A Recipe for Grilled Wild Duck With Sour Cherry Salsa

Use those cherries in your backyard before the birds do

When I moved into my house six years ago, my sister gave me a sour cherry tree to plant. And I have been waiting six years to finally get some cherries off that tree. This was the first year I suspected it might happen, and my small tree was loaded with cherries. There must have been a hundred cherries on this tree while I was waiting for them to all ripen. I got up one morning and took my kids out for some quality time, and when I got home that afternoon, my front yard was full of crows. As I pulled into my driveway, all the crows took off. It took me a minute to realize those damned birds were eating my cherries.

Wild Cherries
Not enough cherries for a pie, but more than enough to make some wild game salsa.Jamie Carlson

I got the kids out of the car and hurried over to the tree to see what the damage was, and it wasn't pretty. They had eaten almost all of my cherries. I quickly picked all that were left and ended up with about a cup and a half of sour cherries. Not enough for a pie or any other type of tasty dessert, so I went to the internet to find other uses for sour cherries. I came across a recipe for a sour cherry salsa that said it would pair well with duck. I just happened to have some duck breasts in the freezer, so I thawed them and got ready to make dinner.

Grilled Duck Recipe
*Grilling the duck breasts over a wood fire"Jamie Carlson

I recently got a new Traeger Pro series 34 grill, and was looking forward to trying it out on some wild game. I tossed the duck breasts with olive oil, and then some of their Big Game Rub and threw them on the grill at 450 degrees (about 5 minutes per side). If you were to use a regular grill over high heat, I would reduce the cook time down to 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the size of the duck breasts and how well you like your duck breasts. Traeger makes a big-game blend of wood pellets that is a combination of hickory, oak, and rosemary that works really well on any wild game.

I like my duck as close to medium rare as I can get it, and the five minutes per side was just the right amount of time. I covered the breasts and let them rest for an additional five minutes before serving them with my sour cherry relish. The smokey-sweet flavor of the meat went incredibly well with the sour and acidic salsa. If you didn’t have duck breast, this would be equally good with any wild game like venison back straps or elk steaks.

Wild Duck Recipes
The finished wild duck and sour cherry dish.Jamie Carlson

Grilled Duck Breasts with Sour Cherry Salsa

Rub the breasts with the Big Game rub and olive oil and set aside for 15-30 minutes before you grill. If you are using a Traeger grill or other wood pellet style grill set it to high and let it come up to temperature. Throw the breasts on and grill for 5 minutes per side. If you are using a regular grill adjust the cooking time to 3-4 minutes per side depending on your preference for cooking.

Sour Cherry Salsa

  • 1½ cups pitted sour cherries

  • 1 small shallot, finely diced

  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced

  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Juice from one small lime

  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

  • 1 tablespoon honey

Stir together and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.