Experience the Flavor of Maryland’s Dove SeasonPosted on: September 20, 2018 By: FHMD
My name is Vicky Mullaney, and life for me is uncommon. I am the chef and lodge manager at The Lodge at Black Pearl, an 870-acre farm and private hunting preserve in Dorchester County, Maryland. I am the mother of five and grandmother of three. I’ve developed an unconventional skill set over the last 30 years. I am a huntress. I can cast a fly rod and butcher a deer. I grow oysters and help farm. I drive tractors and dump trucks, and I cook for my family and our guests. I also brush blinds, run boats, split firewood, and work with the dogs. The bottom line – it’s all women’s work!
At the Black Pearl, we celebrate life in the way we live, in what we teach, through the meals we share. We have over five miles of waterfront and a couple hundred acres of flooded cropland. This is ideal habitat for ducks and geese, and hunters come from all over the country to enjoy unparalleled waterfowl hunting, memorable meals, and compelling conversation. The decision to buy this hunting operation eight years ago was made with our five children and their future families in mind. My husband had hunted here as a guest for 18 years. From the time our three boys could hold a shotgun, they would take a couple of days off from school in Virginia to join their father along the shores of the Little Choptank River. Stephen taught the whole family about waterfowl hunting on this farm we now call home. We knew if we bought here the kids would be able to find jobs within a couple of hours from us and be in easy driving distance. We believed the nature of this place would keep them coming home. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? Four out of the five are within two hours of us and come home often to help with the farm work, spend time out on the water, and go hunting and fishing.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t look around this extraordinary area and thank God for all his blessings and the amazing life I enjoy here. The Delmarva Peninsula is a land of plenty where over a million acres are farmed alongside the generous Chesapeake Bay. I think adventurer-explorer Captain John Smith had it right in 1607 writing to His Majesty King James that, “Heaven and Earthe never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation…” Life is truly incredible here for those who love to spend time outdoors. The waters, skies, woods, fields, and marshes are teeming with wildlife and each season heralds new adventures for hunters and fishermen.
September signals the end of summer and the beginning of our hunting season. Although autumn doesn’t officially begin until September 22nd this year, the temperatures begin to fall out and we start to see migrating green and blue-winged teal, pintail, and Canada geese. Maryland’s dove season began Labor Day weekend. The sunflower fields that Stephen and the boys planted in May are full of drooping seed heads and the power lines begin to sag from the weight of all the perching doves. Traditionally, we have a family dove shoot on opening day. Our dogs and kids are eager, as it’s been seven months since they’ve hunted together. After a brief reminder about gun safety, Dad directs everyone to a spot along the perimeter of the sunflower field and the fun begins!
With all the fun of the hunt comes all the fun of cooking. Dove is the most widely distributed and abundant game bird in the country. The extreme sport in shooting these small, darting targets and the delicious dark meat and mild flavor make it the number one game bird in the country. It also happens to be the easiest wild game to field dress. I’ve been making this recipe for twenty-two years. It’s one of our favorites and a great way to end a day spent with family and friends in the dove field.
Grilled Dove Breasts with Red Currant Sauce
What you’ll need (serves 6-8):
- 24 dove breasts
- 12 slices Applewood- or hickory-smoked bacon
- ¼ cup dark rum
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Red Currant Sauce:
- 12 ounces red currant jelly (preferably seedless)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 to 2 ounces dry white wine
Place dove breasts in a Ziploc freezer bag. Pour marinade over breasts. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and massage to distribute marinade over each breast. Place in a bowl or dish and marinate for 30 minutes to several hours.
Remove breasts and wrap each with ½ slice of bacon. Secure with wooden toothpicks. Grill breast side down for 4 to 5 minutes over moderate heat. Turnover and grill another 3 to 4 minutes. The secret to grilling anything perfectly is to remain vigilant at the grill. Move the breasts around so they do not become heavily charred. Do not overcook. These are best cooked medium rare. Serve with Red Currant Sauce.
For the Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat. Stir with a whisk to combine. Serve warm.