Processing Your Poultry
Processing your poultry can be a daunting experience, it’s not pleasant, the smell is awful, it does nothing for your appetite. So don’t plan on having poultry for supper when you’re finished because this is the last thing you will want to cook or eat. I’m not trying to be nasty. Just fair warning if this is your first time. There is no gentle way to put this. It’s nasty business. But of course, it’s doable and you can certainly get accustomed to it. I would plan on trying only a few, say 5 for the first run and see what you think. Of course, I’m here to write a procedure for you to follow so that things might go much more smoothly. First off, we’ll get a fire going. If you have a large hot plate it will be handy or you can make a wood-based fire like the one shown. You will need a very large pot, big enough to hold a whole bird. By the way, any of your poultry can be done in the same manner. I will be referring to the poultry as chicken in the following as my pictures are of the chicken. But of course, the procedure is the same with any bird.
OK, now that we have your water started, let’s prepare for the slaughter. The easiest way I have found is to use a stump from a log. Pound 2 nails in the log kind of in the center. The chicken’s neck, just below the head will be placed there and it needs to be tight. Remember, under those feathers, the chicken’s neck is only maybe 2-2 1/2 inches wide. Sharpen your axe so that you will be able to manage what you are doing, hopefully, in one chop.
Now you have to catch your chicken. Please try to be as gentle as possible and try not to chase your chicken down. Believe me, it will make a difference in the taste of your chicken, and the appearance of brown around the bone when you are eating it. The meat will appear much cleaner. Gently as possible reach down and grab your chicken by the leg. Carry it upside down to the block. Place the head between the nails. Preferably one person will hold the legs while the other uses the ax. The ax should come down just below the chicken’s head at the top of the neck.
Now your water should be hot and ready for your chicken, but……first, hang your chicken by the feet for about 15 minutes…(we always used hay twine hung from a low rafter. The bird needs to bleed out so you may want to put an old pot underneath.
This part I am adding just because I don’t want you to go into shock, but….. your bird may run around a bit after you release it from the block. It’s just nerves. Perfectly natural reaction. It will stop on its own. Just watch to make sure you don’t lose your bird in some tall grass or a cornfield for instance.
Now it’s time to put your chicken into the scalding water to open the pores so that the feathers will come off (the plucking process). Now, I prefer to do this by hand as every time I have used an automatic plucker my chickens turn out all bruised. I don’t know if it makes a difference in taste but it certainly does in appearance.
Just a note……….please be very careful with the scalding water!!!!!
Now your bird is plucked. Either by hand or by automatic plucker is up to you. I’m told there may be a technique to using the plucker as to not bruise the birds but, I don’t know what it is so….use your own judgment on this. Some brown, white or black pin feathers may remain on your bird, these can be taken care of later during the cutting and cleaning process.
Now your bird is plucked and ready to be singed. This gets rid of all the extra feathers, hair, and fine stuff that can’t be pulled. We always use a gas torch. Hold it far enough away and work quickly so as not to burn the skin. We just want to singe off the hair.
And finally, we are ready for the next process, The cutting and disemboweling the bird.
First, we will cut off the feet just below the drumstick and on the ankle bone. You will find a knuckle there. Cut in between the joints to make it easier. The feet may be saved for later use to make a broth, which is rich in hyaluronic acid, which is quite beneficial to many joint and skin issues in humans. But that’s another blog. On with the show.
Now it gets tricky. So I’m going to have lunch before I go on. lol
Look at the picture. She is making a slit in that skin where we open up to stuff the bird when cooking. You will lift the skin and make a slit being careful not to cut anything but the skin. We don’t want to puncture any internal organs or gut.
Now you will cut around the but, anus, or dupa, as my mama always called it being very careful not to cut the gut that is attached to the dupa. Cut down to the tail on each side of the dupa.
Now you can make a cut above the tail but under the dupa, again, not cutting into the gut. You can then leave everything just hang there and reach up into the bird and start pulling the innards out.
Among this nastiness you should find good things like the liver, the heart, and the gizzard. Now the gizzard has a certain way of getting cleaned and removing the gullet inside which I will try and describe at the end.
Meanwhile where were we….oh keep reaching in and pulling and scraping with your fingers along the ribs which you will feel, to remove lungs that are attached there. Clean the bird out good of all entrails. Turn the bird over and cut into the top of it where you will find a long cord attached next to the neck and pull it all the way out. Now your insides should be gone and discarded. By the way, make sure you wear gloves for this . If you do too much without gloves, your nails will get thin and tear back . Something about chicken blood is very bad for your nails. Now you can cut off the tail and the neck and discard. Unless you want to keep them to make broth.
Put all your keepable goodies into a pool of water that has cold water running into it continuously. Keep all the birds cold until they are ready for the final once-over cleaning, (removing the pin feathers), cutting, and packaging for the freezer. They can be placed in freezer bags which the air has been removed. However, I would also wrap the bags in freezer paper to protect the bird from frostbite. You could also pressure can poultry to preserve it. But that’s another blog too.
Happy Days!!! You are all done!!!! You will be glad you did this!