My house is littered with the unusual: A truly impressive accumulation of Hank's odd projects in various states of progress. Or maybe these things are just detritus that he left on our beleaguered kitchen table instead of tossing them. Sometimes they're both.
Really, it's too ridiculous not to share, so I've created a video series called "Hanksperiments." You can see the entire playlist here, and a recent one below. Enjoy!
When your boyfriend makes a living pushing the boundaries of what normal people do with wild food, you end up with a LOT of weird stuff going on around the house. This is what happened when he came home from a halibut fishing trip this weekend with more bait than halibut.
Did I need a new gun? No. But last fall, Benelli invited me on a hunt in Saskatchewan where I was one of four shotgun/hunting writers to try out the new Benelli Super Black Eagle 3, before it had even been released. I liked it a LOT, so as soon as it was available, I bought one.
The gun is getting rave reviews, so I figured there are people out there who might like to know how to do a few things with it, so I've made a few videos: how to assemble the SBE3 out of the box, how to reverse the safety and how to adjust drop and cast.
All three videos are below, as is the story behind the video about how to reverse the safety - feel free to enjoy a good laugh at my expense!
Now, the story:
As soon as I got my SBE3, I took it apart, reversed the cast and reversed safety so it was good for left-handed shooting. I had zero trouble doing it. So then the next weekend I did a re-enactment so I could make a how-to video.
Reversing the safety involves removing a retaining pin that holds back a tiny, 1/2-inch long spring. At one point in that process, I didn't realize I'd pushed the pin all the way out so I turned it around to look at it. Snap! ......... Plink!
Oh. My. God. The spring had flown out and hit something metal somewhere behind me, which could've been one of the dozens of photo prop tables I have, a sheet of corrugated metal, a refrigerater, a freezer, the Instant Pot sitting on the freezer, the electric slicer sitting on the box next to the freezer, the water heater, the washer or the dryer.
At this point it's worth noting that I was working up one of my MONSTER headaches and I was not feeling good, and getting more nauseated by the second, both because of the headache and my predicament. I watched the video up to the point where I started saying "Oh God" over and over. Unfortunately I had pulled the trigger assembly out of the frame, so I couldn't see which way it'd been pointing.
But it sounded like it had hit the corrugated metal behind me. Right underneath that metal was an enormous wad of duck blind camo grass, like a roll of brittle shag carpet. So I tipped it upside down and shook. Nothing. Then I started picking up and shaking every single photo prop/table. Then I tipped the frame that holds the tables and looked underneath. Then I reached into a corner that looked like a great place for a family of black widows and pulled every piece of junk sitting there.
Hank came home at that point, so I pulled him in. He pulled out the fridge. Took out all the pieces of camo grass and shook them separately. Helpfully (not) pointed out that it might have hit the rafters and gone God knows where. Dear God. Not the decoys! Nausea increased. I decided to look by the water heater and asked him to put all the grass back into its plastic bag, which is akin to putting a genie back in a bottle, which is to say it didn't really happen the way I'd envisioned.
While he worked on that, I began picking up each item of dirty laundry near the water heater and shaking it. This was mostly Hank's filthy gardening clothes and bloody elk processing towels and aprons, which is to say it was all dank and crusty. Still nothing.
Despondent, I resolved to give up and hit the Brownell's website to order a replacement spring and cancel my planned Sunday shoot at with a friend. So I put the laundry back in its pile, shaking each item again for good measure. And after the last item was on the pile, I looked down on the floor and there it was: the spring.
It had been two hours since I'd lost it. But my persistence - honed by 11 dogless seasons of searching for ducks that drop in terrible places - had paid off.
So, I rallied! I finished the filming, went inside the house, took some meds for the headache, and thanked my lucky stars.
So if you watch that video and you can see how much my hands are shaking as I work on the trigger assembly, it's because I could barely see straight at that point. But I got it done!
There are many legitimate ways to clean your gamebirds, but I have developed a method I like a LOT: fillet & gut. It's a great way to work cleanly, get all you can out of a bird, and maximize how much meat and fat you get off of it.
The short version is that I pluck a bird whole, then fillet it off the carcass. Then I separate breast, leg and wing on the meat side so I can see exactly where the muscle groups begin and end, as opposed to guessing while cutting each carcass off the whole bird. This is also cool because you're removing those parts before gutting the bird, and gutting is when you're mostly likely to puncture intestines and get poop on your meat. This is not the end of the world, of course - a good rinse will make everything fine again. But still, better to be clean from the start.
The next cool thing is when you've taken all the meat off the carcass, you can pull off the breast plate like a lid and all the wobbly bits - heart, liver, gizzard - are waiting for you on top of the bird, no reaching up into the darkness and grabbing.
Here's the video that shows this process in detail. It's not short - just under 10 minutes - but if you're looking for a clean way to maximize your birds, this is it! And there's an FAQ below the video.
And here's an FAQ:
Q: Why not just cook the bird whole? A: Breast meat needs to be cooked hot and fast, and medium rare like a steak, and legs and wings need to be cooked slowly to break down the meat, which can be tough. If you cook the whole bird, you're either going to overcook the breast or undercook the legs and wings.
Q: Why did you save the feet? A: You can throw them into stock! Just like pig feet, which can be used for the same purpose, they contain collagen that makes your stock silkier.
Q: That duck looked easy to work with - why? A: Two things: First is after plucking it, I put it in the fridge overnight. It's much easier to slice a cold duck, especially if it has a lot of fat, which can turn your fingers greasy. The second is that he was a perfect specimen with very little shot damage to the body. The reality is that birds killed with a shotgun will be messier, especially if shot hits the guts.
Q: What do you use duck fat for? A: It's a great substitute for butter or cooking oil in many recipes. When I pan-sear duck breasts (my favorite treatment), I start with a bit of duck fat in the pan. I'll throw duck fat into the rice cooker too.
Q: If I break the gall bladder, will it ruin the meat? A: Nope. Just rinse whatever that nasty juice touched. If it still smells bad to you, pat it dry and put it on a paper towel in a covered container in the fridge and check it the next day. I find a lot of smells that are present during cleaning disappear with a little time.
Q: What do you do with all the parts after breaking it down? A: I rinse and pat dry everything then put the parts on paper towels in plastic containers and let them sit in the fridge for 2-3 days, changing the paper towels once or twice a day. This brings out extra moisture and the meat ages just a bit, condensing flavors. Then I vacuum seal and freeze anything I'm not going to eat within one week of the day I shot the bird.