Wild Game is at the core of many of our feasts and courses throughout the Autumn. Here at The Salt Box, eating and sourcing ingredients sustainably is paramount, as we strive to reconnect people to both their plates and surroundings. In this post, we delve into the sustainability of wild game, the sourcing of pheasant and how best to cook and enjoy this flavoursome meat.
The Common Pheasant is notorious for being a bolshy bird. Cock’s feathers are rich in chestnut, golden brown and black markings, with a dark green head and red face. The hens, more subdued in colour.
As with all game, Pheasants are found in rural areas – especially woodland, farmland and marshland and so their diet is natural and hormone free. It’s this natural diet that gives game meat its unique and delicious flavour.
The game industry has a hugely positive impact on the ecology of our natural landscape. and plays a fundamental role in managing game populations. There’s a tremendous amount of conservation work that goes into the sustainability of wild game, and the management of these animals ensures woodland is not destroyed – just another reason to add game to your menu!
In terms of when to source pheasant, open season for Pheasant is from October to January. Only hunting within this period protects the breeding cycle, allowing them to reproduce without the pressure of hunting. Outside of the season, pheasant will also be available to purchase – it’ll just be frozen.
Despite living a truly free range life, it’s no secret that game such as pheasant is reared primarily for sport here in the UK – therefore pheasants generally fall into two categories – truly wild and managed. Stalking and shooting is largely done to control wildlife and protect the countryside, supporting our habitats and eco-systems to encourage the flora and fauna to flourish. Ensuring nothing goes to waste, supporting this platform ensures the harvested meat goes to good use is incredibly important.
All of our game is sourced within Surrey, working closely with farmers and butchers to ensure there are as few miles from field to fork as possible – one of our strongest values here at The Salt Box.
Pheasant is available at most butchers throughout the season – if they don’t have it available on the counter, your butcher will be able to order this in for you.
We work with our local farmers and butchers during Game Season to ensure we know exactly where our animals are sourced from, when the animal was shot and how long it has been hung for.
The younger the game, the more tender the meat will be and the longer the meat is hung, the more “gamey” the flavour will become – it’s all down to preference.
Below, you’ll find a handful of our local recommendations:
There are also a select number of reputable British companies you can source sustainable game from online:
Note that if you’re buying pheasant in the feather, it’s generally sold as a brace (usually one cock and one hen), providing enough meat for a meal for four and excellent value for money.
Pheasant is a healthy and abundant source of protein. Roaming free outdoors for their entire life, pheasants (like all game) are naturally lean. The meat is delicate in flavour and very versatile – it makes a great substitution for chicken.
You have to bear a few things in mind when it comes to cooking game – firstly, that it can have a tendency to be dry if not cooked correctly, and the birds can be tougher than your usual chicken – because the animal has lived a truly free-range life and so has built up significantly more muscle tissue that your factory farmed meat.
When you’re roasting pheasant you also want to treat the legs and the breast differently, because the legs will be a little tougher.
If you’re keen to try this delicious meat, one of our favourite recipes that feature Pheasant is our Gypsy Style Pheasant.
We love to see recreations of our dishes, so snap and tag us on Instagram and Facebook @thesaltboxuk.
If you’re keen to learn more about wild game, we host a range of butchery and cookery courses celebrating all things feathered and furred. Throughout the season, join us on our Wild Venison Butchery Course or our Feather and Fur Wild Game Butchery and Cookery Course, here in our Woodland Kitchen.
Wild Venison Butchery & Cookery
Small Game Feather & Fur Butchery & Cookery
There are also an abundance of fantastic books about Wild Game that we’d recommend, which you can explore here.
How plucking marvellous!