Saturday, 14 November 2015

How to Pluck & Gut a Pheasant or Partridge?

Game is a treat, and i am not really big fan but its nice once in a while. I used to be a Gamekeeper, and they literally taught everything even how to pluck and gut pheasants. It's pretty damn easy! I went beating last Wednesday, well i usually beat during the winter months but I haven't been as much this year and sometimes I bring a brace of pheasants home.  

When i started gamekeeping, I was always a bit envious of people who could pluck game, imagining it to be complex and fiddly procedure but when i had a lesson from the keepers i discover that it's not. The plucking is straightforward. Dealing with fluttering feathers is not. Hence the carrier bag.

How to hang, pluck and draw a pheasant or partridge?
  • Hang the bird for a couple of days (by the neck) in a cool place such as a garage or cold larder
  • Cut off the head at the base of the neck with a decent pair scissors. (Once you have got rid of this the whole procedures seems less ghoulish). 
  • Snap the lower legs at the joints and pull out the tendons. This takes some strength.
  • Cut off the wings at the joint (you will find this in the fold between the wing and the body.)
Plucking the feathers 
It is easier to pluck a bird when it is warm. Let a bird room temperature before plucking, it makes an enormous difference. 

  • Find a carrier bag (any supermarkets one will do) If you still any, or a box will do.
  • Stand your carrier bag or box on the table, workbench, or in the sink (I use the table) the bird be plucked into this. Pull up the sides of the carrier bag or box so that you have an enclosed area in which contain the plucked feathers.
  • Put a few sheets of newspaper around you working area to catch any stray feathers.
  • Hold the bird by the legs and brush the feather on the breast and back (against the grain, so to speak) so they sit up a little. With a small neat movement pluck the feathers away and down from the bird, ideally straight into the carrier bag or box.
  • If skin comes away of the base of the feathers you are being you rough or trying to remove too many feathers at once. Experiment a little with this. You will soon get the feel of the most efficient plucking movement. I place my fingers on the skin around the plucking area this stops the skin being plucked from the carcass along with the tips of the feathers.
  • Spread the tail feathers into a fan shape and pluck these following the line of the feather.
  • To remove the leg feathers, hold the body and brush the feathers smooth (with the grain) and pluck them sharply down in that direction.
When i am at work i usually sit down to pluck the bird, with a dustbin between my knees. The feathers are plucked with a short downwards movement , straight into the bag. It's worth experimenting with different plucking methods to find one that suits you best. I find that some feathers are more easily removed 'against the grain' and 'some with the grain'.  

Gut the bird
  • Remove the crop (from the head end) by gently putting a finger into the neck opening, rotating gently and pulling the crop out. If you are curious, you can open this to see what the last meal was. 
  • Remove the gullet and windpipe.
  • Now stick your forefinger up the birds bum. Rotate it gently and draw out the liver and guts.
  • Wash the bird (inside and out) and refrigerate for a couple of days before use.

If your bird smells bad chuck it away, contained in a couple of tightly sealed carrier bags. Sometimes gun dogs will pick up a lost bird from a day or so before. This is rare but it has happened.

Skinning a bird:
Follow the steps for 'How to hang, pluck and draw a pheasant or partridge' then put your finger under the skin around the neck and loosen the skin. Hold the skin firmly and pull gently down towards the tail. The skin and feathers should come off in one piece. Once skinned, don't forget to draw the bird (see above). Roasting is really out if you have skinned your bird but any casserole or recipe that encloses the bird will probably be successful.


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