The Fading Joe-Pye Weed
This beautiful wild flower has been in bloom for the past month in wet areas of the farm. As it now fades, we are invited to review the summer and prepare for the fall.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the summer for us is that it brought us laying hens and meat chickens. The last time the farm saw poultry of any sort was probably 50 years ago, so this venture represents a new learning curve.
Like many worthwhile ventures, if one knew everything there is to know about it before commencing, one would rarely commence anything! I thought I understood the importance of closing the trap door of the eggmobile at night, until the night I forgot. The next morning I found 11 dead chickens in the field. We also thought hens would naturally lay eggs in the hen house, until we discovered eggs in nests under trees and behind boards hundreds of yards away. We have since erected poultry netting to keep hens closer to home and now tie a string around my finger to sharpen memory.
New poultry netting keeping predators out and hens in. The picture on the left was taken just after the eggmobile had been moved. In the foreground, you can see where hens had previously congregated, beneath the structure, seeking shade. The picture on the right shows the darn trap door that won't close by itself at dusk.
One of the other lessons we learned this summer is that many people do not know how to cook or carve a whole chicken. We didn't anticipate this, but it is reasonable, in that one of the efficiencies of the industrial food system is just-in-time inventory generating perfectly redundant and tasteless cuts of meat. For many people, chicken consists of skinless breasts and thighs. But there is so much more to the bird and to the meal it can provide.
So, here is a whole 6-lb chicken, with neck in-tact, unlike anything you'd find at Krogers. This bird was raised outside on grass, and was processed by wonderful human beings, one of whom decided to leave the neck on the carcass. This chicken has eaten the very best food, lived a very healthy life, and been cared for by interested and able stewards. This chicken can not be found in supermarkets, but only at farms like ours, where hand-raised food is fostered.
Now we have to cook it, of which there are numerous methods, but this was cooked at: 450 degrees for 25 minutes, followed by 350 degrees for 45 minutes. It was delicious - moist and firm, without being dry. The best part is the drippings in the pan, slurped off a wide spoon - so clean and flavorful, like poultry nectar.
The first step to carving a chicken is to remove the second joint and drumstick, as pictured to the left. One can usually pull the second joint down with a fork and find the exposed joint through which to cut with the knife. The same needs to be done for the wing, the joint of which is a little harder to find. Then one is ready to slice the breast.
These are not fatty birds, because of their constant activity outdoors. But the fat that is on them is delicious and digestible. The tail is fatty and has great flavor, as does the back. The second joint is always flavorful and breast meat is a favorite of many. One chicken should serve four people generously. Once the carcass has been picked clean, it can be used for making stock, which we will discuss at another time.
The bottom line is don't be afraid of a whole chicken! It has been a staple of productive kitchens for hundreds if not thousands of years. It can be a staple of yours as well.
Yesterday we poured a foundation for a second walk-in freezer. As we expand products and grow inventory, we are needing more storage capacity. We are doing this for you, so that your food, coming from this farm, of which you are now an integral part, can be stored until you are ready for it. In addition, we encourage you to buy your own freezers, so you may buy in bulk at discounts and so we don't have to provide all of the storage capacity. The traditional cycle on farms includes harvesting during the season of plenty, storing in the larder, and eating from it during the season of lean. Creating storage for food is reenacting time-tested tradition.
s the bloom of the Joe-Pye Weed fades and the advent of Labor Day dawns, we urge you to claim this food that is yours, through our convenient on-line ordering system or in person at the Hyde Park Farmers Market this Sunday, August 30th.
Susan & Drausin