Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mean Old Roosters

I can still remember the first flock of chickens that we had when I was a little girl.  I had the coolest egg gathering basket (I'm pretty sure mom still has it somewhere today)  and it was my job to gather the eggs every day.  The only problem... that blasted white rooster that came after me every time I went in the pen!  One day, after getting flogged yet again and crying about it, Daddy provided me with a bat and told me to use it when I went to get the eggs.  (I'm assuming it was Daddy... that part of the story isn't as important as the fact that I got the bat !)  The next time I went to gather eggs, I stood on the outside of the pen and loudly proclaimed "I'm gonna make chicken & dumplins out of you!"  Not realizing the seriousness of messing with a 4 or 5 year old, that rooster didn't listen to me... but after I rang his bell with that aluminum bat, he thought twice about it!  

Fast forward a few years... we will not say exactly how many... and when I arrived, Mesa's chicken pen housed a beautiful Cochin rooster.  (Blue Splash color for my chicken aficionado friends)  Angie and Mesa both warned me that he would come after you, so I was careful for a couple of days.  One afternoon, I was wandering around the yard while I was chatting on the phone and he snuck up on me!  I kicked him off of me a couple of times and once I connected pretty good he ran away.  

Last spring, the crew out here (who likes to can as much as my crew in Florida) butchered some spent hens and extra roosters and made chicken soup.  After pressure cooking the chicken twice, it was still tough to eat, so they decided to come up with another remedy for tough old (mean) birds- chicken sausage!  Their first batch didn't last very long, so a couple of Saturdays ago, we all gathered up at Jeannie's house to make sausage out of that blasted blue rooster and several other poor wayward birds.  

I didn't start taking pictures until we were past the inital chop and skin phase of the day... some things just don't have to be shared... but the Uncle did the dirty work of getting the birds ready to take inside... I did hold a leg while he was skinning!  

Once we got the 8 birds inside, we started washing and cutting the meat off that we intended to use for sausage.  I use the term "we" loosely, because I mostly watched this time!  The meat off the legs, thighs and breasts were all removed, cleaned, sorted into pans and placed in the freezer to chill before we ground them.  One of the things I learned when I was selling a bunch of Pampered Chef was that cold cheese grates better than hot... same holds true for meat.. chilled chicken grinds better than warm.  

Cleaning Chickens

The one job they did give me was measuring out the spices.  Evidently it must be a "Clark Problem"  not wanting to measure while cooking.  Mom hates to measure and will do every other part of the process if I'll measure out the ingredients for her!  Good thing I was trained well!  

I would tell you all then ingredients, but I forgot them!  Needless to say, between the rosemary, basil, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dill, and other stuff I can't remember, they needed to be ground up before getting mixed into the meat.  We used Jeannie's Magic Bullet for this job.  We had to fire it and upgrade to a food processor this summer when we made pesto, but handled the spices for this job like a champ!

Before Grinding

While I was measuring out spices, the Uncle started grinding up the first batch of chicken.  In addition to the chicken, we ground up some red bell pepper into the mixture.  Once it was ground the first time, we added the spices, garlic and olive oil before running it back through the grinder again.  The second grind gave it a better texture and really mixed the ingredients together.  

First Grind

Of course, after every batch, we had to cook a sample patty to check the flavor and texture.  Such a horrible thing to have to do... taste test sausage samples! HA!

She's an Expert Wrapper! 

Once it was ground and re-ground, Jeannie weighed it into 1 pound packs and wrapped it up for the freezer.  We used 8 chickens and ended up with 12 packs of chicken sausage.

Ready for the Freezer

Last night, we cooked our first packages.  It was really good with Alfredo sauce and pasta. And I've had it in breakfast burritos at J&J's house.  Obviously, it's not going to last very long, so I guess we'll have to find some more birds soon!  

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