Friday, November 16, 2012
Yummy Rooster and Thoughts on Eating Your Critters
Last Sunday, we processed six of our roosters. These birds came to us by mail as day old chicks from the hatchery back in April. Raising them up to eat was our original intent, unless of course, we got some really cool hens that laid eggs.
There is something commendable about raising up an animal, treating it with kindness, feeding it well, protecting it from harm, caring for it, knowing it and treating it with respect when the times comes to take it to the block. To many people this sounds horrible, unthinkable, too difficult to bear. They could not do this. But I ask, did you know anything about that chicken nugget you just ate? Did that bird get to run around outside in the sunshine? Eat grubs? Scratch and roll in the dirt? Did that bird have a name? Did someone care about it?
My personal feeling on the matter is that if I am going to raise and eat an animal, I want that animal's life to be full and free for as long as possible. I want that animal to be treated with a kind hand and respect. As I brought my roosters to my friend to axe them, I hugged each one and petted him kindly. They deserved it, after all.
I'm not posting pictures of the process, but I will say it's both gruesome and fascinating. We were lucky in that our two friends came to help us. One to wield the axe. The other to help me dip and pluck. My husband was the one to clean and portion. Should you be considering raising up your own chickens to eat, I highly recommend that the processing be something you have help with. It's labor intensive, especially if you are doing many birds.
I read up on the whole ordeal beforehand and here are some pointers.
-Have someone else do the killing if you loved the birds, and look away.
-When dipping in the boiling water prior to plucking, hold the bird under the water no more than 30 seconds. Ours took 20 seconds.
-While wearing thick rubber gloves (the kind I use for soapmaking worked perfectly) take hold of the body feathers and pull gently to test that you've dipped long enough. Feathers will rub right off. Easily. If they don't, dip again. Be careful not to keep in the water too long or you'll cook your bird.
-Have an ice chest and zipper bags on hand for storage.
-Be sure you know what to cut out, how to clean, and how to cut up your bird. Don't assume you know. Be aware that there is an oil gland above the tail and a gullet that may or may not have food in it in the neck, and these need to be removed.
Our birds were seven months old and full grown. That's probably a little longer than most people would wait to eat them. Understand that the older a bird is, the tougher the meat will be. We cooked our first batch of legs and thighs slowly to tenderize. I have heard that some people cook them in the crock pot or pressure cooker at this age.
Some differences I noticed were that the meat was incredibly flavorful. This tasted like chicken times fifty. It was really good. Not anything like the chicken I'd been eating all my life. The bones were very long, much unlike the tiny bones from a store bought bird. There was almost no fat. The skin was thicker and stronger in texture.
Would I do this again? Yes. Even though it was a great deal of work to raise up these birds, it was worth the effort. It's not for everyone, so don't feel bad if it's not your thing.