When I worked as editor of the Ducks Unlimited Canada magazine, Frank Baldwin would often come sauntering through my door — all six feet plus of him — settle in to the only other chair in the room and for the next couple of hours, we would talk ducks, decoys and dogs.
I loved his British accent, mixed in with a few Australian terms, generously sprinkled with Canadian prairie words and evenly coated with the proper grammar of an educated speaker. Even though Frank died last year, I heard that voice again as a read the pages of a new cookbook that he nearly finished before his death.
From the Marsh to the Table will be released in a couple of weeks, thanks to the commitment of his wife, Ali, daughter, Olivia and son, Frank along with the help of Ducks Unlimited Canada.
"The publication of this book is a tribute to our late husband and father, who sincerely appreciated waterfowl and wanted others to experience their culinary attributes," said Frank Jr. "Assisting in the completion of the book was a healing process for our family. It is truly satisfying that others may enjoy his recipes and stories as we did for so many years."
The book isn’t just a collection of recipes. It starts off with a hefty chapter on maintaining the quality of waterfowl after you pull the trigger. Whether you’re a seasoned waterfowler or a first-timer, this is useful stuff. There’s a page on hanging waterfowl. This is a practice I’ve neither done nor seen, but after digesting the information, it seems like a smart idea. The chapter goes on to discuss plucking, dressing, freezing and prepping the birds for cooking.
I think it would be fair to call Frank Baldwin a scholar and that certainly comes through in the words he wrote for this book. It’s all proper English, no slang, and often peppered with a bit of restrained humour.
"Snow geese are notoriously reluctant to be relieved of their feathers, only a very small portion can be plucked without tearing the skin," he wrote in the section about plucking.
In a section packed with cooking tips, Baldwin warns about the dangers of leaving pellets in the flesh.
"In these days of non-toxic-shot, dental encounters with steel shot are painful and potentially expensive. A carpenter’s stud finder with the ability to locate metal wiring will reveal pellets in meat."
The book includes innovative, delicious and some slightly upscale recipes for ducks, geese and — are you ready — snipe. I’ve never seen one in the field, much less thought about harvesting it, but once again, Baldwin gives us a little gift.
"Truly a wild bird of the boggy marshes and wet meadows where snipe may be abundant, it is surprising that the challenging qualities of snipe shooting, the beauty of the places where they are found and the culinary value of these delectable little birds, remains largely unknown." The book includes a recipe for snipe with thyme and white Wine.
Not to be overshadowed by the bird recipes, the book includes recipes for sauces, pates, terrines, sausages, soups, marinades, stocks, gravies and side dishes. I was so inspired by the spiced oranges recipe, I made a bunch of jars as soon as I got my hands on the book. Winnipeg photographer Ian McCausland is to thank for the mouth-watering food shots.
From the Marsh to the Table will be available beginning Nov. 15 on the Ducks Unlimited Canada Website at ducks.ca ($19.99 plus shipping) as well as at McNally Robinson Booksellers ($24.99) and several other outlets. The book launch is Nov. 27 at 7 pm at McNally Robinson, where friends, foodies, chefs and hunters will celebrate Baldwin’s passion for waterfowl.
Roast goose with gin & juniper (From the Marsh to the Table)
1 prime goose or 2 prime mallards or other large ducks
3 cups game stock
4 bay leaves
12 juniper berries, crushed or ground
1 tablespoon corn flour
1⁄2 cup dry gin
salt and pepper
Mix stock, bay leaves, juniper berries in roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Place bird(s) in pan, spoon over with pan contents. Roast until rare, baste a few times. Remove, cover, keep warm.
Remove bay leaves and discard, separate pan contents, discard fat and save residues. Mix saved residues with scrapings from the bottom of the pan. Mix corn flour with gin and mix with contents of pan. Bring to a boil, lower heat, reduce until sauce has a creamy consistency, adjust seasoning. Serve sauce in a hot sauceboat to accompany the carved meat.
Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she’s not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org