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Breast Your Bird

An alternative to plucking the whole bird is to ‘breast’ the bird to take most of the usable meat for casseroles, stir-fry, or other flash dishes. To breast your duck (pheasant, goose etc) simply take a pinch of skin from under the feathers and pierce it with a knife.

Get your fingers into the hole you’ve now made and peel the breast skin back. If you’ve got a bit of it coming away, get the palm of your hand under it and peel it back to expose the entire breast.

With a sharp knife, cut either side of the keel bone, (the big bone in the middle of the 2 breasts). The knife will go down a centimeter or so until it strikes a large flat bone underneath, which we’ll call the breastplate. At the tail end of the breast, run the knife from the keel bone and along the breastplate, following the later closely. As you lift the breast off, work close to the breastplate toward the head end of the duck.

Eventually you should have the breast largely detached up to the wing. Now look for the wishbone at the top of the breast meat. Just as with the keel, use the tip of the knife to cut down to the breastplate along the wishbone. The breast meat should nearly be off by now. Lift it right up and, working from the bottom of the breast, cut the remaining connection behind the wing. Put the detached meat in a clean basin and start on the other side.

If the breast is excessively bloodied, you might try washing it off, scraping it off or cutting it out. If none of the above work, biff it, as it’ll taste funny when it’s served.

Give the meat a wash down and remove any feathers sticking to it and any visible shot. Dry it fairly well, for instance, by leaving it in a colander. Then pack it in a clean plastic freezer bag – 2 to 3 breasts per bag depending on how many people you have to feed.

Squash the bag to remove most of the trapped air, and then tie a knot in it. I then snip off any excess plastic and put this meat package into a second plastic bag, removing the air from that also. This 2-bag system reduces the risk of freezer burn. Before securing the second bag with a twisty, I slip on a home made label, made from a bit of cardboard from a weet-bix packet, with a hole punched in it. Label the meat type and date, for instance, “3 x mallard breast , 05/11”. Believe me, once the meat has frozen, trying to figure out what it is can be daunting so don’t omit the labels.

You’ll now have a pile of breasted duck carcasses. What now? You could bury them, or put them in the garage rubbish bin if collection day isn’t far off. But if it is, and the weather is on the warn side, they soon let you know they’re maturing! Putting them in a freezer until the night before is the trick. Just remove any frozen legs with garden secateurs as these tear plastic rubbish bags like they were designed for it.

How to breast a Pukeko

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