Victorian farmers team up with local butcher to create ham products from duck meat

As Christmas approaches, ham is on the shopping list of many families. But pork isn’t the only smoked meat available for your fork.

Duck farmers Greg and Jodi Clarke have decided to try creating a new delicacy, duck ham, during Victoria’s COVID lockdowns.

“It looks like ham, the texture is similar to ham, but you can also taste duck,” Mr. Clarke said.

The Clarke family manages a 16 hectare property in Port Campbell, southwest Victoria.

“For us it’s always about trying to do something different, to go to the other side of the herd, we’re always looking for something new,” he said.

“And then someone told us about a big butcher in Mortlake and we thought we would give it a try.

The Clarkes began making duck ham to diversify their product line.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)

Mortlake’s butcher Brendan Bouchier said he had never created ham from a duck before, but was “happy to try.”

“We put it in the ham and brine mixture and left it there for about 48 hours,” Mr. Bouchier said.

“Then we smoked it with German beech wood and the result is absolutely beautiful.

Mr Bouchier said the main difference between making ham from duck and pork is the difference in the size of the cuts.

A man with a ham
Mr. Bouchier says that duck ham cooks in four hours, compared to a pork leg which can take up to 16 hours.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)

“With a pork being a bigger product, you actually have to inject the ingredients into the meat, whereas with the duck ham I just leave it in the brine to marinate in the meat.

“The cooking process is exactly the same, except that the duck doesn’t take as long to cook as the ham, which takes 16 hours.

“Ducks only take three or four hours at low heat, so it doesn’t dry out.”

Enhance the flavor

To enhance the flavor of the duck meat, Clarke ducks are raised free-range and spoiled with a fruit-soaked grain that birds love.

“Ducks love [their feed], and that’s another point of difference for our business, ”Mr. Clarke said.

White ducks in a field
Mr. Clarke says having happy ducks leads to a better meat product.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)

“They’re ultimately food, but while they waddle, it’s about making them happy.”

But Mr Clarke said simple foods like good quality weed were also important.

“We had a French chef here a few years ago who said the weed was a really essential part of the flavor,” he said.

“Kind of like having grass-fed beef, versus grain-fed beef.”

Necessity, mother of invention

Clarkes’ business depended on Melbourne’s upscale restaurants for more than 10 years before the pandemic, and when health ordinances shut down hotel businesses in Victoria, Mr Clarke said the effects were shocking.

“It became a matter of survival, 24 hours after the first lockdown we had no orders,” Mr. Clarke said.

“In the first case, it involved processing a lot of birds, then freezing them, then finding creative ways to move them.”

A man holding a white duck
Greg and Jodi Clarke have been raising ducks for over 15 years.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)

Mr Clarke said the support of local chefs and butchers enabled them to overcome COVID restrictions.

“The chefs were preparing food for home deliveries and with the help of the butchers we managed to survive,” he said.

“Now we’re trying to position ourselves to come out of there and be OK.

“We love it, and we’re really excited that all of the testing and experimentation the company has done to survive COVID, we may have found something that will be a long-term option,” Mr. Clarke said. .

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