And Then There Were None:  The Mystery of the Missing Duck Prosciutto

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

duck-prosciutto-sign

One thing that has always fascinated me is the art of making charcuterie.  For years, I have longed to learn the craft of salting, smoking, curing and drying large, fat-laden slabs of meat.  I’d even bought a copy of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s,  definitive tome on the subject, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.  Late at night, I would greedily pore over those pages, lusting after each photo and dreaming of someday presenting my loved ones with my own delicately spiced and perfectly balanced versions of sopressata, guanciale, pâté and confit.  I discovered other like-minded, charcuterie-loving bloggers as well – trailblazers in the metamorphoses of pork, duck and foie gras.

Until very recently, I have only admired those adventurous, bacon curing, salumi making souls from afar – never daring to venture into those uncharted waters myself.   Then, I found out about Charcutepalooza, a   twelve month blogging extravaganza devoted to celebrating the “elegant craft of salting, smoking and curing” meat.  Each month, the group tackles a different type of charcuterie, using Ruhlman’s book as a guide, and the participants each post about their experiences.  With over three hundred members and counting, Charcutepalooza is a great opportunity to explore, learn and share the ins and outs of homemade charcuterie.

I sat on the fence for a long time before I decided to join the group.  I worried that I wouldn’t have the time or the resources to follow through.  I also worried that the hot, muggy climate I live in wouldn’t be conducive to hanging and curing meat.  And, I was really afraid that I might unwittingly kill someone with my carnivorous creations!   However, when I finally found a local source of fresh duck and pork bellies, I threw caution to the wind and signed on.

I had already missed the first Charcutepalooza assignment, which was making duck prosciutto.  I decided to start there anyway as the process looked pretty easy.  It seemed like a good way to get my feet wet, and the end result sounded pretty awesome.

Little did I know then that my plans would soon go awry.

duck-prosciutto-1

I prepped my duck breasts…

duck-prosciutto-2

…covered them in kosher salt, and let them sit in the fridge for twenty-four hours.

Then, I rinsed and dried them thoroughly.

duck-prosciutto-5b

After that, I wrapped them in some unbleached cheesecloth and tied them up with butcher’s twine.

duck-prosciutto-6

I measured the weight of each breast at the start of the process and every other day after that, carefully recording the results.   The prosciutto is supposed to be ready to consume after it has lost a third of it’s weight.  This is supposed to take about a week, but after two, mine still needed more time.

duck-prosciutto-4

When I started out, the weather here was still hovering in the mid fifties, so I found the coolest spot in my house and literally hung those duck breasts out to dry.   And yes, that is a pasta drying rack that my duck breasts are hanging from.  Since I rarely make fresh pasta these days, I was glad that I could put the rack to good use.  I think they look kind of cute – sort of like an eclectic pair of great, big, meaty earrings.  Quick!  Someone call Tim Gunn!

When the temperature started to climb, I moved the rack out to the garage, which stayed several degrees cooler.  Eventually, I had to break down and hang it in my garage fridge.  It was just too warm to leave it out anymore.

This is where things went horribly wrong.

scene-of-crime-1b

The next day after storing my duck breasts in the garage fridge, I went out there to get them for their daily weigh-in.   When I opened the fridge door, the rack – and my duck prosciutto – were gone.

HUH!?!?

At first, I thought that someone must have taken out the rack to make some room, and left the breasts in there.  But, I couldn’t find them.  I took everything out of the fridge, thinking that maybe they had fallen behind something else.  Still nothing.  Then, I looked all around the garage, hoping that whoever moved the rack had accidentally left them out.   I found the empty rack, but no duck breasts.

evidence-2

I moved my search inside the house and, with the keen precision of Sherlock Holmes, hunted from room to room for clues.   But, the duck breasts were nowhere to be found.  They had simply vanished!

