Monday, October 4, 2010

How To Eat A Chicken

I know what you are thinking.  You are looking at this picture of the chicken, going "how could you?" :-)  And to be honest, the first chicken we butchered and ate, I couldn't hardly eat it.  But after that I was okay.  Now I just bask in the joy of getting good, fresh, homegrown chicken to eat without worrying about all the modern-day problems that arise with chickens being raised in those big factory processing plants.

Here's how I see it.  That chicken could be raised in a big factory barn with no exercise because they are packed in there so tight there's no room to do anything but stand around in their poo all day, no sunshine, no fresh grass and a very short life span.  Or that chicken could be in the wild, roaming free, yes, but living very little life because the coyote ate it within a few days of it's first breath.  Or it could live at my house where it can wander through the grass or fields, roost in the trees, eat bugs out of my garden (along with an unnecessary amount of garden produce), enjoy all the sunshine it could possibly want and live a much longer life span than it would in either the factory or the wild.  I figure I am doing it a huge favor by raising it and eating it! :-)

There's lots of ways to eat a chicken.  You can get layers and then have gorgeous, big, brown eggs with the orange-est yolks you have seen.  These things are so good.  I didn't know for a long time how good they were until I was at a church potluck and had some regular store bought deviled eggs and those eggs were tasteless.  One of my customers told me that she had had to resort to store bought eggs one day when I was too short to get her any and her husband immediately said to her at the breakfast table, "what is wrong with these eggs? They taste funny." So I know my opinion is not just in my head. Layers are only good for about 2 years when they slow down too much in laying to make it worthwhile to keep buying feed.  At that time you have several options: keep them as pets, sell them to someone else, or slaughter for "stewing hens" (good, but necessary to slow cook for the best eat).

Or you can get meat birds, which typically are the white cornish commercial strains.  You could buy heritage breeds, which many prefer, but for me, they grow too slowly and don't covert feed well enough to make it cost effective. You grow these babies for about 8 weeks tops and then slaughter them.  I have found that you need to age the meat, which is either 24-48 hours in the frig, or about 1 month in the freezer.

If you can't do these yourself, there are many people who sell eggs and will sell you fresh birds they slaughter themselves.  There are folks who do totally "organic" (a word that I don't put much stock into, especially with big time producers) and those who do "humanely raised" chickens (typically meaning their birds can free range, be outside, etc., but eat the cheaper store bought grain instead of organic grain.) You can do an internet search for those farms close to you.  I, personally, wouldn't do this for anyone else--way too much work, but there are many dedicated farmers who will.

And the absolute best thing to do with chicken is chicken and noodles!!

Noodle recipe:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
Mix ingredients and knead.  If dough is too stiff, add more egg. Roll out and either put through noodle machine or cut long strips with a pizza wheel cutter.  Let dry if not using right away, but if you are using immediately, you can throw them right in your chicken broth.
Chicken broth for noodles:
Boil one whole chicken in water (usually takes an easy hour).  Take out chicken and after cooling, pull meat from bones.  Add chicken meat back into broth, adding salt and pepper to taste.  If necessary, add chicken cube, or tablespoon of chicken paste.

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