The great thing (and the worst thing?) about growing up in St Emilion is that everyone knew everyone. As kids we were allowed to go play from vineyard to vineyard when school was out. Almost every château was owned by family or friends of the family and there was nowhere for us to really get lost. Parents could keep an eye on us from afar and if they couldn’t, the neighbors would take over. My cousin Bruno and I were raised as brothers. On weekends, my aunt Nicole would send us on the most amazing scavenger hunts she had prepared for us. We had our swiss army knives and were given clues and maps that would usually lead us back home by the end of the day. My grand mother would give us a lunch bag with baguette, cheese, juice and some kind of cured meat. The meat would be ham or duck. To this day, the taste and texture of cured duck triggers memories of our adventures in the vineyard. We never told our parents, but one of our favorite places to stop and hide for lunch was the old house in the picture here. At the time, the front door and bottom windows had not yet been sealed up. We thought the house was haunted of course and that made our play dates all the more exciting… Here is the proper recipe for cured duck breast. You can serve it thinly sliced at the apéritif or like here on bread, as antipasti. It has a very delicate taste and an amazing silky texture you will love!
- Get a thick fresh duck breast (with the fat) from a trusted butcher. Ours are almost two inches thick because they come from ducks that were fed to produce foie gras. The South West of France is were the best foie gras comes from.
- Lay the breast on a layer of rock salt in a deep dish or tupperware. Then pour an other thick layer of salt on top.
- Leave the breast in the salt in the fridge for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, take the breast out of the salt and remove all the salt left on the meat with a dry cloth.
- Rub black pepper all over the meat and put it in a dry cloth with lots of fresh rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.
- Leave your little package in the fridge for 3 to 4 weeks.
- When you take it out, make sure you rub off as much of the pepper as possible.
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Wonderful to have memories of such a childhood. My children were brought up in the country where everyone kept an eye out for everyone else. They had so much freedom and, like you I suspect, learnt so much from their adventures. Ah, duck breast. Very expensive here, so only for special occasions, but I do like its slightly stronger taste than turkey and chicken.
It’s also very lean, which is very important for me these days. Tasty and lean… 🙂 😉
Fantastic photos of the duck breast – I can feel my mouth watering as I read this post! I can buy it locally in tiny wafer-thin slices but it’s quite expensive like that and I had no idea that it was so simple to hand-prepare. You’ve given me the confidence to give it a try 🙂
You will be blown away by the difference in taste and texture. The one we find at the supermarket is rubbish next to this. Can’t wait to get your impressions…. 😉
Just in time to prepare for a dinner party next weekend! And I’ve been thinking about duck too. Thank you for the recipe!!
Remember it has to be left alone for a good 3 weeks before you serve it though… 😉
Wonderful post…and oh my, that house looks SO haunted! haha! What lovely memories of childhood. Um…also, how did I not know that curing meat was this easy? So excited to try it!
Please do try it! You will love it. You can also enjoy eating it in a regular house 😉 🙂
haha! Going to try it out for my next dinner party…per chance this weekend (the French husband is extraordinarily excited about this) – do you serve it with anything particular? Toasts or a condiment of some sort?
No, the simpler the better, with bread and butter or on its own sliced really thin. Enjoy! But remember it has to dry in the fridge for a good 3 to 4 weeks before you eat it!
ah right! Thanks, I look forward to making it!
What a beautiful post. The photos are so stunning. You get the feeling that time has sort of stopped. I love your table and place settings. Really? Cured duck breast? Does it get any better? YUM.
I love duck so much. It doesn’t matter how it’s prepared… from foie gras to Peking Duck, it’s all good… 😉
It’s always wonderful when food triggers childhood adventures 😀 Lovely photos! And wow…I didn’t know cured duck would be easy…I just don’t know where to buy duck. haha.
Maybe you should try wholefoods or find a farm… That could make for a fun weekend out with the family…
wonderful post and photos as usual. I will get my hands on some duck breast and finally try this out. I’ve cured other things but never duck breast, and it sounds really simple and heavenly good.
Let me know how it goes!!!
If I do it, I will definitely post it! 🙂
I had no idea curing a duck breast was so simple, I say that only because you have made it sound very easy to make. I will try! Your post is beautiful and your childhood memories are wonderful, it takes me back to my childhood, the photo’s are really great too!
Thank you so much dear! So many people have said the same thing to me: the recipe is too simple to be true. Well, I promise it is. Try it when you can. I can’t wait to know what you think 😉 🙂
Your photos look amazing.
Thank you so much!!
That meat looks sublime! Seriously.
