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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A tale of three game birds

Tim has just got back from a game bird butchery event that Robert and Paul at the Wild Meat Company in Blaxhall have hosted as part of the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival. Apart from the splendid looking boned, prepared Mallard duck he's just put in the fridge which 'had feathers on it at 5'o clock' he's also brimming with enthusiasm for the evening:

"Having never tackled a game bird in my life I was slightly daunted by the idea of preparing one from scratch but under Paul's expert tuition the group quickly got stuck in. The process of preparing a wood pigeon, partridge or mallard duck (yes, we tackled all three) is pretty labour intensive compared with say a farmed chicken. I can understand now why prepared, butchered game isn't particularly cheap to buy although shot game is often a bargain.

The first stage was to remove the feathers from the birds, all of which had been shot locally. Unlike the straightforward plucking routine home cooks might be famiilar with, a professional operation like the Wild Meat Company needs to speed up the process as much as possible without compromising on quality.

First we removed most of the feathers with the help of a machine that gently pulls them away from the bird. Then after a dip in a bath of hot wax and a short cooling period we removed the rest of the feathers and fluff as easily as removing the shell from a hard-boiled egg - a strangely satisfying experience. The next stage was supposedly the gory bit - eviscerating the birds - but in practice with wild animals that have recently freshly killed there's nothing nasty - I found the experience perfectly pleasant. Paul demonstrated classic butchery techniques to remove the insides with the minimum fuss- slightly different for each type of game bird. The real insight for me was realising that the different birds have very different bone structures and anatomies which affects the way you approach them as a butcher.

Although none of us struggled with any aspect of the course, the trickiest part of the evening was definitely boning the birds, especially the duck which was slightly fiddly. However, it's essentially about confidence once you've been shown the ropes by an expert. Less than two hours from starting the course we were all able to stuff a boned duck (with some pretty sensational orange, thyme and sausage-meat stuffing) that wouldn't disgrace even the swankiest table.

And here's the proof. Not bad huh?"

1 comment:

Antony said...

I ate the duck. It was well worth it.