Thursday, December 18, 2008

It'll taste like chicken

Last week, a neighbor friend called to inquire whether or not I would like some roosters. I waited until she said the magic word -- FREE -- before saying yes. She raises several different kinds of animals including goats, turkeys, and chickens. She specializes in certain breeds for each one of these, and apart from the goats, I don't remember the specific breeds. Anyway, she called again Sunday morning to let me know that she and her husband had caged the birds. All we had to do was go over and get them. So, Dad and I did just that.

These roosters were full grown, having hatched out earlier this year, and were a nice size and age for fried chicken. So, today, Dad and I dressed out these nine birds.

To begin the process, I built a fire in my homemade grill. I made the grill five years ago from a small, metal barrel that was in the garage. It's grilled a few venison steaks, chickens, ducks, and a goat since I built it. It also works well for heating water for scalding birds to be plucked. I use a 30 gallon metal drum that was originally designed for water storage as the pot for heating the water. It sits on a metal plate across the top of the grill, and it doesn't take a very large fire to heat the water to scalding temperature (145 to 160 degrees seems to work well).

Once I had the water heating, Dad and I brought up the first batch of birds. We dressed out all nine of them in two batches. I hung the roosters by their feet from a barb wire fence (I use the fence because it's convenient). Then, they are dispatched. I use my knife to sever their jugular arteries. This method works quite well compared to others I've used in the past which include chopping or pulling the head off. Being hung from the fence, the chickens do not run and hop around after their painless demise, but, rather, they stay and bleed in one spot.

After they have stopped kicking and flapping, it's time to scald the chickens. We scald them right in the pot of hot water. The hot water helps to loosen the feathers so they pluck out easily. Dad scalded them, holding them by their feet and swishing them around and up and down in the water. He checks whether or not they are scalded well enough by pulling on wing and tail feathers, the ones that normally are the most tenacious. If the water isn't hot enough, it's hard to scald the birds well enough, making plucking more difficult (same thing if you don't scald long enough). If the water is too hot, it can also make the feathers not let go and pluck easily. It can also cause the skin to tear easily because it is partially cooked.

Once properly scalded, we plucked the chickens. That means, we pulled all their feathers out. Sometimes, we borrow a friends automated plucker, but not today.

After plucking the chickens, we moved to a makeshift table we had set up. The process at this point was to remove the head and feet. The craw and skin around the neck are then removed and the neck cut off of the bird. We save the necks to be cooked for stock or flavoring of soups or other dishes. Then, the tail and insides are removed. We kept the gizzards and the hearts today, but not the livers. I cut up my share of the giblets into small pieces and froze them. Some time later I will saute these in oil, maybe with a little onion, add some flour and then milk to make gravy. Biscuits and gravy is a favorite meal in our family.

Once we finished eviscerating the birds, we rinsed them well inside and out with the hose and then put them in a bucket of cold water. Once we finished all nine of them, Dad took his share and I took mine (I let him decide how many he wanted -- he left me with six of them). We both finished the process inside our homes.

I took each bird individually and cleaned off pin feathers that remained and removed the yellow scaly stuff on the skin. I rinsed them well with filtered water and then cut them into pieces. My pieces include two legs, two thighs, a back, two wings, two ribs, and two breast pieces. I wrapped each chicken in freezer paper and put them in the freezer. I put one in the refrigerator. We'll have fresh, fried chicken tomorrow night.



I always hated that wet feather smell. I could never get it off my hands!

Fried chicken sounds good.


Easy to see who was doing the work!!

We're having fried chicken tomorrow evening as well.


That wet feather smell eventually wears off. I mix it with the smell of a cow's udder. That doesn't make it any more pleasant, of course.

It only looks like Dad was doing all of the work. He didn't want to take the pictures.

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