Thank you! Seriously! 🙂 No, seriously, it means a lot 😉
Thanks for a lovely recipe and lovely story. It sounds like an idyllic childhood.
I had no idea the cured duck was so simple to make. After salting, do you wrap it in the whole herbs in the cloth? I’m not sureour duck breasts are fat enough but I would love to try this, thanks.
Yes, I typically just lay my cloth down, put a layer of herbs, place the meat on top, then another layer of herbs and wrap everything up. It is indeed one of the easiest recipes I know and it never fails to impress my guests, even people who are from here and know everything there is to know about duck… 😉
Thank you, it sounds so good. I’m going to seek out a fat duck!
… you finished your story and I wasn’t done reading. I want to hear more! 🙂 What lovely memories. And a special upbringing enjoying such lovely lunches prepared by your grand mother for your excursions. I wonder if a fresh thick duck breast could be found in this city. I certainly want to prepare this, I’ll have to start a searching our markets and butchers. Your empty chair is quite inviting…
I need some cured duck in my life!
So simple! I had no idea!
Me neither. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I will make another one tomorrow so we can taste it together 😉
What a wonderful way to spend a weekend! I would have loved those adventures. 😄
I reckon we could still do the same now. We’d just switch the juice to wine 😉
Now you’re talking! That would be so much fun. 😄
Sounds like an absolutely ideal childhood!
I remember those days when a kid could go out to play and be home by lunch or dinner. I remember riding my bicycle all over the small town. We had nothing to fear…in those days. Although, I never had the lunch bag delicacies!
I am in the planning stages for the international festival French table…since I am the only French instructor. With no budget except what I have in my own purse I am trying to figure out some sample foods. So far I have come up with making des tartines, and des petits fours. Je ne suis pas la meilleure dans la cusine. Mais, on peut esperer. Nous avons un étudiant de Fréjus et je vais lui demander s’il a des recetts que je peut faire.
Vous devriez faire un gratin Dauphinois et quelque chose avec du fromage… Le fromage c’est ce qu’il y a de plus Français qui soit… 😉
Mai’s oui, du fromage bien sûr.
Avez-vous un/une recette facile pour le gratin dauphinois? Très facile! 🙂 Sheila
Celle-ci est pas mal: http://www.marmiton.org/recettes/recette_gratin-dauphinois_13809.aspx Moi, je met les pommes de terres directement dans un plat à four avec lait et crème, ail, muscade et beurre et je met au four pendant 45mn à 200°C (350°F)
The recipe is very similar to homemade pancetta. I had not thought to try it with duck breast. What a great idea!
Try it Stefan! You will absolutely love it! Then it’s like bacon. It goes whith everything…
Lovely story, photos and really lovely recipe. Sadly, the duck breast we get here would not do for this.
I’ll have you taste it when you come over! 😉
I was too modest to ask…
I have not yet tasted cured duck… your photos and description have me intrigued. I will try it!
You really should Sarah. You would LOVE it!
What a great childhood memory! One to definitely pass on to your nieces and nephews. Even in the States, I remember being around 10 years old and going exploring all day long in the summer, bike riding, hanging with friends, playing in the woods/trails. Showing up for meals only. Those were the days!!
The photos came out great – must have been hard to pick just a couple! Thanks for the duck recipe – it was definitely tasty!
It tasted even better because of your company!
You are too kind!! – It was a wonderful day!
The process for curing the duck looks too simple to be true, but the end result looks divine! What lucky children you were, but I’m sure you appreciate that now!
That’s exactly what I thought at first Sandra, but it is indeed as good as it is easy to make 🙂
This is something surreal… I saw yesterday on TV someone using “duck bacon” (made out of duck breast), in the cooking – and I was sitting here thinking that I need to find the recipe for cured duck breast – and here is your post with that exact recipe… wow… Question: for the step 6, should I put wrapped duck breast into the closed container, or should it be just opened to the air?
Surreal indeed 😉 Yes, just in a cloth in the fridge.
I wish I would be taken to a scavenger hunt with such a nice lunch in my backpack!
So beautiful. There are not enough words. God I envy you your talent.
You are too kind Julia!
Beautiful photos. Sounds like a dream childhood you had!
Not bad indeed 😉 🙂
Yes, I will.
Looks good;)Love the story of the vineyards:)
Wonderful post and to read of your childhood memories. I remember that even in the outskirts of London as a child we could roam fairly freely in a way kids can’t now. Your photos are always so good too. I’m a lover of cured duck breast and foie gras and your area is just the best for them.
This sounds absolutely delicious – I’ll definitely be giving it a go. Not sure how easy it will be to find good duck, though – will have to hunt around.
You will love it June! 🙂