I love meat.
(I realize I probably just lost a bunch of vegetarian readers after that sentence; if you’re still with me, I’m hoping you might also be a meat fan.)
Seriously. While many might think of a nice spinach dip or nachos when someone says “appetizer,” I think charcuterie platter. Moreover, I have a penchant for throwing a little bacon into many of my recipes (even cookies and ice cream) and regularly refer to myself as The Meatasaurus.
Given that one of my emphases for 2012 on my blog has been learning how to make my own version of basic pantry staples (e.g., bread, pasta, butter, pickles), I decided in November to try my hand at curing meat, what with holiday entertaining and the accompanying appetizers right around the corner.
Using a dehydrator, I have made jerky from both chicken and venison, but jerky isn’t exactly holiday table fare. So I picked up a copy of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and looked for a recipe that might offer an easy entry into the world of cured meats.
What I found was duck prosciutto. All you need is a duck breast, a whole boatload of salt and a cold room. Living in Vermont, I knew I at least had the cold room covered without much effort. Then I found a big, fat duck breast at the Sweet Clover Market in Essex and I was on my way.
I kid you not when I say that making the duck prosciutto was ridiculously easy. After packing the duck breast in salt for 24 hours, I rinsed it, seasoned it, trussed it in cheesecloth and hung it in my unheated guest room closet for just over a week. (Luckily, we didn’t have guests that week or it might have been awkward.)
The result? Amazing. I couldn’t believe that I had ended up with such delicious prosciutto with such little effort. I sliced it as thinly as possible and served it as part of my Thanksgiving charcuterie platter (no frou-frou crudites at our house). The tangy saltiness is also ideally suited for pizza; I froze a small portion for exactly that purpose.
I’ve already started dreaming about making my own sausage and bacon, and maybe whipping up a rustic pate or terrine for my next dinner party. Fortunately, I live here in Vermont where fresh, local meat is plentiful and readily available.
And apparently I’m not alone in my charcuterie obsession. A recent article in Seven Days newspaper’s “The Meat Issue,” (you know The Meatasaurus scooped up a copy hot off the presses) noted that given its popularity, charcuterie just might become Vermont’s next craft food craze, right up there with beer and cheese.
I’ve already dipped my toe into the world of homebrewed hard cider and DIY mozzarella, so I’m ready for the challenge. Clearly, I need to ask Santa to bring me a smoker. And a meat grinder.
If you want to try making your own prosciutto, you can find complete instructions, tips and step-by-step photos at my blog.