Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Chicken dinners

So I want to talk about eating chickens, now I know not everyone wants to or will ever do this but if you do listen up. You can always by-passthis post and come back tomorrow I'm going to a bumper plant post.

I'm not going to give a blow by blow of killing, plucking and dressing for 2 reasons.

1. I'm no expert!!!! I'm still very much a novice but I have learnt a bit.

2. Its not the nicest subject in the world now is it.

If your going to to it find someone who can show you (of course I didn't do that I watched a few you tube vids and read my John Seymour bible (if you haven't already realised I like to do things the hard way)

First the bird. If you have excess cockerels you need to get rid of try and do it before 20 weeks. (If its an old rogue then when you cook it roast it in a covered tray with about an inch of water to tenderise the meat)
If your raising birds for meat then there are fast growing birds such as the hubbert or Cobb or Sasso. Or Dual purpose birds like the sussex that are good layers as well as good table birds. Or there are some traditional birds like the french La fleche or the Ixworth (I quite fancy some Ixworths in the spring) Dorking and Indian game. A cross between an Indian game and Dorking or sussex is meant to be really good.
My only real experience so far is with Indian game. Firstly (I'm sorry if this a bit cold hearted) because the boys are quite um scary looking I didn't automatically form a bond with them like I did with my little welsummer chaps. I guess this made it easier to look at them as table birds. We killed ours at 18 weeks old. Their stance is similar to a bulldog, they have huge breasts and chunky legs.
I found the meat really tasty with bags of flavour. One thing with dark feathered birds though is that after they've been plucked they don't look as neat and tidy, as white feathered. Silkies are black skinned so don't eat them (although in china I heard they are a delicacy)
I feed mine the same as all the other chickens. Growers pellets, corn and lots of treats and greens. Withhold food for at least 12 hours before. It will sweeten the meat and can help to avoid any mess when the inner bits are removed if you get my meaning.

After the kill. Make sure they are well bled and start plucking as soon as you can, don't rush plucking take it slow, try avoid tearing the skin. A fatter bird is easier to pluck than a skinny one. If you can let the bird hang for at least 24 hours it will sweeten the meat,relax the Adrenalin, and let it develop more flavour (the longer you leave it the gamer it will taste), hang it by its feet somewhere cool.

Ok so now the nasty bit. so you have a chicken on your (spotlessly clean) chopping board needing gutting. Ok so be brave and don't think about it just be confident. Make sure your knives are razor sharp, secateurs are handy for cutting through bones and small scissors are useful too. Have a bucket close by for the bits and a bowl for the bits you want. A jug of water and I'd do it near the sink in case you cut through the wrong thing and need to flush it out quickly. Remember to be brave and don't stop and think OMG what am I doing ( I'm sorry if this is sinister but I put Danse Macarbe on really loudly to help me focus) The first cut is the hardest (never a truer cliche). Check and double and triple check everything is out. Save the neck and gizzard (cut it open and wash it out) for making stock with ( I put them in a bag and freeze them till needed) The liver is like nothing you've ever tasted but I found after doing 3 birds in a row I wasn't really hungry any more so I saved them till the next day.
I gutted before hanging but you can hang for 24 hours then gut (but it will smell.

Wash everything up and freak out a bit if you need too.

If you brave enough to rear meat birds go for it, ok they might not look as perfect as nicly packed supermarket shelf ones, but they will taste so much better and I found I have even more respect for them now. If you can't do it (no shame in that at all) then please please buy only free range and check for all other chickeny products (pizza, sandwich's, take aways) I won't eat chicken out without checking to see if it is free range. Turkeys and duck too.

jess x


John Gray said...

been there!
my first two cockerels for this year are in the freezer!

I didnt like the actual killing but coped really well with the hanging and gutting!

I was taught to hang them for 24 hours..the birds will bleed into the head and there is no need to actually bleed them directly post killing

hey ho

Elizabeth M Rimmer said...

Good for you, Jess - I did grouse once, ain't never doing it again!


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