Prosciutto, made with either duck or goose breast, is a gate-way, entry level charcuterie project and one of the easiest to do at home. Although the entire process only takes a few weeks, curing your own prosciutto is a lot easier than you might think and is basically fool proof. Having tried duck and goose breast several times I decided to use turkey breast for this method. The first time I did this I was met with scepticism by some commenters on social media as they seemed to associate salmonella with white turkey meat but not with duck and goose. As I have mentioned in a previous post, using poultry is safe as long as you follow the proper hygiene and preparation protocols. For this preparation I am using the ‘salt box method’ or ‘excess salt’ curing*, which involves applying a generous quantity of salt mixed with spices to the piece of meat. It’s then left to absorb the salt over a period of time. Please note that nitrite/nitrate and/or instacure is not required for this curing method as the increased amount of salt will do all of the curing. The amount of salt in this preparation is also why I like to add a small amount of sugar to the cure in order to prevent or counteract the potential for saltiness.
*For whole muscle meat charcuterie, I normally use the other method which is called ‘equilibrium curing’ in which a calculated quantity of salt is added to the meat, with the spices, and allowing enough time for the meat to absorb all the salt. This method generally utilizes instacure #2
1300g turkey breast (preferably with the skin on & de-boned) (100%)
1 cup salt
¼ cup raw sugar
2 Tbsp. peppercorns (crushed)
small bunch thyme (loosely chopped)
2-3 sprigs sage (loosely chopped)
6-8 juniper berries (crushed)
Lemon pepper (optional)
Note – If you are unable to acquire whole turkey breasts, then substitute with either duck or goose breasts, keep in mind you will have to change the quantity of each ingredient in proportion to the size of breast that you acquire. For recipes such as this one it is always preferable to try and source the best quality meat as it will always result in vastly superior charcuterie.
Flavour variations – to impart subtle flavours into the meat, feel free to add different dried herbs and spices into the curing mix. Dried orange peel, peppercorns, paprika, chili flakes work nicely with breast prosciutto.
Measure out the ingredients (except for the lemon pepper as you will need to use that later) and combine in a mixing bowl.
In a clean, non-reactive dish, preferably glass or ceramic, evenly spread half the mixture into the dish and reserve the other half for later. The size of the dish should be as close as possible to the amount/size of breast(s) being used, to make it as snug as possible as well as allowing less of the curing mixture going to waste.
When using a breast (whether it is turkey, duck or goose) to make prosciutto, always ask the butcher to keep the skin on. I had organised with the butcher to leave the skin on, but when I went to pick it up it had unfortunately already been removed (annoying, but I still wanted to proceed with the recipe). Rinse and clean the turkey breast really well to remove any excess blood and pat dry with paper towel. Trim off any excess pieces that may be hanging off the breast.
Place the breast on top of the curing mixture skin side up. Be careful to not let the breast touch the sides of the dish.
Place the remaining curing mixture on top of the breast.
Make sure to completely cover all the sides as well.
Cover the dish with cling wrap and place in the refrigerator. Curing time will vary, depending on the size of the breasts.
When curing duck breasts the refrigeration time is between 24-36 hours, goose breasts are generally a bit longer, between 36 – 72 hours.
With my turkey breast being slightly larger than a goose breast I decided to go between 96-120 hours or 5 days (which turned out to be optimal), as I was a bit worried that it would turn out too salty. During this time the salt will be curing the meat and drawing the moisture out of the turkey breast. The process of removing the moisture preserves the meat and makes it suitable for human consumption without cooking – just like traditional Italian prosciutto. The sugar imparts a slightly sweet flavour onto the meat to offset any potential over-saltiness.
After each day take the dish out of the refrigerator and drain off any excess liquid that has been drawn out of the meat.
Turn the breast over and place the cling film back over the dish and put it back into the refrigerator.
Repeat this step over the next few days.
After the 5 days the breast has lost a considerable amount of liquid and the colour of the meat has darkened a little bit, as well as becoming a lot firmer to the touch.
After 5 days take the breast out of the curing mixture and rinse thoroughly under running cold water to remove any residual salt. However don’t keep it under the water for too long as you don’t want to soak the breast. Pat it dry with some paper towel and leave uncovered for an hour or so on top of a clean kitchen bench.
Sprinkle both sides of the breast with lemon pepper (this part is optional); black or white pepper can also be used instead.
Wrap the breast tightly in some muslin or cheese cloth and hang. I left my piece to hang for around 21 days.
Duck breasts usually hang for at least 7 days before being ready, goose breasts generally around 10-14 days. Ultimately this time comes down to the temperature and humidity of your hanging location, and whether or not you have access to a curing chamber (I do not).
The breasts should feel firm to touch, if they are a bit squishy then let them hang for another day or two.
To serve, slice as thin as possible or use a deli slicer if available, just like a normal prosciutto. The breast is usually easier to slice if it is cold, especially if you have chosen to use duck or goose breast because of its fattiness. I find that slicing at room temperature can be challenging in terms of getting perfectly thin slices.
Use your finished product in salads and pasta dishes, or served as part of a unique meat and cheese platter.
To store keep refrigerated and wrapped in cling film, however I have found that this delicious product runs out rather quickly due to its great taste and popularity at dinner parties, so storage is usually not an issue!