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While I'm a frequent participant in the Cocktail forum here, I would normally describe my participation in the rest of eGullet as "dedicated lurking". The issue at hand, however, is of such import that I figured it would be best to ask a direct question rather than rely on the indirect information on the subject I have uncovered.

Recently I became slightly obsessed with making confit. Duck legs and lamb shanks are both in the queue, but I have already completed projects with chicken legs (in a mix of shmalz and home-rendered lard) as a way to explore the concept on a budget, and pork shoulder in lard as another cheap way to experiment and broaden my horizons with the technique. I also began getting into sausage making around the same time and have since read much about canning and so as you might expect I've had a lot of recent exposure to information and warnings about botulism. The warnings on things like confit have been relatively oblique, however. My fiancee and I are planning to make gift baskets for friends and family containing a variety of homemade food items and pork confit was to be part of this ensemble due to its low cost of production and high level of deliciousness. But while I'm cavalier about health risks to myself at times the last thing I want to do is give my friends and family botulism.

The fabulous duck confit thread gives cursory info on canning of confit, implying that it can then be stored at room temperature. As I have read that pressure canning has an adverse effect on confitted meat, I assume that a stronger (ie saltier) cure is in order if one plans to do something like this. My plan is merely to allow the meat to be stored in the long term at refrigerator temperatures, but this seems like it would be an ideal environment for botulism development, particularly in recipes with garlic and/or onions.

I admit that Ms. Wolfert's recommendation of 22 g of salt/lb of (bone-in?) meat is far more than I have used in either of my initial attempts (ok, I didn't measure with any sort if precision on the first go 'round). Is this the safe amount of salt to use in the cure to prevent the growth of botulism? Does a longer cure time help? Am I obsessing over nothing? There don't really seem to be any reports of people getting sick from confit, but it is hardly a kitchen staple in the English-speaking world so that doesn't rule anything out.

Anyone have any good information about this?

-Andy

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I've been making confit for many years and so far no problems. To be safe I recommend the following steps:

1) Make sure your jars are very well sterilized.

2) Make sure that the duck fat fully covers all of the meat.

3) Check that the jars are well sealed.

4) Store at 'cellar' temperature. To me this means something less than 50 degrees F.

If you have a spare fridge with room storing your confit there can't hurt. It will age a bit more slowly, but last a bit longer.

Another tip; if you don't use all of a jar at one time make sure that the remaining confit in the jar is fully covered by fat.

Simple, motherhood & apply pie advice, but following these precautions has served me well for many years.

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Andy- I agree with Dave's point above. Although to me there is no need to store at cellar temperature after all France gets pretty hot in the summer and if it is cured sufficiently it's cured suffficiently.

In general I'd stick to the accepted salting levels - the people who do it have been doing it for generations and pretty much know what they're doing. Sufficient salt equals less bacterial growth and that's what you want.

I think it's easy to get paranoid about some of these preservation methods but after reading 50 pages on how to safely preserve vegetables and meat, and then watching some 90 year old family members do it with happy abandon and no scales or special equipment it helps one get it into perspective.

I like to say that I know plenty of people who've died of stress related illness but none that have died from botulism. So follow the rules but don't stress about it...

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I like to say that I know plenty of people who've died of stress related illness but none that have died from botulism. So follow the rules but don't stress about it...

Haha point well taken, I need to hear that kind of thing more often. I just remembered that I actually have a minifridge sitting unused in the garage...this could become my 'confit cellar' I suppose, and any I give away I will caution to keep refrigerated. Thanks for the advice folks...pork shoulder is 67 cents/lb down the street right now so I think it's time to get a little crazy.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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