I love to make soup, but I realize I've been a little cavalier about the chickens I've used. I always tried to buy organic, free range chicken, but I can't say I gave much thought to the way they got to my table.
Last week's chicken dinner began somewhat traumatically, early Saturday morning. We put a table outside on a plastic tarp, brought out a huge pot of hot water, a bucket of cold water, and a trash bag for feathers. We created a "killing cone" to hold the rooster immobile while we said a prayer, then quickly sliced its throat and let the blood drain. Though emotionally exhausting, that part was actually over in just a few seconds.
Scalding makes plucking go really quickly. Then we dunked the bird quickly in cold water to cool a little. Since we have never gutted a whole chicken before, we used my favorite chicken book, "The Small Scale Poultry Flock" by Harvey Ussery as a guide. Despite reading that chapter several times and watching several extremely graphic YouTube videos, there were still some moments when I thought "What next?" When we were finished, we stopped to say "Thank You" to honor the bird.
I know this chicken always had good food and fresh water, roomy housing and for the last few weeks, a place to run and scratch. It was hard to do the first one, but seven roosters is not only expensive to feed and really unnecessary (you only need two for a flock of 20 hens) they are really noisy. I was surprised my neighbors, who must all be saints, have not complained. My wonderful neighbor Kris was so sweet because she said how much she liked hearing them. I like the occasional crow myself, but seven competing roosters is five too many. So we'll have fresh rooster for five weeks. Then we'll start to look at hens that lay less than they should. At that point we hope one of the hens will be sitting on the next batch of chicks. That should keep us in chicken dinners and soup. To make chicken soup: Put the feet, neck and other edible parts of one fresh chicken into a pan with cold water. Add a cup of chopped leeks fresh from the garden and a cup of sliced carrots. Bring to a boil for 30 minutes. Add parsley, thyme, black pepper, bay leaves, celery salt and allspice berries. Reduce heat and cook another 45 minutes. Cool, then strain. Prepare more carrots and cook in the stock, covered, for 1 hour on low heat until carrots are tender or you can't wait anymore because it smells so good. Add the meat from the neck bone and season with salt to taste. Enjoy, with thanks for the bounty.
Reach Karen Brier at RuhenstrothRamblings@yahoo.com, or 790-0072.