I choose to eat meat. Recently I have made some pretty big leaps in learning how to transform animals into food. I didn’t just jump into this cold, however. My husband got into hunting a few years back. Mostly he goes for deer and elk, but that’s been pretty slow going. A few years ago he got into bird hunting, and that has paid off much better. This is a pheasant he recently brought home.
Unlike many hunters we know, neither of us grew up in a hunting family culture. We are flying by the seat of our pants here. But with so many great online resources and a few knowledgeable friends we’ve been able to make it work!
My friend Amanda turned me on to this site. Frankly I see no point in looking elsewhere for instructions on handling your game. This site helps me figure out how to make use of as much of the animal as possible, which is something I am deeply committed to.
Many game birds except duck and geese have thinner skin, so the plucking takes much longer. Most of the time hunters just skin them completely. I’ve done it both ways, and in my opinion taking the time to pluck is key. I did that with this one and I’ve saved all the feathers. I am still not sure what I am going to do with them, but they are just too gorgeous to throw out.
I used this simple recipe and it was perfect, which again I got from this site:
Prep Time: 5 hours, if you are brining the bird
Cook Time: 60 minutes
- 2 whole pheasants
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or softened butter
- Brine the bird. Make a brine by bringing 4 cups water, 1/4 cup salt, 5 crushed bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of white sugar and a tablespoon of crushed juniper berries to a boil. Cover and let cool to room temperature. When it cools, submerge your pheasant in the brine and keep it in the fridge for 4-8 hours. The longer you brine, the saltier the pheasant will become.
- Bring the bird to room temperature. After the soak, take the pheasant out and dry him off. If you have the time, let the bird rest, breast side up, uncovered in the fridge overnight. This will help when it comes time to crisp the skin. When you are ready to cook, take the pheasant out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
- Heat your oven. Get it to 500 degrees if possible, but at least 400 degrees. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of preheating, and up to a half hour.
- Oil the bird. You can do this with olive oil or you can smear butter all over it.
- Stuff and salt the bird. Salt the whole bird well, then stuff with a piece of onion or apple and a few fresh herbs. Do not pack the cavity.
- Roast the pheasant for 15 minutes at your high temperature.
- Take the pheasant out and lower the temperature to 325 degrees. Leave your oven door open to speed this process. OPTIONAL: Baste the bird with either butter or a glaze. I like a boiled-down combination of butter and maple syrup.
- Return the pheasant to the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes. You want the internal temperature to be about 155 degrees and for the bird’s juices to run pretty clear. A little pink in the juice — and in the bird — is what you want. The higher end of this cooking time will give you a well-done bird, which I try to avoid but many people prefer.
- Remove the pheasant, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This resting time is vital, as it lets the juices redistribute within the pheasant. It will also finish off the cooking process through carry-over heating.
Serve with potatoes and a veg of your liking.
I also made an omelet with the liver after I soaked it in milk over night.
Now what to do with those feathers?