Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chicken Harvest

My grandparents taught me how to raise and butcher chickens and we continue this practice for family ritual as well as for healthy eating practices.  We like knowing what we are eating and we like being responsible for our food choices. 

One of the more popular posts on this blog was a guest post  about me butchering chickens the way my granny taught me.   Check it out here.  In this post I will show you the new and improved way of butchering chickens.  This year we rented "Jr.", the chicken trailer from a local farm, Shakefork Farms.  In this trailer are all the needed supplies to butcher chickens, efficiently and cleanly.  With these supplies, and a short tutorial, Five of us butchered 40 birds in 3 hours.  This is a vast improvement over our previous times. 

First improvement:  Chicken cones.

 You place the birds in the cones and slice them on both sides of the neck.  No need for my old practice of cutting off the head.  (Although, it was kind of hard watching the life slowly bleed away.)   You let the birds bleed out for about 5 minutes. 

Second Improvement: Temperature Controlled Scalder

You dip the birds up and down for 1 minute in 145 degrees and it is helpful to put a few squirts of liquid detergent in the water so the water penetrates the feathers better. 

BEST Improvement:  Plucker

Place 2 or 3 birds into the moving plucker and watch those feathers disappear.  It took about 20 seconds.  By hand I was doing well if I got it done in less that 10 minutes!

Fourth Improvement: Not really an improvement.  You still have to gut the birds by hand.

But we did have a nice stainless steel table to do it on and you pushed the entrails into the hole in the middle of the table.  We had a garbage can underneath and all of the guts and stuff went out into the woods and fed a whole host of critters.  There were 3 of us gutting as this took the most time.  The other 2 caught the birds, bled them, dunked them and plucked them and were always ahead of us at the evisceration table.

Fifth Improvement:  Chilling Tank
This is a big water trough filled with ice and water.  I'm not sure why I never thought of this before.  This was a real quick way to chill the birds. 
Final Step:  Bag the birds
We took the birds from the chiller and placed them on the counter to dry a bit before bagging them.  Our son and wife took extra time to vaccum seal their half of the birds and I now wish I had as there birds really look good in the freezer.  I just double bagged our birds.
Final, Final Step:  Clean Up
All of the equipment has to be hosed off and then rinsed with a bleach solution, this did take about an hour extra, but we did have fun. 
We barbecued a split bird the other day and it was sure good!