Confit is the salting and slow cooking of either duck, goose or pork using its own fat as the cooking medium. It is not a term that can be used for the likes of salmon, onions or say, oranges, but it gets used anyway. Confit is a traditional way to preserve duck and goose meat, especially after Christmas in France when there has been a run on foie gras, it is a way of dealing with the remainder of the bird making a preserve that keeps in a cellar for 6-7 months. Confit is therefore local to the regions of France that produce foie gras, the South West including the French Basque provinces.
The ingredients for confit of duck are simple, duck, salt, duck fat, a few herbs and spices, time.
Confit is traditionally eaten warm with ceps, potatoes, peas, white beans, cabbage or lentils or cold with dandelion, chicory or a salad of white cabbage (Larousse). In France confit of goose is used in garbue and confit of duck is used in cassoulet, both meats are interchangeable in both dishes.
Confit of Duck
6 duck legs
2 tbsp sel de guerande or another course rock or sea salt
1 tblsp juniper berries
4 cloves garlic ( I used 2 of my mums giant ones that are milder than the usual kind)
500g duck fat (nectar of the duck)
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
Sprinkle the salt over both sides of the duck legs, cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Heat oven to 130 degrees. Rinse and dry the duck. Crush the juniper berries with the blade of your chefs knife to release the flavour. Same with the garlic. Heat the duck fat in a cast iron oven dish with a lid until liquid and warm. Submerge the duck and add the juniper, garlic, peppercorns and herbs. Take a photo as I have or just get on with it.
Make sure the duck fat covers the legs, cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.
Test the duck is done with a knife, there should be very little resistance. Let the confit cool then put the duck legs in a ceramic or earthenware (traditional) container so they fit snugly. Ladle the fat through a strainer or muslin over the duck but don’t scoop up the duck juice from the bottom of the dish as it will not keep. Again the fat has to cover the duck for it to keep well.
To use the confit (and wait at least a day because it will get better) just get it out of the fat and heat, skin side down, in an oven to warm the meat and crisp up the skin. You can reuse the duck fat two or maybe three more times, after this it becomes too salty.
Confit of duck in afternoon light, what a pretty picture.