A lady told me awhile back, “Once you cook Guinea, you won’t want chicken anymore.” Now while I still haven’t cooked a Guinea, I do recognize the fact that these birds can be multi-purpose. Eggs (Seasonal Layers), Pest Control and Meat (Compare to Pheasant). While some absolutely hate them—they are noisy and can bully chickens—hey, there’s a pecking order to everything—others love them because they make great alarms. Anything comes around, they are the first to catch wind of and make noise about it. They also work in a pack, might want to tell that to the snakes before they enter the yard. And snakes are just an appetizer. These things wipe out spiders, ticks, locusts, grubs, snails, beetles, WASPS!!!! AND THAT’S just the tip of the iceberg!
So, I am still considering bringing Guineas home. And if I ever get more land and that farm I dream of, then you can bet your best Sunday bloomers, I’ll be gettin’ em sooner rather than later. Until then, here’s the 411 on the bird.
Aside from what I’ve already said, Guineas are native to West Africa. Sometime during the 15th-16th century, the bird was brought to Europe and soon after, became very popular in Colonial America. They are great foragers, so if you get some, you will want several, as they hunt in a group or pack. If you bring them in as keets—babies—then free ranging is a cinch but if you bring them in as adults, you might want to consider locking them up for three or so weeks before setting them free to range on their own.
Guineas are compared to Pheasant as far as taste goes. In fact, I’ve heard them called, “Poor Man’s Pheasant” because it costs a fraction less to raise a Guinea than it does a Pheasant. Don’t let the nickname or cost fool you, though. In many Countries, Guineas are like our Lobsters. They are considered fine-dining without a doubt!
The darker meat, is darker and more rich than, let’s say, chicken. There is less fat, so it’s healthier. They have smaller bones but produce bigger breasts (again, in comparison to chickens). Hens, on the table, may average between 2 to 3 pounds.People prefer the Hens to Males because the Hens have bigger breasts and actually, are said to taste better. The breasts also have a better texture to the meat.
Roast them like you would a Pheasant, even stuffing them using the giblets. If you are eating Guinea breast, remember that the meat can go dry. Usually, in Colonial times, they would wrap the breast in a fat, like salt pork. One historical way of cooking them would be to place them in an oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes—basting. Remove the pork and then roast for ten minutes allowing them to brown. Now days, one could use a thick sliced bacon, I’m sure.
Below, is a recipe our European and American Ancestors once loved….
Braised Guinea Hen
- 1 Guinea Hen
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 TBSP of Vinegar
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1/4 tsp. Pepper (Black)
- 1/4 tsp. Dry Mustard
- 1 Garlic Clove, crushed
- Dash of Cayenne
- 1/2 cup Chicken Broth
Cut the Guinea in quarters and sauté in heated butter until all sides are brown. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over bird, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until almost tender. Remove cover, turn up heat and continue cooking until almost all liquid has evaporated. Wild Rice goes well with this. Serves 4.
American Heritage Cookbook