Domestic ducks and geese are the pigs of the air. They lay on thick layers of clean-tasting, delicious fat that is healthier for you than lard — and remember that fresh-rendered lard is healthier for you than butter. Other than fish fat, waterfowl fat is arguably the animal fat that is best for you; it is so low in saturated fat that it’s actually liquid at a warm room temperature.
I cook with it all year long. What about wild birds? I am blessed with ducks and geese that winter in Northern California among the rice fields. It is not uncommon to see pintails or mallard with such a thick layer of white, rice-built fat that they look like little domestic ducks. In my experience, only wigeon and snow geese tend to be lean. These need extra fat when cooking. Where do you get it? By rendering the fat from your pudgy ducks! Here’s how:
First, you must pluck your birds. Once plucked, the fat is mostly in the body cavity, around the gizzard and in the Pope’s Nose. There is also good fat to be had in the neck skin. What I do is chop up the neck skin of smaller ducks (I keep the necks of larger ducks for other uses), pull out the body cavity fat and the fat around the gizzard and hack the Pope’s Nose into at least two pieces. Wash them all in cold water and put into a small frying pan over medium-low heat with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
The fat will begin to render out immediately into the water, which will evaporate — but not before rendering enough fat to allow the bits to continue rendering slowly without scorching.
Take your time, and turn the pieces periodically until they are crispy and brown. Can you eat them? Sure, but the skin gets pretty tough in this preparation. Take the bits out, skim any impurities and let the fat cool slightly. I typically pour everything through cheesecloth.
Afterwards pour it into a container, cover it and keep it in the fridge. It will last a year.