Trim any loose fat or blood off the breasts, then
prick each breast with a skewer on the skin side,
piercing about halfway through and making about
12 holes in each breast.
Duck breast is a relatively expensive meat, but its richness means it can go quite a long way. If it’s served conventionally, either pan-fried or roasted, people tend to expect a whole breast, but if it’s cured, then sliced and cooked, a single breast can easily serve 3 people. There is the added advantage that the curing process preserves the meat, so it can be kept in the fridge and makes an easy, rapid and very tasty meal.
Preparing the Cure
The process couldn't be simpler. Mix your cure ingredients together. Then place a layer of cure in a container with drainage holes. Rub some cure into the breasts, place them skin side down on top of the cure in the container and sprinkle a layer of cure on top.
Completing the Cure
After 4 days, take the duck breasts out of the curing box and brush any remaining cure back into the box. The breasts will have changed texture, becoming firmer. Depending on their thickness, they will need 1 or 2 days more — the finished cured breast should not give easily when pressed between thumb and finger. Rub the cure into the flesh again and pack the breasts back into the box. If any areas are smooth and appear not to have been cured, rub extra cure into them and make sure that they are in contact with lots of cure. When the duck breasts are cured, rinse off any remaining salt with cold water and dry with kitchen paper. Hang up the breasts and allow to dry thoroughly. Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
Now Try: Turkey
Curing brown turkey meat can also be very successful, but it has to be the thigh, drumstick or oyster — the breast and other white meat is too lean for curing and treating like ham. However, if you lightly cure the meat it can be hot-smoked and is truly delicious.
An Aromatic Cure for Duck Breasts
For 4 duck breasts, weighing about 1kg (2lb)
- 1 orange
- 3 star anise
- 1 dried chilli
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) rock salt
- 30g (1 1/4 oz) brown sugar
- a small bunch of thyme
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest of the orange. Crush the spices in a pestle and mortar and put them into a bowl with the salt and sugar.
Also from Curing and Smoking: Introduction to Dry Curing
Reprinted with permission from Curing and Smoking: Made at Home by Dick and James Strawbridge, photos by Nick Pope and published by Firefly Books, 2012. Buy this book from our store: Curing and Smoking.