To Pluck or Skin a Pheasant

To Pluck or Skin a Pheasant

 To Pluck: You will need a sharp knife, a pot of hot water, a pail of warm water, an empty bucket, and a small fire. If you choose to pluck, the procedure is the same as if you were plucking a chicken, goose or a duck. Prepare a table outside in a corner of your garden where you won’t mind seeing a few feathers scattered around. I try to put the feathers in a pail but if the wind is blowing a few always get away from me. Cover the table with news paper or clean cardboard. Start a small wood fire nearby. The fire will serve you to burn away the pen feathers. Put a large pot of clean water over the fire and bring it to a boil. Or you can use your kitchen cooker to heat the water. Fill a clean pail with warm water to clean your knife and hands. Put the empty bucket under the table to catch the waste.

 Once you have everything ready, cut off the head and dip the fowl in the pot of hot water for about fifteen seconds. Try pulling a few feathers. The feathers should release with just a little tug. If it is difficult to pull the feathers, dip the bird into the hot water again, being careful not to leave the bird in the water too long. You don’t want to cook the skin. If the skin is cooked, it will tear away from the body. Once you have removed all the feathers possible, hold the bird over the fire to singe all the little pen feathers off the body. You can also singe the feathers with a piece of lit, rolled up newspaper, eliminating the need for a fire. When the bird is cleaned of feathers, place the bird on the table breast side up. At the neck of the bird slit the skin open and pull out the craw, a thin sack that contains feed.  Pull the windpipe out. Then insert a sharp knife under the skin just below the rib cage and slit the skin down to the cioaca, being careful not to cut into the intestines. Lift the bird over the bucket and scoop out the entrails. Remove the liver, gizzard and heart. Cut around the cioaca allowing the intestines to fall in the bucket. Cut the feet and legs off at the first joint. Wash the bird in the pail of clean water. The gizzard is a firm heart-shaped organ which contains a sack of semi digested feed. One side is firm muscle while the other side is the sack. Cut the membrane between the sack and muscle pulling away the sack. If the sack breaks clean away the contents and then separate it from the muscle. Once everything is cleaned the fowl is ready for cooking.

 To Skin: As you all know the feathers of a male pheasant are beautiful. I prefer to skin the male birds and preserve the hides to be used later. The feathers can be used for craft projects or to make hat bands. You will need a sharp knife, a pair of kitchen scissors, a pail of warm water, and an empty bucket.

 Begin by cutting off the head of the bird with the sharp knife. Do not wet the feathers.  Place the bird on its back. At the neck insert your index finger between the skin and the muscle and pull the skin away from the body creating a space for the scissors. Insert the lower blade of the scissors under the skin, sliding the top blade between the feathers. Start cutting the skin down the belly of the fowl, continuing to loosen the skin with your finger. Cut down to the tail of the bird. Cut around the cioaca and the tail. I cut off the tail but if you would like to keep the tail intact, carefully cut around the tail. Now pull the skin away from the birds belly and back. Slide the skin off to the first joint of the legs and wings. Cut the skin at the first joint of the leg and slide the leg out of the skin. At the wing pull the skin back just past the first joint and cut the joint in two with a sharp knife, removing the tip of the wing with the skin. Set the skin aside and proceed in cleaning the bird as you would if it had been plucked. Place the bird on the table breast side up. Slit the bird at the neck and pull out the craw, a thin sack that contains feed, and pull the windpipe out. Then insert a sharp knife under the rib cage and slit down to the cioaca, being careful not to cut into the intestines. Lift the bird over the bucket and scoop out the entrails. Remove the liver, gizzard and heart. Cut around the cioaca allowing the intestines to fall in the bucket. Cut the feet and legs off at the first joint. Wash the bird in the pail of clean water. The gizzard is a firm heart-shaped organ which contains a sack of semi-digested feed. One side is firm muscle while the other side is the sack. Cut the membrane between the sack and muscle pulling away the sack. If the sack breaks clean away the contents and then separate it from the muscle. Once everything is cleaned the fowl is ready for cooking.

 After cleaning the pheasant take the skin, spread it out on a table feather side down. Inspect the skin and remove any fat or meat from the hide.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of non-iodized table salt on the skin and rub it into the hide making sure wings and tail are abundantly salted. Pin the hide feather side down to a piece of rigid cardboard and hang it in a well ventilated cool room. I hang the skin on a line in my attic. Leave the hide to dry for three to six months. After it is well dried, brush off any remaining salt. Rub hand lotion into the hide until it is subtle and soft. At this point the hide and feathers can be removed from the cardboard and used for craft projects.

 

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