by Randy King
This time of year, I always have people asking me how to prepare wild duck. Like most game meat, wild duck has a stronger flavor than its domestic counterpart. The flavor is something that I love, but I typically try to get rid of as much of that flavor when cooking wild duck for other people.
I typically remove the "wildness" by preparing a confit. Basically it is an old school preservation method for those lacking refrigeration. Salt the duck legs, rub in some spices and let it cure for a few days. Then slow poach the duck in its own fat for up to eight hours. When it is done cooking, let it cool and it will hold for a long time, as long as it is completely covered in oil.
The reason that this cooking and preservation method works is because salt creates a hostile environment for microorganisms. Cooking the meat in the hot oil also kills most microbes. Top that off with a layer of microbe-inhibiting fat covering the meat and you can keep confit for up to six months in your cellar or fridge.
Most recipes call for baking the duck legs for about two hours in a 275 degree oven, but I don’t think it needs to be that complicated. I cure/season according to the recipe but use a lower cooking temperature, longer cooking time and I cook the whole duck. I set the whole plucked duck in a slow cooker covered in fat and head off to work. When I get home, the house reeks of garlic and I know that the confit it done. Then I freeze what I don’t eat.
Confit might last for a long time in the cupboard but if you have a freezer, use it. This cooking method works for not only duck but also for rabbit, venison shanks, chicken legs and basically anything that is served better with garlic and tenderizing.