Friday, February 4, 2011

Why a Duck?

Or Episode 6, in which we test the Duck Prosciutto from January.

After the 9 days of hanging in my slap dash cardboard, garage-based curing box, I have sampled the duck prosciutto. And it is good- very good.

Here it is, freshly sliced. Behind the knife there, is a bit of the chicken thigh prosciutto from this entry, for comparison.  The duck is better - you can see it on the board. the duck is thicker, and fatter, and more appealing even on visual inspection.

And a  modest tartine (er, some slices on a slice of bread) for sampling. You can see the salt crystallization, and the shrinking of the fat, along with a bit too much desiccation in the wine-dark surface of the duck. This was, no doubt an improved effort over the chicken thigh.  Two big differences: first, I used MUCH less salt in the duck cure- only half a cup, total. This made for a much less pronounced saltiness, but plenty of fermented funk in the final flavor.  Second, curing in the box dried out the product a tad less.

That said, I have to say that, if I'm going to get serious about this, I need a controlled curing chamber- one of those jerry-rigged ex-refrigerators with a makeshift humidifier and temperature control.  I've had great success with guanciale, just hanging open in the garage, but I think that is because it's much more forgiving - it's so full of fat, it doesn't need the additional humidity. Plus, you cook it, rather than serve it as is, and the cooking process makes the texture more or less irrelevant. For curing uncooked meats, texture becomes more of a concern.

The other thing I'm beginning to appreciate is that there is a distinctive flavor profile to the flora in my garage. That is, I've done this enough to tell that the biotic material that are curing my duck, chicken, pork, etc. impart a distinct taste to the foods I'm hanging there. Noticed it in the pickles I ferment there, as well.  The taste has a distinctive tang that is somewhat herbal, or vegetal, as well as a quality that I'd call wintry - assertive and sharp.  I am loathe to say my garage has it's own terroir, but I do think the combination of my seasoning methods, this exposed air technique, and the material conditions of Carrboro are conspiring to concoct a characteristic edible natureculture.

Next, the guanicale goes into the box over the weekend....

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