But a few years back, Hank hunted with a friend at a duck club that had a totally sweet operation for processing ducks, and the key feature was the wax pot.
After plucking off maybe two-thirds of the top feathers, hunters at this club would dip their birds in a cauldron of hot melted wax, then put them in a barrel of cool water to set the wax. After that, all they had to do was peel off the wax and voila! The down was all gone, revealing pretty skin, suitable for roasting whole.
We adapted this operation to work in our garage, and at long last, we've made a video that shows how to do it.
I wouldn't say it makes plucking ducks easy - it still takes time. But it does leave you with some really beautiful ducks to eat, and that's the whole point.
Some additional notes about what you see in the video:
The pot: It's a cheap aluminum tamale pot from a Mexican market. Cheap is important, because this thing will get grimy, and you probably won't want to use it for food in the kitchen anymore after you use it for waxing ducks.
The burner: Ours is a totally lame portable electric burner. We keep talking about switching to a turkey deep fryer with a powerful gas burner and thermostat, but we haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe there will be some on sale, now that the season of eating whole turkeys has passed.
Heating the water: We give the wax pot a head start by filling it out of a faucet right next to the water heater, so the water comes out blazing hot. It really does take a while to heat up, because it's two-thirds full. If I plan to pluck when I get home, I'll call Hank and ask him to get the pot started so it's nice and hot when I arrive 75 minutes later.
The mess: Yeah, it's super messy, which is why we do it in the garage. But it's way easier sweeping up clumps of wax than chasing tufts of down.
Got anymore questions? Comment here or on the video itself and we'll answer the best we can.
© Holly A. Heyser 2012