Canning Confit de Canard

IMG_8432 Cooking confit de canard is one thing; putting it up in jars to save for later in the year is another. Here are some pictures of the traditional process as practiced in thousands of home kitchens across the France.  Once the confit is cooked to a tender stage–notice the skin and meat have pulled off the leg bone– the pieces of duck meat are placed carefully in clean jars, covered with the cooking fat, and sealed with a new capsule and lid. The jars are placed in a large zinc bouilloire, covered with water and brought to a boil. The jars are boiled for about 2 hours and then let cool in the water. The outer lid is removed (otherwise it will rust to the capsule!-#voiceofexperience) and the jars are wiped dry, fixed with a label and placed in the pantry.  We’ll be eating this confit with frites, served on a big summer salad with peaches or smothered under a layer of mashed potatoes for a ‘Gaveuse Pie’ or Confit Parmentier.  A staple of the Gascon pantry, confit de canard is worth all the work! IMG_8413

So what does one do during the rest of the afternoon while the boiler is burbling and the steam warms the kitchen? A slice of home-cured ham and a glass of rosé shared with friends makes the time pass gently in my new Keeping Kitchen–at Camont.


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How to make Duck Confit: Live from the Keeping Kitchen.

2013-05-04 16.20.33Confit Days are some of my favorites Winter days; pots and kettles, jars and terrines start to align like so many stars in a Winter constellation- the Fat Duck. This weekend is the first weekend in the Keeping Kitchen at Camont in 2015. We’re starting off with the basics: how to buy a duck and how to breakdown and butcher it into perfect confit-sized morsels– all of it!– not just the legs, friends. It’s the most often asked question (next to “how much salt?”)- can you confit more than just the legs? IMG_8190Winter cooking in France is about fattening the larder, pantry or  whatever else you call your stash of gastronomic fast foods. It’s the time to replenish the jars of duck rillettes, pork paté, and confit de canard. There’ll be little jars of gesiers or gizzards for summer salads, hearts stuffed with foie gras for aperitifs, and pots of grattons or duck cracklin’s spiced with my secret Gascon blend!  It’s also the prefect time to salt cure and dry some magrets de canard–those big meaty duck breasts– and hang in my new charcuterie closet under the kitchen stairs. The stone walls, now well insulated, a ventilation hole to the north side of the barn, and a two way fan, I can adjust the natural flow of cold air into the 8 cubic meter space- now holding at 16’C. Last year’s birthday ham has been ripening here and we’ll be tasting it along with some fresh duck products for lunch during the workshop.

IMG_7610If you have an desire to taste the flavor of Gascony and discover the perfume of the Southwest of France, then follow along this weekend as we transform the Gascon staple of the meaty fat duck into a panoply of easily made kitchen charcuterie. I’ll show you  how on Instagram, facebook, and twitter all day Saturday & Sunday. Follow along!


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Pop-Up! The Fat Duck Workshop & Cassoulet Supper at Camont

confit Pop-up



This Weekend!

If you have ever wanted to learn to make confit de canard, rillettes and cassoulet- this is the perfect chance.

A Weekend at Camont. A few Delicious Days. A Cassoulet Supper.

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We’re throwing a party. A confit-making party all weekend long at Camont in the not yet completed new teaching kitchen- The Keeping Kitchen in the restored barn. I couldn’t wait. So join us NEXT WEEKEND for 36 hours of Confit & Cassoulet madness. Only room for 6 more people:

Need more inspiration?

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Preserving + Pantry = Confit de Foie Gras

camont de canard

A tale of many jars begins and ends in a round robin of preserving and Canning-at-Camont.

confit boilers

Last September, we made our first batch of Confit de Canard for the 2012 season.

