On the third and final day of Duckfest, we made confit, rillettes and pâté.
When we got to the farm on Sunday morning, the table was well laden with leftover bagels, plus a few sheets of freshly made cinnamon rolls.
As we ate breakfast, Kate was beginning the process of rendering the duck fat we’d collected off the carcasses the previous day. She was careful not to get the fat too hot – just enough to melt most of it off of the solids, but not enough to crisp them up.
She removed the bits of skin and meat and set them aside, and brought the fat just to a light simmer, as if making stock.
When the fat was the right temperature, we dried the salted duck pieces off well and added them in gradually. The legs went in first, then the breasts and wings, and eventually the necks and gizzards. Kate continued to stir the pot while the fat simmered, monitoring the temperature so it wouldn’t get too hot.
When the meat was suitably tender, perhaps an hour later (the slower the better), she removed the duck from the fat. What remained in the pot was true liquid gold, to be jarred up and used later.
We divided the confited pieces among vacuum-seal bags, and ladled in duck fat over each before sealing them up.
The bags of confit went outside to cool down for a bit before going into the fridge. We got to take some home, with the assurance that the confit will just get better with time.
The bits of skin left over from the rendering were put into a skillet and crisped up into cracklings. Except for the occasional pinfeather (oops), it was like super-crisp duck fat popcorn. They make excellent croutons!
Earlier, while the confit simmered, we had all gathered around the kitchen table and begun picking meat off the duck carcasses, which Neal and Kate had finished in a pressure cooker. It didn’t seem at first as if we’d get much, they were stripped so clean already, but we ended up with quite a decent pile of duck meat.
Our hands were very well moisturized after this effort.
The picked-over carcasses were taken out to the dock for the fishies and birdies…
Then Kate enlisted a few other sets of hands to help her go over the picked meat, shredding it finely and pulling out any stray bones or gristle.
The shredded meat became almost like dough as Kate kneaded it. I’m afraid I didn’t see what else went in (Fat? Seasonings? Kate, can you help me out?) The end result was rillettes, a delicious rich spread. Normally rillettes get packed into jars and topped with fat for storage, but this batch just got set aside for lunch.
While all these other things were going on, Kate was also making liver pâté.
She took the hearts and livers that we had set aside the day before, tossed them in the cuisinart, and mixed them up with Armagnac (universal seasoning of Gascony) and lard (that’s homemade lard on the plate up above, not mashed potatoes). The mixture was packed raw into canning jars, which were put into a water bath in the oven to simultaneously cook and seal. We got to bring one of these home as well.
Eventually we took a short break, then retired to the dining room for a late lunch before leaving.
We had the finished rillettes for lunch, piled on toasts rubbed with garlic.
The oysters that we failed to finish off on Friday night were turned into chowder, with the help of plenty of homemade bacon and fresh Jersey cream from Bridget the Cow up the road. On top of the rillettes, it was ferociously filling, but too delicious not to have seconds.
For dessert there was a clafoutis, made from fresh creamy milk and farm-picked prunes soaked in Armagnac.
It was very different than my usual breakfast clafoutis, which is baked in a cast iron pan and comes out caramelized and crusty. This was soft, sweet and custardy, dissolving in the mouth, with the prunes providing a deep, earthy counter point.
Finally, the ferry ride home, sure that we wouldn’t need to eat again for days.