Monday, May 15, 2006

Food Learning

Well, it’s done. And it smells delicious!

We’ve gotten through our big greenhorn right of passage: the rooster is no more, and we now know we have the guts (heh) to handle the task of butchering and cleaning. WF did the actual dispatching, with the help of my father who was up visiting for the day. I stayed away during that part (wimpy, eh?) but was able to help with the skinning and ah, anatomy exercise that followed. Who knew that a college course (Advanced Vertebrate Anatomy) years ago could come in handy for the homesteading, chicken-raising life? I did a little skinning in that course (of a smaller, furrier vertebrate), along with some careful inspection of muscles, etc. Muscles = meat. Science, food…the line is thin. At that time, I didn’t eat much meat, but have now embraced my omnivorous nature with less squeamishness.

After a day of curing the muscles/meat in the refrigerator, we fired up the pressure cooker and added onions, celery, rosemary and our own garlic and chives. In only 10 minutes, the “tough old bird” was tender and pretty tasty! I was surprised at how easy it was to eat… hard to imagine that it had been running around the yard just days ago, but glad to know where the chicken had come from and that it had a good life. I’m usually fairly worried about bacteria, but after seeing this step by step (no spilled, um, stuff from inside), I had much less worry. We were careful and clean. We thanked the rooster again, and enjoyed the very fresh meat thoroughly. We are truly carnivores now! It’s only been about a year and a half since the formerly vegetarian WF has begun eating chicken again… big steps for him.

We’ve both decided that eating local protein, especially that which we’ve raised ourselves, is an important part of living more lightly upon the earth. I know the statistics about how much more efficient it is for humans to eat grain themselves instead of feeding it to animals like cows, etc. (The grass-to-chicken equation is much better, though…)

I know that we’d have a really hard time growing enough soy to make tofu, etc to meet our protein needs in northern MN. So therefore our soy-based products come from far away, using plenty of fossil fuels. We also both feel we need the intense protein hit provided by chicken and fish about once a week to stay healthy (some people need less) along with tofu, beans and eggs on other days.

But, anyway… We’ve both softhearted enough to feel a bit bad about not seeing the smaller rooster out with the flock, which is now down to a less-even 11. The worst part was the waiting, worry and anticipation, watching the rooster in his doomed, solitary confinement and wondering if we could handle the process. I felt a huge relief when it was done and I knew I could handle at least parts of the process.

Plus, now the hens seem to be at peace, and we hope they can start growing back the feathers they’ve lost during the overzealous competition for their, ah…charms. The remaining rooster has proven to be a calm leader so far, calling over a hen to present her with a tasty slug, etc. We’re glad that we were able to make good use (mmmm!) of the smaller rooster when no other alternatives existed…

Onward with the learning curve!


Liz said...

Pressure cooker! Great idea for an old bird... I'll have to remember that.

Glad the experience wasn't too bad. I think most of the bacteria on store-bought chickens come from the fact that they are processing thousands of chickens a day and there's going to be, um, spillage. No ones going to be as careful as when you're processing your OWN food.

I've been hearing about a lot of former vegetarians that are leaning toward raising their own meat or supporting small farmers in their area. In a way, it becomes easier to eat when you know your food.

Congratulations! This was a big step. :)

GTR said...

Yes, I highly recommend pressure cookers for cooking even a regular chicken. It's so fast, and this time we ended up with a wonderful "accidental" broth afterwards- just the cooking water. It made great soup!

Emily said...

To say I am impressed is a HUGE understatement. Wow!