Friday, September 25, 2009

Making Room

I've mentioned that we are trying to make room in our chest freezer for the applesauce and chickens that will need freezing next month. One way of making space was to eat all the frozen meals we had tucked away in there for when Miriam was born. We're still eating them and it's been a wonderful gift as we've all been getting used to fall school schedules.

In addition to the freezer meals, we had our last two whole chickens from last year in there. We took a break from having chicken in our diet this summer. Not deliberately, but because there has been so much else to eat. Taking a break from eating chicken around here means taking a break from eating meat in general. We haven't missed it a bit. Cooked and shredded, those two chickens will take up a lot less space and will be ready for suppers next month when I have to start cooking again.

When we harvest our chickens, we skin them. This is an easy way to get the feathers off, too. To cook them, I place two skinned, whole chickens in my large cooking pot with about two inches of water in the bottom.

I put on the lid, turn the heat on high and once it's boiling, turn it down to medium.

Then, I set the timer for 10 minutes, checking the chickens then and every five minutes after until they show no pinkness.

I want them thoroughly cooked, but not over-cooked (they'll get tough). Once they are done, I remove the pot from the heat and let them cool a bit. I want them cool enough to handle, but still warm.

Then, I set up shop on the counter and with fingers and knife and fork, pull the chicken off the bones, chopping the larger pieces as I go. I store the meat in plastic bags and containers, allowing them to cool before closing and then back in the freezer they go- taking up much less space and ready and waiting to be thrown into meals.

We freeze our chickens in these giant Ziploc bags (two a bag). We wash and reuse the bags, but only for raw chicken the next fall.

In the bottom of the pot, I end up with a quart of chicken stock. I store this in the fridge and use it to make soup sometime that same week.

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  1. This may seem like a really silly question... I have always covered my chicken in water when I boil it. You stated that you only put in about two inches of water. I am supposing that by covering it you are actually steaming the chicken and getting a more concentrated broth. Correct? Does this make the meat tough? About how long does it take once it is boiling and the lid is on? Thanks. I can't even remember where I learned to do chicken the way that I do. Perhaps I've been doing it wrong all these years!

  2. Comtesse,
    It is more of a steam and I do end up with a more concentrated broth. I think the way you are doing it is just fine.

    Before I started cooking whole chickens, I covered any chicken pieces I was cooking with water, too. It just feels like filling that huge pot with water to cover those birds would be wasteful since I would never be able to use up all that broth before I cook chickens again.

    I steam them this way for about 10 minutes and then start checking for pinkness- overcooking them this way would make the meat tough. I don't have any trouble with this since I watch them closely. Pulling it off the bone still warm also keeps it soft and easier to remove.


  3. PLEASE don't tell me that you then throw the chicken carcass away. That pile of bones would make several quarts of simply the best chicken stock to be had. I always feel like I am missing something on my grocery list when I'm out of chicken stock. We eat a lot of soup (chicken corn, potato, etc). It also makes a great base instead of water in a raft of recipes. Cook your brown rice in chicken stock, it adds extra protein and flavor. Ask my daughter Zoe, she is the master chicken stock maker.

    Your technique intrigues me but I have a few questions. I don't see how that short time of cooking the whole chicken makes it possible to get the meat off the bones. Don't you have to cut it off? I'm thinking it would preserve the flavor of the meat. Don't you add any seasonings? Or do you just do that when you are making the final dish.

    Aunt V.

  4. Aunt V,
    I don't use chicken stock all that often, so I don't want copious amounts of it on hand. I've tried cooking the carcass and saving all that stock, but it just sat in my fridge and freezer FOREVER and I finally had to throw it away to make room for things that were more important to us to have frozen.

    After 10-20 minutes of cooking, the meat comes off the bones easily using just my fingers. When I only have one chicken to cook-up, I use the crock pot and leave it in there most of a day (it cooks at a lower temperature of course), but my crock pot doesn't hold two chickens. I use the same method with the crock pot- fill with an inch or two of water and let the chicken steam.

    I don't add anything right away to the chicken or the stock. I do that later when I am making a dish so I can season them based on what I'm making. It also helps the task of cooking two chickens not become a whole day affair- I have too much else going on!

    Sorry to disappoint about the stock. I'm sure it is amazing in all those dishes. To each her own!:-)

  5. We love chicken soup .... we have it at least once a week.... either for an after school snack or for dinner. I usually roast a whole chicken it for whatever meal then toss Mr. chicken bones and extra meat into the stockpot with a bunch of herbs and simmer for about a half hour. At any given time we end up with a few gallons in the makes for a quick meal. :)

  6. I know this post is from last year, so I am not sure if you read the comments on old posts, but I have a question. Do you think a turkey could be cooked in this same manner? I have a 17 pounder in the freezer from last year (a freebie- can't pass those up). I remembered reading this post & thought it might work. Plus, I am more inclined to use the meat if it is already cooked. My biggest question/concern is the amount of water- everything i've come across related to boiling a turkey says to completely cover it with water. We are not soup eaters, so while it would be nice to have a little stock to freeze, I would just end up throwing most of it away. So if I could make do with less water, that might be nice. any thoughts? thank you!


  7. Andrea, I think a turkey will work just fine in this way. It's up to you if you want to cover it partially or entirely- if it's not completely covered, make sure your lid is tight so it will steam and not dry out. I would lean toward covering it, though. Save the stock you want and water your outside plants with the rest (once it's cooled, of course:-)).

  8. What a great idea. I don't raise chickens myself (sob, I'd love fresh eggs) but whole chickens sell for less at the grocery store. I usually buy skinned chicken breasts at a ridiculous price. To cook I put them in a pot of boiling water, to which I added a couple of chicken bouillon cubes. As soon as I add the chicken I clamp on the lid, turn off the heat, wait 20 minutes. Perfectly pouched chicken. Minimum fuss and bother.

  9. When I cook my chickens like this, I add a lot of water to make broth. Instead of taking up my freezer space, I can the broth. I have used this broth up to two years later and it is still good.


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