t see the point in that, figuring it would dry out better as it was, plus it’s already very, very flat.
5. Hang in a cool airy place for a week. I used my conservatory, which stays pretty cold at this time of year. The instructions I was using didn’t say a whole lot about optimal temperatures, but I know that if you want to be very careful, you can hang it in your fridge, where the temperatures do not rise above 40F or 4C. Air circulation is important. In most other air-dried curing projects, it’s recommended that you weigh the meat when you take it out of the curing mixture, and then weigh it every few days as you let it hang, and eat it when it has achieved a 30% weight loss. This recipe doesn’t ask you to do any of that, and I gave it an extra day and a half, just to be sure. I’d like to note that there was no mold or bloom growing on the duck ham at all, and it always had a pleasant, hammy scent through the week.
6. Slice thinly and serve. It tastes great– clean but nice and duck-y. And the color is really lovely, too. If I do anything different next time, it will be to add more thyme, as the flavor didn’t come out quite a strongly as I would have liked. I think I’ll experiment next time with adding some sugar to the cure, too. It’s salty, so do slice it very thinly.
This project of making duck ham was my first time curing a meat without smoking it, and it was so easy! I highly recommend it, if you are wanting to do a small curing project that won’t take much time or meat.
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