Post Processing - Some Questions and a little commentary

ladybrasa

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Processed nine cockerels of various non-CX breeds and ages 3ish to 5ish months. Had the wonderful help of a work colleague/friend, who did the actual killing and helped process after. Skinned all. Parted a couple bigger ones, left two whole, spatchcocked the rest. Used loppers and a cone for killing.

Comments that may be helpful to others:
I found a cheap tent for like $50-$60 on Amazon. Set up easy. If there is the slightest bit of breeze, don’t skimp on tie downs ... It was 30s40s /fridge temp all day and this made it nice. Kept most of the breeze off, set up a heater, warm carcasses (like steam was rising from them. Anyway, those that live close to neighbors but are interested in processing, maybe a tent set up would be helpful to block the view? Tent is 10x10.

Loppers: They are Fiskars, so good brand. I took them apart prior and sharpened the blade with the Garden Sharp sharpener. Cuz I don’t really know what I was doing. But according to my friend, they did great, but didn’t always go through the esophagus (so springy and flexible). But head was definitely quickly severed plenty enough to kill them. She said it did feel a little dull on the last few birds but did the job.

Goat hoof trimmers. Friend brought these along. Very sharp! She followed the lopper cut with these if the head didn’t come off to cut the pesky esophagus. They also crunched through the legs and other joints/bones easily. She said she got it from TSC, no particular brand name.

Testicles ... a 5mo old Light Brahma had HUGE ones!! At least I think so? They were like 2 inches or so long!!!

Spatchcocking: So easy!! Skinned the bird, used poultry scissors to remove the backbone, then essentially scooped out the innards. And the little cut on the interior breast bone to spread it out. I figure I’d have a better chance of cooking a spatchcock than a whole bird, and these guys were small enough that I’d loose a lot of meat if I tried to part them.

Questions:

I’m a little concerned about toughness. I really don’t want to waste the meat that these guys died providing (I tried my best not to get attached ...). So I don’t want to cook one up later and find it inedible. I think their ages are fine to avoid that? They are all stuffed on one fridge shelf now and I was going to let the rest for 2 days. Is this sufficient?

Would brining for a day help? I was thinking about doing this. If so, water:salt ratio? Can I bribe in bags? I don’t have enough containers or room in fridge to use containers or bowls. After brining, do I need to rinse and dry before freezing? Or just drain and toss in the freezer?

I do want to try making broth. I saved the 2 parted carcasses and the necks and a few back bones. Due to space restrictions, I just chucked those right away into the freezer in a freezer bag yesterday evening. Should have I been concerned about rigor? I am guessing it doesn’t matter because they’ll be boiling/cooking for several hours?

In the future, in the event I cook a bird or part and it is too tough, is there any way to salvage it? I don’t currently have a dog.

I think that’s it for the moment:D Thank you!
 

Ridgerunner

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Goat hoof trimmers.

Good idea. I use poultry shears for that. It helps keep the knives sharper.

Testicles

Testicle size is a function of their maturity. At that age some can be tiny, some can be huge.

I was going to let the rest for 2 days. Is this sufficient?

Probably. The real test is to try moving them. Will a joint move really easily? Does the meat feel stiff or really loose.

Would brining for a day help?

You can get some different opinions on this. I don't think brining helps with texture. The main purpose of brining with salt is to help the meat retain moisture. For flavor you can add salt later. If you are cooking the meat with a dry process like grilling, frying, or roasting the extra moisture can help. If you cook it using a moist method I don't see it as any real benefit.

The acid in a marinade will tenderize the meat, the acid breaks down fiber. Most marinades are based on wine or some type of acid like tomato products or some fruit juices. The stronger the acid and the longer you leave the meat in it the more the fiber breaks down. You don't want to marinade a young bird too long or the meat might get mushy. With your young birds marinading for any length of time should not be required but it can be really handy in some methods of cooking an older bird. A true Coq au Vin, which is how the French turn a tough old rooster into a gourmet meal, uses marinading.

I do want to try making broth. ..I just chucked those right away into the freezer in a freezer bag yesterday evening. Should have I been concerned about rigor?

No. When I butcher I do exactly as you did. When I start the broth I don't bother thawing, just toss the frozen parts in the pot. After I finish the broth I pick the meat out of the chunks. That cooked meat can be used in tacos, chicken salad, or soup. I usually just eat it as a sandwich for lunch. My wife doesn't like that meat, says it is too mushy. That's why it is mostly sandwiches for me.

In the future, in the event I cook a bird or part and it is too tough, is there any way to salvage it?


