Pigeon Breast in Cider and Apple Sauce

I recently found myself with an excess of wood pigeons that I could not fit in the freezer ‘in the feather’. Rather than waste them I extracted the breast meat and set about making a large batch of pigeon breast in a cider reduction and apple sauce.

I have made similar reduction sauces in the past but usually for either pork medallions or turkey breast escalopes, using this method on pigeon breasts was a first for me. Reduction sauces lend themselves to large batch cooking and the use of meats that might otherwise go tough when cooked using ‘dry’ methods.

The only equipment needed is a skillet or frying pan to brown all of the ingredients and a large pan to contain all of the ingredients whilst reducing. I cooked this recipe at home on the stove top but it would be equally as easy to make over an open fire in a dutch oven and would, I suspect, have even more flavour.

Pigeon breast in a cider and apple reduction, served with roasted root vegetables and foraged nettle/ransom greens. Photo Credit Brian Leggat


A suitable quantity of pigeon breast – I had around 24.
A large onion sliced and diced – more if you like onion
A suitable quantity of apples – ideally a mixture of cooking apples that break up as they are heated and eating apples that retain their shape whilst cooking. I used whatever was spare in the fruit bowl at that moment.
1 to 2 liters of cider of your choice – as its being used for cooking it can be a relatively cheap brand without compromising the final dish. (Cooking with good cider is frankly a crime against humanity!)

Accompanying foraged or bought vegetables of your choice.


Here is the method I employed

  1. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and flash brown both sides of the pigeon breast to seal in the juices. This is a really quick process with a hot pan and is not supposed to cook the meat.
  2. Place the browned pigeon breast in a large pan
  3. Brown the diced onion in the frying pan until it takes on some colour. Place this in the pot with the pigeon breast.
  4. Peel and slice the apples into bite sized pieces and place in the pot with the other ingredients.
  5. Fill the pot with cider until the cider covers the other ingredients with about 12mm over the top.
  6. Bring the cider to the boil. Be cautious here as the cider will foam and expand as its heated. A tall pot is better than a shallow pan if you are cooking large quantities
  7. Simmer the pot without a lid on until the quantity of fluid has reduced by about half. For the quantity I used this took about 2 hours on a gentle simmer.
  8. At this point carefully remove the solid ingredients from the fluid using a slotted spoon or by draining through a colander. Retain all the juices, these will form the sauce.
  9. If necessary, return the fluid to the pan and bring to a rolling boil. Continue the boil until the sauce has thickened to suit your personal preference. As I had not used any cooking apples my sauce comprised mainly of cider and I continued the boil until it showed signs of thickening and going sticky. The addition of cooking apples at the beginning would naturally thicken the sauce a lot quicker.
The ingredients in cider brought to a rolling boil to reduce by 50%
Pigeon breast in a cider and apple reduction all boxed up ready for the freezer
  1. Pour the reduced sauce over the pigeon, apple and onion mix and serve with accompanying vegetables. I used a selection of oven roasted root vegetables with nettle and ransoms that had been boiled for a few minutes.

What was the final verdict? Fresh from the pot the pigeon breast was beautifully tender. The cider and apple sauce complimenting the slightly gamey flavour of the meat. The roasted root vegetables and foraged leaves were the perfect accompaniment. Highly recommended! The remaining ingredients were portioned into tubs and frozen.

Top tips

Three pigeon breasts is about right for one adult for one meal.

When reheating make sure the pigeon is thoroughly defrosted and microwave for as little time as possible to bring the food up to piping hot. This may take a little experimentation. For my microwave 2 minutes on full power is about right. Any longer than this and the pigeon breast start to go tough and chewy.


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