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Resting, Icing and Brine - Cornish X Processing

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by HarlessGals, May 26, 2009.

  1. HarlessGals

    HarlessGals Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 18, 2008
    Texas
    I've been reading a lot about processing my Cornish X chickens. There are many details that we are just figuring out, such as "resting", "icing", brine and not filling your freezer all at once due to temperatures. Honestly, I didn't realize it was so complex when we started this venture. I thought - kill and freeze. I also didn't realize how icky it would be to "muck" the coop and area all the time. We have a 8' x 40' area for 40 chickens. Of course we've had rain at least 1/2 the time we've raised these birds so it's pretty gross. But I digress... [​IMG]

    We live North of the DFW area and there are not many options for processing chickens if you don't want to do it yourself. My friend and I have raised 40 birds (20 each). They are 7 weeks old today and really big. Those darned birds are drinking 9+ gallons of water per day and so much food you wouldn't believe - even in just 12 hours per day. Those birds are panting even though it's only in the 80's here in Texas, although the humidity has been a little higher than usual.

    At first my friend's husband was going to do the "deed", but we heard so many horror stories that we decided to find someone to process for us. [​IMG] She is going to Hayes Farm in Mansfield, TX for $1 per bird. But they don't cut off the neck or the legs for you. You have your own coolers for transporting and you bag yourself. Plus they like you to stay onsite and you can watch. I can only imagine the smell at a meat processing plant - yuk!

    So I chose to use a woman who does 4-H birds and lives in a small N. Texas town. She charges $3 per bird and when she is done you simply carry them home in coolers and place in the freezer. Which leads me finally to my question as my lady has never heard the term "resting" the birds. And she's been doing this a long, long time. In fact she processes over a fire the old-fashioned way.

    Do we really have to rest the birds for 24 hours or even 4-6 hours? If my birds have been cooled in ice in a cooler, do I still have to be careful about putting 20 in the freezer all at once. What about this brine business? [​IMG]

    Final questions: Someone said we need to feed chopped corn this last week. If I do will they need grit then? Because someone said you don't need grit if they only eat Chick Start.

    Thanks for any help and/or encouragement you can offer. At this point I'm saying never, ever again...but then I do like the idea of raising our own meat. Maybe I should try in smaller quantities like 15 birds at a time?
     
  2. saddina

    saddina Internally Deranged

    May 2, 2009
    Desert, CA
    Ok I'll take a stab at it, but let me make sure we're on the same page....

    You'll have 20 birds done, Is it safe to assume some of them will be broken down into part (breasts thights, wings, etc?) Or are you planning to bring home 20 whole roasting birds?

    Resting is the term for when the bird is dead, but not yet cooked or frozen, in this case I'll suggest that she will be dunking them in cool water (for food safty reasons, as well as to cool the carcass), and then refridgerating/putting them in iced coolers as she works. She may not think of this as a rest period.

    Now onto your freezer: yes it's thermal shock to put 20 birds in there at once. (I'm assuming you have a chest or stand alone freezer, and not trying to cram it into the one in your kitchen?) What I would suggest is to freeze some ice in milk jugs, and layer those in as heat sinks around your birds when you put them in for freezing, once your birds are frozen, you can remove the ice jugs to get your freezer space back.

    Brining is actually a topic dear to my heart (I was a cook long before I was a crazy chicken lady). All brining is is soaking a bird in a salt solution (1 c Kosher salt to 1 gal water), that helps regulate the mosture content of the meat via osmosis... in english it adds mosture to the meat so that methods like roasting, grilling and other "dry heat" cooking methods don't leave you with a tough bird (think thanksgiving turkey as a referance point). Do you HAVE to brine? no, but if you're gonna roast, grill or otherwise use a dry heat method, you'll want to consider it. You do not have to brine every bird, so long as you write on the package "wet cooking" here that means birds that are going to be marinated (lemon pepper chicken), boiled (them removed from the bones for enchladas or tacos, etc) or crock pot cooked.

    Chopped corn is to fatten them up, and yes you'll want to give them sand/grit with that.

    I think most people with meaties raise them for 8 weeks, take 4 off, and raise the next set. The first batch is the hardest.
     
  3. Chick_a_dee

    Chick_a_dee Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2008
    Peterborough, ON
    Quote:i had no idea about the corn, do you feed that exclusively the last week? what is finisher for then? ... my birds food bag says to feed starter/grower until 30 days and change foods but to what it does not say, i'm assuming just grower or finisher or something of that sort. is chopped corn the same as cracked corn?
     
  4. saddina

    saddina Internally Deranged

    May 2, 2009
    Desert, CA
    Some people do the corn the last weeks, I'm in the city, so the daily feeding of meaties is done at my grandparents, I do the bulk of the cooking and a fair chunk of the butchering (since the city limits me to 5, mine are all egg hens). (page 73 of SGTRC has the corn fed breakdown).

