Dead Duck Follow-up

In this sequel to the last post, I retrieved the fox(?)-killed duck from the fridge to scald and pluck it. And dress it.



I’d heated my 30-quart heavy aluminum, professional-grade pot five-sixths or so full of water, to about 160 degrees.

Instructions I’d consulted recommend about 148 degrees, but with the duck chilled, I overshot the temp (like one set of instructions recommended) so it would stay at an effectively hot level during the several minutes of scalding needed to loosen the feathers.

I also had more confidence than when I’d processed some muscovys a few years ago, about leaving (agitating) the feathered carcass in the hot water long enough to be effective, but shy of cooking the skin (which makes it prone to tearing while plucking).

I also didn’t melt paraffin in the water to aid in the feathers helpfully clumping in the solidifying wax, as that adds more mess than it’s worth, in my book.

Also, I didn’t try to scald the duck in the pot on the stove, but hauled the pot out to the front deck onto a table prepared with cushioning and absorbing towels and a big cutting board. So, as I agitated the duck in the pot to allow the hot water to penetrate to the skin all over, it didn’t matter that it splashed and overflowed–as long as I didn’t scald myself.

The initial scald loosened a lot of small feathers and down on the lower back, but I had to dip and shake the bird once more–head, wings and upper body–to get all feathers reasonably loosened.

Despite my ordeal back in the day and griping about the task even on the websites offering guidance, the plucking went pretty well. I’ve always said it’s my most hated homesteader animal-processing task, but it wasn’t that bad this time.



Of course, all the plucked down blowing around, still adhering to the sticky carcass and to the hands, is a big mess–but if you do this right as I did today, you can see enough progress quickly enough so that you remain motivated with visions of roast duckling. (At about six or seven months, I don’t know if it’s still a duckling, but close enough. Pretty sure I know how to properly roast it for a crisp, succulent skin and rich and tender meat. I’ll report back …)

I knew this was the laying female of the pair I was given in June, but I still wasn’t prepared for all the eggs (mainly yolks, like a string of ass beads in their sequential size) that came out with the viscera–including a cluster of pea-sized ones and smaller associated, I assume, with the ovaries and uterus.

It had a nice, large pinkish tan liver and bloody lungs that had to be scraped with the fingers from the inside of the rib cage, and of course, the heart, which Hellboy will get if he wants it.

The rest of the smelly viscera and nutritious eggs will go on the compost where the chickens will enjoy them.

I scooped most of the down and some feathers into a pillowcase to see if they can be readily cleaned for usability.

The dressed carcass, sans feet and head, came to 3-1/4 pounds, a little over half the original 6-1/4 pounds whole. The lovely liver is a whopping quarter pound on its own.

The crop and gizzard weighed about 3-1/4 ounces, after an ounce of gravel was rinsed out of it–the “teeth” that poultry use to internally grind and “chew” up grains and other tough foods they eat.For the stock pot, along with the feet, neck, maybe the head–and certainly the carcass left over after roasting and eating.

Perhaps because the duck hadn’t lived through a winter, and/or because it didn’t lead a pampered, confined life, putting on excess weight, but instead was a pastured and thus exercised animal, it clearly doesn’t have a lot of the “typical” subcutaneous fat that at least commercial meat ducklings are known for.

So, I don’t see need for much if any slitting of the skin to allow such (absent) excess fat to render out–in fact, I may slice some slab pork fat I have to auto baste the bird during roasting, sitting loosely on top of it.

Beyond that, I will season the cavity well, perhaps stuffing it with onions, apples, maybe some prunes or raisins as well. Splash a little brandy in there too.

Given the duck’s less than “festive” size, I won’t wait to roast and serve it for Thanksgiving, but just eat it soon, perhaps this weekend after a little more fridge ageing. As I said, I’ll report back–stay tuned!

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