Wood Duck Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles

It’s hard to understate my love for the Wood duck. I think for most people the allure is the flashy plumage, and they are a handsome duck for sure.  The first duck I ever shot was a Woodie, so that might be it. But it probably has more to do with accessibilty. On any given day I can hike in to a beaver swamp and probably scare up a couple wood ducks.  In Virginia, we don’t see a whole lot of big ducks. So, as an aspiring waterfowler it’s nice to see some action through the Woodies.


I’ve heard Wood Duck called very gamey.  One of my friends, after hearing I much enjoyed hunting and eating Wood ducks remarked, how could I stand the gaminess.  But, I have not experienced that yet. I like to get them processed asap. At least within two hours, and if I know they won’t be processed within that time I will get them on ice in a cooler sooner than that.  They could go overnight (or longer) in the cooler but ideally not.

We won’t get into hanging ducks here (which you can read about here), or a detailed account on waxing waterfowl of which I will make an in depth post on.  But I like to wax my ducks. They just come out unbelievably clean. And I think the skin adds a little flavor. Plus it’s one more part of the animal I get to use.

Note; do not throw away the liver, gizzard or heart.  They are good parts, perfectly edible and we will make good use of them in this recipe.  

So, after the rough pluck, wax, and eviscerated they go into the fridge for at least 3 days, 5 is better and 7 is not too many.  The benefits of aging, or resting wild fowl cannot be exaggerated. And I think this is why I don’t have a problem with the gaminess some people complain of.  The resting lets that wildness evaporate I guess.  Do not ruin good meat by soaking it in water, milk or other concoctions.  

I split the legs and thighs off and use them for Teriyaki Duck legs.  One of Hank Shaw’s recipes, which you can find (here). Next I split the breasts out, both sides.  No bones. Take both breasts, skin on, the liver, gizzard and heart I hope you saved and grind them with the pork.  

For the pork, which makes up the rest of the meatball mix, I prefer pasture raised pork, raised on non gmo feed.  I get mine from a local farmer in the next county. The quality difference is really worth it.  Plus I know where it comes from and what it ate. That’s two of our overarching values on this blog; food accountability and alternative food sourcing. This recipe is loosely based on the one you can find (here)


Mix all your ingredients in with the grind and roll out your meatballs by hand.  We are fortunate enough to have a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a spiralizing attachment.  If you don’t have one, you can find stand alone versions. But, in a pinch if you cut the zucchini like french fries that will suffice.  


For the zucchini, spread it out on a towel.  Salt it well and let it sit. Zucchini is full of water and this will help it purge some.  After it sits 10 minutes or so, rinse and then dry well.

Fry up the meat balls on medium heat.  When they are well browned, remove and set aside. Add the noodles to the same skillet.  Give a good fry, maybe 10 minutes.  When about done add the meatballs back and fry for another minute or two.


Wood Duck Meatballs with Garlic Butter Zucchini Noodles


-Whole wood duck breast, both lobes

-Wood Duck heart, gizzard, liver

-1/2 lb ground pork

-1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

-4 garlic cloves, grated

-2 garlic cloves, minced

-1 tsp Italian seasoning

-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

-1 tsp Better Than Bullion, paste beef bullion

-1/2 tsp ground black pepper

-1/2 tsp salt

-1 cup cilantro

-4 tbl butter (don’t ruin it with Margarine)

-4 med Zucchinni

-juice from 1/2 lemon

-lemon slices for garnish

-1 tbl hotsauce



  1.  In a large mixing bowl combine 1″ cubed wood duck breasts, heart, liver, gizzard, cubed pork (if not already ground), grated cheese, 4 garlic cloves, 1tsp Italian seasoning, 1/2tsp red pepper flakes, 1tsp Better than Bullion, beef paste, 1/2tsp ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup cilantro.  Give a good mix to evenly distribute the spices.  Grind this mixture.  Roll out meatballs and set aside.
  2. Slice or spiralize zucchini.  Spread on towel and salt well.  Set for 10 minutes to purge some water.  Rinse well and then dry well.  Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet melt 2tbl butter over medium heat and fry meatballs about 10 minutes until well browned.  Remove and keep warm.
  4. Melt remaining 2tbl butter in same skillet.  Add lemon juice, remaining garlic and hot sauce.  Add zucchini noodles and fry for 5 minutes.  More if you like them well done and softer.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add meatballs back to skillet for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Serve hot, garnish with lemon slices.

Note:  Try subbing ground wild turkey, and giblets for the pork but include either some pork fat or a couple tablespoons of bacon grease.  Any red meat will work well, venison or beaver with liver.  Goal being about 1/2lb total.

Recipe Credit:  Eat Well 101 Garlic Butter Meatballs


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