60 Years ago there was water above the stove. That’s the flood mark on the left.

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When the Confit  de Canard was cooked, processed and labeled, there was enough fat left over for a bonus- Confit de Foie Gras.

confit de foie gras au torchon

The Foie Gras was salted lightly for a couple hours (while the rest of the duck cooked) then wrapped in a net cloth and tied.

confit foie gras in my vintage le creuset

When the fat was just beginning to simmer- 82°C, I lowered the foie gras into my vintage le Creuset pot. I rolled it around for a few minutes then started taking it’s core temperature. Once it reached 65°C (about 30 min) I removed it from the the pot and the cloth, placed it in a terrine, pressed it, and let it sit overnight. Confit de foie gras mi-cuit  ((rosey inside) will taste best when left to rest a few days at refrigerated temperature- 4°C.

confit kingsThis was September’s Charcuterie-at-Camont crew- Felix, Michael and Mick, the Confit Kings of Camont. Interested in learning how to make confit? Come for a special February weekend – Confit 101 or meet me at a French Pig Workshop in April in the U.S..



Thinking about confit de canard. A seasonal affliction.

_MG_8103Winter rolls through Gascony like a fast train: whistling in through December, screeching to a quick stop for January, and then on the rails again by end of February. That’s how I like my winters- short and sweet as a TGV (Train Grande Vitesse).

Winter forces Camont to calm down and take a nap as gardens get raggedy and the chickens get eaten (yes, foxes got them all). All is quiet on the Gascon ranch; the fair weather ‘Franco-Carpetbaggers’ have yet to arrive and even Cinderella, my sister, jumped ship this winter so I could work and write in peace. I am writing, plotting and producing next year on paper, but I am also a master at distracting myself.  As much as I crave a bit of real down time- no schedule, no planning, just everyday what comes next- the Gascon winter clock is ticking and that tic-toc, tic-toc is starting to drive me mad. Soon I will rush to prune the orchard, and plot the potager, and finish the plans for the barn being built as we speak.

But the real ticking time bomb at Camont has feathers. Fall migration has passed. Spring is just down the flyway. I am, of course, thinking about confit de canard. Yes, I know Fall is the traditional preserving time, but we are just going into the post-holiday, serious confit season. The foie gras madness at Christmas and New Years (along with truffle hijacking) is past, prices come down and even a premier grade AAA foie gras entier can be had for a reasonable 26 euros a kilo. I even saw frozen foie gras for the first time in the supermarket today. So this is the season to be thinking about how to put up, preserve and store duck- beak to tail.

Meat is as seasonal as fruit in rural France. Lambs are Spring only- the rest of the year it’s hogget/yearling or mutton. Family farm hogs are slaughtered for charcuterie in the Winter months, like now. Beef and veal even have their own rhythms as we move from daubes and blanquettes to grilling. To each purpose, a season.


I begin to look at my pantry shelves, nicely filled with last summer’s fruits, jeweled jars of confitures and tins of salty Spanish fish. However the poultry section, with the exception of two whole confited mallards in tins that I scored in the Basque country, is dangerously low on duck: confit de canard, pate de foie gras, cou farci, gesiers, etc..  How many jars will I need to get through the year of festive summer nights? Welcomed visitors? And school lunches for my students? I start counting weeks figuring that once a week at least, from May through October, I use confit from my pantry. Confit de canard makes a fast supper of green lentils and crispy duck legs, a mountain of duck fat fried potatoes to accompany a grilled magret, a Salade Gasconne with slices of confit gesiers, stuffed neck sausage, and a few generous slabs of foie gras. There would be no Fall soups like garbure without confit.

Oh, and cassoulet. Don’t forget each Winter there is cassoulet and that’s a great way to use the wings, or bone a couple legs to add to the saucisse de Toulouse. (I have a feeling I’ll be making it a lot of cassoulet this year). When I’ve cooked and eaten enough French food, there are also rice paper wraps and dumplings to make and tamales with prunes… all with duck confit. Shepherd’s pie or tarte de gaveuse is a perfect picnic meat pie. Confit de Canard is that blast of uber-umami flavor, silky satisfying texture and chic convenience food all wrapped into one.

