Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kahlil and Herman

In order to avoid some Christmas shopping I needed to do today, I decided my dog Kahlil needed exercise. So I walked him down the lane next to the cow pasture at Codman Farm. The pasture is full of "normal" cows and this one little water buffalo steer named Herman. I'd met Herman before when I had to go into the pasture for the White Rock broiler chicken project. Cows scare me a bit. They are big. Some Holsteins look as big as minivans. I once climbed into the chicken tractor because I thought a young curious bull had come too close. I wouldn't leave until someone else came into the pasture to escort me out. I knew that bull could tell I was afraid. People came and went and he never bothered them, but he made me nervous. I was kind of glad when he moved on to where ever bulls go when the get older, the auction, the freezer, I don't really know, just some place where at least he won't frighten me. Herman is different. He's not intimidating. He's very friendly. He likes people. He likes attention. I'm not at all afraid of him. He's from a breed that produces buffalo mozzarella.
When Herman came to the fence, Kahlil acted the way he would around a dog that size. He looked away from him and wouldn't make eye contact. Herman lowered his head to put it through the fence. His body language must have not looked aggressive to Kahlil because Kahlil tentatively went to him. They smelled each other barely touching noses. Then Kahlil rested his muzzle on top of Herman's face. They have both been conditioned by humans to be friendly, but you do have to wonder what goes through their minds at a moment like this.

Don't forget to head over to Sweetnicks for Weekend Dog Blogging each Sunday night.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chicken Butchering – Part 4 – Evisceration

Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and
Part 5 Eating & Freezing Part
6 Final Thoughts

After trying to write this post, I concluded that a movie would make a lot more sense. Maybe next year I'll try that, but for now, this is it.

Eviscerating a chicken is the process of removing the insides. It's one of those things that is much easier to show someone rather than write down the process. I'm not sure this post will be of any help in explaining how to evicerate a chicken, but I suppose the pictures show something that people don't often get to observe. Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat there is more than one way to gut a chicken. The follow is what has worked for us.

Step1. After the chicken is finished being plucked, remove the feet. These are removed at the joint. We used a knife to do this, but I think some kind of poultry or garden pruning shears would have been easier.
Step2. Slice off the oil gland. This is on the top (if the chicken is standing up) of the tail.
Step3. Cut off the neck close to the body and save it for soup. At the neck opening you will see two tubes going into the chicken. The smoother one is the esophagus which goes to the crop and the one that looks like a vacuum cleaner hose is the trachea. Loosen them from the body.
Step4. Lay the chicken on its back with the tail facing you. From just under the end of the breast bone, start to cut the skin. Cut down toward the vent about maybe halfway. You want to be careful not to knick the intestine, so you might want to pinch or hold the skin toward you as you are doing this. Now cut the skin from the bottom of the incision to each side. The incision will be an upside down T at this point and should be big enough to squeeze your hand through. If it's not then enlarge it. Do NOT cut all the way down to the vent though.
Step5. Now comes the fun part. You are going to reach inside. The first time I did this I was surprised that it was warm inside a chicken. After years handling chicken for food prep which of course comes from the fridge very cold, I was initially surprised to put my hand inside a chicken and find it warm. It shouldnÂ’t have been a surprise, but it was.
Step6. As you are squeezing your hand through the opening that you just made, run your fingers up along the breast bone. When you are all the way in, grab whatÂ’s inside and pull it out. It takes a little force, but remarkably most all of the insides come out. Do not detach the intestine from the vent just yet.
Step7. Now, cut around the vent. This will be a cut the is shaped like a U. This will separate what you just pulled out and you will have removed the vent without cutting the intestine. You are almost done now and you chicken looks like a “normal” chicken.
Step8. It is possible that when you pulled out everything from the inside the lungs stayed behind. If you do not have a ‘lung puller’ (yes, there is such a thing) then reach in with your index and middle finger and scrape out the two redish pinkish things that are on the bottom and forward.
Step9. If it is a rooster you will notice two things are the size beans on the back of the chicken inside. These are the testicles and can be removed also. IÂ’ve often seen them missed in chicken that I got from the store.
Step10. Now rinse the chicken thoroughly with water inside and out.
Step11. Now you are finished and want to get the chicken cooled down. We fill tubs cold water and ice and chill the chickens down quickly in the ice water for a while before refrigerating them

