One of Cason’s favorite words is duck. He even named one of our roosters Duck, so I am not sure how he will feel about eating duck meat. Since he has not had a problem with eating bock-bocks (aka chickens), I am not too worried he won’t eat duck.
We have Mallards that return to the pond in the pasture each spring. This year, Jason helped Rolley Len protect the ducks and the duck eggs from hawks and other predators by making a shelter from a piece of old barn tin. The kids love to watch and feed the ducks. Jason and I like for the kids to be able to learn about the cycle of life in a natural environment.
Not only are ducks fun to watch, they are a fun wing bird to hunt and shoot. Kids enjoy the hunt because someone is always calling the ducks and there is always plenty of natural beauty to see in the swamps and duck ponds. Duck season means lower temperatures and wet hunting grounds, so you might need additional clothing like thermals and waders depending on where you go.
Because you are in wetlands and may possibly come across hidden depths of water, extra care must be taken if you bring children with you. When Rolley Len and Cason’s Pawpaw Willie was young, he got into trouble when he stepped off into a beaver run. He sank quickly into deep water. Willie said the only thing that saved him was he had his waders cinched with a belt. The waders filled with air and kept him afloat rather than sinking him. Back then, waders were made of a canvas-like material and plastic. Hunters had to use belts or duct tape to seal them and make them waterproof. They usually kept a pocketknife handy in case they had to cut themselves out of the waders. Although modern waders are more advanced and are made of neoprene with belts and suspenders built in, you still have to take safety precautions. When duck hunting in swampy areas, you should always stay within reach of your child and plan for unexpected circumstances that may arise.
Duck season started in November and ends the last of January in South Alabama. Duck hunting varies depending on where you are in Alabama. Different areas offer different types of hunting opportunities. For example, you can hunt from a blind, in a boat or even in a grassy field. In our area of Macon County, Jason hunts wood ducks in the swamps and ponds on private hunting land with his grandfather Willie.
Ducks provide a large amount of meat per bird and are a good source of protein and iron. The texture of duck meat is dense so it is more like dove than chicken, but it can be used in most recipes using chicken. Also, like dove, it does not have much fat so you will probably want to add a fatty component like bacon or even a wet ingredient like broth or wine to add moisture before baking.
Many people think of duck as a component of an upscale dinner rather than a down-home supper, but it can be both. Just like deer, duck meat can be adapted to your taste and style. Depending on how you dress it and cook it, duck can be a stand-out at special occasions like holidays and anniversaries, or also as a casual weeknight family supper.
Growing up, I had heard of duck à l’orange and, while it sounded fancy, I wasn’t sure such a dish would suit my appetite. French and American versions of this dish I have read vary and the recipes can call for either baking or searing the duck breast. Many restaurants sear their duck and then bake it in the oven to finish it. The traditional way to prepare duck à l’orange includes making an orange sauce with a bitter orange taste using the rinds rather than trying to make a sweet, more syrupy flavor. However, some American adaptations may create a glaze rivaling that of The All Steak’s orange rolls.
The first time I actually ate duck was when Jason and I were dating. He brought the ingredients to my house and made grilled duck using a recipe he got from Tumpsie Trione. We are sharing that date-night recipe for grilled duck and another one for duck dressing that can be a welcome addition at family meals. Whether you serve your duck fancy with sauce or down-home in dressing, duck meat can be a welcome variation to your everyday menu making your next meal something out-of-the-ordinary.
8 ounces cream cheese
Pepper relish (homemade is best)
Spread about 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on each duck breast. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of pepper relish on top of the cream cheese. Fold the breast in half and wrap in bacon held with a toothpick. Grill the duck until the bacon is crispy.
Duck Cornbread Dressing
Boil 2 whole ducks, save 1½ cups duck broth
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 eggs, slightly beaten
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
Stew together duck broth, onion, celery, salt and pepper. Add eggs, cornbread and poultry seasoning. Mix well. If necessary, use additional duck stock to moisten. Pour into a greased 10 x 12 pan and cook for 20 minutes at 450°.
Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.