How Many Meals Can You Get From One Chicken?

Several customers have requested help figuring out how to use a whole chicken without feeding part of it to the dog.  This is more of an issue for singles and empty-nesters than for parents of hungry teens.  I would like this to be a regular feature but I’ll get started simply.  Forgive me if I go too fast.  Feel free to ask for more detail in the comments.

We try to get three meals out of a chicken for the six people in our house.  Most commonly we thaw the chicken well, mix melted butter, garlic, salt and pepper, give the chicken a good coating of the mixture inside and out, place most of a quartered onion in the vent hole and the remainder in the flap at the neck.  We place the bird in a cake pan with the breast up and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes per pound.  As the bird bakes, the breast will brown.  My youngest son likes flaky skin but you can get carried away.  When it’s brown enough for your taste, cover the breast with a tent of aluminum foil until it is finished.  We usually fight over the leg quarters with the evening meal.  The girls eat a bit of the breast too.

After supper we cut off the remaining breast meat for use in another meal and place the carcass in a stewpot with half an onion, a few carrots, a bit of celery and a splash of vinegar.  We usually let this stew for at least 24 hours helping drain the bones of all minerals (see Susan Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.)  Then we separate the broth from the meat and bones.  We sometimes stop here and just can the broth which you can use for anything.  More often we add the meat back in, add a freshly chopped half of onion, a few carrots and a few stalks of celery along with a few spices.  We allow this to boil for around 30 minutes while we make noodles.

You’re not done with those chicken bones!  When they are finished boiling they will be soft and crumbly rather than brittle.  Soft bones are no longer a choking hazard for the dog or pigs, the cat will love them or they will compost quickly.  You can still find uses for them even when you’re finished eating…there is no waste.

By doing this we can feed six people at least three times, usually with a bit of leftover chicken soup for the pigs.  This kind of use makes a $15.00 chicken easy to swallow.  If you picked the bones clean at the first meal (as sometimes happens) you should still be able to make a good broth out of the carcass.  If nothing else, you can use the broth to make the best mashed potatoes you have ever eaten.

Now, I think we’re doing a good job being frugal with the bird but my sister can do even better.  She’ll be publishing a series here on how to really stretch a chicken.  I’m looking forward to it…even if I’m not a big fan of mayonnaise.

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Vegetarian…Chicken…Soup?

Humanely-raised, vegetarian fed.  That’s what the label said.

My wife’s aunt called asking how she makes such delicious chicken soup.  My wife replied, “I don’t know how you can do it without one of our chickens.”  Nearly all of her siblings have our chicken in their freezers.  She should too…lol.

Well, that doesn’t help.  She needs chicken soup now and lives four hours away.  What to do?  What to do?  She went to the local supermarket looking for the next-best thing.  She found a humanely-raised, vegetarian chicken.

Now, I’m going to offer my wife’s chicken soup recipe in a minute but bear with me here.  How can a chicken be both humanely-raised and vegetarian?  Chickens are omnivores.  You give the chicken a choice between wheat and worms and the chicken will choose both.  They also seem to really enjoy flies and larvae.  I understand what they are really trying to say…the chicken wasn’t fed beef tallow.  But a lack of beef tallow does not a humanely-raised chicken make.

If you deny an omnivore the chance to eat meat you are denying it an expression of self.  That’s pretty inhumane.  Though humans are omnivores in their natural state, some people choose not to eat meat.  That’s fine.  They make a choice.  I promise you, no chicken on earth would make such a choice.  Further, I almost guarantee these chickens are raised in a building, with fans blowing to keep the ammonia smell down.  They can’t see the sun, they don’t get fresh grass under their feet daily, and they never escape their manure.

Our chickens thrive on a diet of mixed corn, oats, roasted soybeans and fish meal.  They also get fresh alfalfa daily and all the worms they can eat when it rains hard and the worms surface.  That is, I think, more humane.  The chickens are on pasture, in the sun, eating a variety of feed they enjoy.

Now on to chicken soup.  Buy a bag of Chism Heritage Farm backs and necks.  Place 3 backs and necks in a stock pot and cover with water.  Add a quartered onion, 6 sliced carrots, 6 sliced celery stalks and a little salt.  Bring that to a simmer for at least 24 hours, adding water as needed.  Stewing them for 3 days would be better, resulting in a dark, rich, fatty broth and soft chicken bones.

Strain the broth into a fresh stock pot.  Here’s a picture of broth we intend to can.  We’ll strain it and place it in a smaller stock pot which we will refrigerate overnight.  Then we’ll skim the fat off of the broth and can it.  We like to use chicken broth when we make mashed potatoes among other things.

Pick the meat off of the bones and add back into the broth.  Chop an onion, slice 6 more carrots and 6 more celery stalks and add in garlic, oregano, pepper, salt and maybe a little basil.  Maybe a bay leaf toward the end.

Set this to boil while you make the noodles.  You need:
1 cup flour
1 egg (Chism Heritage Farm happy chicken eggs!)
1/2 egg shell full of milk

Mix these together in a mixing bowl.  Flour the countertop, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thick then slice into 1/4″ wide, 4″ long noodles with a pizza cutter.  Add the noodles to the soup stock and boil for 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Now you have a humanely-raised, omnivore-fed chicken in your soup.  If you want to do even better, buy a Chism Heritage Farm stewing hen in the fall…if you can.