Guest Post by Sharon Dickinson
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The first time you butcher a chicken is a learning experience. It can be messy, and confusing, and perhaps even somewhat traumatic. But learning these skills brings you closer to the process, and closer to your own consumption, than anything you’re going to get in the meat section of the supermarket. It is a great way for both your kids and yourself to learn responsibility, which goes hand and hand with sustainability and biology as well. Before you start anything fill your kettle with water and it should be big enough to put a chicken in. Heat it to about 185 degrees.
You will need to gather some implements for the job: a very sharp knife, about 10 feet of rope or twine, a bucket, a large kettle, a thermometer, some rags and a table or sawhorses and a piece of plywood. Now, very important, don’t feed her for twenty four hours before you butcher. It is great if you can get a friend or two to help to make the process a little easier. The difficult part may be just catching the one you are going to butcher, it took three of us and we had to trap her in a corner and grab her. Now that you have her (I say her but it could be a rooster) in hand tie her legs together with some of the twine and hang her up for about 10 minutes while you take a break. Ok, we’re back, now you take her head in one hand and cut it off and it shouldn’t take too much maneuvering if your knife is sharp. Throw the head in the bucket.
You will now put the chicken in the hot water for less than a minute. Pull her out and take out all the feathers-this is where a friend comes in handy. Wash her off with the hose so you’re ready to take the insides out. You want the feathers to come out easily but you don’t want her cooked, yet.
Next lay her down on the table and cut off her legs. You will need to press down fairly hard and at the joint through the tendons put them also in the bucket. Now if you can loosen the crop it will come out with the guts after you are done. Lay her on her back and cut into the neck. The crop might have food in it so try not to break it . It will be near the esophagus and it is a soft fleshy sac. If you accidentally break it rinse it off good. Now you will remove the neck so grab it and pull the skin away and cut at the base of the neck first one side then the other. It should come off with a couple of turns. It’s good for broth so put it in a pan of cold water. There is an oil gland on the end of the tail so just cut it off. It is a yellow color and kind of like a bump. Throw it in the bucket.
Opening up the rear and removing the intestines and organs is a tricky part so you need to be very careful not to break anything. You will cut a small opening and then tear it somewhat, you especially don’t want to break the INTESTINES. Lift the skin up held with two fingers and slice enough to cut into the body. If you see any yellow water flushing out the bird is sick and don’t eat her. Now pull the opening wide to get at what’s inside. If there is any food in there it has to be washed out with water or diluted bleach.
Now that you’re in there you will remove the organs and guts. Reach in very gently and pull out the intestines while you hold her breastbone with the other hand. Go in as far as you can and pull it all out. Be very careful not to break the gallbladder by moving around too much in there. There will also be the gizzard and the smallish organ is the gallbladder. This is kind of a green colored organ by the liver. When you find it make sure it isn’t broken as it can contaminate the meat and then you can’t eat it. The crop will come out as it is connected to the gizzard. Throw the guts in the bucket. Then take out the heart (smallish), lungs (pinkish) and liver (purplish). To get the lungs out try and get your finger underneath to remove them. If you want to eat the gizzard you need to sort of turn it inside out and peel the rubbery yellow membrane off. The liver and heart are also good and good for you. Just look up a recipe! Happy butchering and hope this was of some help.