Store bought chickens usually come with their, liver, heart, and gizzard. For this batch of chickens we saved the hearts and livers and I gave the feet and gizzards away to a friend at work who took them. NOTE. When you are separating the heart and liver from the rest of the insides, you must be careful not to break the gall bladder. It's the greenish thing connected to the liver. If it breaks, bile comes out. We tossed out any liver that bile got onto and then very thoroughly washed any cutting board or knife that bile got onto if we did break the gall bladder.

Shows after the insides have been removed. The large round thing is the gizzard. The dark thing is the liver. Below the liver, is the intestine.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Chicken Butchering – Part 3 – Plucking

Once the chickens have been killed and bled out, the next step is plucking. Before the chickens are plucked they need to be dunked into hot water to loosen the feathers. We set up a large pot of water on a propane burner and heated it up to about 150 degrees. If you gather together five people who have plucked chickens, I suspect you will get 6 opinions as to the correct temperature and amount of time for this scalding step. If the scald is too hot or long then the skin may tear when you pluck. If the temperature of the scald is too low then the feathers will be very difficult to pluck. The person doing the scalding and plucking eventually gets the feel for the perfect scald temperature and time...

The first batch we butchered we hand plucked some and machine plucked some. By the time we did the second batch we had gotten the knack of the machine plucker and were doing them all by machine. The machine is ancient, but still does the job. It consists of a rotating drum with rubber finger like things that stick out. As the chicken is held against the rotating drum, the rubber fingers pull the feathers off. In addition to drum pluckers like we used, there are tub pluckers. These are even easier. You just put the scalded chickens inside and they are plucked clean with out even holding them.

Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and Chilling
Part 5 Eating & Freezing
Part 6 Final Thoughts
Checking the temperature of the scald while some geese look on. The knew it was chicken butchering day and they were safe :)

Plucking a chicken with the old automatic plucker.

Making sure the plucker did a good job.

Plucking by hand.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chicken Butchering – Part 2 - Slaughter

In my first post on this topic, I explained how the chickens were fed and brought to the area where we slaughter and butcher them. This post is graphic so click away if chicken slaughter is not something you wish to see or read about just now.

There are a number of different steps involved once the chickens are rounded up. The first is the actual killing. There are a number of humane ways to achieve this. Some people cut the jugular vein. Some wring the necks and others chop off the heads. The easiest one for us physically and emotionally was to chop their heads off. This was done with a hatchet. We opened the door of the coop reached in, took a chicken and carried it to the chopping block. The chicken is laid across the block and a loop of string is placed around its neck. This loop is so the chicken will not move just before the ax falls. The chopper holds the feet of the chicke and swings. Each of us who swung the axe did not fear killing the chicken. Rather, not killing the chicken was a far greater fear. Our goal of a quick death for the chicken helped us be careful and accurate in our swing.

We’ve all heard stories about chicken running around with their heads cut off. Based on how much flapping of wings occurs while we hold the feet of a headless chicken, I believe this would be true. Out of respect for the chicken and fear of creating a big mess I don’t believe in testing this theory. After the head was severed, we placed the chicken upside down in a cone to finish bleeding. Under the cone is a bucket to catch the blood. The next step after the chicken is finished bleeding out is plucking. I’ll describe that in my next post of this series.
Chicken Butchering
Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and Chilling
Part 5 Eating & Freezing
Part 6 Final Thoughts

chicken slaughter

My Thanksgiving turkey, a Royal Palm, about to be slaughtered. Note the cone on the right for bleeding the chickens. The turkey is too big for this cone and needs to be held in a bucket instead.