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Nov 14, 2008 02:52 AM

Making Confit - What kind of duck is this? PICS! I almost lost my finger!

Hey everyone, I decided to confit a few duck legs, and bought a whole fresh duck from a local chinese supermarket. I just finished cutting it up into pieces, and the legs are curing in salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary (didn't have thyme on hand). I also almost cut off my finger! :) I'm freezing the breasts for later, and also freezing all the extra parts and carcasses for stock. I screwed up one of the cuts on a leg.. Woops.

So couple of questions.

- What kind of duck did I buy? I understand there are a few varieties, not really sure which kind this is. Any information on the various kinds would be welcome too.

- The chef who taught me how to cut up and confit a duck used to use white wine to render the fat. Not sure why, no other book I've read mentions anything like this. What was that all about?

- What would you do with the breasts?

I'm thinking about buying a whole bunch of these ducks and making mason jars of this confit for christmas presents this year. Nothing like duck legs preserved in delicious congealed fat, right? :) People will pretend to like it, and then love me later!!

And how about that finger eh? I was chopping rosemary and whoosh, off it came. No cut, no pain, just took the nail somehow. In retrospect, I think if you gave me 24 hours and the rest of my fingers, I wouldn't be able to cut off this much fingernail without getting a cut. Phew. Real close to losing the tip I guess. (oh, the other cut on my finger was from slicing potatoes a few days ago.

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    1. re: SocksManly

      I am new here and just read your post.
      I grew up on Long Island and there were duck farms all over the place. They were Peking ducks that originally came from China. Cute, white ducks that taste delicious

      1. re: Browniiz

        As casrwell said, they are Pekin ducks. Peking duck is a dish. Confusing, I know.

        1. re: HaagenDazs

          Thanks Browniiz, welcome to CH!

          Haagen yeah that's where I was getting confused too!

    2. If you bought them in a Chinese market, they're probably pekins. Pekins are fine for roasting, braising, sautéing, smoking, etc. but not so good for making confit. They lack the deep flavour, muscular build and copious fat of other varieties.

      The traditional and best legs for confit are from the moulard, a mute cross of the muscovy and the pekin and, not surprisingly, also the preferred duck for foie gras production. The locals needed to find ways of dealing with the rest (non-liver parts) of the duck and, because the animals are force-fed, they had all this duck fat lying around. Necessity being the mother of invention, the result was confit legs, necks and gizards.

      Muscovy (aka canard de barbarie) legs are a passable substitute but incapable of attaining the silky texture and overall succulence and savour of moulard legs.

      Breasts don't take kindly to the confit treatment. With pekin breasts, you're usually best grilling, roasting or pan-frying them rare, slicing them on the diagonal, and serving with a savoury or fruit sauce. They can also be used in stir-fries. Some people dry-cure them to make duck prosciutto, but in my experience, moulard or muscovy breasts give better results.

      23 Replies
      1. re: carswell

        Great answer Carswell, thank you! I'd give you points if I could. :)

        I suppose a Moulard duck would be decidedly more expensive? I'll have to search around, especially if I want to buy several of them for gifts. I'm just thinking that it would be a fun project with good results, and if I bought like 8 or so ducks, I'd have a slew of delicious breasts for a long while

        I like the idea of a fruit sauce.. I hope I can score some duck sausages around here too (Toronto) I'm sure I can find them somewhere.

        1. re: SocksManly

          Yeah, quite a bit more expensive. Of course, they're also twice as big as pekins. Here in Montreal, we don't often see whole moulards, since they're mainly raised and butchered for foie. The breasts and legs are usually sold separately -- magret de canard (duck breast) is increasingly popular in restos and in homes. I usually buy trays of four moulard legs at the city's better farmers' markets. The legs weigh about 340 g (about 3/4 lb) each and go for about $3 a shot, which isn't exactly prohibative. While they're usually from Quebec producer Élevages Périgord, they occasionally come from Mariposa Farm in eastern Ontario. The one time I e-mailed Mariposa to ask about distribution, they were quick to reply.

          BTW, Montreal's upscalest butcher Anjou-Québec makes two type of confit, one cryovaced and the other encased in fat in mason jars, two legs to a quart jar. In order to fit the big moulard legs into the jars, they knock off the bony extremity, the "handle" as it were.

