Baron’s Brouhaha is this weekend.. it’s a super casual, relaxed baronial camping event on the Baron and Baroness’ farm. (Barony in question: Ramshaven in Ealdormere). We daytripped this year, but that really just meant we crammed a weekend’s worth of stuff into a 14 hr day on site. Wheeee!
I taught my intro to lace class for five students, it went pretty well. Everyone had the basics of cross and twist, whole stitch, half stitch, braids and windmill crossings by the end, which is a damn good start for 90 mins. (class was only supposed to be an hour. Whoops.)
The big thing of the day was the pluck-a-duck competition. You see Laura and Cesare have ducks, and had way too many male ducks, so they offered up freshly butchered ducks for the cooking A&S folks to prepare for feast. Of course we said ‘sure! We’re in! Can we have two?’. (Yes, we are kinda dumb, and sorta crazy). Two teams were in, each of us doing two ducks.
At this point in the story, I should mention that neither of us have ever plucked or gutted a duck before, and I don’t even much like eating duck. Sooo.. crazy? Yes indeed.
We chose two recipes, Duck in Clay, and a sweet roasted duck recipe. Neither are especially period, although both are plausible. The first is very simple. Take your still feathered duck, gut it. Stuff with apples and onions. Cover it in clay, bury in coals. Wait ’til supper. So our clay was really dry. And had some dirt in it, but mostly really dry. And Penn got the duck well coated and then we built a fire basically on top of it, and tossed copious amounts of charcoal on until it was a heap. Did I mention neither of us had ever cooked on coals before? Yeah. That too.
While that duck was going, we got to plucking. Penn did the first rough pluck, and then I took over and snuggled with Daffy to get as much down as I could off. I can’t lean over for very long, so I ended up lounged back with a dead duck on my apron to pluck down off. It was a moment, let me tell you. The farm ended up with a light haze of down (we saved all the bigger feathers). I can utterly see how sitting around plucking birds was a prime giggling, gossip activity for the women.
By the point that we were gutting and stuffing and sticking in a pot to put on the BBQ (coated cast iron and we didn’t have a grate for the fire, so we decided on putting it on the BBQ), it felt like fairly normal cooking.
We left both all afternoon, and honestly both of them were overcooked. The duck in clay had the clay crack and burn the top side of the duck. The duck on the bbq was just flat out in there too long (we erred on the side of overcooked rather than under, as much from being damn tired at this point than anything, but uncooked bird is not the look we want for food.)
The braised duck on the BBQ was not exciting. It tasted kinda like duck, with a sweet stuffing. Enh. The one in clay, however, was interesting.
I dug off the coals and expected to hit clay, but instead hit charred bird. Hrm. We got the charred mess of soot and feathers onto the cutting board and started poking. The top half just peeled right off in a sooty mess, but fortunately the bottom half was where the breast meat was hiding. Just the skin and feathers peeled off that part, which was a feature!
We got no points for presentation (it’s not one of Penn or my strong suits, we really need to work on that) and I think it would have taken a gifted artist to make the duck look good at that point. Apparently it tasted pretty good, I got a nibble of the braised duck, but none of the duck in clay.
All in all, it was fun. Exhausting, vaguely disgusting and I am in no rush to ever do it again, but I’m glad we did it once!