how do you use your whole pastured chickens? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 08-14-2011, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm looking for some great recipes... I'm getting 2-3 chickens from a local-ish farmer, and I want to get everything I can out of them.  We're a family of 5 ... and I haven't eaten meat in years...  (I refuse to support the conventional meat industry)...

 

I want to start introducing it again slowly...  and I also don't want to waste any of it.  Anyone have some great recipes to share?

thanks!!  (I'm WAY rusty at cooking chicken!  Also...if you buy your chickens whole/frozen/in bulk... how do you use them?  Do you try to butcher them into parts ahead of time, or just cook the chicken as a whole chicken and then use all of the leftovers???)

 

:)

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#2 of 5 Old 08-14-2011, 10:53 AM
 
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As a former vegetarian, I don't ever cut up a whole, un-cooked chicken. But we eat roasted chicken fairly often.
I thaw it in the fridge overnight. Rinse, drain, remove innards, if included. Chop a bunch of onions, carrots, celery, and peel a few cloves of garlic. Place these around and inside the chicken. Add a bit of water to your roasting dish. Salt, pepper, and butter the chicken. Get as fancy as you like seasoning. My roasting pan is covered so I don't add much water, but you probably would need to if you're top-less. wink1.gif Roast in the oven at 350 for a while. I know that doesn't sound helpful. But one of the best kitchen purchases I have ever made was for a digital meat thermometer that can be left in the oven with the readout outside. I cook until the thermometer goes off telling me it's ready. Just make sure the thermometer probe isn't touching bone. Depending on the size of the chicken, it may take an hour or two.

After supper, pull all the remaining meat off the carcass and save for soup. Remove any remaining veggies and save, too. Take the carcass, throw it in the crockpot with about a tablespoon or two of ACV or lemon juice, fill with water, and make broth while you sleep. Oh, and add the organs you took out if your family doesn't enjoy eating them. They make for a richer broth.

Next day, make yummy chicken soup with the broth, chicken bits and veggies. Add more or less chicken and veggies, depending on how you like your soup. Add noodles, if so inclined.
Return the chicken frame to the crockpot, add more water and vinegar or lemonjuice, and make more broth! There are many other things to do, but my family and I love this and haven't really ever gotten tired of it. Hope this helps!
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#3 of 5 Old 08-15-2011, 12:25 PM
 
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We raise and butcher our own chickens and I have learned to very quickly break down the whole chicken into parts.  Most of our chickens are cut up into pieces, but about 1/4 are left whole for roasting.

 

With whole birds, I simply roast by sprinkling inside and out with salt pepper, stuff cavity with herbs, put in roasting pan (I don't cover or use water because I love crispy skin), and roast at 375F until done.  This takes about 1.5-2 hours, depending on size.  I agree about the thermometer, it makes life a lot easier.  Once roasted and eaten, I save all of the bones and make stock.  I often freeze the bones until I can make a huge batch at once.

 

When cutting the birds into pieces, I start with the chicken breast side up and a sharp knife.  I remove the breasts (boneless, but skin on) by cutting along the breastbone and then along the ribcage.  Then I cut off the wings (tiny tips are saved for stock), and cut off the whole leg (thigh and drumstick), and am left with the back, neck and ribcage for stock.  The wings are then cut into two pieces and so are the legs, by cutting through the cartilage in the joints, not the bone.  Cutting through the joint cartilage is not like cutting through hard bone and after doing it a couple of times, you will easily find the "line" in the meat that when cut through will go straight through the joint.  I know that it's probably hard to visualize when reading this, but YouTube has quite a few videos that could help you out.  Since we have many chickens, I freeze the pieces in groups of wings, drumsticks, thighs, etc. and use according to the dish I want to make.  There are way too many possibilities to list here.

 

My main point is that nothing, other than the guts, goes to waste.  All the bones are saved after our butchering and after every meal we make with bone-in pieces.  So, if we have drumsticks for dinner, the bones inside are frozen until we've saved enough to make stock.  Try to cut up a chicken yourself, it's fairly easy and quick after practicing, and you really can't destroy the meat, since you can always make soup out of a jumbled up practice chicken. 

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#4 of 5 Old 08-15-2011, 02:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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olaz-b -- Just a side question....  how is raising your own chickens for meat?  how many do you have at any time?  Is it a seasonal thing - like, raise a bunch in the spring/slaughter in the fall - freeze and eat all year?  Do you slaughter them yourself, or do you drop them off somewhere? 

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#5 of 5 Old 08-15-2011, 03:30 PM
 
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I think that raising meat chickens is a very easy way to try raising animals for meat, and if you really don't like it, then you're done in about 8 weeks.  We raise ours in a portable tractor coop, so a maximum of 20 fit in it at once, but they have access to the outside and fresh grass, this means raising them during the warm months.  My favourite way of raising meat chickens is if I have a broody hen and I sneak the day old chicks under her, but that doesn't happen every year.  So to answer your question, yes, it is a seasonal thing, in that we raise enough to freeze for the whole year, between 20-30 chickens, but we also have goats and pigs.  If you cut them up into pieces, they don't take up that much space in the freezer.

 

We kill, pluck, gut, and prep for the freezer at our house.  I think it really makes us appreciate where our meat comes from and we can choose exactly how we want to use every part of our birds, this includes the feet and fat (awesome for frying potatoes in).  It isn't difficult, but it is a learning process.  I'd recommend watching someone first.  If it really isn't your thing, then sending them to an abattoir is an option.  I think we looked into it and it would cost about $4 per bird to do everything we wanted to be done.  We're in Canada, so I don't know if the prices are similar.

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