Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meat me downstairs

proid duck
You descend slowly into the dampness of the basement, the creak of the stairs beneath your feet giving way to the crunch of gravel. You are enveloped by darkness and the palpable sense that you are not alone. There, to the left; a small crack bleeds a sick glow into the black. Behind it, you feel a presence. "Is someone there?" you call, but no voice answers. You move closer as cobwebs brush your face like a dead lover's caress. Hours - or is it days? - seem to pass as you draw closer to the light. A trembling hand finds the edge where the light leaks out; a push and a door swings open and you gasp at the twin shapes that hang bound and shrouded in the middle of the room. And from the corner behind you, a dry voice is heard...
"The cure...the cure..."
You turn as the light vanishes and the voice speaks again.
This little horror story comes to you courtesy of a little project I mentioned last month. I've joined forces with our friend Leila to make our own charcuterie, starting with easy (on paper, at least) duck prosciutto. The basement above is hers (though I may have exaggerated some of the more nightmarish aspects for effect) and it includes a cold room that we're pretty sure had previously been used to cure meat at some point in its 100-year or so history (that, or once belonged to a serial killer).

Here's the ingredients we're working with:
  • One pound of skin on duck breast.
  • A whole crapload of salt.
  • Some cheesecloth and twine.
  • One dank, but not too dank, basement.
  • A dash of hope that we don't get botulism.
Our guides through this process are "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman and the informative/terrifying Wrightfood blog (the guy seems like he knows his stuff, but he makes it seem pretty intimidating and dangerous).

Leg one started this week with the purchase of the meat and covering the pieces with salt to cure for 24 hours.

Duck salt1

Next, we rinsed 'em, dried 'em, wrapped 'em in cheesecloth and hung them down in the basement. And there they will stay for the next few days until they're all ready to eat. If we can keep these things from getting eaten by spiders or mold or giving us some fatal dose of food poisoning, this horror story may have a happy ending after all.

Duck hang1

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