Chicken for dinner used to be reserved for Sundays. Biodynamic principles call for a small laying flock on a farm, only there to be the scavengers to glean through the leftover grains, and for pest patrol. Never as a staple as we Americans now know it. We never had chicken for dinner. All we had were wily banties for eggs, and they kept a static population, we never had any extras for harvesting. Chicken was a luxury to raise for meat, and only bought occasionally.
That changed on our farm, when we decided we would add pastured broilers to our operation, ala Joel Salatin. Joel’s method is the best for building a permaculture grazing farm, with multiple species stacking. Most people that try it, are concerned with the end product, the finished bird, so usually the pasture management aspect takes a back seat. With the Cornish X broilers of today, it is easy to get a good carcass weight, no matter what you feed, and in all reality, even if the chicken was raised inside, just like it’s conventional counterparts, the bird will still (hopefully) not be stressed from overcrowding, and the processing on a small scale usually insures a cleaner product. The hardest part is getting off every single feather, but really the important part is to keep the intestinal contents off the meat. Home butchering, or at a small plant usually gets that kind of result. What I mean is, a feather here or there isn’t as important as the getting the guts out without getting crap on your meat. When you are doing this, you make sure this doesn’t happen. You will withhold the feed to clean out the intestinal tract, knowing this will lessen your chances of sullying your meat. When you buy a chicken from the store, they were processed in a facility that handles thousands of birds a day. Even if it is an organic chicken, – different $hit, same smell. I don’t know about you, but if I had to butcher chickens every day, I would not care about the job either. The factory just adds enough sanitizer to clean things up. But all that bleach must not be helping, since so many people get sick from undercooked poultry.
But as usual, I’m wandering. We don’t sell chickens anymore, but after all those years of raising poultry and eating chicken all the time, we have acquired a taste for chicken. And it is expensive to raise. So until we throw in the towel and quit raising meat chickens, I squeeze every scrap of food value out a chicken. We use one a week. I posted about this earlier, but this post will be a little more detailed and with pictures. What I like best about this method is that I always have broth (more like demi-glace) on hand. DH has autoimmune issues, so cooking with gelatinous broth is essential for his meals. Bone rich broth or stock is not be confused with watered down store bought stock, or bouillon cubes (chemical cubes) reconstituted with water. If I have a jar of this in the refrigerator, I will use it often to cook with, and I haven’t had to process it in large amounts and then can it. It easily keeps a week in the fridge and it can be re-boiled to freshen. I do can some, if I’m not using it up, but for me this works the best. I used to save bags of wings, and backs, with the intention of making copious amounts of stock, but I rarely got around to it. And that took up a lot of freezer space. For me it works better to have the whole chickens in the freezer and I can cook them in any form I wish. Some end up as gifts and some I use for barter.
Our chickens averaged almost 6 pounds this year, so there is a lot of meat on them. However, I cook the smaller ones the same as the big ones. We will just have a little less meat in some of our meals. We don’t even notice, and not one bit of this goes to waste.
The yield of one chicken:
5 days of lunch meat for DH
2 or 3 days lunch meat for Ruth Less
1 1/2 to 2 quarts of gelatinous broth/stock
2 meals with chicken, like enchiladas, pot pie, or chicken salad
small bits of meat for soup
more stock after the initial cooking
This is my “Sunday Chicken”:
What you need:
1 broiler or fryer chicken
cutting board, (I devote one for each type of meat)
5 quart roaster
2 quarts water
wide mouth quart canning jars, quarts or pints
Thawed out chicken.
Always practice mise en place with meat in the kitchen. Get everything ready before hand and wash your hands frequently. To lower my risk of contamination of other cooking utensils, when I start boning out meat, I have a dish pan of soapy water on hand so I can wash my hands multiple times during this process. With the dish pan of water waiting, I don’t have to touch the faucets. I don’t worry so much about our chicken, but most people get their poultry from the store. So this is just a good habit to get into. It never fails that the phone will ring, and I will need to wash my hands. I keep thawing out meat on the bottom shelves of my refrigerator, to prevent contamination of other foods in the refrigerator.
Slit the skin down the breastbone.
Loosen the skin on both breasts with your fingers.
This shows the chicken breast meat exposed.
Insert the knife next to the breastbone and begin cutting while pulling the meat away with your other hand.
One breast cut away. It’s OK to leave a little, it will just be more meat for the meals throughout the week.
Breasts ready for…
Pull the skin back over the breastbone and pin in place with a toothpick. This will give you a good piece of crispy skin and protect the drier breast meat that is still on the bone. Place the chicken in the roaster with 2 quarts of water (and vegetables if you want) and roast for at least 3 hours. I start at 400* and when I remember, I turn the oven down to 325* or 350*. The time is not really so critical, the water keeps the meat moist and the longer cooking time just makes the broth better(thicker).
At this point, you can flip over the breast and pull off the tenderloins.
To get enough lunch meat for 5 days + I butterfly the breast meat at thin as possible. It doesn’t have to be exact, but the thinner it is, the more pieces you will have.
Ten pieces for lunches. This includes the tenderloins. You may want to set those aside and freeze them for a special meal.
Breast meat quickly sauteed in olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, and in the background the roasted chicken and the broth. While the chicken is warm, I lift it out of the broth with slotted spoons, and place it on a platter to cool. Pour the broth into wide mouth canning jars and refrigerate. The schmaltz will rise by morning and you can take it off if it bothers you. But I usually just leave it on the gelatin and spoon around it. Most of the time I use it up right away for gravy, or other recipes.
For my mid week meals, I usually plan a leg and thigh for each meal, and that is plenty for the three of us. The dogs get the skin, and then the the carcass is cooked again for a thinner stock. After the second cooking the cats get the bones which are very soft. So I have used every bit of this chicken in many ways. When I look at it that way, it helps me justify the cost.
My favorite part of this is the taste. I do not like the taste of cooked chicken, that has been re-frozen and then reheated. And I don’t really care for roasted chicken breast, it is too dry. Sauteing the breast meat helps it retain a fresh flavor. So even if I am being frugal and stretching my meals, it doesn’t feel like I’m depriving myself or my family.