Learning to process game meat has been an eye opening experience. It is a challenging and ever-evolving labor. Cleaning a harvest is different, not only for different groups of animals, but even for different species within a specific subgroup of animals. For example, it is obvious that a fish is cleaned differently than a duck, but it isn’t always obvious that a duck may be cleaned differently than a goose, or even another species of duck. Cleaning also varies on how you plan to prepare or use the animal. I feel I have only touched on the surface of cleaning animals.
Cleaning is just the beginning step of processing game meat too. Storing and preserving meat is an entirely different story. And not to mention learning how to use different parts of the animal! We often hear stories of how Native Americans used every part of an animal. Meat was obviously processed and eaten, but hides or feathers were used for shelter creation or clothing, bones could be constructed into tools or weapons, and tendons or sinew could be used to create thread or string. Of course, those few examples only brush on the surface of how many parts of an animal are useful.
Utilizing the entire animal was definitely a survival tactic for Native Americans, and as a modern day hunter, that drive for survival isn’t quite the same. However, many hunters strive to use as much of an animal as possible. Whether this desire comes from a simple curiosity as to what you can come up with to use what you have at hand, or is from a deeper desire to use every part of the animal as a form of respect, there are limitless possibilities on what to create or how to utilize an animal in its entirety, and it is definitely a learning process.
So, while this might be a small step in terms of all the possible things I could use a pheasant for, it is a first step and I enjoyed trying something new with a different part of the bird. After cleaning all the meat from the pheasant, I saved the carcass and made a simple pheasant stock. While I was excited to find a use for the leftover bones of my pheasant harvest, my primary drive for creating a pheasant stock developed from a nagging feeling I got when using chicken stock in my pheasant recipes. For some reason, it bothered me when I would create a soup or sauce recipe for my pheasant meal, but had to use chicken stock as the base. It seemed silly. So, I made a small batch of pheasant stock from the carcass and can now use that as the base for whatever pheasant recipe I work on next.
For the stock, a few simple ingredients are necessary to help develop a deeper flavor profile. Aside from the pheasant carcass, you will need carrots, celery, and onion. I used around four medium sized carrots, three stalks of celery, and two medium sized onions. You could also add a few cloves of garlic. To create a little uniqueness in my stock, I also added in a four inch piece of whole ginger root.
Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit and roast the pheasant carcass, celery, carrots, onion, and ginger root for 20 minutes. There is no need to cut anything up or do any type of prep work before roasting. The only step I took was the cut the onions in half. I did not peel the carrots or even remove the onion skin. If I had added garlic to this stock, I would have roasted the cloves whole as well.
Once the vegetables and pheasant are done roasting, transfer everything to a large pot. I did remove some of the skin from the ginger root before adding it to the pot, but that was about it. I left the onions whole and broke the celery in half so it would fit in the pot, but other than that not much work to be done! At this point, toss in a couple of bay leaves and add enough water to the pot to cover everything by about two inches. The amount of water needed will vary based on the size of your pot, but it should be somewhere between eight and twelve cups. I used ten for my pot. Heat the pot over a medium heat and watch until the water starts to boil. Once it boils, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the stock simmer for a few hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pot and that the pot is still just simmering and not boiling. I let my stock simmer for about four hours. The liquid reduced from ten cups to eight by the end of the cooking time.
If you are interested in creating a little bit of a different flavor profile for your pheasant stock, instead of using onions you could substitute leeks. You could also add fennel for a hint of licorice. Herbs can also be infused into the stock, such as thyme, sage, or basil. Strain the entire pot through a fine mesh colander, and discard all the vegetables and carcass. Allow the liquid to cool. In the end, the stock should be a beautiful auburn color and have a mild savory flavor.
I plan on using my stock within the next couple of days, so I poured it into mason jars and stuck it in the fridge. It should last in the fridge for about five days. Canning the stock is another option; however the process for cooking is a bit different. I prefer to freeze homemade stock that I am not going to use. I put it in a large Tupperware container and just pop it in the freezer. It will last indefinitely in the freezer.
This stock has a hint of the richness from the pheasant bones and also a clean, fresh taste from the vegetables. It is not salty, which took me a minute to get used to. When using store bought chicken stock, the stock is salted and, for me, that is the main flavor that stands out. This pheasant stock is a base starting point for any sauces, broths, or soups you might create with it. Think of the stock as a building block that will enhance and develop flavor in your dish. This recipe allows you to extract the umami (one of the five basic tastes) to use as an ingredient from a bird carcass or other bones. It also gives a little more reward to yourself and the animal that provided for you.