For most gardeners, the busy canning season is all but a blurry memory. And as our gardens haven't produced anything more than a snack, nibble or a few side dishes, I had plenty of time on my hands when everyone else was messing with bands and lids and trying to limit the number of times steam from the canner caused second-degree burns on their bodies.
But my willy-nilly free time is now up. It's canning time. It's shutting up and putting up time. While I only managed to can a few quarts of deer meat, I was determined to get some of our Cornish meat birds in jars rather than in the freezer. Sunday afternoon I spent several hours dispatching, skinning, eviscerating and cutting up six of the creepy meats. Then yesterday, Paul and I butchered another five birds, although they retained their skin and will be put in the freezer (Paul is a die-hard roasted chicken fan, not that I blame him, who doesn't like crispy chicken skin?)
Six chickens turned out to be a nice number for canning as I had two full pressure canner batches. Out of six skinned chickens, I got 2 quarts of chicken breasts, 2 quarts of chicken legs, 2 quarts of chicken thighs, 7 quarts of chicken stock, plenty of snackies for the cats / dog and a large lunch for me consisting of fried chicken livers and a cup of chicken broth. I also sent Mom home with a leg quarter, half-dozen chicken wings and three breasts and there are another six wings marinating in the fridge for a tasty appetizer for us tomorrow night.
Normally every single piece of the chicken gets used, with the exception of the offal of course. I just haven't come up with a good Chicken Head Soup recipe yet. But this year I got lazy (well, sleepy actually) and didn't make the chicken soup/bone slurry and just tossed the leftover contents from the soup pot into the compost heap. But compost is still good.
I am a bit disappointed in the size of the chickens though. There was one that was just barely two and a half pounds (whole, dressed). The first year we raised Cornish, we had several five-pounders. Then there was one year that they were large, but very, very fatty. So the next year I didn't feed them nearly as much and the amount of fat they were carrying was significantly reduced. But this year, there wasn't a scrap of fat on any of them. Usually there is some fat on their bottoms, but I was pressed to find more than a little blob, if any. I don't know if I was "starving" them (in my defense, they always act like they are starving) or if I should have been giving them feed with additional protein or if it was just the hatchery chicks or what. The first year I ordered from Murry McMurry hatchery. The following years I ordered them from the farm store and they get them from a hatchery up in Missouri. So now I have to decide where the next batch is going to come from and if I'm going to just shovel feed into their pens 24/7 or use a higher protein feed. Or maybe even buy some from each hatchery and tag them and see if there is a difference in chick quality. Which would be a pretty interesting project anyhow.