16 September 2013

Potted duck — confit de canard

How easy is it buy duck in your country? How expensive is it? In France, duck is not an exotic treat. It's everyday fare and it's not expensive. Breast filets and leg/thigh sections are there in the butcher section of the supermarket, right next to chicken, turkey, and rabbit (!) parts. You can also find jars of duck or goose fat on the shelves of every supermarket, to be used as a cooking and flavoring ingredient.

Duck cooked in duck fat until tender and succulent is called confit de canard.
(The dark specks are thyme leaves.)

Back in days before people had refrigerators, the way duck was preserved for the winter was to cook it and then store it in its own fat in cellar or other chilly place. Goose was done the same way — the two birds have a thick layer of fat that is easy to render (melt) and that congeals at low temperatures. Packed in jars or pots and covered completely with fat, the duck  or goose pieces are protected from contact with air and can be kept for months in a cellar or an unheated outbuilding.

Just wipe or shake the marinade ingredients off the duck pieces...

To preserve the duck — to make confit de canard, in other words — the first step is to "cure" the duck pieces in salt. Leg/thigh sections are the parts that normally are turned into confit, because the breast is usually treated as a steak and pan roasted or grilled and served rare. The duck pieces cure in salt for hours or even days. For good flavor, chopped onion, chopped garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, cloves or allspice, and even hot red pepper flakes are added along with the salt.

...and pack them into a pot or baking dish for slow cooking.

After they're marinated and cured, the duck parts are just wiped with a cloth (not rinsed in water) to remove any salt kernels that haven't melted, along with the peppercorns, onion, garlic, etc. Then they're put in a pot or a baking dish and enought melted duck fat is poured on to completely cover them. They cook for an hour or two at low temperature on top of the stove or in the oven until they are succulent and the meat is almost falling off the bone.

Pour on enough melted duck fat to cover the duck pieces completely, and then poach them.

After cooking, the duck is left in its own fat and stored in a cool place. It's better to let the meat continue to "cure" for a few weeks or months before re-melting the fat and removing the duck pieces. There's some kind of chemical reaction between the meat, the fat, and the salt that transforms the duck into something more delicious than cooked "fresh" duck could ever be.

Canard confit — slow-cooked duck, ready to be stored for weeks or months in the cellar

A preservation method that was a necessity before the advent of modern freezing and refrigeration technologies continues to be practiced because it produces a luxurious food with an inimitable taste and texture.


  1. While visiting friends in the Dordogne we were served duck confit. It was the most delicious meal I can remember ever having.
    Thank you for posting this most interesting recipe.

  2. For us this is the time to buy the different pieces and freeze them. They are inexpensive noe ( September/October) but the price goes up in December and remains high until l May if you want fresh duck.

  3. Love eating your confit de canard!
    Today I'm trying to make filmjolk that I had in Sweden. It's a light type of yogurt that I had with raspberry jam. I ordered some starter that I put in milk. There is no heating involved just waiting for 12-48 hours for it to thicken. Time will tell if it works.


  4. Very nice directions......The pork barrel was filed like this too, cooked pork laid down in layers of fat in a barrel and kept in the cool cellar. I have found separate parts of duck for reasonable prices in rural southern Maryland but nowhere here in Ohio.

  5. Hi Kristi, the duck legs were 5.50€ per kilogram. That would be about $3.00 a pound American. Not bad. Duck breast filets cost twice as much (but have no bones of course).

    Hi Beaver, I know NY State raises a lot of ducks. Quebec and Ontario too, maybe.

    Gina, I know what you mean about how delicious duck, especially confit, is in the Dordogne and the Lot, in SW France.

    Evelyn, nice to read you again. You were in Kentucky, I gather. That yogurt sounds good.

  6. Ken

    We get ours from Lake Brome in the Eastern township ( you may have driven through it when you went through Vermont 2 yrs ago).
    The whole duck is at $3.50 lb these days


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