I’m a big fan of duck, especially duck fat but you probably figured that out if you’ve been reading this blog.
So when I heard that Jimmy’s No. 43 was hosting their second annual Duck-off benefitting Food Systems Network NYC, I knew I had to compete. Tons of duck dishes, all for charity, what could be better? It took all of 10 minutes before I came up with my dish, I was going to make duck bacon!
Now, I had never made duck bacon before, nor any type of bacon for the record, so I took to my good friend Google to learn about bacon making. Turns out while there is plenty of information on how to make good ‘ol fashion pork bacon, the duck bacon market is pretty slim. Everyone out there is making duck prosciutto, which is tasty and all but I didn’t have the time to go that route.
I finally stumbled upon a duck bacon recipe on epicurious.com, the best part about this recipe, it was incredibly close to what I wanted to do.
I was looking to do a breakfast theme for my entry, and wanted to cure my duck with maple syrup and coffee. Except, was I to do it with coffee grounds or actual brewed coffee? Luckily the epicurious recipe helped me out. Theirs was for a coffee and molasses brined duck bacon, so I swapped out the molasses for maple syrup, also increasing the amount, decreased the amount of coffee slightly and finally increased the amount of brown sugar a bit too. The salts and water remained the same.
Most bacons are made by enrobing your meat completely in salt for 24 hours and then rinsing the cure off. So while this was going into a brine for much less time, I still had faith, especially since it was such a smaller piece of meat than pork belly.
Next up was to procure my duck. Duck is expensive, and i figured I’d need at least 15 pounds to produce enough bacon for 150 people. So I took a chance and reached out to Hudson Valley Duck Farm, one of my favorite duck farms to see if they would be willing to sponsor me for the event. Lo and behold, a quick response later that evening they would be able to provide 15 pounds of duck! Off to the Grand Army Plaza farmers market I went to meet Matt Igoe from Hudson Valley to pick up my duck (which by the way you can get their duck at farmers markets all over the city, so I suggest checking out their stand, they have some great products). I can’t thank them enough for their generosity in providing me the duck, so please at the very least visit their website.
My biggest obstacle was how to smoke the duck in my little Brooklyn kitchen, more specifically I needed to cold smoke the duck. Back to Google I went and I came across this gem from Feast St. Louis, an online magazine, that had a tech school article on how to set up a cold smoker indoors. I’ll let you read the article instead of explaining it all myself, but I used their method and it worked for me. I didn’t end up with an incredibly smokey taste, but I knew that going in. If you have access to a grill or a regular smoker, go ahead smoke your duck the correct way (we still want it cold smoked though, so try to keep the temps under 100 degrees F.) The amount of time you smoke your duck all depends on how smokey you want it to taste, I had trouble regulating the temperature even with my set up, so the longest I could go was one hour before the bottom of the duck would start to heat up too much and cook.
I’ve scaled this recipe down from the amount that I made, and you can still cut it in half if you don’t want to make this much, but the duck bacon will freeze nicely and why shouldn’t you be left with extras after all this hard work?
Recipe:4 cups cold water
1 cup kosher salt
2 1/2 tablespoons curing salt (pink salt)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup brewed strong coffee
3/4 cup pure maple syrup 3 cups ice
6 Duck Breast halves or 3 whole breasts ( recommended Hudson Valley Duck Farm)
Place the duck breasts in a large non-reactive container or a large ziplock bag and set aside.
In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher and curing salts in the cold water. Stir in the brown sugar and mix until mostly dissolved, then add the coffee and maple syrup. Finally add the ice to the brine, this is the keep the liquid cold to slow the salt absorption. Add the brine to the container or bag holding the duck breasts. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours.
After the 8 hours, remove the breasts, rinse and dry overnight (if the brine was started early in the day, otherwise let dry for 3-4 hours before smoking). Once completely dry, cold smoke according to your preferred method. You can wait up about one day after the end of brining and smoking the duck.
To make slicing the duck a little easier, I suggest placing it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. With a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch slices of the smoked duck bacon. Fry in a pan like regular bacon and enjoy!
Don’t forget to save all your leftover duck fat, there are plenty of delicious recipes to make with duck fat!
Stay tuned for what I did with duck bacon in my duck-off entry, plus a recap of Jimmy’s No. 43 Second Annual Duck-off!