I find the beauty of eating duck is that it?s a relatively guilt-free experience; I spent half my childhood feeding them, so it?s only fair that they return the favour!
This recipe is based on one I picked up while living in the forêt des Landes, in south-west France. Over there, duck is king: livers, hearts and breasts are what keep the region alive.
These cunning French chasseurs have developed a fine method of hunting, and a very stylish one it is too: most duck shooting is done from man-made islands built on the region?s many lakes ? these are known as huttes or gabions. Many have running water, electricity, stoves, fridges, beds, tables and chairs.
These islands are surrounded by a series of plastic decoys, which sit on the water. In addition, attached to one side of the gabions are live decoys in a cage. These are not just any old live birds, but ones which have been specifically bred for their calls ? they are responsible for calling in passing duck or geese and also for alerting the hunters to the presence of incoming fowl. All the chasseur has to do is put down his claret, take up his gun, and flip open the flaps in the roof ? then he can fire away at the approaching silhouettes. It?s very clever, and very comfortable.
These duck hams are a great way to preserve any surplus birds throughout the duck season. They also make the perfect snack to take on a shoot ? just don?t forget the Opinel and the Bordeaux?
? 2 large duck breasts with skin and fat intact
? 100g salt
? 2tsp ground black pepper
? ⁄tsp herbes de Provence (or thyme)
? 2tbsp red wine vinegar
OTHER: Kitchen roll, muslin, string
1. Shave the skin off each duck breast, making sure you leave a good layer of fat behind, then score cross-hatches into the fat, just down to the flesh.
2. In a bowl, mix together the salt, pepper and herbs until thoroughly combined. Rub this mixture into both sides of the duck breasts so they are completely covered, then place them on a few pieces of kitchen roll on a plate. Cover with more kitchen roll and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
3. The next day, remove the duck breasts from the fridge and wipe off all the seasoning with a damp cloth. Pour the red wine vinegar in a shallow dish and dip the flesh-sides in for 20 seconds, then dry well.
4. Place the breast, fat-side down, on to a piece of muslin (20in by 20in) and roll it up into a nice tight cylinder, ensuring there are no air pockets. Using string, tie the cylinder tightly from one end to the other.
5. Hang the hams in a cool, dry place, such as a garage or cellar, for two weeks. They should be done when they have a bit of give if pressed between thumb and forefinger.
6. The hams will last in the fridge for three to four weeks, though you will probably devour them in one sitting! To seal them once opened, simply dip the cut end in some red wine vinegar.