          1. re: carswell

            More great info.. Do you come in a pocket sized version? :D

            I just did a little research, I found this page with some farming information on the various duck varieties.. I also whipped out my duck book here to read what he wrote, which wasn't very complex.. To paraphrase from James Robertson:

            Most domestic ducks descend from 2 species, either the mallard or the muscovy. Mallards are the wild green headed ducks. Muscovy ducks originated in south america, more lean, and a bit more tough. They are crossbred a lot to make many of the varieties we know today. They are bred with Rouen or Nantes ducks to make the Barbary duck it says.

            Long Island and Pekin ducks are one in the same, the chinese variety. It says in north america the most common is Pekin and Mullard. Mullards are a cross between Muscovy and Mallards. (imagine? :) The mullards are generally sold parted out as you mentioned.

            Here is the link with all the breeds:

            Thanks for the links too, I'm going to check them. Maybe I can order a jar from Anjou to know what the heck I'm trying to aspire to here. :)

              1. re: carswell

                Hrmmmm yes... It seems there are two sides to this story! It would almost make sense just from the words to be a Muscovy Mallard combo though.. Mu-llard... However how can I argue with a duck farmer?! :) Either way it's just a matter of history anyways, nothing to be gained here other than more useless general knowledge I suppose hehe.

        2. re: carswell

          I think you're probably correct carswell, but you missed an important part of why confit was invented: it's a preservation method. Confit of duck can last in a refrigerated state for 3 months or so. In other words they very well may have had an excess of ducky parts but the confit method was used to extend the product, not just invented as a cool and tasty cooking method... although it is that too!

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            I'm not even sure it needs refrigeration - wasn't potted meat (of which confit de canard is one variety) a pre-industrial method of preserving food? Not that I'd recommend leaving it unrefrigerated in a modern home, but if you had to, covering cooked meat with fat will help it keep much longer than it would if exposed to air.

            1. re: BobB

              It doesn't need refrigeration, but we're Canadians, we'd put them in a fridge inside a fridge if we could, "just to be safe" ;)

              1. re: BobB

                Right - I'm pretty sure at the time it was invented there was no such thing as refrigeration. Kept in a cool cellar is more likely. Covering the meat completely with fat is a required step if you plan on keeping the confit for any length of time.

              2. re: HaagenDazs

                how long does confit really last? without refrigeration, let's say....

                and how would you know it's gone bad? is there a noticeable scent/colour/etc?

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  I'm not sure how long it would last without refrigeration, I've never tried it.

                  Refrigeration is a tricky term because I can only assume that these kinds of things were stored (in the past) in cellars and were probably not made for storage during the warm months. In other words, if the cellar is a cool 50 degrees it's going to last longer than if it were sitting in your modern day kitchen at 70 degrees, but not quite as long as if you were storing it in your fridge at 38 degrees.

                  As for how do you know it has gone bad? ...Well I would have to say that after conferring with Mr. Obvious, if it has turned green (color) or if it smells like rotting flesh (scent) then you should probably not eat it.

                  The phrase of the day: If in doubt, throw it out.

                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    i guess what i meant to ask more so was that if there's no obvious sign (colour/smell)... could it still be good? say after... 2years sitting in the cupboard?

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      Umm no - I doubt it. In fact, hell-freakin no. But it's your trip to the emergency room, not me.

                      Botulism is odorless for instance. Ever read up on that? If it actually develops it's likely to be found in home-canned goods. It's a nerve toxin and if left untreated it can go as far as respiratory failure. So the choice is, throw it away and remain unscathed, or risk spending weeks in the hospital. Oh and the symptoms can take as long as 10 days to develop. That would make me a nervous SOB for a week and a half.

                      Not worth it.

                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                        and that's exactly what i was angling at.... as i suspected and so out it goes!

                        i just hate that it seems like such an awful waste but what can you do when your non fat-eating parents purchase lots of fat covered meat.

                        thanks haagendazs and carswell.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          So if they don't eat fat - who doesn't eat any fat, it's in tons of stuff! - why did they buy lots of it to begin with?

                          Anyway, it's never fun to throw something out that you could/should have eaten before it went "bad" but it's really not worth the trouble it could cause.

