Friday, February 11, 2011



Char-what? Charcutepalooza!  It’s a year-long meat curing party hatched up by Mrs. Wheelbarrow (Cathy Barrow) and theyummymummy (Kim Foster), whereby each month a different meat curing challenge is issued. Participants, who are from all over the world, then have a month to complete the meat curing challenge and post a blog about the experience in tandem. Just the kind of crazy fun I like! After a brief consultation with Brian, who is the head of the Charcuterie Dept. in this house, I signed up. This is the perfect activity for us: Brian is clean, careful, and precise, and I have no hesitation jumping into messy and time-consuming creative projects.
The Cheese Dept. and the Charcuterie Dept. enjoy lunch at L'Auberge Chez Francois, a nice place with a rocking "assiette de charcuterie, jambon et curdites de l'Ami Fritz" (house pates, rilette, ham and sausages with a salad medly)
Since Brian has been successfully dabbling in sausage making and meat curing the past few years, I have little apprehension as to actual meat curing process. The primary rule set forth by Cathy and Kim is to only use humanely raised meats. I can do that. The first challenge was to make Duck Prosciutto. So Brian called his sister to see if she happened to have any ducks that her hunter husband had shot. I’d make it with birds that had spent their lives flying around and living happily as birds do.

Wild ducks are scrawnier than domestic ducks. While domestic ducks are busy being fed and wandering around their little lots, wild ducks are out eating what they can and getting plenty of exercise flying across the countryside. Wild duck breasts are considerably smaller than those called for in Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, the book Charcutepalooza is using as a guide, and they don’t have the thick layer of fat that you usually see on a domestic duck.

I wondered if, because of this, I should keep the duck breasts in the salt cure for a shorter time, but decided to be cautious about it and keep them in the full 24 hours. Big mistake.

After salting them for 24 hours, rinsing them, wrapping them in cheesecloth, tying them up, and hanging them to dry in the wine closet for several days, I brought them out with much anticipation.

 I unwrapped them as if they were a present, sliced them carefully, and arranged them on a gold rimmed plate.

I offered a piece to Brian, who politely tasted one and said, “hmmm…” Then I had a taste. I had managed to make six beautiful little salt bombs!

My blood pounding, I started to spaz out. I’m such an idiot! What a waste of time! What a waste of life! Those birds got shot, and I ruined the meat! Then Brian came over, looked at the “duck prosciutto” on the counter and said, “Looks like it should be called Dr. Gachet: Six Unsuccessful Ear Amputation Attempts.

A not exactly accurate reference to the artist Van Gogh and his doctor, but it made me laugh. Did I say that Brian is also the head of the Humor Dept.?

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