Tag Archives: salting meat

The Versatile Duck

Since butchering 8 ducks two weeks ago, I’ve been able to explore more duck dishes, certainly, finding the best and most convenient way of cooking duck. Since being busy with sow Number 1 and her piglets, I don’t really have the time to prepare and cook complicated duck dishes.

The most convenient way to keep duck is by cooking and preserving it in oil. The French call it “confit.” Here, the duck fat is rendered and this fat is used to cook and preserve the duck. If not enough fat is produced, it is acceptable to use suitable cooking oil.

The process of making duck confit involves salting the duck with salt and a variety of herbs, keeping that overnight or so, then cooking in oil. In my case, not having the leisure of such preparations, I simply cut up the duck and put it in a pot of coconut oil.

A small amount of aromatic herb is placed in the oil — some thyme, star anise and a bit of laurel leaf. A bit of salt and pepper. And that’s it — the pot is heated up every now and then over the next couple of weeks, adding new duck in as the pot is emptied, keeping the oil and adding extra oil if necessary.

The best thing about this method is that you can take out a bit of duck meat and prepare that in any way you wish. Because the duck has been cooked in oil until tender, it doesn’t take much time to whip out a duck dish.

duckstewwithvegetablesduckconfitpanfriedwithkashmirchilliesduckbreastwithtomatosaucecornedduckbreast1cornedduckbreast2ducklegsliverwithnoodles

Some of the dishes I’ve prepared are these (see photos). The easiest is to get some duck legs or breast and braise that in oil, tomatoes, salt and pepper, or some kashmir chilies. I have also made duck stew with vegetables which has a brown duck sauce base and some potatoes and carrots. Here, the duck meat can be shreds of meat off the backbone, wings and neck.

One of my favourite experiments is “corned duck.” I love corned beef and I really just had to create that same taste and texture with duck meat. I selected duck breast now truly tender from cooking in oil. This meat is flaked and set aside. Next is chop up some onions which will be browned in oil to caramelise. You can add garlic here if you wish. Next, the shredded duck breast is added together with salt, pepper, a bit of sage, a bit of allspice powder and star anise. The result is absolutely fantastic. Duck meat resembles beef and using shredded duck meat with spices commonly used in corned beef or salted beef preparations produce such a remarkable dish. I love the long shreds of duck meat! I only regret that I didn’t have enough duck fat to add to this!

Other ways of cooking duck I’ve tried are: duck curry, duck noodle soup and duck spring rolls. All coming from a pot of duck confit!

So there — over the last 2 weeks we’ve cooked and consumed 4 ducks and served guests as well. We still have 4 more ducks to go and I don’t get tired of eating duck because it can be prepared in a variety of ways. Bon appétit!

Duck Pizza?

Sunday lunch is salted duck breast pizza, winged beans, soursop and homemade bread.
Sunday lunch is salted duck breast pizza, winged beans, soursop and homemade bread.

Another way to serve duck -particularly the “duck bacon”  🙂 is as pizza topping. For the “pizza crust” we used homemade bread (topped with oatmeal and black sesame seeds!). Then some onions, garlic and tomatoes are sautéed with tomato paste and spread over the slices of bread. On top of this are laid crispy fried thin slices of duck bacon. Garnish is a tiny bit of blue cheese and slices of cucumber (the cucumber tones down the saltiness).

Sunday lunch includes winged beans (a huge harvest from the garden – it’s winged bean season) sautéed in garlic and chili, and guyabano fruit (soursop) from Terry’s garden. Perfect! 🙂

Salted duck breast with tomato sauce, onion, tomatoes, tiny bit of blue cheese and sliced cucumber (to temper the saltiness!)
Salted duck breast with tomato sauce, onion, tomatoes, tiny bit of blue cheese and sliced cucumber (to temper the saltiness!)

Inasnan na Pato (Salted Duck Meat)

“Tinabal” is the Bisayan term given to salted fish and “Inasnan” for salted meat, a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. Without the modern conveniences of refrigeration and freezing, our ancestors relied on such methods as salting to preserve meats for future use.

