Kevin Sweeting lives in Brooklyn, NY and is a Marketing Assistant for the Crown Publishing Group. He enjoys black coffee and colorful socks.
When someone told me that curing your own duck breast prosciutto at home was “easy and affordable,” I was a bit skeptical. Something about curing your own meats at home seems dauntingly unsanitary and risky—I imagined flies buzzing around my apartment and lingering odors. I should also disclose that the man who passed along this recipe recited it from memory during what appeared to be his first journey away from a barstool in several hours. I was worried but intrigued.
The recipe that follows is almost exactly the one told to me in that dimly lit bar those many months ago, and I can report with confidence that it is simple, delicious and satisfying.
Homemade Duck Breast Prosciutto Recipe:
2 duck breasts
3-4 cups of kosher salt
Your first step is finding yourself two fresh duck breasts. They are pretty easy to find at most ethnic grocery stores, and most butcher counters will order you some if they don’t have them immediately on hand. The size and type of the duck you’re sourcing here isn’t particularly important—I got magrets because my butcher had them on hand and because they are delicious.
Using a sharp knife, trim off the excess fat. A note here: I left WAY too much fat on mine the first time, and it retained a ton of moisture and really slowed the curing process. Don’t be afraid to over trim; you’re making prosciutto, not tallow. If you do decide to leave some fat on the breast (because, honestly, who can resist) make sure to score some cross-hatches into the fat so the salt can really get in there and work around.
Layer the bottom of a shallow brownie dish completely in kosher salt and nestle the two breasts in there, skin side up. Use the rest of your salt to completely cover the breasts. Really bury them and make sure they aren’t touching either each other or the pan. Cover this whole package in some saran wrap and drop it into your refrigerator for 24 hours.
The next day, pull the breasts out of the salt and thoroughly rinse them off. At this point, the salt has pulled most of the moisture out of the meat and they should look a little mummified and feel dense to the touch.
Pat the breast dry with some paper towels and dust them with some cracked pepper. You can experiment with seasonings here; I’m sure Old Bay seasoning or juniper would be pretty delicious. Dried ginger seems adventurous, but promising.
Once everything is seasoned, take your cheesecloth and wrap it up. Try and get it as snug as you can and lace them up with butchers twine to keep everything in place and give you something to hang them from while they cure.
Choosing a place for these breasts to hang and age is your next task. Don’t worry; your apartment will not smell like rotting meat. There will be no flies or vermin. Everything will be fine. Hang them for 7 days in an out-of-the-way, cool, humid place: think closets, laundry rooms, summer garages (although I hung mine in my bedroom with no problem).
When they’re done, they should be firm to the touch and a dark, red wine color. If they’re a bit squishy in the center, hang them for a few more days.
How should you eat it? Well, duck breast prosciutto works amazingly well as a replacement for its pork cousin. I’ve enjoyed it on pasta, wrapped around grilled asparagus, and on bread with salty cheese, but my absolute favorite thing to do with it is fry it up and toss it into a bowl of ramen.
To try my favorite way to eat the duck breast prosciutto, first hit some thin slices of the prosciutto in a pan on high heat until the fat renders and the meat starts to get crispy. Toss it into a bowl with some ramen noodles (no shame in the cheap stuff), some spinach, ginger and a soft-boiled egg. Skip the flavor packet included in the noodle package and just toss the noodles with a teaspoon of hoisin sauce and some Sriracha and you’re set.