Monday, July 26, 2010

Chicken Dinner Time!

First off, this is not how chickens are mass slaughtered, if you want nightmares, go watch Food Inc. While the following may seem mean or strange if you aren't used to raising your own animals for food, understand this chicken was raised with all the food and water he could want, a large coop and run, and daily free range time to stalk the yard.

Back in April, I chose to purchase straight run chicks from TSC, with the intention of having the hens for eggs and eventually the roosters for dinner. I ended up with 3 Silver Laced Wyandotte (SLW)roosters and a Rhode Island Red rooster (with a second RIR that is suspect).

I decided to let them decide who would be dinner, based on how they act - I have a small kid, and no mean roos allowed. Yesterday, one of the SLW decided to start following my daughter with that "look", so into the dog crate he went, and today, he went to rooster heaven smile  He was also harrassing the daylights out of the hens, and one of them has had a lot of feathers pulled out from him. He needed to go. I was hoping to get to that 20 week mark, but that's just didn't happen with this dude.

The 20 weeks is based on hertiage breed chickens for meat. Long ago, we didn't have crossbred chickens that grew at astronomical weights in a short time, we had plain ol chickens that laid eggs. Today, most purchased chicken is the Cornish cross, a hybrid that usually must be slaughtered at 8 weeks or so due to health problems with incredible weight gain.

This is a neat article about what chickens used to be like, and this is what I'm raising - chickens that are not bred to be dinner at two months old, but rather bred to be chickens that lay eggs and provide meat, ala how chickens were long ago.

Anyway, here is the convict:

My bad picture of my very, very simple "tree of death" - a rope tied around the tree that I had hubby make a slip knot on the end, and a separate rope that I had him also make a slipknot in. Yes, it is hot pink smile I couldn't find "normal" rope - I normally use it as a line for pulling my bow into tree stands. It's sturdy,

I got the convict out of his cage, and quietly carried him to the tree of death, and slipped his feet in the noose. I put the second one on his head. He is alive in this picture. Chickens have a tendency to just chill out/pass out almost when gently placed upside down. They will stay like that.

I have a scalpel and scalpel blades, which I chose to make the neck cut, as they are by far sharper than anything else here. I chose to cut his jugular/cartoid artery to bleed him out. He didn't move for a few seconds or more, then start flopping a bit. I let him hang for about 5 minutes while I checked on my scald water. When I returned, he was still.

I brought him to the inside "station", my kitchen, where I had a pot of water with some dishsoap at a good temp (148F), and one side of the sink with icewater. The counter had been washed and then a bleach solution wiped on to let dry, same with the cutting board. I tied a bag to the handles of my drawers for easy trash smile

I dunked and swished a few times, until I could pull out one big wing feather easily, then I put him in the ice water and swished. He then went into the same bucket I used to carry him in the house, and I took him outside so I could pluck him where stray feathers wouldn't be worrysome.

The wing and tail feathers needed some oomph to get out, but the rest came out with a gentle "rubbing" motion, against the lay of the feathers.

I got him mainly done and then just put him in the sink underwater and finished the bits of feathers out..

I'm not sure on his size, but I'm guessing at least 3lbs, maybe a wee bit more. I think I have a fish scale somewhere, have to find it. For ease of brining, I stuck him in a gallon pitcher which he just fit in, and filled with salt water to brine. We may have him for dinner tonight.

And that's what a 15 week old non-grocery store breed  rooster looks like smile Total time from catching to fridge was about one hour.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pickles Pickles Pickles!

Tis the season! I've had a few requests for my recipes, so here are three. Got them from Recipezaar, tweaked, and somewhat made them my own :)

The Best Dill Pickles EVER

* 7 wide-mouth quart jars, lids & rings
* fresh dill, heads & several inches of stems shaken free of bugs and rinsed off
* cucumber, washed, scrubbed (test pack in the jars before cleaning, to get an idea of how many - this particular recipe is for 7qts)
* bag of ice
* 14 garlic cloves (or more)
* 8 1/2 cups water
* 2 1/4 cups white vinegar
* 1/2 cup pickling salt

Wash the pickles the night before, and then fill the sink with cold water, the bag of ice and the pickles. Let sit - if you feel like it, add more ice through the night -just want to keep them cold! Makes them crisp

Wash and sterilize the jars, put the lids and rings in a pot of boiling water. Put the water, vinegar and salt in a big pot, bring to a boil.

Put a clove or two of garlic at the bottom, with a head of dill, then pack the cucumbers in. Put a clove of garlic on top, some more dill, and then pour the brine on top to fill to 1/2" from top of jar.

Cap snug (not super tight!) with lids and rings. Put in a water bath canner, fill with water to cover the lids, and bring to a boil. When steam rises, put the lid on, and time for 15 mins.

Remove from the bath, tighten the lids hand snug, and let cool.

Let sit for at least 6-8 weeks

I like to put in some extra dill and garlic - at least 3 cloves and 2 dill heads per jar. If the cloves turn blue over time, it is OK, its some oxidation thing, not a worry. The only time you shouldn't eat is if they don't seal (fridge and eat within a week or two) or the seal comes up over time (throw out).

Microwave Bread and Butter Pickles
Stupid easy and fast!

*NOTE!* This is NOT a preservation canning method. These do need to be refrigerated after being made, and consumed in a reasonable amount of time, couple weeks or so.*

* 8 cups cucumbers, sliced 1/4" or less, your preference
* 3 cups onions, thin sliced
* 4 cups sugar
* 2 cups white distilled vinegar
* 4 teaspoons salt
* 2 teaspoons mustard seed
* 1 teaspoon celery seed
* 1 teaspoon turmeric
* 3 quart canning jars with rings and lids

Mix all ingredients together (I like to keep the cukes and onions apart until I get everyone else mixed together, it's easier. The sugar will NOT dissolve, so just get it all blended together. Once it's blended, put the cukes and onion in and toss a bit.

Put it all in a large microwave safe bowl, microwave for 3 minute sections, stirring each time, usually for a total of 9 or 12 minutes, depending on your microwave. You the onions to be limp and close to translucent, but the cukes to still be firm.

Place in clean canning jars, wipe the rim, lid, and let cool, put in fridge when cool and eat!

Sweet Pickle Relish

I've been told by folks that don't like relish that they like this stuff a lot. My dad eats it with a spoon out of the jar...not sure I'd go THAT far! It is yummy, and good for overgrown cucumbers that aren't good for pickle making. I forgot how much this makes, guess 10 pints or so? 12?

* 8 cups cucumbers, deseeded and chopped
* 4 cups onions, chopped
* 4 cups bright colored bell peppers chopped
* 1/2 cup canning salt
* 7 cups sugar
* 4 cups apple cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons celery seeds
* 2 tablespoons mustard seeds

To deseed cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon

I chop all the veg up to a coarse chop with the food processor. You want 1/4" chunks or so. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.Sprinkle the salt over the chopped vegetables. Cover with cold water and let stand for 2 hours.

Drain vegetables well, then press out as much liquid as possible. I like to put them in cheesecloth and wring the daylights out of them.

In a large pot, combine sugar, vinegar and seeds. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, put into pint jars according to standard canning procedures. Once the jars are pretty full of relish, use a regular soup ladle to add the brine, this way they aren't soupy.

Process in a hot water bath (10 mins). Let cool, the lids should pop. As long as the lids don't pop up, they are good for at least a year. If they don't seal right away, use soon, if they pop after time, throw out.