Daryl Snowdon’s Smoked Wild Duck
Smoked duck is unbelievable, if you haven’t tried it you must. While this recipe is a little complicated you can skip one or all of the steps, although I would recommend you still brine your ducks. There is nothing stopping you brining your wholes birds and them skipping the boning and stuffing and just smoking your whole ducks. For the recipe I went the whole nine yards, brined, boned, stuffed and then smoked, the result, magnificent.
Ingredients for 2 ducks
• Brine • 4 litres of water • 1 cup salt • 1 cup brown sugar • 5 cloves garlic • 1 tbsp peppercorns • ¼ cup vinegar • 1 tbsp dried rosemary • 1 tbsp thyme • Stuffing • 500 g pork shoulder (or pork mince) • Fresh thyme • 1 tsp Salt • Pepper • Smoking: • Handful of cherry chips (soaked in water)
If you choose to brine your duck before smoking you will not regret it! I recommend you brine all birds, chicken, turkey, ducks, as it really helps to retain moisture. This is a fancy brine that does add flavour to the ducks, you can skip the fancy stuff and just use water, salt and sugar. The salt helps retain moisture while the sugar will help brown the outside of the ducks.
In a large saucepan, combine water, salt, brown sugar, garlic, peppercorns, vinegar, rosemary, and thyme. Mix over low heat until combined and sugar is dissolved. Cool by placing in refrigerator. Place ducks in brine so that it is completely covered and place in the fridge for four to six hours. Remove ducks from brine, rinse and allow to dry before the next step.
This is not as hard as many think, if you haven’t tried it, give it a go. Place the duck, breast side down, on a board with the neck end away from you. Using a small knife, make a cut through the skin, down the middle of the spine, from the neck to tail. I usually cut out the parson’s nose when I clean my ducks, but if you don’t, make a cut on either side of the parson’s nose.
Start to release the skin and meat from the carcass from the neck end, working your way down the length of the duck. It is important to work your knife on the outside of the shoulder blade near the wing end of the duck and to release and retain the oyster with the skin. The objective is to remove the skin and meat intact from the carcass.
As the skin and meat continue to be released, the thigh and wing joints will be exposed. Cut through the wing joint carefully, without cutting through the skin on the underside. Place your fingers under the thigh and thumb on top of it and pull the thigh backwards to ‘pop’ the joint, then release the joint with the knife.
Continue working down the side of the duck, releasing the meat.
Cut the breast meat away from the wishbone at the wing end and continue cutting until the breast is released from the breast plate. Work your knife down the length of the breast bone. By now the whole of one side of the duck should be released from the carcass. Turn the duck around and repeat on the other side.
When the second side is released hold the duck carcass up and carefully release the skin and meat by carefully cutting along the breast plate. The knife must be kept as close to the bone and cartilage as possible to avoid cutting through the skin. The duck will fall away, put the carcass aside.
For this recipe I used minced pork belly. If you don’t have a mincer you can use either pork mince (adding a tsp of salt for every kg) or the filling from pork sausages. Lay the boned-out duck on a board Cover in a layer of your stuffing mixture, I use about 2.5 cm (1 inch), but just roll the duck up a few times until it looks like a duck again.
Sprinkle with thyme (or whatever you have available) and pepper.
Roll the duck back up and shape it until it looks like a whole bird again.
Tie with cooking string in 4–5 places, try to seal the duck up as best as possible to keep all of that goodness in there.
How you place your duck in the smoker doesn’t really matter, I usually smoke them breast up. You will need a drip pan under the birds if you are using a gas smoker, as they will drip fat, if you’re using a Webber, Smokey Mountain or similar the fat will just drip into the water tray.
Remember when smoking ducks, less is more, don’t over smoke them. A handful of cherry chips (apple also works well) should be enough to get a great smoky flavour.
Smoke your ducks at 120°C for 2–3 hours, I always use a digital thermometer and I like them to be at about 70°C.
If you like a crispy skin you can place the ducks into a hot oven for approx. 5 minutes at 250°C, this will crisp up the skin and give them a lovely dark colour.
Now it’s time to carve them and enjoy with your favourite side dishes, we love them with baked berlotti beans with cheese and leeks, potatoes and coleslaw, enjoy!