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Jewish Ham

June 09, 2021
Jewish Ham

Searching for a new twist on the traditional Thanksgiving buffet? Look no further than the Spanish Inquisition.

A new online publication, The Converso Cookbook, offers unique dishes based on the recipes of 14th- and 15th-century Jews who were persecuted by Spanish authorities. One of these recipes, Jewish Ham—or cecina de ansarón or ansarón cecinado—is a perfect Thanksgiving alternative. The “ham” is actually salt-cured duck or goose; when sliced, the final product looks rather similar to salted pork.

Featured in: Try Some Jewish Ham This Thanksgiving

Ingredients

  • 2duck or goose breast halves (If you can’t find fresh duck or goose or don’t want to debone a bird yourself, you can easily find frozen duck breasts in many supermarkets.)
  • 1pound kosher salt
  • black pepper (optional)
  • bay leaves (optional)
  • thyme (optional)
  • juniper berries (optional)

Preparation

  • Step 1

    The simplest way to prepare duck or goose ham is to just bury the breasts in kosher salt. It is common to pat cracked pepper on the breasts before tying them together with the fat side out, but you can skip this step. If you have a smoker, you can smoke the meat after it has dried or, for a more traditional effect, you can hang it by your chimney the next time you light a fire!

  • Step 2

    If you are using salt that has been out of the package for a while or you live in a damp climate, you can dry the salt before use by stirring it in a cast iron pot on a medium-high fire for five to ten minutes or until it looks dry. Be careful when handling it after you have removed it from the heat because it will be scorching hot.

  • Step 3

    After the salt has cooled down to room temperature, lay a bed of it in a glass bowl. Lay the meat on the salt and cover it with another layer.

  • Step 4

    If your bowl is not large enough to hold both breast halves in one layer, you can place one breast half on top of the other, first making sure that you have spread a thick layer of salt between them.

  • Step 5

    It is important that the meat be covered with salt on all sides and that the layers are thick, as the meat will be releasing its juices as it becomes cured.

  • Step 6

    Place the bowl with the duck or goose meat in the salt in the refrigerator for a week.

    To consume, slice thinly and serve as an appetizer or put a piece in your adafina!

  • Step 7

    Once you become comfortable with this recipe, you can try adding some garlic and dry spices like black pepper, bay leaf, thyme, and juniper berries alongside the salt.

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