Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up on a “hobby farm” – that was the name my Dad had for the operation we had because he and Mom farmed for the love of it. It wasn’t a big operation. Over the years, geese, sheep, horses, cattle and chickens lived on the farm, but the two constants were about 20 head of cattle (sometimes dairy, sometimes not) and about 200 chickens. The animals had good lives. The cattle had most of the 160 acres to roam over as they pleased, a creek to drink from and lots of trees for shelter as well as the shelter of the barn. We named them and they knew who they were – if you called them and they felt like coming to see you, they would. 🙂 The chickens had two henhouses (one for winter inside the barn and one for summer that was outside next to a field of alfalfa. They had their own nests, space to walk around and socialize inside as well as space to go outside in the sun. They got vegetable scraps and chicken food as well as the grass they got outside. We named quite a few of them too. I didn’t know until years later that this wasn’t a normal way to farm anymore, but I think it should be. Anyway, I’m telling you all of this because when you care for a life, no matter how big or small the animal is, when that life is taken to give you food, I believe that the food given at such a great price should not be wasted. I have the same feelings about plants too – I just can’t help it. Thank you Mom and Dad for teaching me as patiently as you did – it didn’t fall on deaf ears.
See that beauteous little chicken? I can make a roasted chicken in the oven, but I don’t have a rotisserie, so once in a while, Sweet Baboo buys me a rosemary lemon chicken from the store. If there aren’t any grocery stores in your area that sell them, you can roast a small chicken in the oven and get the same flavour by rubbing the outside of the bird with freshly cracked black pepper and chopped rosemary and putting half a lemon inside the cavity to steam it from the inside. Believe me, the smell is out of this world! I have a very hard time not eating any on the way home.
When we do finally arrive home, Sweet Baboo knows that it is time to disappear and let me “play” with the chicken.
The first thing I do is remove the skin and place it on a plate. I like crispy things, so I bake it later and drain off more fat so that I can eat it like potato chips. It sounds weird, I know, but I’d be willing to bet that most people sneak a little of the skin when no one is looking!
Next, I get out a bowl and a dutch oven. The bowl is for meat and the dutch oven is for making stock. Before any of this happens, though, I look for the wishbone. It gets cleaned off and set aside to dry so that I can make a wish and pull it with someone on a special occasion.
Now it is time to carefully take the meat off of the bones. Meat goes in the bowl while fat, bones and everything else that isn’t meat goes into the dutch oven.
From one small chicken, you can get 4-5 cups of meat. That’s 10 hot chicken sandwiches! I divide the meat up between 5 one-cup containers and freeze it so that I can have a chicken sandwich whenever the mood strikes. Yum!
Now that the meat has been taken care of, it is time to start the stock. Fill the dutch oven with water all the way up to where the handles connect to the pot.
Put a lid on the pot and bring it to a boil. See, the flavour in the chicken stock comes from the bones and fat, so that’s how the flavour extraction starts. Once it is at a rolling boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and set your timer to 3 hours.
It’s time to watch a movie on your computer. You don’t need to check the pot or stir anything. You just need to be at home (at least if you are home, you know you aren’t setting the house on fire, right?) When the timer goes off and you turn off the burner, you’ll see something like this:
I almost forgot to mention that I put 4 one litre jars in the kitchen sink and filled them with really hot tap water. This helps to sterilize the jars and it also prepares them. Glass can shatter and hurt you badly if a really hot liquid is added to a cool jar – I’ve seen it – use the hot tap water and save your hands. I also rinse the jar tops with hot water to help them seal better (same principle as when a person moistens a suction cup before sticking it to a surface).
The stock get poured out of the dutch oven through a wire mesh strainer to remove all of the bones and fat. Then the jars are emptied and the fresh chicken stock goes in. I hand-tighten the jars and leave them on the counter until I hear a POP! from each one – that tells me that the seal worked. Then I hand tighten it further. When the jars reach room temperature, they go into the refrigerator.
The chicken stock is indispensable – while you can eat it as a consommé just as it is, it is also a perfect base for soups, gravy, veloute sauce for pasta, cooking liquid for starches such as rice, potatoes or cornmeal and so much more!
One little chicken gave us:
- a crispy treat (skin)
- vitamins (the liver is a great source of iron)
- a wishbone
- enough meat for 5 meals for two people
- 12 cups of stock to start many more meals
Why should a person do this? Well, it’s a noble thing to honour the life that was given by not letting anything go to waste, AND it is good financially: the chicken cost $10 but using it in this way gives us $70 worth of food (that’s what it would cost if we had to buy everything separately). If you ever took a psychology course, you’d eventually come across the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” but this is one of many of life’s examples where the whole was much less than the sum of its parts. How awesome is that? 🙂