Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Chicken Processing Mk2

I got myself more organised on Sunday and butchered 9 more chickens.
I set up a patio table with chopping boards on that could be scrubbed down (this is waste sheet material that can be thrown away afterwards). I sharpened my knife, had a steel to sharpen it as I went and two bowls of hot soapy water to keep everything clean. 
I also had two buckets, one for feathers (that can be composted) and one for feet and guts. I also had some plastic feed sacks on hand, one to sit on (it had rained in the night) and one to have on my lap to stop the wet birds from soaking my trousers. 
A large saucepan of water was also warming on the BBQ. 

The birds for slaughter were pulled out before they'd been fed and kept in a crate away from the others until their time came. 
I started with batched but found it was far better to do one at a time, slaughter, drain, dip in hot water, pluck. 
None of them went very quickly but I learnt that having the water the right temperature makes a huge difference. Unfortunately my thermometer doesn't seem to work so I just had to guess. One bird was dipped too hot so I ended up skinning that one as the skin ripped too easily. 
Once I had all the birds plucked I then wiped down and set up for gutting, never a nice job but it went quite quickly.
I separated the birds up into ones that looked good as whole birds and ones that were better jointed. I kept five birds whole and cut the others into breasts, whole legs and wings. 
I then used my new vacuum packer to bag the birds up and separate the jointed ones into meal sized portions. Three legs or breasts seemed about right for our family. 
I bagged and froze the stripped carcasses as well so I can make a big batch of stock when I get chance. 

I certainly felt more organised this time and it went without a hitch. That said there as some things I'd change: 
  • I'd like a chicken plucker, it's not great doing them by hand. 
  • I need a bigger saucepan or something to hot dip the birds into, mine is only just big enough and soon needs topping up with more hot water. 
  • The bench I butchered them on was too low, my back was hurting as I was bending the whole time, I proper work bench would be ideal. 
  • An outside sink would help an amazing amount, something I might have to consider installing! 

So some hard work, but the freezer has certainly been stocked up! 

I've still got six birds left and I'll leave these a while longer to see how big they get, it would be great to have some big ones to save having to buy a turkey for Christmas. 

What do you think? Is there anything you'd do differently to how I set it up this time?

Monday, 20 November 2017

Toy Farm Yard

We went over to mum and dad's farm this weekend. It was dads birthday so we were having a takeaway meal together, my sister, brother and his wife were there as well. 
It was a lovely evening.
When we got there we saw that mum had got out the toy farmyard that dad had made me 31 years ago! Dad had made it for my third birthday. 
Mum had got it out of the loft and washed it all down found lots of tractors and animals to go in it.  
My little boy was in heaven! He had great fun moving bales around and tipping over the barns with the tractor!
Unfortunately it's too big to live in our house, but it's something lovely for him to play with when he goes to grandma and granddad's! 

Did anyone make you toys when you were younger? 

Do you have a favourite?

Friday, 17 November 2017

What Would You Waste Less If Times Were Hard?

Of course none of it is really waste!

But when you grow your own and cook most of your meals from scratch it can certainly create some waste! Below are two buckets of "waste" that I created between Sunday and Wednesday! 

This all gets added to the compost pile and in time will really help to improve my soil. 
Because I grow so much veg I can be a little more wasteful with some of the veg, for example we eat a lot of Swiss Chard at this time of year (two times a week) but I never use the stems! We've got so much growing, it just doesn't seen worth it. 

 In the buckets above there are the leaves and peelings from cleriac, carrots, beets, chard, courgette (last one), shallots, onions and gone over apples.

If times were hard, very little of those buckets would be heading to the compost pile. Everything would be used, veg would be scrubbed before being peeled, leaves would be saved and I'd make lots of stock each time. This is potentially something I should be doing away, but there are only so many hours in the day.

The cooked peeling would then be strained, the stock saved for human consumption and the cooked peelings would be given to the chickens or other livestock. Although not with the current laws of course!

