Star Anise Duck Prosciutto
Prosciutto is one of the finest dry-cured meats in the world, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a savory cured flavor. The cured pork is excellent on salads, pizza, pasta dishes, or just a component of a good cheese board! Imagine capturing that intense flavor, but with high-quality duck breast? It is possible, with home-made duck prosciutto! This is a great food project that can be done with a little effort and a lot of return.
Classic Prosciutto is an Italian delicacy traditionally made with only two ingredients: pork and salt. Made from a pig or wild boar’s hind leg, the bone-in leg is cleaned thoroughly, salted, and left for about two months to cure. During this time, the ham is pressed, gradually and carefully to avoid breaking the bone and drain any excess moisture.
The young prosciutto is washed several times to remove the salt and hung in a dark, well-ventilated environment. The ham is left until dry, with times varying, depending on climate and the size of the ham. The whole process can be over 18 months but achieves a delicious slice of cured ham for a variety of applications.
This process historically was used to preserve meat so it lasted long without refrigeration. It can be made with the hind leg of other animals, such as "prosciutto cotto d'agnello" or "lamb prosciutto". This recipe isn’t made with a leg, rather a tender and delicious duck breast from our friends at Joe Jurgielewicz & Sons duck farm!
This duck breast isn’t just meat, but part of a larger story of American entrepreneurship. Four generations of Jurgielewicz family duck farming began in 1933 when Dr. Joe’s grandparents, Bronislaw and Katarzyna Jurgielewicz, emigrated to America from Poland via Ellis Island. The ambitious couple initially settled in Brooklyn, NY but, driven by their entrepreneurial spirit, soon moved east to rural Long Island.
Using their savings, they bought some farmland in Moriches, built a shed, and purchased some Pekin ducks. They quickly became a top producer of Pekin ducks for the Long Island Duck Co-op. After issues with land management and soul searching, they relocated in the 1980s, the start of a new duck business on 500 acres of farmland and woodland between Shartlesville and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
The new company, Joe Jurgielewicz & Son, Ltd., was now formally established. The family business is booming, and now the fourth generation is working the farm and finding their way of raising delicious duck. Read more about their story here!
The process for making duck prosciutto isn’t far off from traditional prosciutto, but cures and dries in a matter of days, rather than months! The duck breasts are scored with your favorite sharp Japanese-style knife, and placed in a container with salt, and refrigerated for 24-36 hours. This is enough time for the salt to penetrate the meat and prevent any microbial growth that could make people sick.
Once the salting is complete, the duck breasts are washed thoroughly to remove any excess salt, and dried so no moisture remains. We wanted to bring more aromatic flavor than simple salt and duck, so we lightly toasted and crushed star anise and black peppercorns for a bright spiciness. Other spices like fennel seed, coriander, white pepper, Szechuan peppercorn, juniper berries, and more are great options! Get creative and try what you like.
The spice dusted duck breasts are wrapped in cheesecloth to promote proper curing, tied with twine, and left to dry. The best conditions are cool, slightly humid environments such as a storage cabinet, garage, or basement. Make sure no pets or pests can get to it! About a week later, if all went well, the meat should feel stiff but not rock-hard and the fat should be soft. If they still feel squishy, they can be left to cure for another day or two.
Once your duck is complete, it is ready to rock! Try it alone, but also for sandwiches, pizza, paninis, salads, or a simple cheese board. There will be more information on cheeseboard building in the coming weeks…but we loved pairing it with spicy mustard, crostini, pickles, and hard cheese like parmesan!
Prosciutto is a surprisingly simple and delicious project to take on, and one that will reward you with slice after slice of goodness. Make sure you start with quality ingredients & spices and have fun with it! Enjoy.
Star Anise Duck Prosciutto
Making prosciutto is traditionally a months-long process, but by using a smaller duck breast, it is done in just over a week! Straightforward and customizable, it is a rewarding project to enjoy your own prosciutto. Thanks to Joe Jurgielewicz & Sons (@tastyduck) for the beautiful duck!
Recipe by Sam Burgess
Forge To Table Knives
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
2 each boneless Joe Jurgielewicz & Son duck breasts, skin on (about 1 pound)
2 to 3 cups kosher salt, more as needed
1-2 each star anise pods, freshly ground
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly ground
Other spices, if desired
(SCORE DUCK) Start by weighing each duck breast individually for tracking the curing process. With a sharp Forge To Table Knife, score the skin of each breast in a crisscross pattern.
(CURE DUCK) Place 1 cup of salt (half-inch layer) in non-reactive baking or glass dish that will hold the breasts without touching the sides. Place breasts on top of the salt, and pour more salt over the breasts so they are completely covered (~2 cups more). Seal the container with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-32 hours.
(CLEAN DUCK) Remove duck breasts from salt, rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. The flesh should have darkened and feel denser.
(ADD SPICES) Toast whole spices before grinding in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Dust both sides evenly with freshly ground star anise and ground black pepper.
(WRAP AND DRY DUCK) Wrap each breast in cheesecloth and tie them up with string. Hang for 7 days in a cool (50F - 60F degrees), humid place, like a storage cabinet, garage, or basement.
(DRYING NOTES) After curing, the flesh should be stiff but not hard, with the fat staying soft. If they still feel raw in the meaty section, let them cure for another day or two. Check the curing process by weighing, and if it has lost 20-30% of its original weight, it’s ready!
(SLICE DUCK) Remove cheesecloth, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready, slice thinly on a bias using a Forge To Table 10” Sujihiki Slicer. Enjoy with mustard, crostini, pickles, and cheese.
When wrapped in plastic, the duck prosciutto will keep for up to 4 weeks in the fridge.
Other spices like fennel seed, coriander, white pepper, Szechuan peppercorn, juniper berries, and more are great options!
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