Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Good Egg and a lot of Chicken

Summer is almost here and today I picked up our first veggie box of the season. I had also requested 6 fresh-from-the-farm chickens to be picked up at the same time. After seeing how the chickens were being raised, I emailed the farm practically begging for a chance to buy 6 chickens when they were ready. The chicks spent their days in a movable coop, being moved to a new patch of grass everyday. I was very impressed.

Along with our full veggie share (you can also order a 1/2 share), I picked up 2 quarts of strawberries (our strawberry season is just starting), 2 green house cucumbers, 4 honey-garlic wild boar sausages and 4 sweet italian sausages. Lisa tallied up the total for me - $234.00. Oh my.

Now let's step back for a minute. I had already paid for our veggie share, so that wasn't included in that number. "How much are the chickens per pound?" I casually asked Lisa. "$4 a pound." The price didn't seem unreasonable, but I couldn't wrap my head around the total. Lisa asked one of the farm hands to take the chickens out to my car, so I didn't realize the size of the birds.

When I got home, I unpacked the car, taking several trips to get all of the chicken out of the trunk. I started thinking, "Wow, this is a lot of chicken." I had asked Lisa for 3 whole chickens and 3 chickens that were already cut in half. Each bag of chicken had a sticker with the weight and price. A 9-pound chicken is very big. Now imagine 6 of them - sitting on your counter, waiting to be cut up.

If I wasn't such a procrastinator, my knives would be nice and sharp all the time. Do not try to cut up chickens with a dull knife. It is very easy to cut yourself, and it's miraculous that I didn't. The chickens wouldn't fit into the fridge so they had to be dealt with right away. I sharpened my favourite knife the best I could, and proceeded to carve those monsters up into pieces. The picture above was at about the halfway point. It was chicken madness.

I was up to my eyebrows in chicken when Ellen came over with the ear checker from her doctor's kit. "I need to check your ears," she told me seriously. "Now??" I asked. She nodded and I bent over, chicken covered hands (and arms) held out behind me, and had my ears checked. The good news is, they were fine. Unfortunately, my hands are still slightly raw and an old callus from my restaurant days has resurfaced. Cutting up one chicken is not a big deal - cutting up 6 chickens, that look a lot like little turkeys, is another matter all together.

Eventually, I had all of the chicken seperated into bags, labelled, and ready for the freezer. My freezer has never, ever been this full. I had to take a cake out of the freezer to make some room. One of my neighbours (with 4 kids) happily took it home. I might have considered keeping it for ourselves, but while I was playing butcher, I had a strawberry-rhubarb crisp in the oven, and even I had to draw the line somewhere.

If you are thinking of trying Cooper's chickens or local chickens from your neck of the woods, it may be wise to ask a few questions.
  • Can you get the chickens completely cut up? If you can, I would recommend asking them to include the backs and wing tips for making chicken stock. I have just finished straining 8 litres of stock for soups and risottos. For my chicken stock recipe, go to November 15, 2007.
  • What is the average size of each chicken? If the chickens are smaller, you may wish to have a couple of whole chickens for doing roast chicken. I left one of mine whole, for a special occasion.
  • How much are the chickens per pound? They will cost more than the grocery store chickens, but they are sooooo worth it.
  • Make sure you have the space in your freezer or fridge to store the chicken.
  • Check out Coopers Goat & Veggie farm at