For the past five years, at the suggestion of a biologist friend of mine who’s been bird hunting since the days of the Ottoman Empire, I’ve been aging my birds in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. I put them in my bag during the hunt, stick them in the garage fridge when I get home, and don’t do anything at all to them until I clean them after they’ve aged. I don’t gut them. And, I’m ashamed to admit, I usually just breast them when I finally set out to clean them. I have two reasons for this: one, I’m lazy, and two, my wife won’t eat the birds if they’re on the bone; since she doesn’t eat red meat and can’t share deer and elk with me, I want her to at least get the game birds into her system. I suppose I could save the legs for my own personal use, but often they’re the most shot up part of the birds I hit. In any case, I do have a pang of guilt disposing of the legs. I don’t plan on remarrying, so I’ll deal with the guilt unless someone has a brilliant idea to help me out here.
After I’ve breasted the birds, I put the meat in a colander and rinse them off, getting as much of the embedded feathers from shot, and the shot of course, as well as the bloody parts out of the meat. When cleaning them after they’ve aged, I can tell a big difference between the birds I used to clean immediately: the aged birds’ meat is extremely tender, as it should be. After rinsing, I lay the breasts out on paper towels, pat them dry, and then package them with a vacuum sealer.
What do you do with your birds?