By this time I was getting a little panicky.    Was someone playing a cruel joke on me?  Was I losing my mind?  Did Bella suddenly develop thumbs and teach herself how to open the fridge?   Did some duck-loving burglar sneak into my garage in the dead of night and steal it?  All sorts of crazy scenarios ran through my head.

Later that day, I kicked into “lawyer mode” and cross-examined both Mr. and Mini SGCC.  Both of them vehemently denied having ever touched the duck breasts. They both seemed like they were telling the truth.  Mr. SGCC even looked a little sad about the fact that he wasn’t going to ever get to try my duck prosciutto.  Still, how well do I really know those two?

I tried to question Bella too, but she wasn’t talking.  Hmmm.  Come to think of it, she did look a little guilty…

Bella-Xmas-2010-3

It’s been several days now, and still no duck breasts.  I kept hoping that they would turn up somewhere, but no such luck.  I honestly have no idea what could have happened to those little suckers.  And, I was so looking forward to sharing my first attempt at curing meat with you too.  It could have been a beautiful thing, people.   What a disappointment!

My next charcuterie experiment is going to be Charcutepalooza’s February assignment: homemade bacon.  I actually saw Michael Ruhlman demonstrate how to do this last Fall at BlogHer Food, so I’m really excited about trying it.    I’m hoping to catch up with the rest of the group, so I’ll also be working on the March challenge, which is all about brining.  How does some homemade corned beef for St. Paddy’s Day sound?

After my duck prosciutto fiasco, you can bet that I intend to keep a very close eye on all future charcuterie endeavors.   But in the meantime, if you happen to see any small, stray, cheesecloth-wrapped bundles of duck prosciutto lying around, or spot Lady Gaga sporting an eclectic pair of great, big, meaty earrings,  please let me know A.S.A.P.!   I’m willing to share.

25 responses to And Then There Were None:  The Mystery of the Missing Duck Prosciutto

  1. On March 02, 2011 at 12:42pm, Rachelle said...

    That’s the craziest thing ever!! Was a neighbor over to peek in the garage fridge? I wonder where they went? Maybe all those strawberries hid them? =)

    • On March 02, 2011 at 1:22pm, Susan said...

      Haha! Busted! I just can’t resist those strawberries. ;)

  2. On March 02, 2011 at 12:49pm, SMITHBITES said...

    oh dear – i don’t know whether to laugh or cry Susan . . . all that work, the waiting . . . and then it just disappears? am keeping my eyes peeled just in case anything turns up . . . of course you’re in Florida and i’m in Indiana . . .

    • On March 02, 2011 at 1:39pm, Susan said...

      Well, first I cried. Then, I figured it would at least make for an entertaining post. But honestly, none of us can figure out what happened.

  3. On March 02, 2011 at 1:02pm, Elle said...

    If you had a butler, I’d suspect him. But it seems to me that that sweet little face you posted is hiding something. Specifically, some chewed up bleach free cheese cloth. Better luck on your next try!

    • On March 02, 2011 at 1:40pm, Susan said...

      If I had a butler, he’d be making the duck prosciutto around here! Lol! And yes, Bella does have a history of swiping food, so who knows?

  4. On March 02, 2011 at 1:06pm, Ellen Burgess said...

    I am on the edge of my seat!! I certainly hope to read the next chapter very soon…is there another chapter?? I misplace a lot of things these days, but duck breasts would be hard to lose…

    • On March 02, 2011 at 1:41pm, Susan said...

      Well, there will be a next chapter IF I ever find them. It’s been a week already and I’m losing hope!

  5. On March 02, 2011 at 1:13pm, Rosa said...

    That is a speciality that I want to try. I bet they must have been delicious… I wonder where they disappeared. Crazy!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • On March 02, 2011 at 1:42pm, Susan said...

