About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roast Duck Dinner (From Post Office to Plate) - Part 3

The following day brought a fresh perspective, some new ideas and much better weather.
In evaluating the previous day's successes and failures we decided that:
1.  We needed to scald for longer than we thought and at a much higher temperature than is generally recommended. We think this is because our ducks are older than most that are harvested commercially.
2.  The ducks seemed to continue to loosen their feathers for a while after coming out of the scald so we would try streamlining the process through scalding on all of the birds were were going to do and then concentrate on removing the feathers as a separate project.
3. We needed to resign ourselves to the fact that if we wanted skin-on ducks there was going to be a serious amount of hand plucking work involved.  There was no magic gizmo (at least not within our reach) that was going to miraculously de-nude the birds completely.  Further research into commercial duck processing came across some other techniques that might have applicable merit.  One method: the easy feathers were removed after scalding and then the ducks were dipped into molten paraffin wax then into ice water to harden the wax which was then peeled off - taking with it most of the remaining feathers - sounded promising but it required a LOT more of the wax than we had on hand for this session.
After setting up our various stations for the day (see previous post for details) we decided to kill and scald 4 birds in short succession then work together on the plucking.  That would give us a total of 6 in the fridge.  Plenty to see if this was all going to be worth it.
Work progressed smoothly.  After killing and bleeding-out, we scalded the birds in the soapy water at 170-180F for a full 3 minutes and by the end some feathers were almost falling out on their own.  A quick check showed no signs that it was cooking the ducks.  Once all four were scalded and piled in a large bus tub, I began working on them with the Hillbilly Plucker.  They were still quite hot and the plucker got off a lot of feathers.  When the first one was as done as I could get it, Kathryn started the hand work on it while I "HIllbillied" the rest.
By the time I'd finished pre-plucking all four, she had the first one almost done.  Things were definitely going faster but it was still very fussy work.  Despite our super-scald, some of the feathers were still so well anchored we had to pull them with needle-nose pliers. Working together we plucked three of them until as done as possible, sometimes exchanging the birds we were working on.
"Here.  You take this one for a while.  I'm tired of looking at it"
Once the first three were done I started the gutting and Kathryn finished the last one.
When all four were plucked, gutted, washed off and in the ice bath we, again, moved inside to finish the work of peeling feet and singing hair (and pulling the occasional missed feather here and there).
All in all it took us about 4 hours to process the four ducks today and get them in the fridge to rest.  Half the time per-bird of the previous day's efforts, but still a lot longer than we had hoped.
Two days in the fridge and the ducks should be nice and relaxed and I can start treating them like food!

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