This post contains some graphic pictures. If you are squeamish or there are kids you’d prefer not viewing them please check out a different post.
After three days of Stu beating up on the other two ducks I decided today was the day he had to be butchered. He was definitely big enough and Penguin and Spot had signed a petition to get Stu out of the tub. Stu bullied them and wouldn’t even let them get their share of the food. It was time to get started on butchering a duck!
I have to admit I was up all night the night before. It wasn’t going to be easy to butcher Stu. Ducks are more intelligent than chickens (not that being smarter than a chicken is a claim to fame) and Stu had personality. I have never butchered an animal without feeling gratitude for it giving us food and sorrow at the taking of its life. But these ducks were brought home to be meat and Stu was making life very unpleasant for Spot and Penguin.
The weather was great for butchering (in the high 50’s) and I would normally do the whole job outside. Unfortunately, my hands were giving me a lot of trouble so we decapitated the duck outside and I finished everything else inside.
I didn’t get as many pictures as I had originally planned because it’s hard to butcher and photograph at the same time and Mr. Comfortable was avoiding the kitchen.
Stu was a tricky duck in the end. I put him in a contractors garbage bag which should have been tough enough to stand up to his nails and also too thick for him to wriggle through. It should have been. I cut a hole in the corner of the bag and had Mr. Comfortable hold it open. I grabbed Stu and stuffed him, head first, into the bag.
Instantly he managed to both scratch tears in the bag and push his chest partly through the hole. I had to bundle him up in the bag like I was swaddling him. I knew these ducks weren’t used to being handled but Stu really didn’t like the idea of being held. As I struggled to hold on to him I briefly thought about just shooting him right there in the bathroom but it would scare the other ducks, give the dogs heart attacks, and Mr. C would probably have objected.
Since Mr. Comfortable had made it very clear he wanted nothing to do with what I’m sure he considered duckacide I was worried about how I’d hold the duck and swing the axe. Clearly Stu wasn’t going to be one of those birds that would lie quietly awaiting his fate. But my wonderful (if very nervous and sad) husband told me he’d cut Stu’s head off if I would hold the duck. I decided Mr. C probably wouldn’t execute me and run off with the duck so I pinned Stu to the log and let Mr. C swing away.
As soon as the duck was decapitated I sent Mr. C into the house to get a bucket. As a city boy I was pretty sure he didn’t know the bird would continue to move after his head was removed from his body. I didn’t want to have to revive Mr. C if he saw a zombie duck flapping around. My timing was perfect. Stu stopped moving right before Mr. C got back with the bucket.
Once I’d hung the bird over the bucket to bleed out a bit it was time to move inside. I’d covered the table with plastic and had my knives ready. The bucket went next to the table so I could drop everything I wasn’t keeping in it for easy disposal. Keeping Remy and Henry away from the bucket and the bird wasn’t as hard as I expected. One good holler and they decided to watch from a distance.
Since this bird will be duck stew I didn’t worry about plucking it. I simply cut through the skin, starting at the neck and peeled feathers and skin back together.
The trachea was visible next to the neck but it, along with all the internal parts is removed after the skin.
I cut the feet off just to make the final steps of skinning it easier. And since the wings have very little meat on them I just removed them by breaking the bone and cutting the tendons. The duck feet can be saved for making duck stock but I’m not planning on making any so I just threw the feet away.
Once the bird was mostly skinned I could clearly see the body cavity. It’s crucial not to nick the intestines so I made a cut wide around the vent (the part from which it excretes waste). I pinched the vent and carefully pulled the internal organs out of the cavity.
The yellow fat membrane is cut to allow the organs to be removed easily.
It’s also important not to tear or cut the bile duct which is attached to the liver. And the heart, lungs, trachea, and kidneys will almost definitely have to be pulled out separately.
Once the bird is emptied I rinsed it and cut off as much of the remaining skin as I could. There’s a lot of silver skin (just like pork tenderloin) on a duck and the skin is tough!
After the duck was rinsed I removed the breasts, all the meat from the drumsticks, and from the back. Ducks don’t yield as much meat as you might think looking at one so I cut every bit of meat I could from the carcass. I had to remove the tendons as I came across them and also had a few feather shafts to cut out.
I was going to make duck stew right away but I think I’m going to give Mr. C time to stop thinking of it as Stu and remember it was meant to be dinner.