I got a screaming deal on some chicken from a farmer just over the line in Vermont. It arrived yesterday so I spent the day processing it. I had a lot to do (about 50 pounds) so I was able to experiment a bit. I put the first three birds in my huge stock pot, made a stock with onions, parsley, chard, carrot, celery and some herbs, salt and pepper. I simmered the chicken for a couple of hours then let it cool enough to get the meat off the bone. I strained the broth, filled the jars with the pulled meat, covered it all with the broth and canned the first load. I also managed to get a bag of giblets and a second bag of backs, wings and necks that I froze for future stock making.
While all of this was going on, I put three more birds in the oven in a big, covered roaster. I used two quarts of organic chicken stock that I picked up a couple of weeks ago and just let the birds simmer at 350 degrees for a couple of hours. The chickens were so beautiful when I took them out that I saved one for dinner. I pulled off the crispy, golden skin, then pulled the meat from the bones with two forks.
This worked so much better than the stove top method. It was more a matter of lifting the bones out than pulling the meat off. I was left with chicken in broth that was really easy to ladle into the jars. I didn’t my hands and the whole process was a lot less messy. The oven method is wat I will use for the next batch of birds.
The question will be asked: Why not just throw the birds in the freezer? No muss, no fuss. That’s true and I did freeze one bird so we can have a roasted chicken one night but having canned meat on hand is a wonderful thing. Canned meat is versatile. It’s a heat and eat meal, just what you want if you are out of power or in a hurry. It sits in the basement, not relying on the freezer to remain safe. Canned meat stretches further too. There was almost no waste with this chicken. The skin and bones were the only parts tossed. I can not tell you how often I have lost a chicken carcass because I just didn’t get around to making soup out of it before it went bad.
I now have 12 quart jars of chicken, the bird we ate last night, another in the freezer, a bag of backs and wings for soup in the freezer as well as bag of giblets to make into chicken liver pate, all of it free range and humanely processed and it only cost $122.oo, well under $3.00 a pound. 12 small cans of chicken was $99.00 in the Lehman’s catalog and that was before shipping.
The price of gold is soaring today and, from time to time, I regret not buying some. Then I think about investments. My canner was probably one of the best investments I ever made. I have used it dozens of times and it will be handed down to my children. I just bought a stainless steel, water bath canner to replace my old enamel canner. It was expensive but it too will last for generations. The enamel canners kept rusting out, especially the baskets so it was no savings to spend less but do it every few years. Environmentally, it is always better to go for items with the longest life. I can use one of my old canners as a dedicated pot for making soap which means I won’t have to purchase one. I have a birthday coming up and I’m going to ask my kids to get me a cast iron dutch oven with a lid that will hold hot coals. I am still using my mother’s cast iron cookware. That too will be handed down to kids and grandkids.
I love the thrill of the hunt. I love looking for things with real value at tag sales and thrift stores. A down sleeping bag, a box of canning jars, good quality hand tools, these are the things that get my heart racing. Investing-well-not so much. I don’t have the nerves for it. My jars of chicken, lines up in the cabinet, are enough gold for me.