Saturday, October 15, 2011

In Which I Process Chickens

Hello, all! Yes, yes, I know. You thought I dropped off the face of the earth. What actually happened was that precisely one month ago, our wireless router completely fried. The promised replacement was supposed to arrive by October 3, but clearly that has not happened.

Anyways, that is my excuse. But I do feel terrible for leaving everyone in the dark for so long, so I thought for this first blog post in over a month, I should do something big. Something flashy. Something involving viscera.

Welcome to Chicken Processing Day, the 2011 Edition.* Make sure you have your gingham apron, because you are about to get dirty.

First, Brian ties the birds up by their feet, then kills them as humanely as possible by opening the arteries on the sides of the neck with a very sharp knife. Autumn and I were both very happy to let him do this part.

Then Caitlin scalds the birds by dipping them in 145 degree water for about a minute. This loosens the feathers so we can pluck them easily. You test them by plucking out some of the wing feathers. If they come out easily, it's ready.

Autumn and I were the pluckers for the day. The Featherman machines have rubber "fingers" that spin on a motor, which helps the plucking go much faster.

After all the killing and plucking was done, we put the birds in ice water to stay cold over lunch.

At lunch time, we relaxed and messed around with the barn cat.

In the afternoon came the "fun" part - evisceration. Brian started by removing the head, feet and crop from the bird. Then Caitlin, Autumn or I got to do the work of removing all its organs.

See that vivid shade of taxicab yellow? That is the color that chicken fat should be. These are pastured birds that are free to roam outside, eating grass and bugs and living the good chicken life. That fat is full of all sorts of nutritious and delicious stuff. And damn, does it taste good.

Also, the birds we processed were all three years old - pretty ancient for a laying chicken. Most large farms don't keep birds around after one year.

And sometimes, you might find a surprise.

*Actually, we processed chickens back in July too. But I didn't really get very many pictures that time.

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