Sunday, 12 October 2008

Preserved Duck - Confit

My recent delve into stews and soups began with an experiment into something I have come back to in the last week (in the form of dried and preserved fruit) - Preserving.
I hadn't come across Duck Confit and sort of stumbled upon it one day. I had discovered that Lidl and Farmfoods were selling frozen duck for a fiver and was looking for an excuse to buy one. I had also been reading "Floyd on France" and had come across a recipe for "Preserved Goose". It involes frying goose in its own fat and canning the pieces within the fat. I thought "Duck's pretty fatty, I reckon it might work".

I wasn't sure whether defrosting a duck then cooking it and preserving it, to possibly keep for a long time would be safe. Defrosted food, especially poultry, can be dodgy and I didn't want to do anything that would be likely to produce anarchic bacteria. A bit of research and questioning my local butcher revealed that it shouldn't be a problem. Properly cooked, the bacteria would all be killed. It seems pretty obvious, and I know I knew it before, but I've been brought up always to be wary of defrosted food.


I defrosted the duck in the fridge (which took double the two days the wrapping indicated) and jointed it.

I then put a thick layer of salt in a baking tin, then a layer of duck pieces, then a layer of salt and so on until the salt completely encased the duck.
The tin I used was really too narrow, there was about three layers of duck, so the liquid drawn out sunk to the bottom. This meant the lower layers had less liquid drawn out of them than the top layers.
Also, I was using table salt, a much finer ground salt, which made the duck a saltier than it would have been had I used, what the americans call, kosher salt, a bigger grain.

After two days in the fridge I washed off the salt, dried the pieces and fried them until cooked in the duck fat.
Then came the canning.

I had never canned anything before and I'm pretty sure I didn't do it properly. It turns out that duck confit can keep in its own fat for up to six months anyway so this wasn't a big problem.
I won't go into it here, I'll learn how to can things properly and write up my findings.

Basically I took some jars, put a leg and a wing in two of them, sliced the breast into pieces and put these into two others. I then poured the hot duck fat over them. There wasn't enough fat so I got a tub of dripping from the butchers, as they didn't have the pig fat that Floyd recommended.

This duck has been the basis of some amazing meals, from chunky stews to a great addition to eggs benedict. The fat is can be used to fry anything, giving sauces an amazing other level. I have only one little jar left.

I have a rather crazy recipe for a duck confit stew that I wrote for my sister which I will type up and post here.

I heartily recommend making duck confit as having it in the fridge makes you really look forward to cooking when you come home after a day of work. As part of a breakfast it puts a smile on your face when you remember it through the day.


Anonymous said...

I have been very curious about 'canning' some confit or cassoulet (hence landing up on your site via google). most websites give recipes for 'canning" (not sure why i hate the term, bottling, preserving, maybe?) and they generally seem a bit too basic, often including recipes for half-cooked minced meat. i have a freezer, i do not need to preserve mince at this time, even if it is very cheap on special. what i would like to do is what the french do, preserving a well-seasoned stew that only needs reheating to be had. and it should be very good too, not just half-cooked meat that needs jazzing up (although i know that has its place, just not what I'm after right now). Ideally I'd like to have it as a special pantry standby as well as potential gifts, without giving my recipients a bad case of bot.
so I am very curious to hear whether you have ventured any further into the land of 'canning' meat.
I'm happy to have stumbled onto your blog, thanks. kaliman

Alex said...

I'm afraid I haven't delved into the world of canning as much as I'd like. I don't have a pressure cooker/canner so the canning of the confit was done in a saucepan, with a wok on top and a weight on top of that (with aluminium foil to seal the gaps) - this approach doesn't really work but it didn't really matter for the confit as the high salt content and the fact that it's held in fat meant that it kept for ages anyway.
If you have access to a canner and some jar lids with sealing rings I'd recommend just jumping in and trying it. The book "Preserved" by Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler has some info on canning, and includes a recipe for canning a stew/cassulet... I think (It's been a while since I read it).
Failing that, going to a local, independent deli near you and asking what they do to can their stews would put you on the right track.
Sorry I can't be of more help.
Out of interest, how far have you got down the canning route?

Canadian Doomer said...

There's a reason why pressure canning recipes call for "half-cooked meat". When canning meat, pints need to be processed for one hour and 15 minutes, and quarts for one hour and 30 minutes, at a temperature of 240F. I try to have my meat as close to raw as possible so that it doesn't overcook.

I have placed plain, tough raw stew beef in a pint jar, added 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pressure canned it. When opened, it was dark, full of flavor, and fork-tender. It's amazing.

There are limitations to heat-and-serve. Unless you have access to weird commercial thickeners and such (which I wouldn't use in my food anyway), you cannot thicken soups before canning. However, the last time my father-in-law visited, I opened two jars and had a big pot of homemade stew bubbling on the stove ten minutes later. The stew was ready before the biscuits were. Try that from the freezer. :)