One of the most devastating moments of our recent shared history—one that we have essentially blocked out from our minds—occurred on our way back from our memory lane tour of London and Belgium this past December.
There we were with our bounty of beer, chocolate, and delicious treats from our wanderings, so excited to share them with loved ones during Christmas and hoard them for ourselves for remainder of the year.
A sampling of our bounty
Enter: U.S. customs and our silly, naive need to be completely honest on our declaration forms. We unsuspectingly declared everything we had in our suitcases, including the beloved duck breast prosciutto from Bruges. It was perhaps our most cherished souvenir, an indulgent purchase on Jason’s birthday that we intended to share with our fellow foodie friends and family within the month.
One look at the beautiful duck breast prosciutto, and the customs lady nonchalantly announced that it could not enter the country. And just like that, our duck dreams were shattered, thrown away into the abyss that is U.S. customs. It wasn’t necessarily that they took it away from us that bothered us the most—it was that no one was going to be able to enjoy it. We can only hope that the stern customs lady claimed it for herself, because the idea of it sitting at the bottom of a trashcan was just absurd.
Luckily for us, Jason had already dabbled in the art of cured meat. [He is a Texan, after all.] Several years prior, he experimented with his own version of duck breast prosciutto. While not as good as the Belgian stuff [I’m not sure if we’ll ever obtain that level of greatness], it certainly satisfied the palate and was enough to impress even his mom.
So with our purchase confiscated, we had no alternative but to simply make it ourselves. Thankfully, duck breast prosciutto is one of the easiest dry cured items to DYI. And duck, while expensive, is pretty readily available and manageable in size and quantity.
Thick, rich and utterly to die for, this newest attempt at Duck Breast Prosciutto blew us away. It mostly had to do with the addition of juniper berries, an ingredient usually reserved for our home-brewing shenanigans. It’s perfectly delightful with just salt and pepper [especially white pepper!], but the juniper berries add a subtle lightness to what is a deeply savory dish. All you need is a section of cheesecloth, a cool, dry place for it to rest undisturbed [away from pets], and seven days’ worth of patience.
Duck Breast Prosciutto
- 2 c. kosher salt
- 1 whole boneless duck breast [about 1 lb]
- 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper [black or white]
- 1 tsp. freshly ground juniper berries
- Put 1 c. of the salt in a nonreactive baking pan or dish that will hold the duck breasts without touching. Nestle the duck breasts skin side up on top of the salt [the snugger the fit, the less salt you’ll need… just make sure the duck breasts don’t touch]. Pour enough additional salt over the duck breasts so that the pieces are completely covered. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-hours.
- Remove the duck from the salt, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels. The flesh should feel dense, and its color should be deepened. Dust the breasts on both sides with the pepper and juniper berries.
- Wrap each breast in a layer of cheesecloth and tie with string. Hang the duck breasts for about seven  days in a cool, humid place, about 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. [A hidden corner in our basement, away from the curious cat, turned out to be ideal.] The flesh should be stiff but not hard throughout, and the color will be a deep rich wine red. If the breasts still feel squishy in the center, hang for a day or two longer as needed.
- Remove the cheesecloth, wrap the duck in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep refrigerated for several weeks or more.
It is best sliced skin side up as thin as possible – much like prosciutto. It is the perfect addition to any charcuterie plate where Parmesan Reggiano and balsamic vinegar are involved!