So if times were much harder what would you waste less of?

What potential food source do you throw away?

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Three Home Butchered Chickens

We had an absolutely mad weekend where we didn't seem to stop! 

We went out on Friday night with friends (this is almost becoming a habit), the girls had multiple ballet performances on Saturday and Sunday, we had a bonfire party to attend and I need to get some work done in the extension as my plasterer is coming this week.
Another job I managed to squeeze in was to butcher three chickens. I had hoped to do more but it started to rain and I was set up outside.

It was only when doing a few birds I realised how I need to be set up much better with a logical work flow. As it was I ended u p walking around a lot because I slaughtered them in a different place to where I plucked and butchered them.

I think I might create a dedicated little area for doing this job. Somewhere that's easy to hose down and keep clean but also has places to hang chickens as they drain, separate chopping boards for different jobs and a much larger boiler for hot plucking them. A cover as well encase it rains might be handy!

I did try the wet plucking method and it was a revelation! The feather came off so much easier and it cuts the job in half, I'm still tempted to make a chicken plucker though, either a wizzbang type one or one that goes on a drill - thanks everyone for the links last time! Just a shame the fingers are so expensive to build one myself. 

I also vacuum packed the birds using a vacuum packer I brought myself last week. Not the easiest thing to use on your own and it took a few attempts to get he seals right but I think I might have been cutting the bags a little small and making it harder for myself. A bit of practice will help as well I'm sure! I'll do a post on this gadget soon!

Anyway, two good sized birds for the freezer (2.1kg and 1.9kg) and one for tea last night. Made an incredible roast and it'll make another nice tea tonight, with the carcass for stock.

I think this will become a regular way that I provide meat for our family, I just need to get more efficient/skilled and have an area dedicated to it.

Does anyone have a good set up for processing at home?

Or do you follow anyone that does? 

I'd be interested in seeing some more set ups before I design my own. Thanks!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Microwave Porridge

This is a collaborative post.

Being self-sufficient is tough and I'm not ashamed to take all the help I can get. I cook virtually everything from scratch and with young children, sometimes they just need something quick. And that's where a microwave comes in.

Ours is a fairly low budget model and I’d love to upgrade to something better, these Panasonic Combination Microwaves would be ideal. Something to think about when I’m fitting out our new kitchen in the extension as I want to only fit quality items that won’t need replacing every five minutes.

The main thing I use my microwave for, besides heating up milk for my children (they drink 26 pints a week!) is to cook porridge in the mornings.

Now it’s colder the children want either porridge or toast for breakfast, and as I normally bake rolls most days (far less waste), porridge seems to happen more and more.

It’s painfully simple to make it in the microwave, that’s why mine never sees a saucepan.

One part rolled oats, one part water and one part milk, mixed together then cooked on full for 3 minutes, stirred and then cooked again for a further 3 minutes.  This length of time is to cook for my three kids and me so adjust if it’s just for one of you, if you cook too much you could always try my leftover porridge cake!  

Also a tip for the top – porridge gets bigger as it cooks and boils up, you’ll soon learn that a larger dish is your friend when cooking porridge, unless you like cleaning out the microwave.

But cooking it is easy, trying to get my kids to decide on a topping is the hard bit!

Our choices are either homemade jam (raspberry or damson are a favourite on porridge here and homemade is the only option!), brown sugar (one of my favourites), golden syrup or honey (only my eldest does this as the rest of us hate it), we also add a few 'yeah yeahs' (raisins to you and me) just to alter the texture a bit as we eat it.

If my mum is over then she always brings over a pot of stewed damsons that she keeps in the freezer, tastes amazing and far less sugar than any of the others!
Old picture but I love it! Pink porridge from grandma! 

So do you have a microwave?

What do you use it for mainly?

What’s your favourite Porridge topping? And please, no one say salt or it’ll make me feel ill…

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