Here in Bohol, “Tinabal” may still be found in public markets and some supermarkets such as BQ and ICM in Tagbilaran City. A few households unreached by electricity or those without refrigerators still salt their meat and fish. The basic process involves cleaning of the meat product, rubbing with salt, keeping in a container such as a large earthenware jar, and storing in a cool dry place.

Occasionally, I make salted (and cured) meats. I do this because of the taste and texture which I sometimes crave for. Also, instead of buying cured meats from the shops, I prefer to make my own so I can control how much curing powder (nitrite, key ingredient in Prague Powder) is used. Another reason to salt meat is when we have just slaughtered a pig and there is a surplus of meat that cannot be placed in the freezer.

Here are some of the basic principles of salting and curing meat:

  1. Fish or meat is dried to prevent microbial and enzymatic transformations – this preserves the flesh before putrefaction can set in.
  2. In humid environments, fish or meat cannot dry quickly enough before putrefaction. Here, salting is used to hasten the drying process. Smoking is yet another means of drying meat and fish.
  3. Through the physical process of osmosis, salting draws water out of flesh and at the same time, renders the meat less hospitable for microbial growth. The longer you keep meat in salt, the more stable and salty it becomes.
  4. Salted meats like bacon and some types of ham are salted for only a short time because they are cooked before eating. Country hams, prosciutto, ham and other meats eaten raw are salted and hung to dry for much longer time.
  5. While salting adds to the flavour, taste and texture of meat and fish, sugar and spices may be included in the salt. Curing salt (Prague Powder) which contains nitrates/nitrites is sometimes used, especially in the case of sausages where food safety is more critical because ground meat means more of the flesh is exposed to air and microbial activity than whole slabs of meat.

Salting the Duck Meat

duckbaconbreastnthigh

So, here’s the duck breast and thighs that I prepared several days ago. The duck breast without the bone weighs about 250 grams and the thighs (with a bit of bone intact) weighs 150 grams. This is a total of 400 grams of meat that I’ll be salting.

So, how much salt should be added? The standard is 6% salt based on the weight of the meat. So, 400 grams of meat need about 24 grams of salt. To this I added the same amount of sugar for flavour.

duckbaconsalting

I prepared the meat and with clean hands, massaged the salt (and sugar) all over the meat (use coarse sea salt which naturally contains nitrate). When done, I put the salted meat in a sealed container, this is plastic. Don’t use metal because the salt will cause a chemical reaction. You can use earthenware, ceramic or glass. The meat is then placed in the refrigerator. Check on the meat after a day or so to pour out any liquid that has accumulated.

duckbaconwithliquid

duckbaconsealed

How long should the meat be salted?

It takes about 1-2 days for every 500 grams of meat to be adequately salted or you can weigh the meat to find out: the meat should lose about 15 percent of its initial weight. For my 400-gram duck meat, that means the meat is ready at 340 grams.

duckbaconweighing

Should I Use Prague Powder?

You can use Prague Powder #1 (6.25% sodium nitrite) to achieve that colour, taste and texture associated with cured meats like bacon and ham. Although not necessary when curing meat for a short period (a few days to a couple of weeks) and under refrigeration, you might wish to use this curing salt in addition to the salt and spices. The amount to be used is 1/2 teaspoon per kilo of meat. Mix with cold water to use.

If you are curing sausages as well as certain types of hams intended to be eaten raw, you should use Prague Powder #2 (6.25% sodium nitrite and 4% sodium nitrate). The amount to be used is 1/2 teaspoon per kilo of meat. Mix with cold water to use.

Finishing

At this point, all I need to do is wash the duck meat in cold water to remove the salt, dry thoroughly with paper towels, then wrap in cheesecloth, wax paper or plastic and keep in a cool dry place, or refrigerate – and slice as desired.

To test the salted duck meat, you can slice  bit off and cook it. If it is too salty, soak it in cold water and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Then drain and dry as described above.

Here’s some of the salted duck meat chopped and cooked with some string beans and okra. It’s the perfect flavouring for vegetables!

duckbaconwithsitaookra