Harvest Time, Freezer Camp, On Permanent Holiday, the One Bad Day; whatever you like to call the end of the food security experiments of raising chickens for meat is always an interesting day. The first year, we did it ourselves (with gracious and more experienced friends to help) because y’know, if you can and you think it’s important, you should, at least once. It was terrible – of course it was! But mostly because our process wasn’t as efficient as it could have been, it took forever to harvest a dozen birds. In our defense, we’ve never done it before (I was around it a lot as a child, but did not participate), it’s hard work, the first year we also raised Cornish, which are not birds for small farmers or homesteads (or really anyone, they are bred for CAFO’s and it shows – they grow too fast for their legs resulting in breakage, and if that doesn’t happen they still get so lazy that they can die of heat stroke because they are 3ft away from the water, and thus – more fatty and not as healthy. If the animals aren’t happy and healthy, and yes those things are related, then the food won’t make us happy or healthy), and we likely were just unprepared. Then we found out our town is one of maybe 3 authorized processing facilities, family-owned. When we took our 20-25 Rangers the next year (and ever after), the process was so quick and friendly, efficient and affordable – it was marvelous.
So, this year, Josh took the birds (we could only get NH Reds and they needed longer than we had so they were a bit smaller) early at 6am. We have special crates that make them sit so they stay calm, he packs them into our little car and hops over to the place, loads them up at one end of the building, then by the time he is done paying, they are boxed up and ready to go. He brings them home where we weigh them, bag and label them, cool them in the refrigerator and then freeze them. This year, however, as he was getting them out of the crates into the hopper, one rooster leapt out, ran around across the parking lot and poof* into the woods!! Good luck guy – you deserve your chance! Josh tried to find him but he was gone. So he packed up the others, came home, we bagged & tagged, and took a couple of fresh harvested birds camping to cook over the fire – we spatchcocked them and they were delicious. The next day we added their leftovers to the Stone Soup (which came out more like a pilaf with tons of goodness shared with and by all at our multi-family camping trip).
We wanted to try the spatchcock/butterfly technique again but put it in the Smoker over Applewood. It was beautiful, golden, and juicy (the skin was a little chewy but protected the meat wonderfully). We picked it clean (bones and skin for a big pot with my frozen bag of food ends – onions, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, kale stems, etc to make some serious broth), adding the smoked chicken to soaked white beans and roasted green chilis (that Josh helped a local farm out by smoking 200lbs of New Mexico chilis for them). We served it with tortilla chips and a little extra hot sauce (local Resurgam rocks my world). Add Sea Salt to taste (and I generally quick soak my beans by boiling for a few minutes with a hunk of seaweed/konbu, then soaking for a couple of hours, then rinse and finish cooking with broth and bay leaf). Really, sort of, three ingredients! Ha!
Quick Recipe for White Bean Chicken Chili
1 Roasted or Smoked Whole (4lb) Chicken, picked
1 cup dry White Beans (soaked overnight, or quick soaked, see above), or 2-3 cans of precooked rinsed beans
1 cup or so chopped New Mexican Green Roasted Chili (Hatch is a brand of canned chili)
4-8 cups of Chicken or Veggie Broth (depending on if the beans are precooked or not)
Hot Sauce and Sea Salt to taste
Tortilla chips, soft flour tortillas, sopapilla, or bread to serve.
If using dry beans, soak overnight or quick soak for a couple of hours, rinse then add back to the pot with enough broth or water to cover 2 inches over beans. Bring to a low boil and simmer, adding the chicken after an hour, and then peppers after another half hour. Cook until the beans are tender (if canned beans, maybe 30min for everything added all at once, if dry beans then 2-3 hours as above). If you like a thicker soup, mash beans a bit with a potato masher or leave whole for serving with hot sauce, tortilla chips or whatever you desire. Enjoy!