Cooking class lesson 5; game
Let me first start by saying that this post is not for the faint of heart as some of the photos are quite bloody. If you are a vegan or vegetarian probably best not to read on! If you are – however- interested in finding out how to skin a hare then please read on.. 🙂
I was a little anxious about this lesson as we could have gotten just about anything here and my fear was of walking in and finding an entire deer lying on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t a deer, but instead we had two hare, two pheasants and two wild ducks lying there completely intact as you can see below. There was also some pieces of wild boar meat and some deermeat, but that was both already processed.
Now I like to think of myself not being too squeamish, but hmmm, not sure about all these little furry and fluffy creatures on the table as I knew what would be coming next! You see; I grew up with a friend whose parents owned a farm and as a kid I used to be at that farm almost every week. If you live at a farm you know that chickens eventually get slaughtered and since they lived close to the an area with lots of bunnies you even realize that bunnies get shot too. So I had killed and cleaned chicken before and I had even seen someone skin a bunny before. Still…. that was all different from the experience of last night! Probably a good thing too that it was the last lesson and not the first. Someone even suggested of starting with this lesson in the beginners course; you’d would – for sure – not have any people left after the course..lol..
After Rob had explained to us the differences between the various types of game we went to the kitchen area to watch the skinning and cleaning process on one of the hares. Now before I go into that; there are people opposed to hunting and people that are ok with hunting. I will not go into the right or wrong here, just to say that I used to be really against hunting but I have come to see the other side as well and are a bit more relaxed about the whole subject. I mean; if you think about it; If you are a meat-eating person your anonymous piece of meat that you buy at the butcher used to be a live animal as well and I can bet that your cow or pig probably had a lousier life than the hare you see lying in the photo above. So in terms of animal friendly (not getting into the whole pro or con hunting discussion!!) the hare would win over the average cow anyday, right?
But still…. I had to swallow once or twice when Rob started skinning the hare and part of that was due to the horrible stench coming from the hare. Apparently real game can smell that way when it has been hanging for the appropriate amount of time to tenderize the meat. In this case the hare was shot roughly ten days ago and you probably get used to that smell but it was disgusting! The first thing he did was cut a little slit into the hare’s neck so that you can put a finger underneath the skin. Then the process of stripping the animal of it’s little furry coat is remarkably simple. Just make sure you remove the lower part of all four of the legs otherwise you won’t be able to pull of the skin. Once skinned you can remove the head, which then makes it look a lot more like something you can buy at your butcher… 🙂 But overall, a pretty bloody process! Also you can see where the hare was shot as those parts have hematomas of where the coagulated blood is sitting. That is also where you will most likely find the little bullets that killed it, so make sure to remove those!
After the hare we got a demonstration of how to clean a duck (nightmare with all those feathers!) and then it was time to take it into practice… At which point I have to make a confession; I chickened out.
I am ok with watching someone dissecting a hare, duck or pheasant, but to do it myself I just didn’t feel like it! 🙂 Instead I took photos and well, I did pluck a little bit of duck, but that is as far as it goes. I mean, the chance that I will ever be cleaning my own hare is not so big. Unless I am forced to live in the wild and will need to live of the animals that I catch with my bare hands; in which case the knowledge will come in handy.. lol.. In fact I was not the only one having a little bit of trouble with this lesson as only Arjen and Mike where brave enough to start on a pheasant and hare, respectively. Francoise cleaned a lot of the insides of the hare (to be used for something) which deserves an applause in itself as the stench was overwhelming but the rest of the group stayed with the safer meats that were already cleaned (the wild boar and deer)
nce you have smelled that stench it stays in your nose and even after having been prepared in the oven we could all still smell it. And since taste is for a large part smell I had a hard time liking it! The boar wrapped with prosciutto was lovely and delicious, the filled boar was also great. The pheasant that Mike is holding on the left was delicious as well (that is the first photo of this post as well) and the coppa di parma really added a nice little crunch to it. The duck has a liver taste to it and I didn’t like the skin as that was thick and fat. Not so tasty, but the meat itself was ok. You wouldn’t expect a duck to have red meat now would you? But it does have red meat.
So in terms of our last lesson it certainly was a memorable one! It was the first time I did hardly anything in the kitchen though which is a little weird. Well I cut some veggies for a dish that we didn’t eat in the end, but that’s about it.
And now it is the end of our course again, such a shame really. There is still sooooo much more to learn, so I hope there will be another one after this.
Rob also gives summer courses in France where you spend a week cooking and/or doing other fun activities (painting, fishing etc.) as well. You go to the market in the morning and learn what to buy and then how to prepare all that in the afternoon. Sounds like a lot of fun and definitely something we will be doing next year. At the moment the farm where this will all be taking place is still under renovation to make it suitable to host guests but it should be finished beginning of spring next year. Courses start somewhere in june, but you can check the website for more details if you’re interested!