Curing time is important and if you get it wrong the first time (tastes too salty) try again but reduce the time in salt. Trust me, it’s worth it when you get it right.
You want the flavour to be slightly smokey but not overpowering and the key to that is controlling the temperature of the smoke. Smoking the Breasts begins at low temperature for flavouring and then the heat is turned up to cook the breast. Ideally, you should ensure that the cold smoke stays below 5 degrees Centigrade and after the cooking stage, the breast must have reached 65 degrees at the core.
Obviously, the longer the Breasts are in the smoke, the smokier they taste.
- Duck breasts with the skin still on.
For the Cure
- 25g Demerara sugar
- A dozen crushed juniper berries
- A crushed up Bay Leaf
- 10g of freshly ground black pepper
- 50g of PDV salt (not Table Salt which is full of all sorts of crap).
Mix all of the cure ingredients in a bowl.
Cover the bottom of a tupperware container (just a bit bigger than the breasts) with a thin layer of cure.
Put the Duck Breasts on top of this layer of cure and then sprinkle more over the top. Massage the cure mixture into the meat, making sure every bit of it is covered. Tip in the rest of the cure and close up the container.
Leave the Breasts in the cure for 36 – 48 hours, depending on how large the breasts are, how much fat is on them. If it’s your first go, take note of the size and weight of the breasts and then give them a little under the full two days. If they end up being too salty, then you’ll know less time is needed next time.
Each morning and evening, turn the breasts and drain off any liquid which seeps out of the meat.
When the meat has cured, it will be dark red and slightly firm to the touch. Rinse it off under a slow running cold tap and then pat it dry. Before the next step, the meat should air dry for a bit. You can do this in the fridge uncovered overnight but this can taint the meat if there are strong smells in the fridge. I normally wrap the Breasts in Muslin and hang it somewhere cool for 24 hours. If there is a breeze where you hang it, so much the better.
Now it’s time to tie up the meat. Use butcher string around the Breast to pull it into a cylinder or stuff it into a sausage net. Whatever method you use, bear in mind you will need something to hang the meat from so leave a loop in the butchers’ string or leave some extra netting at the end with the most fat. During smoking, this end will be hung up so the fat can render a little and drop over the rest of the breast to help keep the meat moist.
Hang the breasts in a cold smoker and smoke over hardwood. I use ‘sweet’ woods like Cherry or Apple wood dust. Remember to keep the smoke cold and smoke for at least 2 hours. The longer you smoke – the stronger the flavour.
When you’ve gotten enough smoke into the meat, ramp up the temperature and hot smoke the breasts until the core temperature reaches 65 degrees centigrade.
When they are done, cool and refrigerate. I normally freeze one and use the other straight away but it will last in the fridge for up to 3 weeks (I have had one for longer).
Clearly label the bag for the one going in the freezer so that it doesn’t end up going to the Puppy Rescue place as ‘unidentified meat’!!!