Just a word of warning, this post may be too graphic for some – if you’re squeamish about dead things or are anti-hunting, anti-meat or anything along those lines: move along to another blog post.
If you’re in, here’s what happened. Last weekend was the end of the duck season in Texas, and my friend’s husband, nicknamed “Mr. F-ing Crafty”, went shooting. He had great success, and I was given two of the ducks – whole. While I may be adept at roasting a chicken from the grocery store and picking its carcass clean, or even brining and roasting a turkey – I’ve never been this close to where my meat comes from. After reading Girl Hunter I mentioned in a previous post that I’m really curious about this kind of endeavor – I want to hunt and butcher my own meat, purely out of respect for animals and to really understand where my food originates.
So here I am with two dead ducks, and just the simplest idea of what to do with them. Mr. Crafty had given me a few pointers, but the sun was going down and I needed to get these things cleaned and processed with the light I had left outside. I started by plucking them. The feathers were incredibly soft, and I had some crazy idea that I’d save them for some project, but as the pile of feathers mounted I realized that I had no idea how to keep them or use them. Then I got to the down. Zillions of tiny feathery-hairy down feathers. I realized later that I should have had a pot of water ready to scald the birds to remove these little downy feathers. Instead, I opted to remove the skin.
I won’t go through all of my mistakes, and I’ll try not to make this too gory, but here’s the right way to do it if you’re butchering at home:
- Bleed the bird. Scald the carcass by dunking it into water that’s heated to over 155 degrees F.
- Pluck the feathers.
- Remove the head and neck, then the feet.
- Gut the carcass, retaining the heart and gizzard if you choose to use them.
I didn’t do a very good job, sadly, but I’m studying up so I’ll do a better job next time. I’ll be using the breasts in a recipe, and I’m using the carcasses, giblets and heart for broth, along with the drake bones I have left from a previous recipe. It’s my goal to find a way to maximize use of the bird so that I can feel good about what I’m eating.