Sometimes all you want to do is look in your fridge and see something you want to eat, right then and there no cooking required. Sometimes this happens when friends are round and you haven’t really expected them to be – you’ve got nothing in, your freezer is empty. It’s times like these I normally turn to take-out and am forever grateful I live in one of the best cities in the world with food available at a moment’s notice. The worst of the worst though is when you’ve got a plan for dinner – you’re going to have those leftovers from the other day. You’re absolutely starving, don’t want to wait for take out and then you realise it’s too late the leftovers are gone. Recipes like this one are for those homemade treats which can sit in your fridge quite happily until your need is great (or you just eat them because they’re delicious.
The other day, I got home ravenous with a small bit of shepherds pie in the fridge with my name on it. Only to find, in all my infinite wisdom, I had gotten home late the night before and eaten it. It was now little more than an empty plate which for some reason I had thought should go back in the fridge. All I had in the fridge was a peach and some duck ham I’d been making. A strange fridge, I grant you but then I’ve never claimed to be that normal. The duck ham was an experiment, one I’m resolutely glad I did! I roasted the peaches, just like the roasted nectarines which I posted recently.
However, I have now decided I shall never be without some duck ham drying happily away in the fridge. It was a lifesaver and thoroughly delicious. It’s surprisingly easy to make your own hams – no risk, no fuss. It does take a little time though. I’ve tried making it with other meats, its broadly the same process to make biltong or even the cured hams the Italians and Spanish are so rightfully proud of. The basic principle is salt, rinse and leave to hang and dry. It needs to hang in your fridge for about 12 days – for me, the fun bit is creating a rig in your fridge to dry the ham. Here’s what I tried – promise me you won’t judge my disorganised fridge!
Add the spices with the salt to dictate the flavour profile you want. I’ve found you have to be a little careful with some of the spices as a little goes a long way. I use juniper berries and thyme here, the juniper because it works fantastically well with the gamey flavour of the duck and the thyme both for the flavour and for its antibacterial properties. It’s the juniper you have to be careful of though – too much and the whole ham can start to taste a little medicinal. The ham will take a couple of weeks to dry fully, can be a little less depending on how firm you like it to be, I wouldn’t leave it fewer than 9 days though. With a few slices of ripe peach and a drizzle of balsamic, you’re a bare fridge away from the dinner of champions.
Duck ham and peaches
- 2 Duck breasts
- Salt (preferably coarse) – you need enough to liberally coat the breasts all over
- Black pepper, loosely cracked
- Spices/herbs (My current preference is 2 juniper berries, 8 sprigs of thyme and one crushed star anise pod)
- Muslin cloth
Step 1: Salt the duck breast for 24 hours
- Take the trimmed duck breast (skin on) and liberally season with salt and pepper
- Crush the star anise and juniper berries and scatter with the thyme leaves over the duck breasts
- Lay them in a deep dish (I use a loaf tin) cover the dish with cling film and stand in the fridge for 24 hours
Step 2: Dry the duck in the fridge for 10-12 days
- Wash the duck breast thoroughly removing the salt cure
- Dry thoroughly with paper towel
- Wrap in muslin or cheesecloth and leave hanging in the fridge for 10-12 days – it will keep forever but after 4 weeks it will be quite dry.