I don't know, no experience with that. I'd think it would work for broth but don't know if the meat would get that tender.
 

humblehillsfarm

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m guessing it doesn’t matter because they’ll be boiling/cooking for several hours?

In the future, in the event I cook a bird or part and it is too tough, is there any way to salvage it? I don’t currently have a dog.

Shred it finely and turn it into soup or chicken salad (the kind with mayo). That's about the best you can do.


Comments on your other random thoughts: I processed my first birds in Nov. We plucked ours because we borrowed a plucker. Spatchcooking is absolutely the way to go for tender meat! It took our birds about four days for rigor to go away. As the other commenter stated, if the joints move freely, they've rested long enough. I was told if you do a brine, brine the whole bird about four hours right after butchering in an ice bath with salt. We did this and the birds were very moist. I broke down 15 of the birds into their respective parts and kept five whole.
 

U_Stormcrow

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As usual, @Ridgerunner provides excellent advice. Even at those ages, the birds will be tougher than the 8-12 week old Frankenchickens you get at the grocery which never had the chance to move about and exercise those muscles. The birds will also be leaner than you are used to - as I'm sure you noticed in the relatively small amounts of subcutaneous fat revealed while butchering.

Brining is a way of imparting flavor and helping to insure against excess moisture loss during dry heat method cooking. That's all - unless for preserving. It does nothing for tenderness/texture, except in the preserved moisture content.

Marinades are tricky - yes, the acid helps break down proteins, but with strong acids, you risk excess breakdown of surface proteins before the acid has chance to penetrate the meat, leading to dry/chalky or mushy surface textures as the proteins denature.

As the birds age and experience increased activity, flavor improves, but there is a gain in toughness. Three ways to address this -

One) Aging - after death, and post rigor, enzymes are released which helps start breaking down the longer proteins in the bird. Its why virtually all meat in the US is either dry or wet aged. For poultry, I prefer wet aging.* I'll come back to this.

Two) Cooking method. Young, tender meat is best for dry heat methods. Grill, bake, fry. Older, more fibrous meat is best for wet heat methods - stews and stocks. Also smoking, which counts on taking a bird past "done" and into a temperature range where the collagens break down, providing that unctuous mouth feel and the illusion of tender. Unlike beef, where smoking takes them well past done to a collagen break down temp (175 degrees, while medium rare is 125!), chicken is usually prepared to 160-170 - so going and holding just a slightly higher temp is in some ways easier. The key is to never go above 200 during cooking, so no moisture is lost to boiling.

*Sadly, this is also high risk zone temps for bacteria and other problems, if your cooking method never goes over 200, such as in smoking. You should wet age in a brine, where the salt and other inclusions have anti-microbial properties. Consider the addition of a tiny amount of Prague powder - as if you were corning it.

Three) Preparation. If relying on a fast cook method, such as frying or baking, getting meat to uniform thickness improves consistency. Increasing surface area - such as by spatchcocking, a technique more home cooks should use - also helps ensure superior outcome. Slower wet methods are more forgiving, as long as you avoid boiling, which can cause proteins to seize and extract tremendous moisture from the meat - moisture you can't replace. If neither method is suitable (or you are simply sick to death of stew), you should consider mechanical tenderization. Either pound it and pierce it with a jaccard - as they do with "swiss steak", chop it very fine and/or thin and across the grain for inclusion with something else (as in egg rolls, stir fry, etc), or go all in. Grind it and use it for sausage.

Finally, I like longer, slower marinades of moderate acidity with strong flavor profiles to compliment older birds, which are then prepared using slow, wet cooking methods. Typically, I'll use yogurt as my base - its got live cultures which helps ensure against the meat being colonized by bad bacteria, enzymes that help break down proteins, imparts a certain tanginess which I like in chicken (similar to citrus), and can be taken in a lot of directions. Think of the national dish of Ethiopia, Doro Wat. The great variety of Curries, etc.

I actually pull my frozen bits out of the freezer, prepare my yogurt and spice marinade, add it to the bag of chicken, and toss it back into the fridge to defrost, wet age, and gain flavor over the next 4 days +. Can easily go to a week, safely. Tomato based marinades also work, for similar reasons - though tomato products are often somewhat higher in acidity. (Yogurt 4.4 to 4.8 pH, similar to buttermilk, another classic for marinade base, while canned tomato is usually 3.5 pH)

If you have time and are a bit adventurous, you can search the web for old recipes - wide spread ethnic dishes pre 1800s will be good choices - as they are pre-refrigeration, pre-CornishX, and often involved the use of birds past laying age or the culling of the larger, active, but excess roosters from the flock. Those birds are more representative of what you are cooking with than modern supermarket offerings, and their recipes reflect that difference in ingredients.
 
