Sunday, November 26, 2006

The day I plucked a duck and then ate it

I certainly recommend that any omnivore within our society should have a more hands on approach with the animals' lives that they consume. I don't wish to make this a full political post about animal rights or anything but just wanted to express my concern about people that are so far removed from the source of their meat that they cannot stomach the sight of offal or uncooked meat. Both Dan and I have made a pact to only eat ethically reared meat from within the UK. This ensures that our food miles are down and that we don't eat meat too often. That's alright though, because we always have an abundance of vegetables.

Today I became a little more acquainted with dinner. Dan's brother, Leon, is a keen hunter, who, in the season, takes his lovely Labrador, Fern and goes to the local hunting ground to collect his dinner. Today he brought us ours.

He brought us two ducks and four pheasant (3 females and 3 males) from a hunting ground that specifically rears birds to be shot and consumed by us.

Be careful if you're a bit squeamish. If you click through, there are some pretty graphic photos.

The first stage of the plucking. Here I am removing the breast feathers of the female duck which are so soft. My mother, who used to tell me stories of plucking turkeys at the farm in Idaho, would be proud.

Here's Dan doing the second stage. Thankfully, Leon was patient enough to give us full tutelage so we know enough to do the other four birds on our own. After the main plucking, the wings, and feet are removed, the bird is plucked some more and finally the bird is gutted and beheaded. It didn't smell near as bad as I expected. We also chopped its tale off, which would've been odd if we had left it on.

Before they reach this clean stage, the downy feathers are burnt off with a lighter, or even better, a blow torch. The bird is then fully rinsed. Here you can see the male duck (on the left) which had a much simpler ending than the female duck on the right, which had about 6 shot holes throughout and was pulled from the water by Fern which broke its wing on the way out. At least I know what this bird went through for me to get a meal.

We ate the male duck tonight with some roast vegetable. Dan filleted the female duck and made a stock with the skeletons. I used a touch of the stock to make a brillant rich gravy. The duck was superb. Better than I've ever eaten before.

Here are the four pheasants hanging up in our shed. We'll leave them until next Sunday when they'll be just about ripe for the eating. We're going to slow cook them for a game pie. One bird per person is generally a good rule. How pretty are the feathers?


Jeanne said...

Well done you - you're a stronger person than me for doing this.

miss cupcake said...

Well done and well said!! I see so many people these days refusing fresh whole fish, simply grilled or steamed, because it is not in the shape of a fillet or dipped in batter. Same goes for meat that is not cut, trimmed and off the supermarket shelves. Sometimes, I wonder what has happened to us?

Nerida said...

wow bonnie! you're a champ, that must have taken hours. it is good to get back in touch with's been a while since i saw meat that wasn't already sliced diced and ready to cook!

duck pate with the guttiwutts?

Bonnie said...

Jeanne - I bet if it came to it, you would do it too! It's not so bad after all!

Miss C - Indeed, what has the world come to? We need to lead to forefront of being closer to our meat preparation!

Nerils - Guttiwutts? I'll make sure you know when we get some more in so you can come and help out! ;)

Nerissa said...

My dear Frog is of this frame of mind and I can understand the point. We make big deals of showing kids farms and where vegetables are grown or petting the pretty baa-lambs but you don't see a school trip to see baa-lambs slaughtered now do you? I know LOTS of people who don't WANT to know where their meat comes from because they claim they'd be vegetarian if they did see it. I don't know if I'd be brave enough myself to kill an animal I was going to eat but i'm not going to go all squeamish because it's killed in front of me.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog and it is really enjoyable to read.
I was led here by your zuccini recipe. Im blogging with my young son - as we try and turn him from a veg-hater to a veg-eater. So we are working through the A to Z of vegetables. I will list your site as one of my favourites - would you do the same for mine IF you like it?

Simonetta taccuso said...

Bonnie, that is a lovely post and I totally agree with what you say. I buy whole fish that I clean myself, and whole chicken/rabbit that cut myself. I want my daughter to know about food and where it comes from, and I buy from sustainable sources and possibly UK meat for the same reasons you mention. Well done for the duck, it does sound you had a delicious (even if labourious) meal!

Ros said...

Fantastic post! I'm so pleased you weren't scared of posting the pictures and everything.

You're so right that people are becoming way too detatched from where their food comes from. I can't count the number of times I've been preparing liver or kidneys- or sometimes even just plain old muscle from something 'cute' like a rabbit -and some flatmate has thrown a hissy fit while retrieving their processed breadcrumbed chicken breast from the freezer.

Good for you for making an effort to pluck your own birds. Hopefully when I live somewhere more appropriate I'll do the same.

Nice to find another good British food blog too! I'm going to link to you right away.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Grand daughter,
I see you are a chip off the old block. Your great grandfather always cooked a chicken dinner every Sunday when I was in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades. We'd take the dog out to the chicken yard and show him which chicken we wanted. He'd either catch it or run it to us to catch. One day, we "did up" about a dozen to put in the freezer. I got the job of plucking and cleaning them. I still can't eat chicken on the same day I clean it, as the kitchen always smells of dead, wet chicken.
I hope I can post this comment. I tried when you first put up the blog re the duck, but didn't do any good.
Email me! Got a couple of good, "Grandma's own" recipes for you.
Big HUG!

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