Today Kip and I butchered the first ten of this season’s 120 chickens. At 4 weeks and 4 days these Harvest Whites from S & G Hatchery in Alabama have been fast gainers – the dressed birds weigh on average 2 and a 1/2 pounds each!
Folks often mention to me a child hood experience of watching or participating in the neck wringing / chopping block style of chicken butchering. I have always been horrified at that style of dispatching a bird! Yikes! Luckily all those thirty plus years ago we helped our South Dakota neighbors, Wayne and Carol Parsley, and learned their technique. Gallon milk jugs with the bottom cut out and nailed to the barn wall works great especially if you have 25/50/a hundred birds to do in a day. With a family of ten children they needed to get the job done!
As you can see in the picture we started with the old method when we returned to raising our own meat birds again. But plastic degrades in the heat of the Virginia summer and are not quite big enough for the big breed birds we have been raising. Kip constructed the galvanized steel cones and they are great.
So that’s how we do it. We’re thinking of building a chicken plucker . . . . . . . . . . .
Here is our granddaughter a few years ago lending a helping hand on butchering day.
But for today all is cleaned up and waiting till next week’s session and in the mean time I’m making stock from the chicken feet;
This is what we did last Sunday. It seemed to be the first real day of Spring, bright, warm, and lovely. Kierk, Bjorn and Zoe were the crew while Kip was the foreman and I was the cheering squad. Oh, and I fed them all a breakfast of French toast, homemade sausage patties, bacon, coffee!
Pretty much done on part 1 – today Kip is working on building the door which will have a glass window that lowers for a screened opening. Then we have to get the fan to insert into the far wall for ventilation. Without ventilation and even with no door in the opening it was 120 degrees inside at 2 pm today!
Early this month I spent part of a day grinding a large piece of beef, a loin of pork, with added ground turkey for a BIG batch of meatballs! We love them for adding to pasta sauce and for sub sandwiches. I pack six balls to a small sandwich bag and then pack them in a large freezer storage bag. We will have meatballs for many months! I did a cost out for this batch; 251 meatballs > 25,72 pounds of meat > cost $52 for the ingredients = cost me about $2.70 a doz. Pretty good, eh? Certainly worth the work to my mind.
I saute finely minced onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil and add the mixture to fine breadcrumbs made of our homemade bread. I use rubber gloves to mix the breadcrumbs and the meat together thoroughly. With very loud rock and roll driving the action I roll meatballs to freeze on cookie sheets. Each layer of meatballs is covered with a layer of plastic wrap and by the end it makes a neat pyramid and is ready to be well wrapped in more plastic and put in the freezer. It takes a few days to firmly freeze them all.
Packaged and labeled I can now look forward to many a spontaneous whipped up meal! And I do not fry the meatballs or cook them before adding them to the pasta sauce. I saute some chopped onion and garlic in some olive oil, throw in a jar or two of home canned tomatoes, submerge a branch of rosemary tied with oregano and thyme, and cook it all down for 20 minutes or so. I then remove the herb bundle and with my immersion blender I puree the sauce. Its then I add a shot of wine – if I have it – and the meatballs and return the herb bundle as well. The whole pot simmers along till I’m ready to cook the pasta.
On Jan 3rd we bought a 125 lb. ram lamb to fatten for the freezer. He had horns and had not been castrated.
Of course I named him Lamb Chop lest anyone forget he was intended for food. [Do you find it as odd as I do that all those years ago TV show host/comedienne/ventriloquist Shari Lewis named her sock puppet character Lamb Chop? In a 3-degrees of separation way my life intersected with Lewis and Lamb Chop; I was living in the basement apartment of her house in Laurel Canyon the fall President Kennedy was assassinated. Small world, yes?]
We fed our lamb chops-on-the-hoof with sweet hay and a daily treat of about a cup of 2-grain scratch (what we give the hens) and while he basically maintained an aloof attitude he would come quickly when the grain was shaken into the feeder!
The actual killing took place very quickly and quietly. The animal was not excited and neither were we. A single shot and it was dead. The scaffolding had been set up beforehand to hoist the carcass and to insure a proper bleed-out. All the knives had been sharpened. Garbage bags for the head and the offal were ready.
Our son, his two daughters and a friend came to help. Because this was a first time learning process for the girls and our friend Jenny each step of the process offered a new way of looking at where our meat comes from.
The photos show us from the beginning to the end. I’ve included captions so you can tell what is happening.
To dress the tamales I made a simple thick sauce of seeded dried guajillo chilies, hydrated in chicken stock, tomatillos, Anaheim chilies, onion, cumin, and pepinos. Tasty!
Simple flatbread and lightly yeasted breads have been part of the staple menu for many a household over the eons. Starting with some flour and water the end result is hot and crispy or hot and tender breads ready to be drenched in butter or in the case of this class fresh hummus.
In the Frenchman’s Corner kitchen seven students and I gathered to mix and bake and laugh. The nann was baked on my 100 year old cast iron griddle. The pita went onto soapstone pizza stones in a 500 degree oven.
In early Feb I will be giving a Tamale Class in their kitchen.
We had a lot of fun! Amid the wafting aroma of exotic spices and turkey mole roasting in the oven my four students worked at the grinding of the cocoa nibs till we made a fabulous paste. At each stage we tasted; first to savor the vanilla, the annatto, and the chili on our taste buds. We added a big spoonful to the mole sauce for our turkey lunch; turkey with mole, fresh salsa and tortillas.
Then we returned to the grinding adding the Old World spices. The smells escalated and the flavor was made even more complex; orange rind, nutmeg, black pepper, and, of course, the sugar!
There was a wonderful madness in my kitchen as eight friends and family joined me this last Sunday to make mincemeat from historic recipes. Both the bear and the venison were contributed by the Great Hunter (Jackson Landers) for which we offer our deepest appreciation. I swear we used every bowl I own , the three mortar & pestles for pounding whole spices were kept working, and just measuring all the sugar, chopped apples, apple cider and least I forget the many cups of brandy took close attention. The three pots of mincemeat had to be stirred often to keep them from sticking.
We made a batch of bear mincemeat using The Kentucky Housewife 1836 recipe,
one of venison using the 1955 recipe from a farm manual on butchering,
and the Mary Randolph recipe for mincemeat from pigs feet from The Virginia House-wife 1826.
Most of us came from the “I hate mincemeat’ school but were converted by the lovely results when we filled and baked tiny mincemeat tarts made in crusts of pastry made of home rendered lard from our home grown pigs.
To keep the cooks sustained I served a smoked fresh ham
with tortillas, fresh bread, pickles, and sandwich fixings, jicama sticks, fried plantain, and wine. As an added treat Jenny made Pelmini (a bear, cabbage, onion) dumpling served with sour cream and chopped fresh dill! A-mazingly fabulous!