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Morrigan

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I've cooked many heritage cockerels in the 11 to 13 week (grilled or fried) and 14 to 16 week (roasted) age range. For ones older than that, I typically turn them into sausage.

For the roasters, we've brined a few, and dry rubbed others. They do have more texture -- and more flavor -- than supermarket chickens. My husband and I have both grown to like the extra texture and taste and now see it as a plus.

However, it has been more of an acquired taste, rather than love at first bite. The first couple we cooked were different enough from what we were used to, that we had trouble deciding what we thought. Now several years down the road, we hands down prefer the heritage birds to CX -- even CX we have raised ourselves.

For your first ones, you may want to start out with some of the younger ones and cook them a little lower and slower than you would a supermarket chicken. If you have a brine you like, by all means use it. I would also try to set my expectations more to this being a culinary adventure, some what more akin to eating wild game, than cooking a familiar chicken dinner.

As for the stock question, I always throw the stock bones and feet directly into the freezer and don't worry about rigor.

I hope your report back after you've cooked your first one. I'm always interested in what people think.
 

ladybrasa

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Hey all thanks for the extremely informative replies! :bow I will respond more in depth, but might not be till just about Christmas- gotta get through a few work days. Need to get to bed!
 

ladybrasa

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Sorry for the delay!

I ended up not brining, based on y’all’s comments.

On the evening of the second day resting in the fridge I kind of smelled an odor that kind of reminded me of sweet sour milk?? It was rather late when I got back home, so I didn’t get into wrapping for the freezer. Just before bed I sniffed in the fridge and that time there was an odor kind of like ... salami? I guess? Woke up a little early before work and started wrapping and the smell had vanished. My understanding is that there is no mistaking bad meat smell, and, well, the smells were of other foods so ...
I was able to move joints enough, I think, certainly not full range of motion as alive, but pretty well and I could press on the meat and get some give, so i

A few days later, just after Christmas, I pulled out the carcasses and made chicken broth! Or bone broth or stock. one of those! I actually didn’t think there was a lot of flavor, to be honest. Adding onions and additional spices helped. Next day, canned it. Made soup and bbq pulled chicken with the meat bits.

A few days later pulled out one of the smaller spatchcocks and roasted with herbs, garlic and butter til proper internal temp - yum!! The breast was moist, and I had skinned them! Nice and tender :) Cooked at 400 degrees that ended up maybe 45 minutes? Salt and peppered at the start, started inside up, then flipped up later and added the herb butter well into cooking. Sorry I don’t have exact times. I am guessing this one was a 4-4.5 month old?

I saved the bones (many nawed on) from the roast, as I think you can make broth from these, too? It it weird to save the leg bones and such that were chewed on, or is any possible germs killed from freezing until use them long cooking time? Sorry if this is an unintelligent question!
 

aart

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On the evening of the second day resting in the fridge I kind of smelled an odor that kind of reminded me of sweet sour milk?? It was rather late when I got back home, so I didn’t get into wrapping for the freezer. Just before bed I sniffed in the fridge and that time there was an odor kind of like ... salami? I guess?
There is a smell associated with slaughtering, I can't describe just what else it might smell like other than it's not like turned meat, but it's there and it can linger. I notice it more on the equipment and my hands rather than the carcasses.
 

3KillerBs

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I don't usually used the gnawed on bones for stock myself, but the long simmering will kill any germs so that's not a concern.

My reason for not using them is the inconvenience of saving them from the trash, the likely contamination with other food remnants that I wouldn't want the flavor of in my stock (I loathe ketchup), and a general preference for using bones with meat on them rather than bare bones because I think it yields a richer flavor.

The flavor of stock made from raw bones and roasted bones differs and both are delicious. Traditional recipes for brown stock call for roasting the bones before simmering.
 

ladybrasa

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There is a smell associated with slaughtering, I can't describe just what else it might smell like other than it's not like turned meat, but it's there and it can linger.
🤔 Hmmm, it wasn’t that kind of raw flesh smell, it was different? I actually didn’t smell the flesh much if at all. Might’ve helped it was like 35 degrees, no more than 40 or so all day. Somewhere around that.

I don't usually used the gnawed on bones for stock myself, but the long simmering will kill any germs so that's not a concern.
I didn’t think about it until I was seeing all the bones :p If I can it we will eventually use it for something or other. I like the idea that the boys are keeping on giving. Also the roast, in this case, didn’t touch other foods (maybe it touched some squash) and the seasoning remnants are more or less broth compatible, so we’re good on that account!
 

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