Sunday, October 19, 2014

How To Pluck a Duck: The Wax Method

*WARNING: This blog post contains images and discussion pertaining to the process of turning ducks into food. Consider yourself warned.*

We put two more of the Silver Appleyard drakes in the freezer last week. There are 3 left still to do, but because of limited help with both the processing and childcare, it's taking us a long time to complete the task.

We decided to try wax plucking this time around, since we weren't particularly pleased with the outcome of scalding last time. Even though the majority of the feathers fell right out, we were left with all the down and tiny pinfeathers, which you pretty much have to remove one by one.

Unless you don't mind eating them, I suppose.

Wax plucking definitely resulted in a cleaner bird, but took about twice as long.

So here's how we went about it.........

After killing the birds, you have to dry pluck them a bit to give the wax a good surface for it to stick to.

I pretty much removed the whole outer layer of feathers, including wing and tail feathers.

This was my first time dry plucking, so it was kind of a milestone for me. As I sat there, I kept thinking about my ancestors, and how they all undoubtedly knew how to dry pluck a bird. It's amazing how just a couple of generations ago this was common knowledge. 

But now I'm probably considered a cruel freak by most of my facebook friends because I posted a picture of me plucking a duck. 

Once I post anything about processing our first rabbits, I will probably alienate the lot of them.

Here's the kicker: I genuinely enjoyed the process!

The wing feathers are the most difficult to remove, so you have to yank those out first - usually one or two at a time. After just two ducks I got a savage blister on the outside of my middle finger from wrapping it around the more stubborn feathers to get leverage.

The rest of the feathers are easy-peasy. You just use your thumb and inside of your index finger to grab bunches and quickly pull them out against the grain. It sends up a flurry of down that gets EVERYWHERE! Your eyelashes, nostrils, lips - everything.

I probably could have kept going, and eventually gotten the duck clean, but my hands were really starting to cramp. Besides, we were set up for the wax and we really wanted to try it.

The water has to be around 160 degrees; hot enough to melt the wax, but not too hot that it boils. Otherwise you won't get a good even coat. It took some time for the wax to melt. Well, a LONG time, actually.

here  are  the  rough-plucked  ducks  waiting  for  the  wax

dunking  the  duck

 We really needed a much deeper stock pot for this. Having to bend the duck meant that the wax didn't completely cover the bird. This made things much slower going.

So after you've dunked your duck and gotten a nice layer of wax, you immediately plunge it in ice water.

Now you have a bird stiff enough to surf on.

It was my understanding that the wax would get really hard, but it was still pretty flexible.

You can see in the above photo the patches of down that the wax missed. These had to be pulled out by hand.

You then grab and twist the duck to create fissures in the wax.

Now it's time to start peeling.

You want to keep tension on the skin as you do this to help prevent tears. As you can see in the last photo, sometimes the skin tears anyhow.

I was surprised to see a large amount pin feathers in these guys. Those are the really thick shafts that leave large holes.

It was a very slow process. The areas with a thinner layer were much harder to remove. And then of course there were spots without wax altogether.

But the end result was a couple of nice, cleanly plucked ducks.

Here is a good video of the process if you need a better visual:

So three more to do. Still trying to decide whether the wax was worth the time. It might if we were to get a deeper stock pot.

I may even try to completely dry pluck one next time.

Until then, enjoy your freedom, boys...

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