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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Gotta love that Old Roo Stew

In the tradition of my frugal German ancestors, and a long line of homestead families, we do our best not to be "waste-y." So when the decision was made a while back to cull one of our three dueling roosters (two of whom timed their "battle of the doodle-doos" for between midnight and 3 AM) we did not try to find an old rooster home for him to go to, nor did we dispatch him to bury or feed to the coyotes or the dump. JR (yes they are named) was sent off to "freezer camp" with the intention of seeing him at a later date with the crock pot or pressure cooker.

In each iteration of homesteading (I have gone "back to the land" three times now, in CO, WA and now here in Maine) I have raised both animals and vegetables for food and processed both from beginning to end by my own hand. The tradition of self-reliance runs through my veins, though it seemed to have skipped my mother's generation. A "thoroughly modern Millie," we have a family story about her inability to process the fresh (as in still living) chicken she bought to make a special dinner for my dad, when he came home from the Navy for a visit. She ended up with her landlord taking pity on her and doing the deed.

Many years after my mom's WWII-era butchering fail, my oldest daughter, not even three years old at the time, insisted on my immediately butchering her (previously) pet rooster after he bit her finger. She would not wait for her dad to come home to mind her and her little sister, just a babe in arms. No, she insisted I had to do it putting both girls in their little red wagon and having secured the doomed fowl, off we went to designated area. I explained to her what to expect and dispatched the bird. Though I had explained, I guess it was just a bit much for a youngster to comprehend the post-butchering muscle spasms that are the root of the "chicken with its head cut off" aphorism. She thought it was able to -- and going to -- bite her again but was quickly calmed when I showed her the head, opened its beak and poked my finger in; of course she had to do the same and was kept happily occupied while the bird finished its flapping. I completed the process, with her help in plucking and the baby in a back pack, but rather than allowing the bird to age even a day in the 'fridge, she insisted on my cooking it for dinner that night. It was with great relish that she bit into her drumstick serving and crowed "I get the LAST BITE!"

Fortunately, JR did get some aging before being frozen, though a two year old rooster will never be as tender as the proverbial spring chicken! I planned, like I said above, to cook the meat down for chicken-and (noodles or dumplings are most common in our house) but I accidentally grabbed this package of meat to thaw, not realizing what fowl it contained. Yesterday I had planned to cook breast strips for Tractor Guy while I cooked up some delightful organic beef liver I had been given. I am a liver-lover; he is not. So imagine my dismay when I discovered the "tender" breast meat I was instead meat of the old roo!

I managed an adequate save by pounding it well with my meat mallet, flouring and frying it much more slowly than usual. Fortunately TG is NOT picky about his food! I immediately put the legs into the slow cooker to prep for use with dumplings, which will be supper tonight. The dogs got the organs and skin when I butchered and the bones will go to the garden to add calcium, eventually. Slow cooker bones do seem to break down quickly.

So waste not, want not and the old roo will have fed us three times (half of the cooked breast meat is in the fridge for another go-round)...though the last laugh may be on us. Tractor Guy was up hours before dawn this morning and reports that Red (this year's hatched rooster and Newton (JR's precessor) were engaged in their own battle of the doodle-do.