Skinning a Rabbit and Plucking a Fowl.
Today we usually buy our meat ready to cook. In the past, the people of Auchindrain would have done everything – killing, plucking and skinning – themselves. They kept hens, and would have hunted for pigeons, rabbits and hares.
Skinning a rabbit is quite a simple process, and takes about five minutes. Once the paws, tail, skin, and entrails had been removed, the heart, kidney, and liver were saved to be eaten. The carcass was washed, ready to be roasted whole, or cut up into joints for stew or a pie.
Plucking the feathers from a hen or other bird is a messier, harder task than skinning a rabbit. If the bird is cold it is hard to pluck as the feathers lock into the skin, and pulling them out can take the skin off with them. The bird is plunged into a pot of warm water for a minute or two to loosen the feathers. Smaller birds such as pigeons can be fully plucked in 2-3 minutes. They can be dry plucked as their skin is softer. If the bird is a water fowl such as a duck, the “down” – the fluffy insulating undercoat of feathers – needs to be removed as well, by scraping it off carefully with a knife. Birds are not skinned like rabbits. This would waste precious fat and skin.
Once the bird has been ‘drawn’ (the removal of its entrails), the carcass is then ready to be used: boiled or roasted whole, cut into joints, or boned and cut up to make a stew or pie.