Charcutepalooza Love or Like Meat Loves Salt- a primer.

January 10, 2011

Whispers of salty advice are twittering down the internet lines. Hints of red gold are wrapped in cheesecloth and hanging from basement stairs, under eaves and nestled among the Chablis. Nervous declarations of love, success, or failure ring through the comment boxes.

Here in Gascony, friends and neighbors make charcuterie like they plan their daily meals- seriously and with great centuries of experience. So I decided to answer @Mrs.Wheelbarrow and @theyummymummy ‘s challenge to play together and help make “A Year of Meat’ with a dozen charcuterie challenges named Charcutepalooza.  Their Ruhls are here.

Since the first challenge was already underway and I had a pair of Magrets (duck breasts from a Mullard foie gras duck) hanging in my stone larder from our last AB&C Meat School program, I thought I’d take up the old world perspective and pass on some tips from the pros, my neighbors who raise foie gras ducks and how they salt and cure their own product.

These are the Gascon ABC’s for making Magret Séché straight from the duck’s beak!

A. MEAT. Duck. Use a duck breast that comes from a mature foie gras duck- that is a large breed duck (Muscovy or Mullard hybrid) of 16 weeks age average that has been raised for it’s fatted liver. The breast meat is dark red with a thick layer of fat. The meat is rich and fully developed as any meat use for curing would be. Think beef not veal. There needs to be structure to the meat cells for it to cure properly.

B. SALT. Appropriately. One tablespoon of good sea salt well-rubbed into the meat side of the duck breast is enough. Placed skin side down, the fat acts a cradle to retain any meat juices that then get reabsorbed. After 12 hours- yup, just over night, wipe off any excess salt. There should be almost nothing left.

C. DRY. Age.  In other words, let time make magic. At Camont, I have a stone larder sandwiched between the kitchen and the barn. It once served as the piggery for the farm and is now the laundry room/pantry. We still call it the Piggery. It’s airy, cool and humid and fluctuates temperature just like the étuve on the Chapolard’s farm- warm days, cool nights. Just like the rest of Camont. It’s perfect to let meat hang free in the air, no cheesecloth needed, and out of the cat’s reach. I have never seen anyone here wrap their saucisse or hams in anything but black pepper. 10 days to 2 weeks is enough.

These are the basics of dried duck breasts… as we do them in Gascony, the kingdom of foie gras ducks. Stayed tuned for my own Duck Breast Bacon sandwich- a DLT, coming soon for the Charcutepalooza challenge. and don’t forget to follow along on Twitter with the #charcutepalooza hashtag.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Tweets that mention Charcutepalooza Love or Like Meat Loves Salt- a primer. | Camont: Kate Hill's Gascon Kitchen --
January 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm
The February Charcutepalooza Challenge is the Salt Cure – bacon, pancetta or guanciale. Posting date is 2/15/11.
January 15, 2011 at 6:02 am
Duck Prosciutto | The Butcher's Apprentice
January 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Warner aka ntsc January 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I will try your instruction when I do this next, I used the instruction in Charcuterie.

To be fair to Ruhlman and Polcyn, when I asked a professional about amounts on another of their sausages, a fermented one using an expensive fermenting agent, I was told it was to ensure that enough did get used, as Americans don’t follow instructions.

And the DLT sounds like an excellent counter to my wife who wants to know what to do with almost a kilo of cured duck breast.

Kate Hill January 10, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Thanks Warner for your note. First let me make it clear that I am a big Ruhlman fan. I just want to also share the ‘old school’ ways, direct from the source, my charrcuterie making neighbors and friends. I don’t know why we need to re-invent a wheel that’s been turning non-stop in places for centuries…just because we lost a bit of hand-me-down knowledge along the way. That’s why I stopped and stuck in Gascony… so much to learn, so much to share. Salt is still prized here, not wasted.

as for the DLT’s… cured duck meat is the number one secret ingredient in many a gascon recipe. Think confit in cassoulet, wings & necks in garbure. A salads gasconne uses it all, from gesiers to magret, foie gras to hearts. You’ll make a convert of her, yet!

Sebastian January 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Dear Kate,

Thank you so much for the nice insights and ideas… I´m hungry now! Have you ever thought about doing some videos on this and posting them with something like Movielocker? You can use this to post videos and make a dime with it, or making it for free or donation-based. It´s pretty fun to do and quite easy. Check it out ( and PLEASE continue with your yummy work!!

All the best,

Hungry Sebastian

Janis January 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Great post. Thank you. Now I am dubious about the tiny little breasts hanging in the wine fridge. We will have the unveiling soon enough. If they didn’t come out I at least know for next time where I went wrong.

Warner aka ntsc January 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm

My wife has only herself to blame for this, she gave me Charcuterie as a gift several years ago. I’ve made serious additions to the book shelf since then. I cure a 9-10 kilo ham each year. This year at Thanksgiving as part of the appetizer table, I put out a whole prosciutto with a sharp knife and three pates. That was only a part of that course.

This is my wife’s menu blog, with pictures from both of us.

Kate Hill January 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Don’t worry Janis, Just watch them closely. they might be done sooner than you are planning. and don’t forget- there are a 100 ways into the harbor! especially in charcuterie!

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