On the board for today: preparing the Christmas chicken. Our lone surviving meat cockerel started crowing a week ago, and so put himself on the christmas menu. The meat will need a few days to hang in the chiller to improve its flavor and tenderness, so it was a trip to the log pile this morning. I noticed he got in a quick "visit" with some of his lady friends first, which made me smile.
Plucking and bleeding
Singeing the fine feathersI noticed he didn't lay down as much fat as our more pampered meat chickens, but he did have bigger legs and thighs. I'm interested to see if his varied diet and access to the organic mixed pasture behind the house has added anything to the meat.
ready to hang out and chill (in the chiller!) til Christmas eve
Anyone who plucks birds for a living has my respect and deserves a raise. It took me nearly an hour to pluck and finish one chicken. My fingers are already cracked and painful from the cold weather. Plucking just added insult to injury. Now I must really get on and finish knitting, as the lanolin in the wool is the only thing that seems to properly heal my hands. Spinning is even better. Sheep - bloody marvellous things!
We finished shooting yesterday; now both we and the birds get a break until 26th December, Boxing Day. I've had an invite to go pheasant and duck shooting on Tuesday which I'm looking forward to. It's my first day shooting pheasant this season. No break for their birds!
I helped a lady gun yesterday who is new to driven pheasant shooting. I like helping the women but I wish they weren't all so stunningly beautiful. I feel like the fat, sway back shetland pony in a field of thoroughbreds. Mike's comment is always "Huh. She doesn't look like she could carry a bag of wheat up a steep hill." I'm choosing to take that as a compliment.
Barry and Mike taught me something yesterday and I thought it worth sharing: Tips for selecting a good brace of pheasant for the table:
1) select hens if possible, and cock birds without spurs. Hens make the best eating because they put down more fat than cock birds. Only older, tougher cock birds have spurs.
2) Give the back ribs a gentle squeeze. If it feels "crunchy", it was probably crushed by an over-enthusiastic dog during the retrieve. Choose birds with intact ribs
3) Hold the bird by the neck and give it a shake. Do the legs dangle about? "If they'll never dance again, they're no good for the table". Broken legs can mean shot taken in the abdomen, rupturing the guts. This can taint the meat or worse. Save these for "breasting out" only
And a quick Dulcie update: After making a great recovery from her last injury, she managed to split open her front leg on the first drive of her first full day back at work. Another rogue stick. So it was back to the vets for a GA and some stitches. And another week of antibiotics and bed rest. If she's angling for workman's compensation, she's out of luck, though I am seriously looking into dog armor for her.
A very cheery Dulcie in spite of it all