Friday, July 11, 2014

A Brief Manual on How to Clean, Pluck, Hang, and Freeze Game, and How to Cook by the lnternal Temperature Method

- by Leigh Perkins

The Art of Cooking Game
Warning: The internal temperatures in this book are based on Meat Thermi-cator readings. Do not expect the same results with ordinary meat thermom-eters. Our tests show that meat thermometers will not work at all on small game and invariably read considerably higher than the accurate Meat Ther-micator on larger birds and roasts.

Despite motion pictures showing the glamorous heroine ordering pheasant under glass, or champagne and quail, there has been a fairly universal mis-conception by hunters' helpmates that wild things are unclean, strong of odour, and generally unpleasant as table fare. Cookbooks have taken this attitude into account and in recipes for wild duck and other game have lavished pages on recipes for game that require hours for preparation. Usually the recipe involves a marinade and an elaborate sauce. This means the hunter's cook must start the day before or at least in the early morning of the day of the game dinner. At best it is an ordeal.

The typical game recipe almost always finishes by saying "roast until tender," and the cook takes this to mean "cook the hell out of it." Whatever she would have done to pot roast, she will do to game. Hers is a reasonable assumption, because after passing the critical internal temperature of between 120° and 150°, all meat gets tougher and tougher until it reaches the totally flavorless stage at 190° when it falls off the bones.

A Brief Game Primer

It is best to hang doves under refrigeration for 4 days in the feathers (hanging ideally means hanging by the neck in a cooler, but they can simply be placed on a refrigerator shelf.) They are almost as good if you want to eat them immediately, but they tend to be a little tougher 12 to 48 hours after killing them. It is not necessary to draw the birds until after hanging and plucking.

Plucking: The dove is very easy to pluck because it has loose feathers and firm skin. They pluck well on a mechanical duck plucker. If you hunt early in the season, the bird may be covered with pin feathers almost impossible to pluck. Don't worry—leave the pin feathers on while cooking and skin the bird before serving. Place the crisp bacon you have basted it with back on top of the bird before arranging on a serving platter.

Freezing: Dove may be frozen in water. Put 6 or 7 in a 1-quart plastic container, fill with water, and freeze. Frozen birds are not as good as fresh-hung and should not be kept more than 5 to 6 months.

Roasting: Roasting time should be 8 to 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be 130° to 150°. At 130° the centre will be deep pink. At 140° (our preference) the centre will be light pink. At 150° the centre will be brown all the way through but still moist and good. Plan 2 doves per serving for small appetites.

The ruffed grouse is considered by us to be the greatest of delicacies. Of all the gallinaceous birds common in the United States, this bird has a far different diet from the others. Its food consists mostly of berries, greens, fruit, and buds. Grouse eat very little grain. This diet produces a flavor all its own.

Grouse should be hung under refrigeration at 40° to 50° for 4 to 6 days. They should be drawn before hanging. Liver and heart are small but excellent sautéed or made into pate and spread on toast under the cooked bird.

Preparing: This is probably the most difficult bird to pluck because the skin is very tender. The only method is to dry-pluck. One must be patient and pluck feathers a few at a time, especially around the breast, or the skin will tear. It is difficult to avoid a few tears and one should not despair if this occurs.

There is little meat on the wings and they should be clipped off at the first joint.

Freezing Grouse: In the past we have frozen grouse, after hanging and pre-paring, in a quart plastic container filled with water. Recently we learned from hunting companion Bill Cheney of freezing in the feathers. We have tested this against freezing in water and find it superior.

The grouse must be drawn and hung 4 to 6 days. Clip the head and neck off and pull tail feathers. Clip legs off at the first joint. Leave wings on, but trim off about 2 inches of primary feathers. Fold wings tight against the body and slip breast into a 1-quart plastic freezer bag {not zip type}. Grouse should fit snugly with just enough room to tie off with a twistie. Press out all air when sealing. Birds will last 6 to 8 months this way with no loss of flavor. When plucking after freezing, let thaw about 1 hour, then pluck. The meat is still frozen but the skin has thawed and plucking is relatively easy.

Roasting: Place birds in an open pan, breast up, with a splash of water. Place 3 half strips of bacon over each breast and put in preheated 350° oven for 35 minutes, approximately. Internal temperature is critical and should be 130° to 150° when done. The breast is the whole show because the legs are quite stringy.

Hang 5 or 6 days under refrigeration. The skin and feathers are similar to a chicken's. The skin is reasonably firm and pheasant can be dry-plucked or dipped in scalding water and wet-plucked. Pheasant does not pluck well on a mechanical duck plucker. Clip off wings at first joint, legs at joint, and neck close to body. Pheasant may be frozen in feathers as described under grouse, only use ½-gallon freezer bags. Liver and heart may be sautéed or used in pate.

Roasting: Place in open pan with splash of water, breast up. Cover breast with 4 full strips of bacon. Place in a preheated 350° oven for 35 to 50 minutes, depending on size. Test with Meat Thermicator. Internal temperature should be 130° to 150° when done. We recommend 140° for best flavor and moistness.

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