I’ve had 2 New Thoughts on Butchering Recently.
Thanks to the Homesteaders Food Challenge and my general obsession with raising all my own food, I have spent the past 4-6 months, give or take, killing things and eating them.
Well, I’ve been killing things much longer than that; however, it has become much more frequent and enthusiastic since I’m not filling any (chicken craving) gaps with store-bought drumsticks.
All this processing has brought a couple of things to my attention and mind…. that, of course, you should know. Ha!
Blogs are fun, in that, complete strangers can have a glimpse into my brain and thoughts. Which should come with Surgeon General’s warning, by the way.
Thought #1 – Sometimes, I Want Parts
Here’s the deal….
When DH processes animals with me I’m lucky if I manage to catch the livers, gizzards and necks before he throws them into the garbage can. By “garbage” I mean:
- feed the local varmints
- recycle into the circle of life
The past two processing performances have been DH free (go me!) and I have been more intentional to save and preserve every last edible bite.
After discarding any undesirable parts, we typically wash, bag & freeze the whole chickens (or duck or whatever). My whole chickens/ ducks/ rabbits/ potbelly piglets are fab and I love cooking them whole.
Sometimes I don’t just want whole, intact meat. Sometimes, I want to:
- roast thighs
- bake sticky wings
- fry chicken tenders
- make livers and gizzards and giblet gravy
- or even fry rabbit legs
I don’t always want a whole animal, frozen in a bag.
I want options.
If you are like me and want choices for dinner instead of “whole animal” this is for you.
Look what I did! Squeal!
Instead of bagging and freezing my chickens whole this year, I spent some (well allocated) time and chopped them into fabulously wonderful pieces & bagged them with their counterparts.
I left half of my chickens whole, and diced up the other half.
I now have bags of chicken tenders. Bags of chicken thighs. Bags of drumsticks. Even bags of wings.
I am Kroger.
I can’t tell you how fun it is to have farm-fresh chicken (that I raised) in my home, chopped into perfectly usable organized pieces. Not that a whole chicken isn’t usable, but you know what I mean. I can grill drumsticks, or fry chicken tenders or glaze thighs. Without having to defrost 3 whole chickens in order to have enough breast meat to fry tenders for dinner.
I used this same process for my rabbits. I bagged all the front legs together (little scrawny things). Since they are all the same (miniature, tiny) size they will all cook evenly, consistently and cohesively together, in the same frying pan, at the same time. Blessed cooperation.
I also bagged all the back legs together (thick, delicious, glorious thighs). These are much larger and if you tried to cook the shrimpy, front legs and the gargantuan, back legs at the same time you would have a problem. A problem of timing and over cooked front legs and raw back legs. It just makes sense to bag these guys according to size. Uniform behavior in the frying pan. Thank you very much.
Then I toss all the backs & ribs in bags together (for soups, stews and broths).
Thought #2 – Time Must Pass Before You Partake
Another giant revelation that has appeared recently before my eyes is the disgusting, offensive, hard-to-stomach fact that you CAN NOT kill something today and eat it for dinner tonight.
I’ve done it.
It’s never appetizing.
- I’ve eaten Gangster Roosters the day they met their ever-deserving deaths.
- I’ve eaten potbelly piglets that were breaking the law right after I blew their brains out.
- I’ve eaten rabbit that was hopping earlier that day.
- I have filleted and sauteed venison tenderloins the night of the big hunt as a celebratory feast.
You’d think I’d learn. 4 different animals – same results.
Unless you really like chewing, or happen to be adorned with the teeth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, you’ll need to let the meat rest in a refrigerator for a few days.
Chicken, duck, rabbit, deer, pig…… it all needs to rest before consumption.
Would you like to know why?
This is going to make you gag.
More than trying to eat sweet potatoes.
Fun Fact: After the kill, RIGOR MORTIS sets in. Eating an animal that is in the rigor mortis stage is like trying to eat your Otterbox.
Rigor mortis is a state when all the muscles are contracted and stiff. This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?
Eating something that is in a rigor mortis state is going to be memorable…. in a bad way.
I’m gonna assume this is normal for all animals, but it is especially true for deer, rabbits & chickens and anything I’ve eaten the day it died.
- Deer go into rigor mortis quickly and will come out in 24 hours.
- Chickens go into rigor mortis a few hours after being processed and will remain stiff for 24-48 hours.
- Rabbit meat will remain in this state (contracted) for 4 days!!!
Trying to cook and consume an animal in the rigor mortis state will be a mistake. It will be tough, chewy, gamey and generally horrible.
I don’t care if it’s chicken, duck, rabbit, deer or other random hunk of meat – if you killed it today – you’ll want to let it marinate in the fridge before thinking about eating it.
There is not a way to hurry up this process. I tried. I tried salt baths. I tried buttermilk soaks. I tried slow roasting for hours. The bottom line is, if it was alive earlier today and you have something else to eat…. you should probably wait to eat your fresh kill.
To see if said animal is still in rigor mortis just give the legs a little wiggle. If you can’t move the legs freely, it’s going to be like eating a garden hose. Give it some more time. Once the legs move freely, you’ll know the meat will be tender and wonderful.
If I sold you a farm-fresh chicken that I killed today & you tried to cook and eat it tonight – you would think I was the worst meat-raiser in the world.
If you used a new random recipe off the blog to cook a chicken that was killed today – you would think it was the biggest fail of a recipe you have ever attempted.
You’d be wrong. The chicken meat was fine. The recipe was fine. You ate rigor mortis.
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Eat real Everyone!