Last summer I spent an awful lot of time meandering around the farmer’s market in Denver. I loved every minute of it. From the small farmers bringing in the vegetables that were producing that week to those creative souls wielding jams and jellies. I really liked developing a more close and personal relationship with not only my food, but those who made my food.
Well, the other day I experienced a whole new kind of closeness with my food.
I woke up and upon entry to the kitchen Graham addressed me without quite looking me in the eye. He scratched the back of his head and said, “Well, this morning I killed two chickens.” I think he could immediately see bright white lights of excitement radiating from my eyes as he asked me if I’d like to learn how to pluck a chicken. Actually, I don’t think he even asked the question, I think I yelled too quickly, “ARE WE GOING TO PLUCK CHICKENS??” and then scurried upstairs only to post on Facebook, also in all caps, that Graham was going to teach me to pluck a chicken.
We wandered outside and we were greeted by two dead chickens hanging upside down on the fence. Graham kills his chickens by shooting them in the back of the head, so these chickens still had their heads on them, which was kind of creepy. It’s supposed to be the humane way to kill them. I’m not sure on what authority, and I’m not sure there’s much of a difference between shooting them in the head and cutting their head off. But I’m willing to bet Graham would rather shoot them then cut their heads off. I cant’ blame him.
But at any rate, we untied them and took off into the wood to tie them up on a limb that was a good height to put the chicken in arms length.
He showed me the specifics on how pluck a chicken. You start at the legs and pull the feathers up, essentially in the direction they grow out of the skin. If you pull down you risk ripping the skin, which really isn’t the end of the world, but looks nicer if you don’t. I think I’ll stop there to keep from getting too graphic, but did I mention that it’s easier to do if the chicken is still warm?
Surprisingly this didn’t creep me out all that much. There was a faint smell, however. That’s really what bothered me. I kept calling it the smell of death. Graham couldn’t smell it, and I don’t know what exactly I was smelling, but most of everything was fine- pulling at dead flesh, looking at blood, but not the smell. The smell got to me.
Oh hey, here’s a warning that these images might freak you out, too. Careful proceeding from here.
It’s a little bit harder than it looks (does it look hard?) Sometimes the feathers would break leaving some still in the skin, and of course there’s all those awkward places, like under the wing… in the butt…
On the left you see the first one I plucked and on the right you see the one yet to be plucked. Based on this picture alone I’d say I did a fair job. But even still Graham had to tidy up the first one I did, even after this photo was taken. A learning experience, I guess. I’ll get better next time 😉
But you can’t eat a chicken just plucked. No no, there’s much more. Before the chicken is ready to eat you have to get rid of the head, legs, and Graham gets rid of the wings because they are so hard to pluck and there is so little meat. It’s not quiet worth it to him. He kept trying to excuse me from the process, but I insisted on being there and came flashing my camera around.
I have more graphic pictures, but I thought I’d leave it at that. This is Graham chopping off the head. When getting rid of the head you have to be careful of the gizzard, because more often than not they are still full of food. The gizzard is the part of the chicken where the food is ground up using small rocks. Chickens don’t exactly have teeth so this is the method they use. Cutting into it means the food goes everywhere, which is no good.
After all of the above is removed, you still have to deal with the innards. Chickens don’t magically die and lose all their insides. Unfortunately, someone has to do it.
Throughout this process Graham and I kept singing “dirty deeds, done dirt cheap.” To remove the inside of the chicken it’s best to scoop it all out at once, lest you break something and create a bit of a mess. So here he is doing just that. You can keep what’s known as the giblets: the liver, heart and gizzard, to cut up and maybe put in gravy for your chicken. I think that Graham would rather just get rid of it all, though.
So after this dirty dead was done, we took it inside and cooked it. Here’s the finished product, perhaps a more comfortable look at chicken:
I have to admit, it is a weird process being so close to the death of your food. It was hard not to envision what was in the pot as the thing hanging from the tree with its head still on. I chalk this up to being disconnected from my food. I hope to remedy this.