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.
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. I cook with it all year long.
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, 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 heat with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
The fat will begin to render out immediately into the water, which, as the water boils, will evaporate — but not before rendering enough fat to allow the bits to continue rendering slowly without scorching.
Once the water boils away, drop the temperature to low and watch the fat, which will be yellow and milky. At some point, about 30 to 45 minutes later, the fat will turn clear. Now you’re ready.
Set up a strainer over a glass container to hold the fat in; I use pint Mason jars. Set a paper towel into the strainer and pour the contents of the pan into it. All the impurities will stay with the paper towel. When the fat is done dripping, about 15 minutes, pour the liquid gold into a container, cover it and keep it in the fridge. It will last a year, and indefinitely in the freezer.