I finally did it. I saved up enough duck fat to make duck confit with the Pekin duck legs I had squirreled away in the freezer from earlier slaughter Sundays. Freezer space is at a premium at this time of year and I needed to make some space for the consequences of slaughter Sunday. So on Sunday, I began the process of preserving the legs.
I used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe from The Rover Cottage Meat Book (451) but as his was only for 2 legs and I had 12 (!) I increased it x6. I used less garlic, not because I don’t think garlic is wonderful, but I couldn’t be bothered to walk over to the polytunnel to get some extra bulbs.
Confit Duck Legs: 12 legs; 150g rock salt; 6tsp black pepper; 12 sprigs of thyme; 18 bay leaves – torn apart; 12 garlic cloves; 12 tbs olive oil; lots of (4.5 kg) rendered duck fat – or lard if you run out.
So mix the salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves and garlic and rub all over the legs. Pop the legs in a tray and leave for 48 hours – I left mine for more like 72 as I was away for work Mon-Tues. You should rub the preserving mix into the legs after 24 hours – umm, maybe I didn’t do that.
When you are ready to start confitting heat the oil in a pan. Brown the legs skin-side down first and then on the meat side.
Once you have browned all the legs pop them into an oven-proof dish so they are all nice and snug together.
Add the preserving scrapings (the salt, peppers and herb mix) then pour over enough duck fat to cover. Even though I had quite a bit of duck fat, I didn’t have enough, but luckily I have a small stash of home-rendered lard so the day was saved.
Cook the legs in a warm oven (150C) for 2 hours. If you fat doesn’t completely cover the legs, then turn them regularly.
I didn’t have enough fat to completely cover the legs. I also didn’t use a deep enough dish. Although I turned the legs I think some bits got a little over-cooked. I would really make sure the legs are fully covered. Also, next time I might not forget about the legs because I was writing and thus accidentally cook them for 3.5 hours!
Once the legs are cooked (the meat should easily separate from the bone) put the legs in a large glass jar, or if you don’t have one, in a plastic tub. I so wish I had had glass kilner jars that were big enough, but mine were all full of stuff so a plastic box it was.
Pour over the fat (I strained out all the bits and pieces). You need to cover the meat completely. I should have chosen a bigger tub, but mysteriously all my big tuperware had vanished – more likely it is all in the freezer full of blood.
This should keep in the fridge for ages. It is going to keep until at least the end of December as I am going to make my friends cassoulet when they come to visit.
To prepare a leg, remove from the fat and scrap most of it off, then heat in a hot oven to warm and crisp up.
How to eat your confit – well you can serve a leg whole or flaked with beans or lentils. On Wednesday we had one with mashed potato, broccoli, heritage carrots, and onion gravy.
N.B. We are not big potato eaters, but as we (oh, I mean me here) are trying to eat more that we grow and less that we buy, and as we have to (let’s be realistic here) buy rice and pasta, and as we have had a huge harvest of potatoes this year, we are eating more potatoes for dinner.
N.B. the most important thing is that you can save the fat used to preserve the legs and re-use it for confit another 3 or so times. This is good news as otherwise it would be a criminal waste.