                          1. re: HaagenDazs

                            they are incredibly frugal with fat use. it is... nothing short of amazing at times.

                            they were visiting a friend who had moved to the french countryside and operated a b&b out there. apparently said town the b&b was in is renowned for all things duck and so they brought back a few jars of foie and even more of confit made by the mayor (whom regularly sold and exported from the little town)... i had left them with all these jars because i thought they would enjoy it for themselves... but i forget how fat-frightened they are and now it's all gone to waste.

                          2. re: pinstripeprincess

                            Note that if the confit is the metal-canned variety imported from France, not the homemade or artisanalish variety packed in mason jars or loosely sealed earthenware crocks, it can be stored at room temp and probably has a much longer shelf life, since it's usually sterilized after canning and won't have been exposed to air. Such cans should have a best-before ("meilleur avant" or "à consommer avant", etc.) date printed or stamped somewhere on them.

                            1. re: carswell

                              fliptop glass jars with the orange ring... not quite mason jars.

                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                Yeah - definitely homemade. That sucks to have to throw it away. How many jars was/is it?

                                ...And customs didn't mind you bringing all of this back? Depends on where you live I guess. The way you spelled "color" (colour) makes me think you might be in GB? :-)

                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                  sigh... 4.... i'm going to assume the fat can't even be salvaged? after some bubbling away?

                                  i'm actually from canada (the spelling always gives it away, eh?) and i'm not exactly sure what happened with my parents at the border but it seems that all was ok. though everything was likely stowed into their suitcases... something i'm not too unfamiliar with myself.

                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                    I wouldn't worry about trying to save the fat, no. Fats and oils go rancid just like everything else, so they are in the same boat.

                        2. re: pinstripeprincess

                          Confit should not be stored at temperatures over 50ºF. Wolfert says up to four months in her book, but she's probably being conservative to avoid litigation. I've had well-stored confit that was six months old. Two years at cellar temperature would give me pause, however. Two years -- or even two months -- at room temperature is a risk I wouldn't be willing to take.

                  2. re: carswell

                    I use moulard breasts in making duck proscuito----tasty tasty tasty.............

                  3. Can't help you with the first two questions. As for what to do with the duck breasts, I am studying abroad in France, and I did a weekend trip to Dijon (to go to the International Gastronomic Festival of Dijon!). At a local restaurant, I had a brochette (an American would call it a kebab) of duck breast. It was seared on the outside and still medium to medium rare on the inside. It was served with a mustard-cream sauce dipping sauce (as would be expected in Dijon...) and something I can only best describe as similar to apple pie filling but less sweet. It was downright delicious (although my dining companion did not enjoy the apple). It was easily one of the best meals I've had during my 3 months so far in France (despite not being actually a tradition French meal).

                    Do you have experience making duck confit? This past summer, when I was still in the US, I tried making it. The results were decidedly unspectacular. It just tasted like normal duck... Is there a recipe you've used that you could reccomend?

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: bmubyzal

                      «Is there a recipe you've used that you could reccomend?»

                      For classic confit, the authority in English is Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France.

                      1. re: carswell

                        Agreed! Agreed! Paula Wolfert is La Reine du Sud-ouest! She has a website but I don't know if the confit recipe is online.

                        If you're really interested, I could post a paraphrasation (I actually made that up all by myself! Impressed?) of her recipe.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          Last I checked, the confit recipes weren't on her website. And I have a copy of the book plus some notes from Paula, so no paraphrasation is necessary for me, TYVM, though bmubyzal would be smart to take you up on your generous offer.

                      2. re: bmubyzal

                        bmubyzal: Yes I've made it several times, but alas, I don't think I've ever used the right variety of duck. I'm guessing that's really the missing ingredient to a great confit.

                        Hey as far as France goes.. I've only been once, to Nice.. We were actually on a trip to Monte Carlo, Monaco and had to stop there, but managed to eat out, walk the streets, hit some stores, etc. 3 months!! I can only wish that happens to me in my lifetime :) Consider yourself blessed. One thing I heard you can get is Horse meat steaks there, which are apparently very, very good. You should see if you can find some!

