As the name suggests, confits is basically a technique in preservation. Preserving meats has been nesseccary in the past due to the lack of refrigeration. Sealed and stored in a cool place, confits can last for several months.
The word comes from the French verb confire (to preserve), which in turn comes from the Latin word conficere, (to do, to produce, to make, or to prepare).
It is a famous food in France, known traditionally to be a speciality of southwestern France.
Having lived in the Dordogne for the past few years, I can vouch for it's popularity in this region.
Although confits are now considered luxurious, if you were to go into any traditional home from Pèrigord to the Pyrenees you would most probably find confits of all natures living on shelves in storerooms next to the wines and the jams.
Traditional meats for confit include goose, duck, and pork. Duck gizzards are also commonly cooked in the confit method.
The French refer to ‘true’ confits as “duck confit” (confit de canard) or “goose confit” (confit de oie); other meats poached in duck or goose fats are considered “en confit.” For example, chicken cooked in goose fat is called 'poulet en confit. Some locals don't even rate a cassoulat unless it has a piece of confit in it. Oh and don't forget 'rillettes' which is potted duck, goose or pork, a wonderful starter made by shredding the meat and preserving in the same way as confit.
The technique is really quite basic, very slow but totally worth it!!
* The first thing to do is to decide on your piece of meat
* trim the meat and reserve the pieces of fat to one side
* cut the meat into confit pieces
* weight the pieces and use 2 teaspoons of salt for every pound if you want to be eating your confit within a week, double if your prepared to wait up to 1-2 months or increase salt for longer ripening times. Remember the longer you can wait the better it will taste.
* putting the salt in a large bowl along with some shallots, parsley, black peppercorns, bayleaf, garlic and maybe some thyme
* add meat and mix together, cover, then refrigerate for a day or two
* meanwhile, taking the reserved pieces of fat and skin, melt down the fat, by placing in a heavy bottomed pan with a few tablespoons of water, simmer uncovered on a very low heat until the fat turns clear then leave to cool
* take the marinated meat out of the fridge and rinse under running water then dry of a little
* now, taking your largest and heaviest crockpot, truly important for slow even cooking!!!
* using all the reserved fat and other similar fats or lard, melt enough to cover the pieces of meat
* as soon as the fat is melted, add the pieces of meat, the fat needs to completely cover the meat. Work in batches if you're doing a lot
* bring the fat to 190degF get it there as slowly as you can, for better results
* hold the temperature, until the meat is cooked, should look pale and can be easily skewered 1-2 hours
* using slotted spoon remove the meat and cover with foil to prevent from drying out
* continue to heat the oil, just before boiling you can skim off the foam that will rise to the surface.
DO NOT LET THE FAT BURN OR SMOKE OR IT WILL BE RUINED
* prepare containers to preserve your confit in. If just for a week anything will do, place the meat in and pour on the warm oil through a fine wire sieve. Cover completely
* If you want to store your meat for longer, use taller jars as you won't need as much fat to cover the pieces
* sterilise the jars with boiling water and dry thoroughly, then put in half a teaspoon of salt to stop the meat juices from turning sour
* pour in the warm fat to half way, again through the sieve
* put in the meat and top up with fat. Leave an inch gap to the top
* leave to cool uncovered, then cover and refrigerate overnight
* the next day, cover with an inch layer of lard, cover with parchment and secure with a rubber band
* they will keep in the fridge for up to 4 months.
If you simply don't have the time or the inclination you can buy tins of confit already prepared. The quickest and tastiest main meal you will ever make.
To cook confit take a look at these recipes:-