Confit Duck Legs

Those who've been following the last few projects can probably see where this will end up. I've made Ventrèche, a Gascon bacon, along with Toulouse Sausage. Now I'm making Confit Duck. It don't take a genius to work out that sooner or later there'll be a recipe for Cassoulet!

There's method in my madness, but you've got to go back to just before Christmas before it becomes clear (well as clear as mud!). You see, it started with some ducks!

Let me explain - I know that I pride myself on supporting local food producers, but when just before Christmas I saw this:

Cheap Duck

Well really, what would you do? I'm no hero, I did the same! So now we've got a freezer full of ducks.

All that was left for me to do was convince Pauline to eat them!

I thought I'd take a two pronged approach - serving just the breast at one meal and the confit leg in a cassoulet at another. We've had tinned cassoulet in France so she's used to it. It would just be the inclusion of duck that would be new as it doesn't feature in products at the cheaper end of the range. (Blimey, I've just looked a tinned cassoulet online - some of it's over a tenner a time!) Anyway, back to the duck. I cut it into pieces:

Jointed Ducks

Then salted the legs overnight with garlic, thyme, and 2gm sea salt per 100gm of meat.

The duck curing in salt, thyme and garlic

In the meantime I roasted the duck carcass to render it's fat.

Duck fat

It was this, along with some bought duck fat, that the duck (after it had been rinsed of the herbs and salt) was cooked in the following day. I shall try and avoid buying duck fat in future; it's dearer than the duck! Anyway, the legs sat submerged in the fat at 100°C for about 4 hours. I'm now storing it for a few days 'to mature' before I use it for cassoulet.

Confit of duck legs

And, the breasts? Well, this snapshot doesn't do justice to the duck with cherry sauce looking, as it does, like a dog's dinner:

Duck breast with cherry sauce

It tasted superb though.

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Lomo embuchado

It seems an age since I started this last batch of cures, although it's only just over 6 weeks - not long when air drying meat. However, the Lomo that was cased for drying in late February, dried more quickly that I expected and has been ready for a while.


To recap, I started by cutting the 'eye' from a loin of pork (It's the meaty bit that you get in a pork chop!):

Pork Loin for Lomo

It was dry cured in a vacuum bag with Spanish smoked paprika, black pepper and garlic for a couple of weeks:

Pork Loin Curing

The cured Lomo was rinsed and then dried overnight in the fridge...

The Lomo after curing

...before being cased in a large collagen casing and tied:

The Lomo after curing

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Pancetta de Thurlaston

Doh! I left the pancetta to dry far more than I'd intended. It doesn't need to dry nearly as much when it's for cooking as it does for eating uncooked.

Flat Pancetta Stessa

It was left until it had lost 35% of its starting weight. 20 - 25% would have been plenty. Oh well, never mind. The taste'll be all the better for it.

This was made to the previous Pancetta di Thurlaston recipe except that I had no juniper to hand.

I've sliced some of it thinly for wrapping things like chicken breasts, other pieces have been cut into chunks for putting into casseroles and bean dishes. I'll write more about these in due course.

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Melton Hunt Beef

Melton Hunt Beef

Here's a picture of some of the rump that I cooked this week - rather appropriate given that it's St Patrick's Day. The story behind it though is less simple...

Late last year I came across a book on Google that I just had to have a look at; I ask you, who could not have a nosey at a book published in London 1864 with the catchy title of: "The Art and Mystery of Curing, Preserving and Potting all kinds of Meat, Game and Fish; and also the Art of Pickling and the Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables. Adapted as well for the wholesale dealer as all housekeepers."?

The Art and Mystery of Curing Book Cover

What caught my eye was a recipe for 'Melton Hunt Beef', a dish that in 50 (or so) years of living in Leicestershire, had eluded me. It warranted further investigation. After a quick online search for answers a phone call to Mr Melton Pork Pie, Steven Hallam, got me in touch with Dr Matthew O'Callaghan who kindly shared his own hunt beef recipe that appeared in a 1920's copy of the Farmers' Weekly magazine and was said to be from even earlier in 1845. He says that it is the traditional dish in Melton Mowbray and district for Plough Monday which he tells me is the Monday on or after 17th January.

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Cider Ham

Continuing the updates on the cures started in early February, the Cider Ham has now been cooked and sliced:

Sliced Cider Ham

This cure started with the gift of some cider from Mark at Rockingham Forest Cider. To do this craft product justice I felt that a brine immersion cure was called for - none of your injection cured shortcuts for this ham!

A recipe was formulated using quite a high level of cider and with nice warm spice overtones, the spices you'd put in mulled cider or wine: cloves, juniper, cinnamon, allspice and coriander. A nice golden Demerara sugar was used for sweetness.

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The First Great British Mustard Bash

The Mustard bash

The First Great British Mustard Bash takes place at Scalford Hall, near Melton Mowbray on March 12th. Scalford Hall is the former home of Colonel Colman, founder of Colman's Mustard, so is a most appropriate venue.

Entry is only a fiver (£5) per car so super value. For more information see:

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