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Sep 23, 2007 05:37 PM

What is to confit?

Lately I have been reading a lot about confit. What is it exactly? I know normally it applies to duck (using duck fat) but lately I have seen it in regards to onions too.

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  1. it is preserving a meat in fat. now it has been extended to veggies as well. I think I remember seeing tomato confit and onion confit.

    Usually it means low temp slow cooking and item in fat(duck fat, olive oil, pork fat)

    2 Replies
    1. re: quazi

      so it is like braising but with fat?

      1. re: septocaine_queen

        Yeah... its the same technique as carnitas... which is traditionally used with pork, duck, chicken & fish. The word Confit actually means to preserve... which is interesting because in pre-refrigeration Mexico... carnitas served that purpose. My grandpa would slaughter a heavily salted pig & then slow cook it in lard... and keep it in a cool part of the house (thouse thick adobe houses can keep some rooms rather cool even under intense sun)... and the family would enjoy a little bit of it everyday for weeks.

        In Pre-Hispanic Mexico... it was a key technique to render the fat from domesticated Muscovy Ducks... which was one of the few substantial sources of fats (in addition to pumpkin seeds, nuts & cocoa butter) available. When my dad was a kid.... Mazola hadn't made its way south yet... and lard sold for a premium relative to pork meat!

    2. It's cooking something very slowly and gently in completely de-moisturized fat so that all of the water is extracted from the food, preserving the sugars and proteins or whatever. It's kind of like candying, except that the candying medium is fat instead of sugar. If ALL of the water is extracted and the food is kept immersed in the fat, it will keep a very long time in as merely cool a place as a root cellar or spring-house. Under refrigeration it will keep even longer, though the nervous nellies who have put themselves in charge of our well-being say we ought to use it up in a month, which is simply silly.

      I have never made confit from anything but fowl. Both duck legs and turkey thighs were wonderfully easy to do, and the resuts were delicious. A crockpot makes the process beyond easy - you just need a good fully-saturated fat . I use duck fat plus good butcher's lard. Do not use the shelf-stable hydrogenated stuff - if you can't get anything else locally, get it online or render it yourself.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        "A crockpot makes the process beyond easy"

        I always used an oven to make my confits (try rabbit, it's amazing), but this often requires up to 12 hours at 190 F for my duck. Does a crockpot go down to that temperature?

        1. re: rillettes

          My old Rival runs a steady 190º on Low, and I think my new HamBeach guy does too - though I'll need to look it up. I did the duck on the stovetop, but the turkey in the older, smaller crockpot tested done at about ten hours. It had been pretty heavily salted, which helps, though I rinsed it thoroughly (and then dried it) before I put it into the pot.

          I would probably use the oven if I were making a lot of confit, like two or more pots of it, but I'm too cheap to use all that electricity on a 2-quart quantity.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Thanks for the info. I normally do about 4 duck legs at a time (salted for 24 hours beforehand and rinsed) but, like you, it's difficult to rationalise using an oven for 12 hours for this.
            Although, if you set the oven at night, the smell throughout your home the next morning is incredible.

        2. re: Will Owen

          Will, are you going through the salting and water removal process before hand or straight into the fat? I've done it with a 24hour salt bath with bay, garlic and thyme and then into the fat after a brush off, but never directly into the fat without removing some of the water in preperation.

          If you've done both, any difference in finished product?

          1. re: holy chow

            I've only dry-salted because that's what all my mentors (St. Julia, Tony Bourdain and Paula Wolfert) have told me to do. I usually salt and refrigerate for two to four days - this gives a fairly salty product, even after plenty of rinsing, but nothing I can't deal with (though I do not discuss it with my doctor!). I haven't added any other herbs or spices so far, but I'm thinking about it.

            Anyway, after rinsing I *DO* dry them as thoroughly as possible, since the sooner the moisture is removed/displaced the better the finished product will be.

            1. re: Will Owen

              That was the reason I asked. I've done confit but after a 48 hour or better salt and herbing. I was just wondering if you'd found a way to skip the step of removing water.

              Thanks for the reply, Will.

              Hit Boca del Rio for me since you are in my old stomping grounds (the SGV).

        3. if my memory serves me...
          confit is basically a cooking term. for example, duck confit is cooked in its own fat and salt, then preserved in the cooking fat. fruit confits are cooked and preserved in sugar... the result is like candied fruits. (off the top of my head.. i dont know the difference) and finally the onion confit you speak of is much like caramalied onions. sweet and a little gelatinous, prepared with balsamic vin. and sugar.


          5 Replies
          1. re: coconutgoddess

            A fruit confit, would be called a compote. If you use water and sugar (i.e. simple syrup) it becokmes a compote, not a confit.

            1. re: Chef Tony

              Not very sure on this, but I think fruit confit is commonly known as confiture, or jam, preserve...

              1. re: welle

                I've been making compotes to serve with cheese lately, and they involve cooking vinegar and sugar, then adding the fruits/spices, maybe some water, and cooking them until the liquid evaporates.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Vinegar and sugar is a gastrique

                  1. re: Chef Tony

                    Ah - thank you - Patricia Wells called it a compote.

          2. One of those cases where the use of the word today is often different from the original meaning.
            Larousse Gastronomique defines it as "Meat of pork, goose, duck, turkey,etc., cooked in its own fat, and kept covered in the same fat to prevent it coming in contact with the air." It was a method of food preservation before refrigeration. The meat was stored in stoneware pots in a cool place. Most were kept for months to develop flavor before using in dishes like cassoulet or choucroute garni.
            In the past several years, the method of cooking was used, but the meats were served without being stored. You might have seen confit as an appetizer or with a salad.
            Then the method of cooking was used but often not with fat or with fats from other sources, such as with onion in butter or long-cooked fruits
            The word "confit" is now often used in a figurative sense.

            1. i do know that you can "confit" fruits and certain veggies. I know that lemon for instance can cooked in oil with sugar.

              i have eaten duck confit... yum. never tried making it though. Will.. can you tell us how to use a craock pot for this? sounds like the way to go!

              1 Reply
              1. re: coconutgoddess

                I rinse and dry the meat thoroughly and let it sit (covered if there are bugs around) while I heat about a pound of fat in a pan on the cooktop. This is usually duck fat that has been used before and been refrigerated, so it needs to have any residual moisture driven out, so it should sit on the heat long enough to stop any bubbling or foaming. When it's ready, I preheat the crockpot for about ten minutes then lay in the meat and pour the fat over it. I keep some room-temperature lard nearby in case the fat doesn't quite submerge the meat, which is usually. When the meat is covered by at least an inch of melted fat, I put the lid on and go do other stuff, returning to check on it every couple of hours. This includes taking the temperature of the fat, though a variance of 10º one way or another will not be fatal. After eight or nine hours I start probing the meat gently with a trussing needle. When I can push the needle clear into the flesh with little resistance (and no pink oozing out!) the meat is done. I take the ceramic pot out of its shell and set it with its contents on the counter to cool to room temperature, then either transfer meat and fat to whatever vessel they'll be refrigerated in or (if it's past my bedtime) put the whole kit and caboodle in the fridge and re-melt and transfer stuff in the morning.

                For an actual recipe using the crockpot, see Paula Wolfert's "The Cooking of South-West France."