Game are wild animals and birds which are hunted for sport and then prepared for eating.
In many countries there are game laws which protect the animals and birds by designating a season during which they may be hunted. In Britain the season for game varies, but is generally from August to February. The rest of the year is known as the ‘close’ season when the killing and selling of game is prohibited by law. This ensures that the numbers of the animals and birds are maintained.
Grouse, pheasant, partridge, wild duck, capercaillie and woodcock are the main British game birds and the game animals are hare, deer and rabbit. North American game birds are quail, turkey, pheasant, wild duck, grouse, dove, snipe and woodcock and the chief game animals are bear, deer, coon, rabbit, squirrel and wild boar.
Game birds are always hung after they have been shot and before they are eaten to allow the flesh to mature and take on the much-prized ‘high’ flavour. Depending on the bird, the season and individual taste, birds are hung for at least 2 to 3 days or up to 3 weeks before being plucked and gutted. Some game birds which are cooked without having their entrails removed are only hung for 2 to 3 days.
The classic way of cooking game birds is to roast them in the oven but they are also used in casseroles, pies, pates and soups. Game animals are often cooked in a casserole with the addition of a sweet sauce, such as Cumberland or cranberry, to complement the very strong flavour.