Duck Confit for Backpacking? Safe?
I've made duck confit several times and just store in my fridge surrounded in fat after I cook it in the slow cooker. I typically salt for 12 hours then dust off. Is there a way that I can take this backpacking and have unrefrigerated for a couple of days in a vacuum sealed bag? It is likely to be very hot where we are backpacking but can potentially store it in cold lake water. Is there another way I can prepare it by dehydrating in oven? Trying to be gourmet @ 8000 feet. Thanks!
«They've been making it and eating it for hundreds, maybe thousands of years before the fridge.»
Yes and they've been storing it in 40-50ºF root and wine cellars. They haven't been storing it at room temperature, let alone in "very hot" conditions. While the original poster might not get sick, s/he also just might: in other words, s/he'd be playing Russian roulette. Coming down with food poisoning in remote, inhospitable conditions is potentially life-threatening. The OP should be doing everything in his/her power to avoid placing the party in such situations. And that means not carrying perishable and potentially dangerous food.
Really, you think in the middle of the summer a cellar is 40-50 degrees? Where, near the North Pole--in most of France the average temperature summertime is over 80-90 degrees during the day. We had a cellar in Southern France and it was typically 60-70 degrees during the summer. I remember because I was "worried" about my first growth Bordeaux. Overly cautious isn't a bad thing--as long as you realize you're being overly cautious.
Freeze the confit to start in the fat, and when you make it to camp, pop it in the lake.
«Really, you think in the middle of the summer a cellar is 40-50 degrees?»
A root cellar? Yes. Google *root cellar temperature* if you don't believe me. Once you get a couple of feet below ground level, the earth is remarkably cool and stable. If the cellar is properly sited and built (and in the days before refrigeration, people knew how to site and build them properly), the temperature will be cool enough for long-term food storage and will fluctuate little. Since they are part of above-ground structures, passive wine cellars are subject to greater fluctuation in temperature and, in warm seasons, can be warmer. Yet, if memory serves, temperatures in such cellars in Bordeaux -- very much part of the French southwest -- rarely exceed 60ºF. Still, according to Paula Wolfert, the root cellar was and, even today, is the preferred storage location for confit in SW France.
Being insufficiently cautious is foolhardy. That's all the more true when you're in a remote, inhospitable location, maybe out of cellphone range and are serving potentially debilitating and maybe even toxic food to the entire party. (If you're all dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhoea and don't have access to water, if you're all too ill to deal with a return trip across rugged terrain under harsh conditions, who's going to go get help?)
If the OP were talking about eating the confit later the same day, your idea of freezing it would probably be fine. But she's talking about a couple of days In "very hot" conditions when even air-cured sausages can become dodgy. I've spent years hiking and climbing; none of the mountaineers and other experienced outdoors people I've gone with would dream of doing such a thing. In January in frigid Quebec, sure. But not in the dog days of summer. The risks are just too great.
proper storage under fat, completely encased by the fat and then in a tight fitting glass or earthenware container was traditional and safe, yes. but as mentioned above, this was stored in a root cellar, not in a back-pack at 80 degrees.
plastic bags won't work because the stuff will be slipping around inside and not solidly covered. at those temps, the fat could go rancid too.
as for the lake, i t depends how long it takes to get the confit from home to water.
it seems too risky and too much of a hassle, and i'm notorious for not worrying about refrigerating cooked food!
I would not personally be concerned about spoilage. I would not take it however due to the weight of taking a non-dehydrated meal PLUS the fat and container used to preserve it. If I did take it, I'd try to eat it right away and eat lighter stuff on other days.
From what I am reading on other sites, if you do a longer 3 days of salt curing, followed by placing it in the jar with fat, it can keep for several months refrigerated. I would say it would be safe then for a few days non-refrigerated IF you do a longer salting time and keep it in the jar (or plastic bag?) of fat. Read some other recipes online for info on storage.
I've spent months at a time on long distance backpacking trips, and have taken cheese of all sorts, meats, eggs, etc, on backpacking trips and they last far longer than people think they would, and you can kill a lot of bad stuff if you cook it. A lot of the guidelines on food safety err on the very cautious side, too. That being said, when I am backpacking I generally try to go ultralight, and that includes food. I don't want to carry heavy food since after a day of backpacking anything tastes good to me. :) So I tend to compromise by using light but good ingredients like:
angel hair pasta
sun dried or roasted tomatoes or red peppers
dried mushrooms (can be rehydrated right in cooking liquid)
instant refried beans (Fantastic brand - they also make an instant hummus and tabbouleh)
any grain like couscous, bulghur, rice etc - the faster the cooking time the better
miso soup mix (make a pasta sauce)
chili paste, peanut butter (sauce)
curry, cumin, fresh herbs
dried cheese tortellini (made by barilla or trader joes)
olives (sold already in bags at trader joes)
white sauce made with powdered milk, flour
dehydrated red sauce
Anyway, enjoy your trip .. and I say take the duck if you want to carry the weight. :)
No, no, no! By vacuum sealing it, you are creating an anaerobic environment that is a barn dance for botulism. I would suggest dried sausages, which are not vacuum sealed, as an alternative, but if you have a heat wave, don't eat them.
Hey, I appreciate your intentions absolutely, and respect that you asked. Unless you can be guaranteed that your stream will keep things below 55 degrees, please don't even try it.