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Nov 27, 2004 07:42 PM

Grouse fiasco - help!

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Ok, here's the background: my husband and I LOVE game. We seek it out, order it wherever we find it, has buckshot? We'll take it! I finally convinced my local butcher to order some grouse for me which is supposedly in season until December. He kept it in the freezer and I did the same until yesterday when I put it in the fridge to thaw. I made what is the classic French preparation for the bird tonight, called Grouse on Toast. Oh my god was it awful. Bitter, smelly, indedible. We threw it in the garbage.
As an aside, I'm a trained cook with many years experience in restaurants and catering so I don't think it was a prep problem.
My question is this: what's the deal? Is this what grouse tastes like? Should it not have been frozen and thawed? I had been lead to believe this was the pinnacle of game bird eating... what went wrong?

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  1. I've never eaten grouse, but I believe the season opens Aug. 12 (and I can't even give you a season for any other hunted animal). To wit, my guess is bad storage. "HE" kept it in the freezer, but he didn't shoot it, and who knows the provenance before him. Though different people like their game hung longer vs. more sauvage.

    According to a Larousse G, cc. 1961, all species are of delicate skin, many like partridge. Many prepared like pheasant. ALL have a "pronounced pine flavour" which, like mint/eucalyptus in Cal Cab Sauv, is a real opinion-divider. "Bitter" and "Smelly" fit that, though pine is distinct (Pine Sol being enough to turn anyone from eating).

    I look forward to those with more than book knowledge giving input.

    3 Replies
    1. re: SteveT

      Isn't it possible that it could have come from farm raised stock?

      I wouldn't have known anything about this except that my ex-wife had an uncle in Sonoma who raised game birds which were supplied to reataurants.

      1. re: Sam D.

        The label said Scottland and gave the name of the hunter on it. I tend to agree that it may have been a storage issue. More feedback welcome!

        1. re: Alison

          Sounds like a storage issue to me. I've very often cleaned, cooked and eaten wild birds shot in the US and UK. Grouse is a lovely bird with white, delicate meat. The flavor seems to vary appreciably according to what the bird has been eating (pine; juniper berries; apples) but it is never an obnoxious thing and I never had one that tasted bad. We kept some of them frozen for quite a while too.

          The only other thing I can think of besides storage that might cause problems is if the bird was indeed shot wild, they may be messed up in such a way that the meat gets contaminated with fluids from the internal organs. I very much doubt they would send out one with a problem like that because it is very obvious to look at.

    2. I've shot and eaten ruffed, sharptail, and blue grouse, among other critters. I think the problem you had was what we politely call "greenbutt" -- that is to say a bird that was hung too long. (It actually does turn green.) This is a potential problem with lighter-fleshed game birds that should be eaten, as the French say, "off the point of the gun". Woodcock and ducks, on the other hand, hang quite well. Tell your purveyor you want your money back.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        I agree. Pheasant hangs well also, but small birds do well, as you state, "off the point of the gun". Most "hunters" ain't got a clue. They mishandle the game. Shooting is one thing, field dressing is another. Most know little of the latter.

        1. re: Steve

          We ate grouse several years ago. It was delicious - one of the best game birds we ever had.

          Husband went on a grouse hunting trip with several buddies. He hunts pheasants often, but this was his first grouse trip.

          They stayed the weekend up north and he brought home one grouse. I guess they are very difficult to hunt. One grouse for the two of us was only a few bites, but it was delicious. We called it the $300 dollar hunting trip grouse. Hope your next experience is a better one. Donna

        2. It was the bird. From your description you had a wild grouse from Scotland. In the US it is illegal to trade in wild game. Apparently not in the UK. I don't know what that species of grouse eats or tastes like, but the ruffed grouse and sharptail grouse are not bitter, smelly or inedible. They do, however, need to be cooked with fat over the breast as any true game bird is a bit on the lean side. While a ruffed grouse is mildly gamey, a woodcook tastes like the earth. Very deep earthy flavor that I imagine many people would not like.

          One last thing on wild game, you can get a bad bird even if it is dressed and stored properly. Unlike farm raised animals where quality is well controlled, greater genetic variation and diet in the wild leads to more variety in quality.