I know my readers are thinking, “What the heck? Where’s the post heralding the beginning of Bird Season?”
Well, fear not! Bird Season was celebrated with much hoop-la down in these parts. The sporting goods stores were packed to the gills with hunters, feverishly purchasing all things camo, shotgun shells, decoys and, this year, mud boots. A tropical disturbance dumped a butt-load of rain in these parts, making the fields almost impenetrable. Up until the opening day, no one was really sure whether or not the hunts would even take place.
We watched forecasts with trepidation. Members of the Deerslayer clan and close friends were scheduled to arrive from far and wide for two days of hunting. Parts of South Texas received several inches of rain while other parts (just down the road) had considerably less. Luckily, with mud boots all ’round, the hunt took place. Birds were plucked and gutted. Beer was drunk. The traditional meal of whitewing with rice and peas was served.
Plucking and gutting whitewing is a long, tedious, hot, and steamy task in South Texas. It’s a task that is taught to junior doveslayers for obvious reasons.
Packaging and Freezing Birds
After many years of packaging and freezing birds, Deerslayer (doveslayer) and I have come up with a method that not only protects the birds from freezer burn, but also allows them to be stored and stacked in the freezer to make the best use of space.
Rubbermaid makes a 6×10 container that will hold 12 birds and giblets. I like this size because it fits nicely in the freezer and because 2-3 birds per person is just about right for our family. The next larger size of container, 9×13, will hold about 18 birds.
First, place the birds in the container and freeze for several hours. Then, add enough water to fill container up about an inch. The reason for this is that the birds will float if too much water is added at once. Return the container to the freezer. After water has frozen, top off with enough water to cover birds and return to freezer.
After birds are covered with ice, place lid on them, label the package with number of birds and the date. The containers can then be stacked.
Freezing and Reheating Cooked Birds
Each year, Deerslayer’s uncle flies down for the hunt from Colorado. As a special treat, I make up a batch of whitewing doves and gravy for him to take back home. After the birds are cooked and are quite tender, I remove them from the gravy and allow them to cool somewhat. I place them in a Rubbermaid 6×10 container. After the gravy has also cooled, I pour it into a zip-lock bag and place it into the Rubbermaid container too. I attach the lid and freeze the whole lot. Wrapped in newspaper and placed in a zippered, insulated bag, the birds have always made it to Colorado just fine.
To prepare the frozen birds, thaw them out along with the gravy packet. In a cast iron skillet, pour in the coagulated gravy. Turn heat to medium, add a little chicken stock and stir with a whisk until smooth and hot. Add birds. Continue to heat with a lid on until birds are heated through and gravy bubbles happily.