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Canned Waterfowl Recipes  RSS feed

 
James Landreth
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Hi everyone, I'm going to have a large surplus of duck and goose meat (domesticated) early this summer. I'm trying to move away from freezing as my main method of preservation, so I want to try canning them. There's not a lot of information out there about this particular kind of meat though, so any advice, warnings, or recipes would be great. Thanks all!
 
Wes Hunter
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I'd forgo canning and just make a big batch of confit.  No need to mess with a bunch of jars that way.
 
James Landreth
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How long does confit last, refrigerated and unrefrigerated?
 
Wes Hunter
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There are multiple factors that would affect keeping time.  I'd think the main ones are: 1) how long the cure time (longer cure means more salt uptake means longer keeping); 2) temperature at which it is stored (colder equals longer); 3) whether or not you make sure there is always a solid layer of fat covering the contents.

I've done no serious research, but I know enough to know that confit is/was French peasant food.  I'd assume the birds would have traditionally been butchered when nice and fat in late fall, and I'd expect that the meat was meant to last (likely in a cool cellar) until the following spring.  So 5 to 6 months?  Certainly the ceiling would be more than that, though.

We made a batch back in mid January, and just finished it up in early May.  It had been kept in an open crock in the fridge, and showed no signs of spoiling; I'd think it'd have lasted another couple months at least.  (We've also got a container of cured pork belly that was put in the fridge mid January.  We just fry up a chunk when needed.  But it's got enough salt, I doubt if it would spoil in a couple years.)

Confit is also a great way to use the hearts and gizzards, for those who have a difficult time finding other agreeable preparations.  The necks can work too, though the bones are awfully fiddly.
 
Olga Booker
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Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Hi James,

With a large surplus of birds, my personal choice would be to can it.  In fact, here in confit land, most of it is canned these days, simply because it lasts longer and it is safer.  With many birds, you'd need a very large fridge or a rodent free cool cellar to keep your open crocks.   It is true that depending on conditions, it will keep for a few months without spoiling, but eventually, if you have large quantities and can't eat it fast enough, the fat gets rancid and even mouldy.  Wes is right that the birds would be slaughtered when plump and fat.

What I do with my birds is this.

Remove all the fat from the birds, melt the fat with a small amount of water on gentle heat, when fat is melted, add legs, wings and neck if you like it, a few peppercorns, bay leaves and salt and gently simmer, 30-60 minutes until meat is tender and no water runs out when poked with a knife.  Immediately put into jars and cover with the fat leaving a 2cm gap, close lid and pressure can for 2 hours, I use 15 pounds pressure but I am at 2 500 feet altitude so you'd have to check for yourself what you need.  I have sometimes used a bit of pork fat to top up the jar when the birds were a bit on the lean side.  Some people also put nutmeg, rosemary, thyme or other herbs but I prefer things simple - your choice..

I live in Cassoulet country and while making it the traditional way is a long winded process, every housewife used to have her own recipe.  I make a very simple version that would make my grandmother turn in her grave if she knew!  Basically, I fry the wings, legs and neck in a bit of duck fat and some onions, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  When browned, I add some home made tomato sauce or some fresh cut tomatoes (tin is OK), a clove or two of garlic depending on taste and size of pot, and simmer for 10 minutes or so.  I then add some previously cooked large white kidney beans and simmer for another half hour.  Here we use what is called Tarbais beans, the name comes from the fact that it used to grow around a town called Tarbes.  I guess a white navy bean would do.  For some reason, white beans seem to lend themselves better to the taste of duck, go figure!  Anyway, while still hot, fill up the jars leaving a 2cm gap at the top, close the lid and pressure can for 2 hours (same as above).  That way you have a ready meal you can just warm up when you don't feel like cooking and you then can render the fat for other purposes.  Roasted potatoes in duck fat are wonderful.  A bit of fat added to soups and stews gives a certain richness, and no it is not bad for your health.  I also use duck fat to oil some garden tools and waterproof leather boots and canvas or leather hats.

