A Preemptive SIET.
June 27, 2009 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Will I kill myself making duck prosciutto in a Philadelphia July?

I've just received my copy of Ruhlman's Charcuterie and I'd love for my first project to be duck prosciutto/ham. While I have no basement to speak of, I do have a closet that I use for ferments that require a "cool, dark place." Will it be cool/dark enough for curing a couple of duck breasts, however? Ruhlman suggests an ideal temperature of 50 to 60 degrees; my apartment has no air conditioning to speak of, but the closet doesn't approach the temperature in the rest of the house. I've done a number of fermentation projects and am not adverse to cutting off mold or the like, but this will be my first meat cure and I'd like to be safe in the midst of this hot and humid Philadelphia summer.

Extra Credit: What's this I hear about curing in the refrigerator?
posted by youarenothere to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There is a thread on egullet.org devoted to Charcuterie (the book) so I'd check that out - probably someone has attempted similar and posted there. I think the important thing would be to figure out exactly how cool it is in that closet and how much the temperature varies throughout the day.

A local guy here has made dry-cure sausages in his refrigerator but it was in a pro kitchen so it was being opened up frequently during the day and stayed warmer than your normal fridge at home. Not ideal but he was successful. If you can get an old fridge, you can build a rig using a gadget that sits between the mains and the refrigerator that will allow you to dial in a temp between 50 and 60. These work like the home kits that turn a slow cooker into a poor man's immersion circulator. Can't remember what they're called but I'm sure they're mentioned in the egullet thread.
posted by sanko at 10:33 AM on June 27, 2009

I have one of the gadgets [#7051] that sanko mentioned and I use it for homebrewing. You might be able to find one cheaper on eBay or Craigslist.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 10:50 AM on June 27, 2009

Do you, or one of your friends have a wine fridge? Ours is set to 55F on the top shelves... so that would work perfectly.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 11:02 AM on June 27, 2009

Best answer: Get a thermometer to find out just how cool that closet is -- I bet it's warmer than you think. Our stone basement in South Philly is blissfully cool in the summer...but this means it's 70something degrees. Awesome contrast with the heat of the day, but not prosciutto-curing temp.
posted by desuetude at 11:36 AM on June 27, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! I'll go through that massive egullet thread for sure. I'm aware of the alternatives--an extra refrigerator or the like--I'm just wondering if it would be unsafe to dry-cure without those temperature controls in a closet considering the weather outside.
posted by youarenothere at 11:39 AM on June 27, 2009

Best answer: Getting the temperature and humidity right is very important for dry cured meats. If it's too humid, the meat can rot. If it's too dry, the meat will become "case hardened" which is when the outside dries to a very hard crust and the inside stays squishy. Before you start, go to a hardware store and get a thermometer that also measures humidity. It should cost you about $20.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:32 PM on June 27, 2009

Ruhlman talks about this recipe on his blog.

People who've tried it leave many comments at the bottom of the page.
posted by jamjam at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2009

Best answer: You can pick up a min/max combination thermometer - hygrometer on ebay, shipped direct from Hong Kong for $12 or so. I don't think anyone can answer your question until you know the temperatures in that closet.
posted by jon1270 at 1:16 PM on June 27, 2009

Did you know I just spent a good chunk of the day trying to find a nice duck breast to cure? I didn't find the duck, but when I do, I'm planning on following Ruhlman's recipe and dry-curing it in the refrigerator, maybe with a cup of water nearby. I'm in DC, and our weather (like Philly, maybe) is far too hot & humid for counter-top curing.

(And if anyone knows where to get fresh duck in DC, I'm all ears!)
posted by jacob at 5:29 PM on June 27, 2009

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