In my last blog post, I wrote about my desire to live completely independently, or at least semi-independently, on the food that I can grow in my back yard. Last night, albeit for only one meal, I achieved this!
I love gardeners. Especially vegetable gardeners. You can go up to pretty much any veggie gardener with a glut of produce, offer them something in exchange, and chances are you will be extremely well-received. I have arranged many swaps with my gardening friends in the past – corn for tomatoes, beans for radishes, potatoes for peaches, the list goes on. Last week however, I did a different kind of barter deal.
My friend Veronica from Sleepless Nights has a rather large property in the Southern Midlands of Tasmania, and on it she raises free-range ducks and chickens. A while ago she put the call out on Twitter if anyone was interested in purchasing some free-range, ethically-raised, happy and healthy ducks. There was only one caveat – the ducks had to be taken live!
The duck she reserved for me had several weeks before he was ready, so I had a while to get my head around this duck killing business. I did some research on the net of slicing their throat vs chopping their head off, and they both have their good & bad points but I won’t go into those here. My dad clearly stated he wanted nothing to do with the matter, though he was quite happy to eat my duck once it was cooked.
So, I was on my own.
On Friday (as in, 3 days ago) I drove out to Veronica’s place, my cat cage in the back of the ute, and my barter exchange on the set next to me. (If your wondering, I “bought” my duck with my home-grown potatoes and 4 different flavours of jam that I’d made, from my home-grown fruit or fruit collected from friends). We lured my duck in with some grain, and lots of flapping ensued until we managed to get him into my cage. Phew! Ducks are feisty, unlike chickens who can tolerate being picked up.
I took my duck home and collected my thoughts, changed my clothes and organised myself to do the deed.
Now I’m no softcore, but I admit I was pretty shaky after I killed my duck. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting the nerve flapping that results from severing the spinal cord. The flapping scared the crap outta me actually, and continued for long enough that I actually checked that YES the duck’s head IS completely off, and is in fact a metre or two away from me, so there’s no way this duck can be alive still!! My heart slowed down a bit after the nerve flapping stopped, and I could get on with it.
The plucking took ages, and I did it on the lawn which probably wasn’t the best idea because the feathers won’t come out…. Oh well! By the time I got it plucked it was pretty late so I shoved it into the fridge to worry about on Saturday. I didn’t eat dinner that night.
Saturday afternoon was dedicated to butchering my duck. I’d completely gotten over the shakiness from the day before, and got right down to the business of gutting and deboning my duck. This went relatively smoothly, as my knives are sharp and duck bones are smooth. All in all I got just over a kilo of meat, and 700 grams of bones, excluding the wings which I cut off (because the feathers were too hard to get out). I kept the bones for stock, kept the skin for the fat, and started planning what I wanted to do with the delicious-looking duck meat!!
For those of you who don’t know, duck meat is not white like chicken or turkey meat. It more like a deep purply-red colour, and, oddly, the breast meat is actually darker than the thigh & leg meat. Here’s a photo:
The thigh meat is laid over the breast meat in the photo, you can see the colour difference. The yellow specks are bits of fat; duck fat is deposited as a layer under the skin and this is where duck gets its reputation for being a rich and fatty meat. Prepared correctly however it is very lean, as almost all the fat comes off when you skin it. If cooking your duck with the skin on, prick the skin all over so the fat can escape through the holes; if the duck is being roasted the fat can then drip into the pan below.
So, here’s what I did with my deboned duck!
Here’s what I did: I made a stuffing of brown rice, almond meal, flaked almonds, finely chopped Australian apricots, an egg to bind it all together, and some nutmeg, salt & pepper. I laid the stuffing out on the meat (laid out like in the top photo) and rolled the meat around it. Then I wrapped the whole thing in bacon (YUM), tied it up, & put it into the oven on about 170 degrees Celsius for about…. 90 minutes? I wasn’t really keeping track (just like I wasn’t keeping track when making the stuffing how much of each ingredient I used; just wing it guys!).
In the meanwhile I made some stock from the bones and carcass, to use in something else one day. I used some (with the pan drippings) for a delicious gravy that was delicious. Did I mention it was delicious? It really was delicious!
Along with my roast duck, I roasted some of my home-grown vegetables. Potatoes, Golden Nugget pumpkins, and brown onions, and I also steamed some green beans that I picked up from the Farm Gate Market this past Sunday. Here’s a (crappy iphone) photo of the final meal:
(The onions didn’t actually make it to the dinner table – they cooked much faster than the rest of the food so we had them as starters!)
So there you have it! My duck was extremely delicious and tender, not fatty at all, and now my mind is swimming with other possibilities of what to make with my future ducks (yes, I am considering getting some more from Veronica!). Any recipe suggestions are welcome (especially since I didn’t use a recipe for this dish…) Except for the bacon, and a few ingredients in the stuffing, the entire meal was raised or grown by myself and other Tasmanians, ethically, organically, and sustainably! I hope to have many many more meals like this in the future