Some of the bird's breasts, after a couple of days at least of "resting", are  eaten on the BBQ thinly filleted called "aiguillettes" here, or as kebabs on a stick, or plain fried .  Some are added in small chunks in the above mentioned stew, and some I salt for a day and hang up to dry.  The dried ones won't last very long and it is best to eat fairly soon, but it is delicious cut thinly in a salad or a few chunks in a soup or stew.  It gets drier and harder as time goes by.

The carcass with some meat left on it is boiled in a fair amount of water for several hours (sometimes all night on the edge of the range), again with a few peppercorns, bay leaves and salt, until the meat falls off the bones. While still hot, put into jars (without the bones), lid on and pressure can as above.  It makes a clear soup with bits of meat in it that lends itself to all sorts of preparations.  I open a jar, warm it up, and add some vermicelli pasta and fresh chopped parsley at the last minute.  Or on a winter's day, open a jar or two, add leeks, carrots, celery, potatoes, barley, herbs, whatever you have at hand  and make a very hearty stew.

I know that it sounds like a lot of work and one may wander if it is worth it.  It just depends what you want.  Me, I love to open a jar on a winter's day, just warm it up am have a meal in minutes when I come in from the cold.  just a matter of preference I guess.  Hope this gives you ideas but in any case, check your pressure canner for your needs.

Good luck with your birds.


 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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I suppose it depends in fairly large part on what a "large surplus" is, exactly.

Perhaps your best bet is a multi-pronged approach.  Make confit out of the legs, and perhaps the first joint of the wings.  You'll get more ducks' worth into a given container this way.  If you've got a normal-sized fridge, you should be able to fit a 2-gallon container with no difficulty.  This will hold a good number of duck legs.

Bone out the breasts and make duck ham/prosciutto.  Google it if you need to.  I did this with the breasts from four or five Muscovy drakes last fall, and there are still two hanging in my 'pantry,' which is really just an unheated and uncooled room on the east side of the house (with windows, no less).  Properly done, well-salted, air-cured meats will last a long time.  As an aside, duck ham is nice shaved on top of pasta or pizza or eggs (or any number of things, really) to give a nice salty-umami boost.  Or just slice thinly and serve with typical charcuterie accompaniments.

Take the carcasses, and the remainder of the wings (if you used the fat portion for confit), and make stock.  Then, if you're so inclined, reduce this down to make what would basically be a demi-glacé.  Can this if you want, though it ought to keep longer as-is than just stock would.  If you can it, it'll use fewer jars than normal stock.  Reconstitute if you like.  My wife adds spoonfuls (of the concentrated stuff) to all sorts of dishes.

Take the hearts, gizzards, and any trim meat from the carcasses, and braise them until they're falling-apart tender.  This makes good tacos, or use it in chili.

Another, totally different option might be to just butcher them one or two at a time and eat 'em as you do them.  The downside is that you have just a couple relatively small windows in which they can be plucked cleanly.
 
Alder Burns
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Curry would be my default for a project like this.  That's what I've done with old hens before, and last winter canned an entire ram as curry.  The meat can be cooked till it's easily removed from the bone, then packed into the jars with some spices and it's own stock....if the weather is cold enough or a cooler is available the meat could be chilled and bone broth made and that put in as well.  Add vegetables as you like and can away.  But then again I happen to like a lot of curry!
 
James Landreth
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Thanks for the instructions, Olga I wasn't sure if canning confit was something you could do at home. A simple cassoulet would be best for me too, I think, though it'd make my great grandmother turn in her grave if she found out haha

If it weren't for the pin feathers and cost of feeding them longer, I would consider doing a few at a time, Wes. I suppose I could skin them, but the skin is such a good part of the bird that I'd have a hard time wasting it. Duck ham is a good idea. I have an unheated outdoor pantry that they might store well in, if I do a fall batch of ducks right as the weather cools off.

Thanks for the suggestion Alder. I don't think I want that much curry, but I might try a Thai coconut curry recipe and see if it cans up well with duck. That's an idea.
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Regarding pinfeathers:

We are careful to time our processing so that pinfeathers are minimized.  Of course, ducks don't all mature at the same rate, and we have at times had individual birds that were more mature for their age and were covered in pinfeathers.  Some of these can be plucked cleanly with tweezers, but some just aren't worth it.

