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Putting Back for Winter

| 8/12/2010 1:36:00 PM

Samantha BiggersThis time of year is the time to think about putting back for the winter. The last 3 days for us have been chicken days. Every year we raise 2 runs of 50 Cornish Cross chickens in chicken tractors and butcher them on the farm. We put our orders in for the chicks about 3 months before we want them so we can make sure we can get them exactly when we want them.

Some we process and sell, and we always keep enough so that we don't have to buy any chicken at the grocery store. We have been self-sufficient on chicken for the last two years or so. This time our chicken plucker was busted but we had 40 birds to butcher due to a higher than average mortality rate thanks to a black snake. It went quite slowly since it was just Matthew and I butchering. We heated a big barrel of water for scalding and got to work In the past we had only frozen whole chickens in gallon size zip locs. This year we used a vacuum sealer and we cut up some chickens into leg quarters, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and wings. We figured that it would be easier to cook with cut chickens sometimes and we could always sell bags of leg quarters and such. This of course slowed us down even more but was worth it in the long run. We have butchered as many as 43 broilers in a day when we had the chicken plucker going.

This year we decided I should can 6 chickens in pint jars so we could have some quick meal starters for this winter. We also kept all the carcasses of the chickens we had cut up into pieces and from those I canned so I could render and can chicken stock. This was my first experience pressure canning meat or broth. I cut all the meat off the 6 chickens and packed it into clean pint jars and poured very hot water into the jars until there was a 1 inch head space. You can add spices if you want but I chose to not do that this time. After the hot lids and the rings were on I pressure canned the chicken for 1 hour and 15 minutes. You need to do it for 1 hour and 20 minutes if you do quart jars. I got 9 pints of chicken from the 6 birds which weighed about 4.5-5.0 pounds or so each when they were whole. Meat takes awhile to pressure can, but you will thank yourself for it later when you have something to make a quick meal out of. The price of canned chicken in the store was quite high last time I looked.

Rendering broth from around 20 chicken carcasses took a large 7 gallon pot like you get with a turkey fryer. I put about 10 in with a few gallons of water and let it simmer for about an hour and a half. Then I removed those carcasses and added the last 10 and let that simmer for another hour or so. I turned it off and let it sit for a few minutes so I could run up the mountain and get more rings for the jars and to have a beer break. (Canning is hot work. I had to can at my grandmother's this year because the kitchen in my house is nowhere near done yet. She is almost 89 and firmly convinced that I am going to burn or blow myself up with a pressure canner. Any way back to business!) After I returned I removed the final bit of chickens from the pot and added a quart of cold water since it was really rich broth. I used a strainer over each quart jar to strain the broth as best I could. Cheesecloth would have been better but I didn't have any at the time. I added a little bit of salt and pepper to it. You can spice it to taste but make sure to use canning salt when adding any salt whatsoever.

I got 15 quarts of broth and canned 14 of them. Broth has to be pressure canned for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints. I would recommend canning the broth in quarts even if your family is small, because it takes less time to can a lot of broth, and it will keep in your fridge for a good while. I am glad I took the time to do the broth. I hate wasting anything especially good food. I feel that if we take the time to raise chickens that we should get as much out of them as possible. It is wasteful and disrespectful otherwise. I definitely intend on purchasing another pressure canner so I can do 14 quarts of food at a time. If you can a lot of your own food, one canner is just not enough.

Canned Chicken and Stock from this week. It makes you think about your food differently when you raise the chicken from a chick.

Janet Wiltzius_1
8/30/2010 7:59:40 PM

I have been doing a lot of freezing. Tomatoes are easy. Cut an X into the bottom. Place in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Take out and put into cold water. The skins will pull off easily. You can cut into pieces, leave them whole or add onion or green pepper. Place as much as you would think you would need for a recipe into the bag. I usually measure 2 cups. Freeze. Great to use in the winter.

Mela Martin_2
8/27/2010 1:39:08 PM

I really enjoyed your article by Samantha Biggers about canning - especially the parts about canning chicken and chicken broth. I've canned ground beef before and it's wonderful to have on hand, but yesterday was my first experience for canning chicken and broth. Thank you for the info and I hope you'll include more articles about canning meats. -Mela Martin

8/27/2010 10:43:38 AM

Chowchow? there are aout a zillion recipes for chowchow, here's my old one from Farm Journal: Chow-chow 4 medium cabbage heads 4 large sweet red peppers 5 large sweet green peppers 8 to 10 medium onions 15 green tomatoes 10 hot peppers 3 cups vinegar 1 cup water 4 cups sugar 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 2 tablespoons celery seed 2 tablespoons mustard seed Grind cabbage, red peppers, green peppers, onions, tomatoes and hot peppers. Put in large enameled pan. Sprinkle enough salt over vegetables like you were going to eat it raw. Let mixture set for two hours. Drain off green water. Mix vinegar, water, sugar, and crushed red pepper, tie celery and mustard seed mustard seed in a piece of cheese cloth and add to the vinegar mixture and bring to a boil. Pour over vegetables and cook about 35 minutes. Stir often. Put in pint jars and process in a boiling water bath 15 minutes. I've been canning and fermenting and putting up for 45 years or so, and try to keep up with modern canning requirements, and since I'm from Michigan, I love this website, it's Michigan State University's preserving site. It gives very detailed instructions for sauerkraut, which just happen to be exactly how I've been making and packing kraut for decades, LOL. Anyway, that IS way too much salt, I use 3 tablespoons of salt for 5 pounds of cabbage. Happy canning.

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