I may have mentioned that the snowstorm we woke to last Sunday derailed our meat chicken processing plans. Since John had plans to be in NYC this weekend (to support James in the Marathon, #670), he actually took a day off and we got the job done on Wednesday. Actually, I think the job is really, finally, done today.
The more gory aspects of the process went unrecorded this year since Margaret was in school, and no other random photographers happened by. John did the catching, despatching, scalding and initial de-feathering. I took care of the rest of the feathers and cooling the birds down.
It was only at this point that I got the camera–it usually takes 2 of us to do what I was doing and I was always a chicken or two behind.
John had the job of eviscerating which just about finished him off for the day. My turn would come. The birds spent the night floating in ice water, to fully chill them, as well as insure the meat would not be tough.
The next day it was my duty to pull the carcasses out of the ice water (everything about this process has been COLD this year–actually a good thing), and prepare them for the freezer. I could just double bag each one and call it good, but a 7 pound chicken (this year’s average dressed weight) is a lot of eating, and there are just 3 or 4 of us around most of the time. So I do as much cutting up into parts as I can stand. I have heard that chicken-processing is a really horrible job. Knowing what it’s like to do just 31 (32?) birds, in a nice, warm kitchen, with music playing and nobody counting how many I cut up an hour (not many), I can only begin to imagine working under really terrible conditions doing this job day in and day out.
So I got to work, aiming for about 15 cut up chickens–I made it to 11 (12?). I tried to keep track, and even weighed the first 2/3 of them, but at some point I just needed to be done (partly because I had a knitting submission in process that I had to FedEx the next day, and with one unravel after another, I still didn’t even have my swatch made–there, that’s the knitting content for any of you poor knitters who wandered into this post by mistake!). The last job for the day was getting a huge stock pot going with all the necks and backs, carrots, onions, celery and herbs.
So, if I cut and wrapped the birds on Thursday, why am I talking about finally being done today?
Well, yesterday it was straining the stock and filling a lot of containers to put in the freezer–I think I ended up with about 8 quarts, in small, usable amounts. John took the tray of containers out to the garage to cool off overnight, and I went out this morning to put them in the freezer. I also bailed out the lined trash barrel we use to hold the chickens in the ice-water–a very tedious chore–so as soon as possible, I tipped the barrel over and let the rest flow out–along with The Last Chicken! I’d missed one. Fortunately, it has been very cold and that chicken was nice and chilled. Since someone had requested chicken tonight, I took my find in to the kitchen and cut it up–now you know what the numbers in the parentheses refer to–
We enjoyed Asian style roasted chicken, basmati brown rice and a nice saute of kale and chard (freshly picked) with garlic and a little lemon juice.
This whole meatbird thing is kind of a big chore, and we don’t look forward to it, but that chicken is sooo good; it didn’t matter how we cooked them last year–they were always delicious, and clearly this year’s crop is equally fine.
But even more importantly, if meat is going to be part of our diet, it just feels right to do at least some of the dirty work ourselves.