Those that aren't worth tweezing, we skin.  But all is not lost, because we just throw the chunks of skin in a skillet with a little water and render the fat.  The pinfeathers don't impact this in the least.  For that matter, it's usually just the breasts that have bad pinfeathers; the legs still pluck quite cleanly.
 
Corrie Snell
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James, I am incredibly envious of your surplus!!!  You may have already processed your birds (just re-read and saw that you said "summer"), but if not, and for others finding this thread, here are my two cents:

Confit is the ultimate convenience food!  I was able to fulfill a dream of living in the French countryside for a period of time and chose the SW because I love the cuisine and, as a foodie, wanted to get some first-hand experience with preserving ducks.  I did 9 fat ducks, 4 with foies gras, and 5 without.  These ducks have an incredible amount of extra fat in the body cavity and under the skin.  As many others (Hi, Olga!) who've already responded have said, this fat is rendered and then the legs, wing drumettes, gizzards, and hearts are all gently simmered in this rendered fat.  Quite a bit of the fat that is under the skin of the legs renders out while the legs are cooking, adding to the copious end amount of rendered fat.  The end product, again as others have said, was historically stored in root cellars and even in the ground, sealed air-tight by the solidified fat.  So, if you don't want to can, refrigerate, or freeze the confit, you need lots of rendered fat.  I wonder if regular ol' farm ducks would have enough fat for this. 

I highly suggest Paula Wolfert's book, "The Cooking of Southwest France," as it has lots of instructions and tips on confit, and recipes to use the meat up.  It's a pretty popular book, and I would be surprised if it weren't available from your library system.  Her instructions are for keeping the confit the old-fashioned way, without canning, freezing, or refrigeration, and have lots of details on how to prevent spoilage.  I'll give a few of the most pertinent general confit tips from her book: 

-You can top off/seal confit made with non-foie gras ducks with good quality lard.
-Goose is preserved in the same way, but just needs a longer time to cook.  Goose breast confits better than duck breast.
-Duck breast can be confit-ed, but the meat is better suited to other preservation methods.  Recipe for home-cured duck ham in her book.
-Confit can be simmered in a slow cooker.  (But, if you have a bunch of birds to do and big enough pans, I'd do it all at once in the oven.)
-Cook on a stove-top or in the oven, very slowly (or else the meat will get stringy), keeping the fat between 192°F and 210°F until the meat is easily pierced to the bone with a toothpick.

The following links are to the blog of Kate Hill, an American who has been living in SW France for nearly 30 years, and who teaches classes on confit, cassoulet, and butchering and charcuterie in her home (together with a French pig farmer/butcher/charcutier).  I used this information when doing my confit projects, too.

How much salt, and how long.  Paula Wolfert's book calls for more salt, and letting the meat marinate longer, as her recipe does not get canned or frozen, and is intended to keep for many, many months.

Tips on cooking the confit.

How to can it.

Get every last bit off the carcass.  This blog post calls for using an entire animal, but I made rillettes with just the meat left on the carcasses and wrote about it in this thread.  I respectfully disagree with Olga on boiling the meaty carcasses for several hours, and describe why in that thread.

Use the confit in this cassoulet recipe!  I don't think this recipe is very complicated.  I used the wing drumettes in my cassoulets, as one or two, with a portion of sausage and the incredibly rich beans, are plenty.  The whole leg is nice to save for just serving as is, skin crisped, with a side of duck fat-fried potatoes, tons of minced garlic and parsley added for the last couple minutes of cooking.


From Saveur, tips on cooking the cassoulet.

And now, to make you hungry:

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Duck confit with fried potatoes
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A finished cassoulet, with my crock of confit in the background.
 
James Landreth
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Thank you for all the information Corrie! I'll be doing waterfowl again next year, and still have some geese to process for the season. I'll take a look at the book when I get a chance.
 
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