Traditionally, confit is a method of preserving food, whether it be meat, vegetables or fruit. But unlike more common preservation methods such as smoking, drying or slow cooking, the food is cooked and stored in a liquid that protects the food from bacteria. To confit fruits, this liquid is concentrated corn syrup. For veggies and meat, it's the food's own pure fat.
The word "confit" (pronounced "kon-fee") comes from the French word confire, meaning "to preserve," and the method originates from the country and is now a staple of fine dining.
The process is similar to deep frying, but done at a much cooler temperature. For example, if you're making a duck confit, the meat is slowly roasted in fat at a temperature around 200 degrees (deep frying is typically done anywhere between 325 and 400 degrees). The process takes a lot longer than regular deep frying and can last for days.
After it's done soaking in fat or corn syrup, the food is stored in a container and completely submerged with the liquid it was cooked in. This acts as a protective barrier around the food to prevent bacteria from reaching it. Confit meat properly stored in a cool room or refrigerator can last many months without going bad. Confit fruit can last years. Although the food can be preserved long-term, you certainly don't have to wait that long. You can enjoy your dish after it rests in the fat for a few hours.
One of the most traditional confit recipes is duck. The dish can take a couple of days to prepare, but the result is a delicious, tender meal. You can confit any meat you want, but duck, goose and rabbit are the most common.
For a fruit confit, you can use anything from pears and apples to bananas and raisins. Beets, carrots, tomatoes and squash are popular choices for vegetable confit.
Many people choose the confit method because of what it does to enhance the food's flavor. Over the cooking and storage of confit meat, the muscles and connective tissues slowly break down. When you finally eat the meat, it will be falling away from the bone and have an incredibly tender melt-in-your-mouth texture. The meat's moisture is also contained and never at risk of drying out as it's cooked -- in fact, the end result is more juicy and moist than it was originally without turning greasy. Fruit and vegetables have a similar result -- they are turned extra tender and moist, with a more concentrated flavor.