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Choosing Game

Furred and Feathered

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Brace of Pheasants

Brace of Pheasants

Photo © istock.com

Choosing and cooking game isn't difficult with a few guidelines and a information about Game.

Game is the term for wild animals and birds hunted and caught for food. Game has been a favorite British food forever, as it was once the main source of meat for many being wild and more importantly, free. Today many animals and birds, which were once wild are now raised on farms including quail, deer and rabbit.

Game falls into two types; feathered and furred.
The season for wild feathered game starts officially on the 12th August, known as the Glorious 12th, and runs through to late February; furred game from August 1st until late April. Dates vary throughout the UK and Ireland for different types of Game and precise details can be found on the Shooting UK website.

Buying Game
Many supermarkets now sell oven-ready game with cooking instructions but if you want to know more about where your meat came from then it is best to go to a specialist game dealer. A game dealer will be able to tell you where and when the bird or animal was shot and advise on cooking methods.

Knowing the age of the game is very important, as this will determine the cooking method. Young birds can be roasted whereas older birds are better suited to a casserole or pie. If you are lucky to have been given a brace of birds, young birds if unplucked will have smooth legs, and the beak and feet will still be pliable.

Fresh game can only be bought in season unless frozen, whereas farmed game is not subject to the seasons and can often be bought year-round. Farmed game is more tender and less gamey in flavor than from the wild; which to choose is down to personal preference.

Hanging Game
Birds and animals caught in the wild have a tendency to be dry and tough and the way to counteract this is to hang them. Hanging tenderizes the meat and allows flavor to develop.

The test of when a bird or animal had been hung sufficiently used to be waiting until the head and tail feathers fell off, or maggots appeared in the gut is no longer used – thank goodness. Ripeness is now judged by the smell. A high bird will smell powerfully gamey; a bird that is rotten smells bad, as any meat that has gone off.

Pheasant, partridge and grouse should be hung by the neck, wildfowl including geese by the feet. This helps the meat to mature slowly and retain moisture – very important to avoid the game being dry when cooked.

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