    After chick feed, then broiler finisher feed, untill butchering is fine. Grabbed my copy of Storey's guide, and it suggests a 16-20% protien feed untill butchering (page 49).
     
  5. Chick_a_dee

    Chick_a_dee Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2008
    Peterborough, ON
    Quote:Ohh so you don't have to feed the corn then, its preference? Sounds gooooodd. i really need to get a copy of Storey's guide but the only place to get it round here is the TSC and i haven't been in so long cause they're such a useless store here.
     
  6. saddina

    saddina Internally Deranged

    May 2, 2009
    Desert, CA
    I got mine from half.com, you can also try amazon, I got chickens, ducks and turkeys as a pack 3 for the price of 2.
     
  7. CARS

    CARS Chillin' With My Peeps

    The first year of Cornish X's, I didn't rest the bird. I just had the processor freeze and I picked it up the next day.

    The last few years I have told them to refrigerate them until I get there. They look at me all stupid but I can't believe the difference in tenderness.

    This year, I just put down a bird at 6 weeks because it had leg problems. I soaked that chick in brine for a day and either the brine is the key or I need to butcher smaller birds!!!! AWESOME flavor and moisture!!!!!!
     
  8. saddina

    saddina Internally Deranged

    May 2, 2009
    Desert, CA
    Hubby is worried I'm gonna retire to an RV and tour the country showing people how to brine birds. [​IMG] I'm not sure if it's he knows me too well, or knows how much I loathe dry meat.

    I've even kicked that last of sacred cows and am taking over thanksgiving from granny. [​IMG]
     
  9. HarlessGals

    HarlessGals Out Of The Brooder

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    22
    Aug 18, 2008
    Texas
    That's good information and very clear. Thank you. That leads me to a few more questions now.

    I hadn't really thought about whether I would cut some up or not. They will be 8 weeks old when they are processed this weekend. Could I still use them for fryers at this age? I will have some that I will use for boiling and such too. That's a good idea to mark the outside of the wrapper so it's clear.

    The lady who will process my chickens will put them in an ice chest with ice and water as she processes them. I don' t know if she bags them first and then into the chest or just into the ice chest.
    I've heard you have to rest the birds for 24-48 hours in the refrigerator before freezing them. But then again, I've heard that 4-6 hours is sufficient. Is the time in the ice chest also part of the resting period. I read it was something to do with the muscles relaxing that make the meat tender. I'm just not sure about 20 birds "resting" in the side-by-side refrigerator; I don't think there is enough room for that. So maybe the resting could be in a cool ice chest instead.

    If I do use brine, which sounds like the way to go for roasting chickens, at what point is this done? And for how long? Can I go from the ice chest to brine then to the freezer? Or is it a brine solution in the ice chest? Or is it a brine solution in the ziploc bag with the chicken?

    I have 2 stand alone freezers, 1 upright and 1 chest. I could put 10 birds in each to split it up and I'll use the frozen milk jugs to start.
    Two things: 1) If I'm going to do this again then I need to toughen up a bit and not be so grossed out by the processing and 2) maybe do fewer birds at one time in the future or process them from 6 weeks on so I end up with 3 smaller batches.

    I'm determined to learn to raise more of our own food, it's just getting past this learning stage.

    Thanks again for the information.[​IMG]
     
  10. saddina

    saddina Internally Deranged

    May 2, 2009
    Desert, CA
    First, you're doing fine. [​IMG]

    At 8 weeks, could you still use them as fryers? It somewhat depends on the size of the meat, to fry you really only want a 1-1.5 in thickness, to be sure the center is done, and the crispies aren't burned. The drumsticks & wings, certainly, but breasts are going to be by size.

    Yes the time they're in ice and in the coolers counts as part of the resting period. Since 20 birds is a whole lotta freezer space, I'd rest in coolers, or iced buckets (take a few 5 gal food grade buckets, drill a 3/8ths hole in the lid, fill with ice water, to cover birds, drop in a digital thermometer probe, set it to ring at 40 degrees, and carry on your day).

    It's simplier to brine when you process, but you can do it after freezing, and thaw the bird in the ice water (I do this 24 hrs for my thanksgiving turkeys). I wouldn't unwarp bird to brine and rewrap, that's just silly.

    How long to brine:
    Cuts, quail, smaller birds: 6 hours
    Whole chicken, ducks: 12 hours/overnight
    Turkeys, goose, large fowl: 24 hours

    It may help to get a processing buddy, perhaps ask on craigslist and see if anyone wants to spilt an order of meaties and processing duties, or a flyer at the feed store? My grandparents have had chickens for years, and I'm just fine to let them kill while I set up the brines & marinades and monoter temps.
     

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