I have to admit... all the years we have lived here, this is the FIRST year I processed chicken - whole. The kids have done it, Jim does it, but I always wait until the chicken is in the fridge, and I get to prepare it!
This year, because Jim is having problems with his legs due to his disability, he needed me to help (The kids are all grown and out of the house).
The first thing you need to do is to take away all food sources from the chicken for 24 hours. This cleans them out, so you don't have a mess on your hands. Put them in a cage of some sort, so they will settle down. When chickens get excited, adrenalin gets in their muscles and can make the meat tough.
Handy tools to have
1. Killing cones and sharp knife
2. Scalder with water temp up to
3. Plucker (doing this by hand for one or two is certainly feasible.)
4. Evisceration table
5. Water to rinse the chicken cavity
6. Ice filled cooler
1. Place the chickens head down in a cone and quickly sever the artery on both sides of the neck. There is a small bare spot near the top of the neck which is the easiest and best place to cut. The chicken bleeds out, and the messaging from the brain to the body is disconnected. This process is quick and humane. Leave the chicken for about 3 - 4 minutes to thoroughly bleed out.
2. The chicken is dipped into hot water to loosen the feathers from the skin. This is called'scalding' (150 degrees). Jim swishes them around and up and down until the feathers on the back, next to the tail, release. Those are the toughest feathers to get off. This takes about 40 seconds - depending on the temperature - the lower the temp, the longer you have to swish.
3. The chicken is placed in the drum of the plucker. The machine is turned on, and the "fingers" strip the feathers from the skin.
4. Cut off the feet. These can be saved and used in making a good old fashioned chicken soup. Next, the neck is slit and the gullet and windpipe loosened. On the opposite end,things need to be taken care of. Slice off the oil gland on the top of the tail. This is yellow, and easily slice off.Secondly, a slice is made in the skin above the vent. Pull the skin apart large enough to get your hand up inside.
5. Grab on the windpipe and the gullet and slowly pull out. Don't worry about being gentle... you will really have to pull hard to get the guts to come out.
6. The gallbladder is attached to the liver. It is a dark green. When disconnecting, do not let it break and spill that acid out (if it does, throw away the liver). Set the liver aside for delicious recipes.
7. The heart is also delicious in recipes
8. Reach back in and scrape the lungs off of the sides of the back bone.
9. Finally, slice off the vent area.
Rinse the chicken inside and out, and place in a cooler full of ice. The chicken needs to be kept cool for at least 24 hours, then bagged and put in the freezer. We use special shrink bags called Heat Shrink Bags
1. Place the chicken into the bag. We use zip ties to close the bag. Squeeze out as much air as you can before tightening the zip ties.
2. Slit a tiny hole (1/4") in the bag. We do this right on the backbone where there is a slight divot in the bird.
3. Swish the bagged chicken in hot water (190 degrees) until the air has bubbled out of the bag.
4. The heat shrinks the bag. Place your freezer label over the slit to seal it. (If you buy the shrink bags, labels come with them.)
5. Place in the freezer.
Free Range chicken is not the same as grocery chicken. They are more muscular, so cooking these chickens do best when brined (marinated) cooked "slow and low."
***I will post some recipes later this week***