      Sadly, I suspect that we’ll never know, Rosa. Sigh…

  6. On March 02, 2011 at 2:51pm, Shirley @ gfe said...

    How bizarre! I’m betting the mystery will be revealed some day. If this were a movie, we, the audience, would see what happened to them and we’d watch you going crazy trying to find them. A foodie version of an Inspector Clousseau (sp?) flick perhaps. This version with Inspector SSGC. Maybe you should trip over things and be silly and obnoxious to your suspects and the answer will be revealed. ;-) Oh, and I was waiting for the Lady GaGa tie-in … you set it up perfectly and then did not disappoint! LOL

    Hugs,
    Shirley

  7. On March 02, 2011 at 2:56pm, Shirley @ gfe said...

    Oops, got that acronym wrong … Inspector SGCC … forgive me!

    Shirley

  8. On March 02, 2011 at 3:25pm, Janis said...

    I think it was Mr. Mustard in the kitchen with the meat hook.

  9. On March 02, 2011 at 3:39pm, Susan H said...

    What a bummer!!!! I can not imagine a duck burglar. I can not imagine a neighbor that burgles duck breasts. Where in the garage did you find the rack? Was it flung into a corner – placed upon a work bench? I am constantly sticking things in the wrong place – I get distracted and while trying to multitask just flat screw things up. I have put the ice trays on the work bench and the pliers in the freezer. Did you put the drying rack in your fridge OR did you go out to do it and got sidetracked and your furry friend than feasted on your culinary efforts? Well, at least you have been fortunate enough that you did not have to say the nose knows. Hope you solve your mystery.

  10. On March 02, 2011 at 3:46pm, Nicole said...

    This is too funny! I’m sorry. It must have been so upsetting to find the duck breasts missing after you did all of that prep work. If you find out what happened, please let us know!!

  11. On March 02, 2011 at 6:55pm, Joan Nova said...

    Absolutely hysterical tale! It’s a good thing you documented the evidence before it went missing.

  12. On March 03, 2011 at 6:58am, Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) said...

    Haha this is a great post! I’m sorry you lost it, but it sure made for an entertaining read. Maybe you could try again? I think it was that cute face too!

  13. On March 03, 2011 at 1:46pm, K. Rock said...

    My goodness. This is the craziest thing. Its funny though…but very weird.

  14. On March 04, 2011 at 11:20am, Rachel said...

    Yikes! That’s quite the mystery. Wish I could solve it for you!

  15. On March 04, 2011 at 4:25pm, Colleen said...

    I can only imagine how disconcerting it must be to lose a pair of drying duck breasts…but MAN! I have had such a giggle reading about it. Excellent post Susan, so enjoyed reading it. I lost an entire raw roast leg of lamb one Sunday. I took it out to thaw in the early morning as I had forgotten the night before. So I put it onto the patio wall in the early morning sunlight. When I went out it was gone. Found the packaging at the bottom of the garden. One of the neighborhood dogs had discovered it. But then, it was out there and not in the fridge. I really do wonder what happened to yours……xx

  16. On March 05, 2011 at 9:36am, Carol, Simply...Gluten-free said...

    You just crack me up. But WTH? You need to call Shrelock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. variety) to solve this for you!

  17. On March 05, 2011 at 7:00pm, Stephanie said...

    that is so strange!!! I hope that they aren’t hidden somewhere where they will get really smelly!

  18. On March 06, 2011 at 11:46am, Suze said...

    Hilarious story–love the ‘meat earrings’ part, nyuck nyuck–but surely the most bizarre mystery ever.

    Poor Mr. SGCC–I can well appreciate his sadness at missing his chance to try the duck prosciutto.

    Where did you find the rack, anyway? You should have dusted it for prints! :^)

  19. On April 16, 2011 at 4:06am, Wendy said...

    Did you ever solve this strange, but funny mystery?

  20. On May 08, 2013 at 11:53pm, Evelyne@cheapethniceatz said...

    Looking for a duck Prosciutto online and ended up here. OMG that is such an awesome post……but I am sorry for your lost. Found them by now May 2013?

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kiss the cook!

Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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