Posted By whatsitworth on August 2, 2012
I bought this press about thirty years ago as a decorative conversation piece. At the time I was told it was a fig press. It stands about 22 inches to the arched top and weighs about thirty pounds. When the crank on the side is turned a screw action pushes a metal plate into the cylinder. The front reads “Enterprise Mfg. Phila.”
I love figs but I’d never think to press them to extract juice. I’d be more inclined to stew them in red wine, honey and butter for a nice pie filling…but this is not a cooking column.
The Enterprise Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia produced cast iron kitchen and pantry product beginning in 1882. They were especially well known for their mechanical products including coffee mills, meat grinders, cider presses and sausage stuffers. You have none of these. What you have is a duck press, used to prepare the iconic – and to some gruesome – French delicacy canard au sang.
To make pressed duck in blood sauce you’ll need to strangle a duck so that the carcass to retains blood. Then roast the duck, remove the heart and liver and grind them up; remove the legs and breasts and keep them warm. The next steps are typically preformed tableside by your waiter.
The duck carcass is placed in the basket of the press. When the handle is turned the heavy plate will not only extract juice and blood, it will crush small bones to extract the flavorful marrow. This liquid drips out of the spout at the front of the press. The liquid is then combined in a chafing dish with the ground organs, burgundy and a good chunk of butter and then served over slices of the breast. It is a high calorie, high fat, high cholesterol dish not for the squeamish.
However, one must understand that cooks in past years relied on the meat of wild fowl which were much leaner than today’s commercially raised birds. The extraction of juice and marrow from a carcass was not a gourmand’s whimsy but a necessary and frugal use of resources used to stretch the flavor and nourishment value of the food.
Duck presses are still sold in high end retail shops like Sur la Table. They are generally made of showy metals like brass and sell for more than $2000. Fancy antique silverplate presses bring about $1600 at auction; a nice, utilitarian cast iron press like yours would have an auction estimate of $400-600.
If you cannot vision yourself crushing a duck carcass your press can be repurposed as a cider press. The Enterprise Manufacturing Company is still in business in Philadelphia under the name Chop Rite Two. They continue to produce cast iron meat grinders, juice extractors, sausage stuffers and cherry pitters.