Just to warn you, some of these pictures will be bloody. . .
This time of year the deer has been harvested, processed and in the freezer. A significant portion has already been eaten and the freezer is getting low. My dude got his turkey just in time for Christmas dinner and since the limit is one on fall turkey’s, all that’s left are ducks. Geese, too, but where we are at, they are more difficult to get. They are there, but they are high fliers and hard to find on the ground or water.
Neither one of us have had wild duck prior to this winter (though I do just barely remember when I was really young we had some ducks), yet, they are plentiful and they have a daily bag limit of 6 per day. (It’s a little more complicated than that such as what species, how many can be hens, and your over-all possession.) So, we figured, it gives my dude a lot of enjoyment and if they are even somewhat tasty and easy to clean, it would be more than worth it to harvest ducks for the next couple of weeks (until the season ends).
Well. They are tasty little buggars. Favor of duck meat is well, and odd duck. “Duck is greasy.” “Duck tastes fishy.” “You can’t take a bit of duck meat without biting into bird shot.” WHAT? Okay, I’m not here to tell anyone what they should have an affinity for, but the last one? What are you doing? I’ll tell you – you’re killing them wrong for one, and b.) you’re not cleaning your meat!
Thank goodness you have me. I’m here to tell you just what to do.
Step 1: Have your dude go out and get you some ducks, because it’s better to let him handle the neck wringing. That part is too sad for me.
Step 2: Once you have your duck-load of water fowl, you need to pluck the feathers away from their breast. (We are going to focus on harvesting the breast meat only, because there isn’t much more to a wild duck that is worth going after, however someday I’d like to clean a duck and leave it whole to put in the smoker and see what that does for me. Also, next year I’m thinking I will save the down.) Anyway, you want to hold the duck on it’s back with it’s head away from you and pull the feathers towards the head. This is extremely easy as they come off very clean. (I save a few wing feathers from each duck as a little prize because they are beautiful.) The second part of this step is not needed, but at first we would torch the skin to get rid of the pinfeathers, but since it is terribly stinky to do this and also we don’t leave the skin on, we stopped doing this.
Step 3: Lay your freshly plucked duck on the hood of the pick-up. It’s okay, you’re a hunting family. Ah, I jest, kinda. Ideally I would have some sort of processing station, but right now I don’t so we do use the hood of the truck. Grab a pan or tray. Place your finger at the top-most spot of the plucked area in the center and find the breast bone. Pinch this and lift it up and give it a little pierce with your knife. This will separate the skin from the meat. Now hold the skin away from the meat and [CAREFULLY] cut towards the tail, opening the skin only, not the meat. Now you can pull the skin towards each wing and the breast meat is exposed.
Step 4: Find that same spot where you pierced the skin and run your finger along the breast bone. This will be your guide. Run your knife along that same spot taking care to stay as close to the bone as possible. This is easy to do as the meat will come away from the bone with little effort. *Remember that the muscles have their own map.* Once you find the end of that muscle, without lifting your knife, bring the blade around underneath the breast and follow your map along the wing and back up to the spot where you started. The breast meat should come right out. If it doesn’t, you may need to filet against the rib cage a little more. No worries – it takes a little practice to get it down. Put that breast into your pan and repeat on the second side.
Step 5: Come into your kitchen (or somewhere with running water) and turn the tap on high with COLD water. Food safety is very important, especially with poultry. ESPECIALLY with wild game, so please do not use warm water – if there is any contaminant in your meat, the warm water will accelerate the growth, but this whole process from bird to freezer should only take 1hr 20min, so you’re probably okay. But just don’t risk it please. Anyway, run the cold water over the meat while you get down a cutting board and a clean pan. Fill the pan with cold water and about two tablespoons of salt. Set this next to your cutting board. Next, thoroughly rinse the breast meat to be free of any feathers or other debris that may have gotten on it and lay it out on your cutting board. Cut away any blood-shot meat, excess fat, and membrane. Give the meat some good pinches and pokes to see if there are any bird shot pellets in the meat. A good clean shot should not result in bird shot in the breast meat, but it can happen. If you do find a hole where a pellet may have come through, remember that the likelihood is high that the pellet went through at an angle, so try to follow that down to find any potential pellets. Once the breast meat is good and clean, place it into the pan of salt water and let soak for a minimum of one hour.
Step 6: Once that hour has passed, drain the meat and pat dry. Now you are ready to wrap. You want to wrap the meat tightly with plastic wrap, pressing out as much air as possible as you go. Then you repeat that process with freezer paper. I like to make sure I put the date and the amount of breasts in the package, for our ease, but also just in case there would ever be an issue with the game warden.
Now I’m going to tell you how to cook a duck breast that will be better than any steak you’ve ever eaten. The secret here is my new little passion, a cast iron skillet.
You will need:
- 1 Duck Breast (per person you are feeding)
- Bacon Grease (save you bacon grease, really. If you’re not now, you really need to start. You’re welcome)
- Minced Garlic
- Salt and Pepper
- Cast Iron Skillet
Over medium heat, melt the bacon grease in the skillet until it is hot, hot, hot. You want to do this slowly, don’t do this on high heat, it will be a disaster. Rub your duck breast with the garlic, dill, salt and pepper and place into the hot skillet. Don’t mess with it, just let it cook for about 6 minutes, then flip and cook the second side. I have read that the internal temperature should be 170 degrees. The USDA requires a minimum internal temperature of poultry to be 165 degrees immediately upon probing with a thermometer. If you’re there, you’re good. If 165 degrees can’t kill it, it can’t be killed. Remove the duck breast from the skillet and drizzle the pan drippings on top. I promise you, you will be impressed.
I want to leave you with one more recipe.
The other day I was in baking mode for sure and I developed a no-knead molasses wheat skillet bread recipe that is very good. It’s not like my mom’s bread, but it is quite delightful. (I was disappointed with it as first because it didn’t do what I had intended, but I think it’s because I wanted it to be like my mom’s bread. It’s not. It’s more the consistency of an airy focaccia bread. It’s delicious.)
Saho’s Molasses Wheat Skillet Bread:
- 2 c Warm Water
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/3 c Molasses
- 1/2 T salt
- 4 1/3 c Wheat Flour
- Olive Oil
- Dill, Rosemary, Garlic, Minced Onion, or any other herb or spice you’d like to rub the top with. (I used Dill this time. We enjoy Dill.)
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the warm water, yeast, and molasses and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Sift together salt and flour and add to the water mixture 1/2 c to 1 c at a time, fully incorporating before adding more flour each time. Form into a tight ball and place into a cast iron skillet rubbed generously with olive oil. Cover with a damp flour-sack towel and leave in a warm place to raise for 1 hour. Punch dough down into the skillet and cover and allow to raise for an additional 30 minutes. Brush with olive oil and herbs/spices and place in to a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
Hope you liked this post!