December 26th, my husband Bryan and I slaughtered our first meat chickens. Yes I know that’s an abrupt first sentence. And there’s not really any reason that it was the day after Christmas, except that we had a day off, and had been commenting for a few weeks on how BIG the chickens were getting.
“Guess we should probably do that soon…don’t you think?”
“Yup, they’re…pretty big”
We’ve had a little bunch of laying hens for the past year or so, a wedding present from my brother James, but in November, we decided that wasn’t enough. We needed more.
So it started off with a few little chicks from Pratt’s, a few little layers…but hey, hadn’t we always talked about meat chickens? Sure, they’re they are, and they’re so cute, let’s just pick up a couple. We were hooked. 10 days later we were buying more. And 9 weeks later we were thinking…”So…..I guess they’re getting pretty big…”
And so we came to the 26th of December, a nice day off, and decided to do the birds in. After reading, and re-reading a wonderfully informative post from Shaye Elliot from The Elliot Homstead on the proper technique, we set up our little stations.
I’m going to stick to pretty G-rated pictures, if you want all of the bloody details, you can read Shaye’s post.
Here is out little culling station. That’s a freshly-slaughtered chicken on the table, and that’s my very attractive husband plucking another chicken at the end of said table.
That’s my thumb over the corner of the picture.
We had a kill cone set up over a five gallon bucket to catch the blood (where I held the chicken still while Bryan cut the throat), a plucking station (where we tried to catch as many feathers as we could for our compost bin), an off with the head and feet station (thank you sharp kitchen shears), a gutting station (which was a big learning curve…So I’m supposed to get what out without spilling what?), and a final finishing station inside for a good rinse and removal of final feathers.
And, here we are, our little pile of bounty. With the lighter on the counter which does not work for burning off feathers when the feathers are wet and the lighter is almost out of fluid…
What to do with that chicken?
I found the most amazing recipe in the entire world for roast chicken. I’ve successfully made it three times, and it’s so easy you’ll die. Also, good news for you 60-year-plan-homesteaders who haven’t butchered your chickens yet…this recipe also works great on grocery store birds. It’s a recipe that I stole from Epicurious, and it only needs two ingredients:
1 Whole Chicken (giblets removed) the recipe says 2-3 lb chickens, but I generally use a 4-5 lb
2 or 3 teaspoons of salt
1. Preheat oven to 450. Yes 450, I know that’s hot.
2. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. You want a really dry chicken, it helps to make the skin crispy.
3. Truss the chicken (here is nice post from Nourished Kitchen on how to truss a chicken, thank you, Jenny)
4. Place the trussed chicken in a roasting pan. Or I suppose it would be easier to truss the chicken after you put it in the roasting pan… suit yourself.
5. Sprinkle the chicken with 2-3 teaspoons salt, all over. Yes I know that’s a lot of salt. There should be little mountains of salt on your chicken. You can picture yourself cross-country skiing through little hills and meadows of salt, there’s so much of it. But trust me. When I first read this recipe, it freaked my out, too. But according to cook’s illustrated (of which I am a fan), the science of overly salted chicken skin works like a brine. It draws out moisture from the chicken mixes with the salt, and then gets absorbed again by said chicken drawing the nice, salty moisture back inside. It makes for an uncommonly juicy bird. After it’s done cooking, just brush off the extra salt and Wah-lah!
6. Roast the chicken, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes or until really brown and crispy and the breast meat reaches 160, and leg meat 175 on your fancy kitchen instant thermometer. I don’t have a fancy kitchen instant thermometer, so I cook it until it looks like it’s done, and then I cut it open and stick it back in if it’s not. It’s very scientific.
Your chicken will come out looking like this.
and tasting like this.