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.