                        As far as confit recipes go, it's not really a recipe as a method, so it's hard to go wrong. I love James Robertson's cookbooks, I have most of his books. He has one fully dedicated to duck, so I was using the "recipe" from there.

                        Cut up duck, and rub the legs with kosher salt, pepper, thyme and fresh garlic paste. Let them cure in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

                        The next day, put all the fat from the duck (except the fat on the breasts and legs) into a very clean pan over low heat (can do medium but you risk messing it up) until the fat has fully rendered, is clear, and you end up with little bits of skin cracklin. I put in the tenders from the breasts too for a snack.

                        Discard or eat the cracklin depending on when you're planning to die. You then clean off the legs with a damp cloth (as another poster said below, get the salt off or it will be ridiculously salty) and submerge them into the fat, and cook them for 2-3 hours on low heat. From there you just take out the legs, put the fat into a sterile dish or jar, and put the legs into the fat again. Let it cool, and store. Also a good idea to get any air bubbles out, as they could cause spoilage.

                        From there, you can do lots of things with the meat, including Rillettes, as flavouring for soups and stews, taco filling, all kinds of things. Eating it straight is nice too, but generally confit is used shredded in things. Hope that helps!

                        1. re: SocksManly

                          That's a pretty good summary of the procedure. A couple of points/ideas from Paula Wolfert:

                          - Cut 1 head of garlic in half crosswise and stick a clove in each half. When the fat is melted but still not hot, slip the garlic and duck into it. Slowly raise the heat of the fat to 190ºF, preferably over the course of 1 hour. This helps keep the meat succulent.

                          - Cook the duck at between 192ºF and 210ºF. Do not let the heat go higher. The duck is done when a toothpick easily pierces the thickest part of the thigh, another 1 or 2 hours.

                          - When done, remove the pot from the heat and let the duck cool in the fat for 1 hour.

                          - If you plan to mature the confit for several weeks or months, place 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in the bottom of each jar before packing the legs and adding the fat. This keeps the any juices that seep from the legs (*salarque* in French) from turning sour.

                          - Fill the jars with duck fat to within 1" of the top. Refrigerate overnight to allow the fat to congeal. The next day, fill the 1" with melted lard, which is more impenetrable to air than duck fat. Cover the jars with parchment paper or lids and store in a cool place (under 50ºF) or the fridge for up to 6 months.

                          - The fat can be reused for cooking and/or subsequent batches of confit.

                          - If you're short of duck fat, you can stretch it with lard or even olive oil.

                          - Wolfert has also reported good results making confit in a crock pot set on low. Cooking times are somewhat longer.

                          1. re: carswell

                            The crockpot idea was unexpected coming from Miss Authentic, but it works wonderfully.

                            I have not gone to any lengths to find fancy-breed duck for my confit, content to buy the packages of duck legs (always three! Why?) from the Asian markets around here. What I HAVE done differently was to make turkey-thigh confit, and that was good enough to have ya talking in tongues. Definitely will do that again!

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              I have noticed the three legged duck packs at my 99 Ranch and have wondered myself who is raising the 3 legged ducks? Not a clue.

                              Speaking of "other" confit, I did a pork confit that was quite awesome. I will have to try the turkey. Confit of all kinds in most popular in my house.

                      3. wherever you bought them, they're Pekin's, also known as "Long Island ducks."

                        Lots of options for what to do with the breasts. Searing them off and serving them with a Port Wine reduction is easy and delicious. What are you doing with the livers?

                        That's a great Christmas gift! I want to be on YOUR list!!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Honestly I think I saw the livers inside the carcass, but wasn't sure.. I'm not much of an organist yet.. I like to eat them, but haven't really ventured into cooking with them. They got frozen with the carcass... Woops. :) What can I do with them next time?

                        2. I'm not sure how to answer your white wine situation. You do not want to render the duck legs in white wine if that's what you're asking. I supposed you could pre-cook them in white wine but that kind of defeats the purpose of confit in my opinion.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: HaagenDazs

                            Hey thanks, he didn't cook the legs in the wine, just used the white wine to help start rendering the fat from the skin.. But I still don't know why. He worked at a $200/plate restaurant here, so I'm sure he was using restaurant experience, but I just don't know why I'd go spending money on rendering fat.. ? :)