Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Quail Sera Sera


It’s the end of a big Sunday service, let’s call him Bill, he quietly meanders into the kitchen with an impish smile, with thanks all round to the kitchen team asks if perchance we liked the taste of wild quail? Our collective eyes light up... a kindred spirit. Over a quiet drink he told us of his passion for hunting quail and how his father had also hunted and explained the intricacies of its storage and preparation.  A week later with a rendezvous in Camperdown we get a large box [bag] of superb stubble quail. Now the packaging was intriguing but so elegant. The birds are layered on straw from the fields where they were shot, a large icepack on the top and bottom. Bill explained that this was the same method his father had used during the depression to deliver game to local pubs to supplement the farming income. We spoke about how to dress them and his method is something like this...
First cut off the head, wing tips and feet with a pair of scissors.
 Plucking is a quiet skill best performed in company with some good bottles and plenty of conversation Bill does this in the field around a campfire with his mates. I like to age them in feather on the straw in the cool room for about 4-7 days. The feathers and skins are delicate but after about a dozen you get used to the way they are layered. Some start at the back and work their way to the neck  others go in reverse, the main thing is to try not to tear the skin. Do not try to use hot water as they are far too delicate When they are plucked rinse and place them into a bucket of icy salted water [10%] salt this begins to sterilise the skin.
When you have plucked your bag make another icy salt bath and cut along the spine with the scissors and remove the internal organs. Rinse and place in the second iced salt water bath. Leave them in the brine for about 4 hours . The quail are now ready to cook or they will store in the fridge for about a week. Sadly most hunters stew them for far too long. They are quite tender and only require about 10 minutes in a hot oven. I like to add a little garlic, salt and juniper into the cavity and bard them with some tasty form of pig fat like speck or bacon and cover with a fine layer of crepinette for roasting. Stubble quail are small with dark flesh but extremely tasty a real wild flavour. A couple of weeks later our rendezvous is in Inverleigh and the prize is Brown Quail from the islands in Bass Straight. Bill has a  hunt with his close buddies once a year,  the old dog patiently waiting in the car a calming companion.  Thanks Bill for reminding me that the best food hardly ever makes it to a restaurant.   Now where are those Morels?....

5 comments:

neil said...

Nice tale. Love people like Bill, same name as my dad, who also hunted and was reputed to be a great shot. Sadly died when I was very young so never got to hunt with him.

Is there any chance of a wild quail lunch at some stage, can certainly bring some dried morels to help things along. Just keep forgetting where we picked them...

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

But a memory now Neil

lucea said...

Nice Blog...

Jen said...

I am interested in Bill's method of plucking and dressing the quail. I love the idea of the brine. When my husband shoots the guns walk in a line along the paddock to bring up the quail. The non shooters are then handed the quail when they've been picked up and we start plucking straight away while we are walking along. The feathers come out very easily without tearing the skin (the shot does more damage). I butterflied them, marinated them and cooked them on the BBQ. Probably not OH &S approved but very tasty..
Would love to know if you do a quail class.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hello Jen
We do whatever people request in our classes so its absolutely OK to ask for quail provided its in season. Love the idea of guns and pluckers advancing in the field. But I do like the taste of a bit of age in feather, not too much like the English but a few days really brings out a flavour. Love the look of your blog too... the best food is always at home.