How many jars? How many ducks? Two jars a week, spread over 6 months (25 weeks) = 50 jars put in the pantry. I count on getting 5-6 jars of confit, legs, breasts, wings, gizzards and necks per fat duck. So butchering and making charcuterie with 10 ducks, weighing around 5-7  kilos, means I’ll also have 50+ jars of rillettes, some pate and a few jars of smooth pain d’epice foie flan– last year’s favorite. Over the next two months as charcuterie students come and go, we’ll be making confit and more confit. Each student tackles a fat duck and passes it on to the next group. Now, that’s passing the charcuterie love forward.


You can also confit old hens, roosters and other birds. But it is at this season, when the distance memory of early spring migration thrills the Muscovy and Mulard duck farms of Gascony that I start thinking about wrapping up winter. By next month, I know I’ll have access to the best fat ducks from one of the several local Marche au Gras. As an added feature on our new cassoulet iPad app- (Available soon at an iTunes store near you), I am including an introduction to making confit de canard.  After all, it is the season… and I am thinking about confit de canard.

For more of these beautiful pictures by Tim Clinch check out our new publishing site- 


When is building a fire like cooking a duck?


This winter has been mild thus far. Not even a serious day of frost and I am still kicking off my slippers and refuse to wear socks when I go out.

But the old stones of Camont are cold to the touch and demand a certain amount of heat to make it comfortable enough to sit and write, plot and plan the coming New Year. I am so excited  to say that after all these years that I really now how to build a GREAT fire now.

I’ve been heating and cooking by wood for a long time: a cabin in the woods on Lopez Island in my 20’s, open fires across Africa and a small wood stove for the barge in my 30’s, yet another big cabin in the big woods in California in my 40’s, and of course, this 300 year old stone house in France ever since.

I love bonfires, have a burn pile going all the time and have nursed a two-meter wide fireplace at Camont for many years. I’m a fire sign- Sagittarius- and I know how to build a fire. So why did it take until now, this very mild winter for me to get it?

I slowed down. I became a little quiet even. And I finally took the time to really understand how to build a fire- upside down & with very little wood. And then I took just a little more attention then normal, say ‘a cup of coffee’s worth of time’, to build my fire these last quiet mornings. The tangible reward has been a week’s worth of fabulously warm mornings and all day heat with very little effort. What simple but primordial rewards for a bit more understanding and a little bit of time. I have been fire-proud all week and can’t wait to teach my ‘new’ techniques to a group of wood fire oven students this summer.


When boasting about my new found fire techniques to my buddy Mrs. Wheelbarrow, she gently reminded me that me building a fire is like so many people learning to cook. Really learning to cook, not just making a recipe. Cathy told me she didn’t really understand salting until she came here and saw us using scant amounts for curing, a well-rubbed  in tablespoon instead of burying a duck breast in salt. Isn’t that always the case? A small bit of information can make a huge impact?

So, understanding the nature of food, a duck in this case, and the spices and seasonings, and a method of cooking is truly understanding how to cook. This is not a recipe for a Roasted Duck, rather this is understanding HOW to roast a duck.

#1- What & how: Take a little more time to think it through, then understand your material- the duck, the seasoning, the simple techniques you will use- a covered pot, an oven. I wanted this duck to confit, steam and then roast – all in the same pot. the oven would be slow and steady but with a long cooking time.

#2- and the all important Why: this duck was roasted for an All-Duck Cassoulet for an  up coming iPad App. (eta- end of the month)  I salted the duck overnight, added a cup of duck fat and a cup of water to make a base, several whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, and peppercorns then cooked it in a covered doux-feu (thanks Bill & Taf!) for 3  hours in a slow oven.

#3- Pay Attention: as the fat simmered, I rolled it around a couple times. Otherwise I left the lid on to do it’s work, half roasted & half confited; the duck was falling apart tender and ready to add to the cooked beans to make great no-pork cassoulet.


