We have been eating pork like crazy. So good. Chicken too. We are set to butcher the next set of broilers in a week or so. Soooo, I have been very liberal in our chicken consumption, thinking of the freezer space. I throw a couple of chickens in the clay roaster, and in a couple of hours we have several meals lined up, roast chicken, cold chicken sandwiches and soup.
Raising your own meat is kind of special. It makes you feel a bit smarter, tougher, and oh, so IN, with all this talk of green living, eat local etc. What they don't mention in the magazines is that feeling you get the night before "harvesting day." That feeling of exhaustion, of dread, of "have I forgotten anything and should I go back online to google more harvesting info and tips?" That is exactly how I was feeling last Wednesday night, preparing for the duck harvest.
I truly enjoy eating duck. Pan-seared duck breast, sliced, placed on a bed of salad greens, maybe tossed with some dried cherries, almonds and balsamic vinegar. Roasted and served with sesame orange sauce. Whatever. When I purchased a frozen duck in the grocery store once and looked at the label and wondered about that saline solution and whatever those other weird sounding ingredients were listed on the bag of raw duck, I decided we had to raise our own.
It has been fun raising ducks. They are so cute and fluffy as babies. They are so humorous lining up in the pasture, hunting for bugs and grass. Nevertheless, the processing part is not anything as easy as processing chickens. Ducks were made to be able to swim and stay relatively dry all at the same time. They have lots and lots and lots of feathers. Our feather plucker machine doesn't seem to work on ducks. I read that people use melted wax to peel off the feathers, so online I went to purchase some little beads of wax.
We got up, scrubbed down the concrete area in the barn, set up our counter and sink, started heating up huge pans of water on the propane burners, and proceeded to melt wax.
The children went out to pasture to gather up the ducks we were planning on turning into meat. Philip and Patrick humanely dispatched the fowl. The other kids and Patrick helped pull feathers. We were so excited that maybe the new wax procedure would make processing duck and easy task. We enjoy raising them so much, maybe we would want to produce enough to sell to some of our customers! Maybe duck would be the answer to all our farm financial woes. Maybe, if this stuff worked to defeather those birds as cleanly as they said it would, we would be THE gourmet duck producers in the valley. Oh, the french meals we would make for our friends and family...
I think I understand why I haven't been seeing purveyors of duckling springing forth at every farmer's market. One certainly won't be springing forth from this farm. Death sentences were lifted from 3 or 4 of the ducklings as everyone decided enough is enough. They will lay eggs, and we will enjoy listening to them quack in the field. It won't hurt to have 7 or 8 duck egg layers out there. Everyone loves duck eggs. They make the best cakes! Maybe next spring we will try our hand at processing duck again. Enough to make a few gourmet meals for us and our friends. Not the entire valley. Maybe there will be a YouTube video that shows us all the secrets we have been missing that will speed up the process. Maybe we will refine our technique.
After we finished the task and I got the barn scrubbed down again, and equipment was put up, I thought I would skip cooking supper. Too tired. Let the kids eat bread. Then I got hungry. All that duck. Can cooking be a compulsion? How could I let that duck sit in the basement fridge and not eat at least a little.
So I pulled out the duck, pan-seared it, threw in some garlic and sea salt, and put it in a hot oven. Dug out some baby turnips from the bottom of the fridge where they had been waiting for such a moment as this. Scrubbed some new potatoes and put those turnips and potatoes in the pan with the ducky. Sauteed some soleil filet green beans( a very very thin, small french variety of bean), and had a feast, sitting with Maggie out on the deck with the mosquitoes, because noone else really wanted to eat turnips and Philip and Thomas were still out fixing fence. Delicious. Fantastic. I felt so smart, so tough, so IN, so green. So tired. So happy we don't have to process meat every week. So glad for a nice comfy bed to drop into with my satisfied stomach. So relieved that when it is time to harvest beef, we will be paying someone else to do it!