This post will be considered graphic by those of you with weak stomachs…might want to leave now if that is you!
So let’s be clear ~ I strongly believe in being connected to your food source ~ if not growing and harvesting yourself (even a tiny bit!) then making a conscious attempt to know those who are doing it for you. Obviously this is not practical for all our food, all the time ~ or at least, definitely not convenient ~ but it’s something the hubs and I try to adhere to as much as we can, like a growing number of people similar to ourselves.
So imagine my chagrin to find myself shaking under the impending demise of our meanest and most unruly rooster, Stumpy! (So named because of a deformity of his feet.) Perhaps the first mistake was in naming him…!
To set the stage: My very good and dear friend K had offered to come help me do the job of “harvesting” my riotous roosters. So on Wednesday morning, I began hurriedly making the preparations for the impeding “harvesting”: had a campfire going, a huge pot of boiling water on top, a table laid out with about five different types of very sharp knives plus an axe, gloves for the evisceration part of the deal, twine for stringing him up, and a traffic cone that K was so fortuitous as to have picked up the previous week. We were set.
But we wanted to make sure we did this as respectfully as we could. When people buy meat at the grocery store, it becomes such a disconnected process ~ you don’t imagine that the beef or chicken or pork you are buying was once a cute little calf, or a feisty hen, or a smelly but content pig. But the thing is ~ it was. And it’s demise is a sacrifice…a necessary one in the scheme of the circle of life (cliche but accurate) yet still a sacrifice. So we thanked the rooster for his sacrifice, and apologized as well.
Then we put the rooster in the cone, I took up position with the axe, and…I couldn’t do it! Honestly, I was freaking out inside with the fear of doing it wrong and causing the poor bird to suffer! Thank goodness K was there with me because that rooster would still be running around his yard, beating up on girls and boys alike! K walked over, took the axe, and did the deed, as calm and poised as you please. (Thank goodness for those who remain rational under pressure, for I am not one of you!) And after it was done, I was again reminded that if we didn’t have grocery stores, this would be my only way of procuring meat. The disconnection is ignoring that truth.
We did what follows…drained the bird, dunked him in the water (for future poultry farmers info, the temp had to be right at 165 degrees Fahrenheit), and then we plucked him…which was as easy as they say it is. Then the evisceration, which I had no problem performing. At this point, the rooster looked far and away like a regular old inanimate roast you’d find at Stop & Shop, and not at all like the mean rooster we had known him to be. I’ll spare details of the evisceration, but it was terribly interesting and we spent a while going through all the internal parts and trying to figure out what was what.
And then it was time to clean him off again. We hosed him down, put him in the fridge, and began mental preparations for the next days menu…which was to be dominated by our fresh chicken meat! At one point last night I wondered if it would be weird or hard to eat my own bird, but guess what…it wasn’t. It looked like any other bit of meat you’d fine at the grocery store.
And that’s my story with butchering poultry. Believe it or not, it was ultimately an extremely positive event and K and I are going for round two on Sunday with the other moody rooster. After we finished lunch today, I felt extremely satisfied…we had fed ourselves, off our own land and our own birds. It was extremely pleasant to know we could live the belief and not just talk about being self-sustaining. Obviously I want to become even more self-sustaining, but this was a HUGE step in that direction, and I’m pretty happy about it. (Oh, and to answer what everyone is wondering…the meat was slightly tougher, but much more flavorful then store-bird.)