Whenever Todd introduces himself to someone he refers to himself as a “duck farmer”. Sometimes we get curious looks as to how you can actually “farm” ducks. I believe it’s an accurate description and one that I’ve taken to using also. We love ducks. We’ve grown our flock to over 100. See, we “grow” our ducks to use for food. Either by eating eggs from the ducks or the duck itself. I wish I could say it is an economical alternative, but I’m not sure yet. We put a lot of our time into the ducks. And depending on which breed of duck we’re talking about, lots of feed. Pekin ducks are dependent on you for finding the majority of their food. Muscovy ducks, on the other hand, are great foragers and they supplement their diet with feed. All of the ducks look forward to their treats of whole corn and scratch.
We’ve been busy “harvesting” ducks for the past month or two. On my last count we were down to 8 Pekins and … okay, I don’t actually know how many Muscovies are left! We’re trying to decide how many we want to keep over the winter. I’m pretty sure we will reduce the Pekins down to 2. I love the temperament of them, but they eat a lot. The only reason I want to keep 2 is because the one hen is the “sister” of our hand hatched goose baby (I don’t want him/her to be lonely) and the other is Lexie’s favorite 4H hen, Elizabeth. We have quite a few Muscovy ducks that we have named and want to keep to breed. We know we will keep only one drake.
Our harvesting window is slowly closing. Nobody wants to be slaughtering ducks in the freezing cold. Heck, nobody wants to slaughter ducks at all! We’ve been culling around 6 ducks each week. It’s a family affair. We all know what our jobs are and we work in a production line. Warning: some content may not be suitable for children or those with weak stomachs. Read at your own discretion. Lexie and I choose the ducks that are to be slaughtered and deliver them to the boys. The boys get the awesome job of axing heads. Okay, I know it’s not awesome – it’s gory, bloody, messy, and downright sucks. But you suck it up and do what you have to do. I don’t even cry anymore – I’m a big girl now! The ducks are hung in a tree to bleed out. We all start plucking down. There’s a 55 gallon drum that is full of down and someday we’ll find a use for it. Lexie and I also choose feathers that are pretty and interesting to save for making earrings with. The boys finish off plucking feathers and gutting the ducks. Everything is done by hand. After the ducks are cleaned and prepped, they are put into the refrigerator for 3 days to “relax”. When ducks are slaughtered they get stressed and the muscles all tense up. Letting them set allows the muscles to relax and the meat to be more tender. At the end of 3 days I do a final cleaning of the ducks and vacuum pack them for the freezer. We are fortunate, this winter our freezer will be full! OH, a farmers weather prediction: the ducks have been packing on insane amounts of fat this year. And it’s still early. More fat means colder temps. Ugh.
Around here, we eat duck 3 or 4 times a week. We eat duck like most people eat McDonald’s. One of our favorite ways to eat it is Duck with Noodles. Reminds me of those Bertolli frozen meals that I used to eat way back when. When we weren’t gluten free and worried about what was in the food we were eating.
- 1 duck
- spaghetti or fettucini noodles (I use Tinkyada brand gluten-free spaghetti noodles – made with brown rice only!)
- olive or sunflower oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 4 oz sliced mushrooms
- garlic powder
- salt and pepper
- Bragg’s nutritional yeast
- basil or oregano, to taste
Place duck in turkey roaster. Sprinkle with choice of herbs, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove and let cool. Prepare noodles according to package directions. While noodles are cooking, saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms in large frying pan until browned. Place onion mixture in large bowl. Drain noodles and place in frying pan with a little bit of oil, spices, and nutritional yeast. Slightly brown or “fry”. Remove from skillet and add to onion mixture. When duck has cooled, remove meat from bones and shred into the noodles and onions. Sprinkle with spices and additional nutritional yeast. Mix well. Our family of 4 can get 2 meals out of this.
The whole meal, hands on, doesn’t take long. Once the duck is roasted, everything else comes together within 30 minutes. Which is why it’s one of our favorite go-to meals. Serve with a side of veggies, some homemade applesauce, and you’re good to go!
Farmers do eat well! We feel really good when we sit down to eat, knowing that we put work into what’s on our plate and that we are capable of providing for ourselves. It makes you appreciate your food, and a side of appreciation makes anything taste even better!