Ducks. Now there's something we'll do again. They entertained as they grew, making us laugh as they swam in their little pool or walked around shaking their tails. It's some sort of reflex thing they seem to do, and made me smile every time. They like to hang around in groups and even when they did get out of their pen (as when they realized that they could fly), they just sort of wandered around until we opened the door to let them back in. Two got much larger so we figured they were the drakes. I learned after ordering them, though, that the slaughterhouse we take the chickens to doesn't process ducks.
"Oh? Why not?" I asked. "Well," the lady there informed me, "water birds have different feathers. They have an under layer that our plucking machines won't remove. The places that process them wax them."
Of course the thing that immediately sprung to mind was ducks sitting at a spa, having their legs waxed. But as I read up on it, they literally dip the carcass in paraffin wax, let it harden, and off come the feathers. Oh, the things I learn.
No worries, I thought. We'll find a place that does them. The one I did find, however, was an hour's drive away. Two hours in the truck for five ducks didn't seem like good economics. And so, we decided (or maybe just I did? I can't recall. Maybe D just nodded at my latest silly idea) that we would do it ourselves.
I won't give details, as this is not in any way a how-to blog, except to say that their end was quick and humane (though the twitching is unpleasant), plucking is a terribly tedious business, and maybe waxing would have been a good idea after all. D, with his experience of field dressing after hunting, did the removal of the insides, and we quickly chilled the birds. The two large ones were 7 and 8 pounds finished, too big for the freezer bags - so I quartered them and made stock from them, while the other three went in the freezer whole at about 5 pounds each.
The next day we had one of the breast halves, cooked to sear the outside, rare on the inside, and with a glaze of pan juices, white wine, balsamic vinegar, and honey. And - oh. my. Amazing.
I also realized, as we ate it, that I had a different appreciation for what I was eating. We had raised, killed, processed, and cooked this meat. I didn't order it at a restaurant, didn't pick it up off the shelf. I don't say it in a holier-than-thou way, I just realized that having been involved in every step of the process, I felt different about the food I was enjoying. Sentimental? Maybe. But it's how I felt. I think I appreciated it more than I had before.