Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More on: cornish cross chickens; slaughtering; meat preperation

This morning Ed woke to find one of our Cornish Cross chickens barely alive. He said it couldn't even stand up. He euthanized it, but decided against consuming it because it was sick. It probably had a heart attack or something, which this breed is prone to do.

I decided it is probably time to put another one out of its misery. I hadn't done the actual killing before, so I decided to do it by myself while the boys were in town shopping.

Note that I do not plan to do this myself often in the future. In fact, I think I'm even more turned off by chicken consumption. Chicken really doesn't taste that good. To be frank, I would rather have breaded and fried eggplant or summer squash than fried chicken. They just have so much flavor, *if* they are grown correctly and prepared properly.

But I want to know how to slaughter if I have to, and it is not possible to just keep these birds alive as pets. They will just die slow painful deaths if they aren't killed quickly and will perhaps be too sickly to eat. And, there also comes times when birds are injured and need to be slaughtered. We had a chicken that was beaten up terribly once, we did manage to revive it after a lot of suffering on the chicken's part. And it was never the same afterward. It ended up getting out of its run a few months later and was never to be seen again, probably because it was a pretty weak bird.

Anyway, I feel empowered knowing that I don't have to rely on some huge chicken factory to slaughter an animal for me should I need to eat.

I decided to try hanging it upside down in a cone (this one was made out of a milk jug) that was suspended from our clothesline with the neck pointing downward into the bucket. I wanted to use the sharpest knife possible, so I got out my lame (which is a very sharp razor blade baker's use to score their bread). Evidently this was not sharp enough as I really had to work to make a cut. I also wanted to be humane about it, so I got out a very pointy steak knife and tried to stick it through the brain. I must have been too wimpy as it didn't work... the bird was looking at me and I felt too weird, so I tried to stick it and the bird would struggle to get away from me. So the bird died a relatively slow and painful death. I feel horrible.

Once it was bled, I blasted cold water all over it to clean it off before it went in the hot pot. This helped clean off the poop rather than infuse the nasty flavor into the meat.

I put on a pot of hot tap water on the stove. I let it get hot for several minutes, resulting in some pretty hot water. Most likely much hotter than most recommend. But then I cooled it down with very strong jets coming out of the garden hose. My thinking was what we cooks call "blanching and shocking" which is what we do when removing the peels of tomatoes or parcooking vegetables. Get the bird fairly hot, then cool it back down with cold water. The strong jet was my way of hopefully loosening up the feathers even more.

The feathers came out easier for me, but there were still plenty of pinfeathers. Most people sit there and pluck and pluck or burn them off, but burning didn't work well for me. I decided to try the technique that fishermen use, called scaling. Scaling is when you take a very sharp knife and scrape off the scales, so that they aren't flying all over your kitchen when you are trying to cook. I scraped against the growth of the feathers and it worked really well.

I decided against gutting, cutting off the neck, removing the oil gland... etc. Other than the bones (I don't intend on making soup any time soon), liver, heart, gizzard, there isn't much point. I just cut off the usable parts: breasts, thighs, wings and drumsticks. Anyone who is familiar with cutting up their own chicken will find this very simple. To be honest, I find dealing with a carcass of roasted chicken a pain in the ass anyway.

To some, this may seem wasteful. But I got 90% of the usable parts (at least as far as humans are concerned). I fed some bits and pieces to the dogs, and gave the remainder to my other flock of chickens, who appreciated it very much. Oh don't be such a wuss! Not only are chickens NOT vegetarians--they are occasionally canibals. After they are finished the rest of the carcas will be buried and break down just as bone meal. Or, if I can convince my compost pile to heat up, it may go in there with the blood to break down and become a wonderful soil ammendment... not storebought and not processed!

In other thoughts, there have been many bloggers who have been defending the cornish cross chickens. They say that you shouldn't expect a meat bird to behave like an egg laying hen, and that there is no other bird that will grow as fast and remain tender and fill up your freezer as quickly.

But I don't want to bother with slaughtering a billion birds at one time, packaging them all up, finding freezer space for them, running all that electricity, worrying about all the freezer burn, thawing them all out or how long they've been in there. I want my food to be as fresh as possible. But that is just my preference.