Duck confit was originally developed as a means for preserving duck meat in the absence of refrigeration. Basically, the duck is preserved in its own fat and by using salt. French housewives would preserve a batch of ducks and keep them in a ceramic crock in a cool part of the house, typically the basement, and there the confit could last for several months.
We rarely keep our confit for more than a month, despite preserving the duck in its own fat, the salting, the seasoning, the sealed glass jar and refrigeration. None of that can protect the confit from maurauding Kalebergs. On the other hand, we usually do keep our confit preserved for two or three weeks before attacking it in order to let the flavors mellow.
This recipe calls for four ducks, typically weighing about 7 pounds each, and it produces enough duck confit to fill a 3 litre jar, a fair bit of duck stock and perhaps a gallon of duck stock, depending on how much we cook it down. These ingredients are perfect for making a cassoulet, or you can just enjoy your duck confit, use the duck fat for frying vegetables and potato pancakes and the duck stock for flavoring a broad range of dishes.
The whole process can take a while. If nothing else, the ducks need to be cut up, the fat rendered, and then the duck breasts and legs need 36 hours of salting before they are slowly cooked for from four to six hours. Do not attempt to make a duck confit when you have lots of other things going on. It has to be worked into your schedule for the best results.
• four whole ducks
|We use standard Long Island Peking ducklings. They typically weigh about seven pounds. When we can, we use fresh ducks, but we have used frozen ducks with good results. If you do use frozen ducks, defrost them in the refrigerator overnight, or longer, so you don't need an ice pick to carve them.|
• kosher salt
|We usually get about 7 pounds of usable breast and leg meat from all four ducks, a reduction of four to one in the skinning and carving. This means we need about 7/3 or 2 1/3 ounces of kosher salt for the preservation. You can use a bit less if you choose, but it is a good idea to measure the weight of the meat you are preserving using a kitchen scale, and to measure the weight of the salt to get the proper ratio.|
• two or more heads of garlic
|It is conceivable that one might make a duck confit without garlic, but we cannot imagine why.|
• the spice mix
We use Paula Wolfert's wonderful confit spice mix. We usually make up a jar of it with the following ratios:
You will need about from one half to all of the above spices for a four duck confit, but it makes sense to make a double batch of the spice mix. It is awfully good.
The Ducking Factory
|the breasts and legs||Remove the breasts and the legs. Try to follow the natural lines of the bone, the joints and folds of the duck. We usually remove the large bone from the legs as this makes it easier to cram everything into one big jar.|
|the wings||Remove the wings and pop them into a big pot of boiling water. Removing the wings often makes it easier to get at the duck breasts.|
|the skin||Remove all of the skin from the duck, except for the skin on the breasts and legs. Cut it into thin 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips and render them in a slow oven to extract all the fat. You will need two large pyrex bowls and a slow, 275F oven, for this.|
|the liver||Save the livers. They are delicious with confit spice and corn kernels, a dish of our own based loosely on one of Dany's|
|the heart and gizzards||Save these to preserve with the meat. Some people like to preserve them separately and make a confit de gezier (gizzard confit), but they make great surprise nuggets in the main confit otherwise.|
|the neck and the rest of the carcass||
When you have removed the breasts, the wings, the legs, the skin, the liver, the heart and the gizzards, take whatever is left and toss it into that big boiling stock pot we mentioned back with the wings.