Highly prized in Great Britain and the United States, grouse are plump-bodied, fowl-like game birds of the Tetraonidae family found in the Northern hemisphere. There are several varieties of grouse, the largest of which is the CAPERCAILLIE.
PTARMIGAN, which turns white in winter, is similar to the grouse and is often called the ‘White Grouse’. The Blackcock is also known as the ‘Black Grouse’. One of the four species of ptarmigan, the Red or Scotch Grouse, found only in the British Isles, is generally considered to be the best. The Ruffled Grouse, distinguished by its large ruff, and the Prairie Chicken are the principal species of grouse in the United States.
The grouse is a vegetivorous bird, feeding on young, tender shoots, seeds and berries. They range in size from 15 to 20 inches in length, can fly for short distances and have mottled brown feathers to afford concealment on the ground.
The young birds, which have the most distinctive flavour, may be recognized by the downy feathers on the breast and under the wings and the rich brown feathers on the head and neck. Grouse is at its best when young, from August to October, the shooting season being from 12th August to 10th December. Young grouse may be hung for about a week in warm weather and longer in cold weather.
Young grouse should be roasted for about 1 hour in the oven preheated to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C). Since the flesh is inclined to be dry, the breast should be well-larded with bacon and a tablespoon of butter put inside the bird.
Roast grouse is traditionally served with a thin gravy, bread sauce, fried breadcrumbs and game chips and garnish- ed with watercress. One grouse should be allowed for two people.
Old grouse should not be roasted – instead, they should be cooked more slowly in a casserole either on top of the stove or in the oven.
Grouse may also be made into a pie or removed from the bone and served with a sauce.