Clean the duck breasts and pine needles and place in a deep tray. Put the salt, sugar, star anise, black pepper and thyme sprigs in a food processor and blend until aromatic and fine. Rub this salt cure into the duck breasts and place any excess cure on top. Cover and leave in the fridge for 9 days.
Wipe the cure off the duck breasts with a damp cloth. Pat dry with a dry cloth and place on a flat metal tray. Take a blowtorch and scald the duck skin until it is black. Allow to cool, then wrap each breast twice in muslin (cheesecloth). Tie with butcher’s twine and hang in a cool place at around 6–10°C (43–50°F) for 2 weeks. Slice paper thin when you’re ready to eat.
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