So when is cooking a duck like building a fire? When you pay attention, go slow and be patient. Learn a few basic techniques, read a few good words and think about what you are doing.  Tell your friends and invite them for dinner, or just to come over for  a warm spot by the stove. Then enjoy the hell out of your results!

These great photographs are by Tim Clinch for the Cassoulet- a French Obsession iPad app. Coming soon!


march au gras…or what to do with a fat duck: Foie Gras Crumble aux Pain d’Épices

Slipping down the icy Gascon roads to Gimont was an exercise in prudence and haste. The long drive to get to the weekly seasonal Marché au Gras this week was all the more exciting after our freak snowfall and subsequent minus freezing temps created ideal snowboarding conditions. My old Van Rouge was up for the parcours so Hilary and I hopped in and drove into a white landscape of rolling hills and farms. Beautiful.

I know it would be a small market, the after season is always small, but coupled with the stay home weather we arrived to find the normally bustling large hall skint- just a dozen fatted ducks total, 3 or 4 geese. But what ducks!

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Duck Confit- how to, 101, and my yearly encouraging words.


This is one of my all time favorite photographs taken over the years in my kitchen at Camont by bon vivant photographe extraordinaire- Tim Clinch.  It a celebration of the marche au gras (the fat markets) in the Southwest of France, an homage to the honest cooking of Gascony, and an encouraging reminder of the season ahead. November is Confit Season.

If you have been following along or creating the wonderful Charcutepalooza challenges posted by Mrs. Wheelbarrow here for the Grand Prix finale, then you know I hold these traditional cooking and preserving methods dear to my heart.  I am listing some of the archives on making duck confit, the traditional Gascon way- here:

So if you need a little more inspiration and a little more hand holding, take a look at the all the posts coming on line today via Charcutepalooza’s October challenge. And get ready to gasp over November’s 11th hour challenge! posting today at 8am EST at Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s home-
Grrlchef Sarah Wong dreaming up a little duck confit at Chez Bernard Daubin. Montreal-du-Gers.











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Hurricane Soup- don’t forget your duck confit!

I was just going to call this Workday Soup- a 20-minute solution to feeding a small crew at Camont. I’ve been working on my homework for SAF  (actually, my homework will be your homework, you lucky Butchery & Charcuterie students who begin next month!). I hate to get interrupted when working on tables and calendars. When the Noon siren blew from the nearby village spire, I just started shouting cooking advice into the kitchen. Cut up some potatoes! Chop up that Ventreche into lardons! Throw it in a pan with the duck fat!

Twenty minutes or so later, the potatoes were creamy and tender, the duck fat broth was golden rich, and a jar containing an solitary confited duck breast was popped in a pan to warm through, crisp up and garnish the steamy thyme and bay infused broth. Eh Voila!

This is the sort of nourishing and soothing meal that might help in a hurricane ravaged moment- grab a sack of potatoes, a jar of duck confit and your sterno stove. To all my dear friends and family in Irene’s path, I dub this soup for you!

ps- don’t have any duck confit in the larder? I still have one place open on the October 3 Confit Course –

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A week of cooking duck in Gascony

From fat markets (no, not us the ducks, silly!) to charcuterie meccas, foie gras to smoked magret to cassoulet, this week has been a celebration of good Southwestern cooking, Camont style. This is what we made in one week of Enjoy this taste of Gascony!

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  • Foie Gras & Lotte cassolettes- oven baked Foie gras & monkfish on a bed of julienned aillets & carrots
  • Foie Gras en Chemise Verte- spinach wrapped poached foie gras
  • Confit de Canard
  • Rillettes de Canard
  • Paté de Foie Gras
  • Terrine de foie gras
  • Confit de Oie- goose
  • Cassoulet Camontw/ saucisse de Toulouse,
  • Grattons or cracklins- Gascon popcorn Piment d’Espelette
  • Magrets seché fumé
  • Magret Chemineé
  • Huitres Roti (for a little duck relief)

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