Monday, March 8, 2021

Fowl Ball!

The above title is a play on words. I'll give you a few seconds to think about it before you scroll down.

Figured it out yet?

It's not about baseball, y'all.

Last chance to click off this blog and go somewhere else.

We have chickens. We hatch our own chicks. We always, ALWAYS end up with more roosters than necessary. I recall that we had thirteen roosters last year. It was noisy. So very, very noisy. Roosters crowing at 1 am (yes, in the coop), roosters crowing at the butt-crack of dawn, roosters crowing at 8 am, 9 am, Noon, 3 pm. Thirteen roosters crowing at all times of the day, and each one trying to out crow the other. It was maddening. Eleven of the thirteen ended up nourishing our family in the guise of enchiladas, soup, stew, BBQ sandwiches and atop dumplings and gravy. Butchering day is never really fun, but I look forward to it because it means that there are chicken livers to be eaten. Rhiannon and I are avid liver connoisseurs, be it goat, deer, pig or chicken; but chicken livers are our favorite.

I'm not sure exactly when I acquired my taste for livers, but I'm pretty sure that I never ate them before moving to the homestead and growing our own chickens. I've been told that my grandmother's favorite dish was calf liver and onions, but that was the extent of my liver foray prior to Krazo Acres. Back in the Chicago burbs of the subs, we had plenty of grocery stores, most of them being the "American" type (i.e. Butternut bread, Jiff peanut butter and nothing more exotic than "Hot" salsa made in New York). But if you knew where to look, there were plenty of ethnic neighborhoods with their own grocery stores, most of them being of the Mexican or Polish variety. Oh how I loved wandering the aisles, staring at the bountiful shelves filled with exotic canned goods, fruits & vegetables, fish, meats and other "unusual" animal products. Chicken feet. Duck heads. Bovine stomach lining. Brains, hearts, livers, kidneys. It still amazes me that the typical American diet does not include these tasty, and often nutritionally superior, animal food products.

So, back to the livers (and beyond). Once I had started to butcher our own birds, I noticed that we were not utilizing a lot of the animal. So instead of just tossing all the innards into the compost heap, the gizzard and heart became the official Butchering Day dog treats, while the livers were the official human treat. Necks were saved for chicken stock, and if the feet weren't too icky, they went into the soup pot as well. But there were still two not-so-little items that were not being utilized by us humans.....

I got the final push from watching too many Asian Street Food documentaries. No matter what episode or producer of documentary I was watching, chicken gonads inevitably appeared in the dish, either as a side, an ingredient or the main production. Down the rabbit hole I went.

I admit, I am not one for being very squeamish when it comes to eating strange foods. Rhiannon and I even fried up a dozen or so wood beetle larva in bacon grease a few years back and it wasn't too shabby. But for many, there is the totally understandable "Ewwww" factor when the consumption of animal testes is mentioned. There are many areas in the US that make a big To-Do about eating fried cattle or lamb testicles, just do a search for "Testicle Festival" and see how many there are!! I tend to be a textural kind'a person; I like chewy, I like stale, I like crunchy. Give me a bag of Cheeto's Cheese Puffs that have been left open for three days in the summer humidity and I'm in heaven, but anything that is "Oozie", not so much.

In order to avoid this texture, I opted to give my new culinary experiment a thorough cooking in a pot of boiling water. I cleaned off one of them (the other was smooshed in the process of extracting it) and plunked it into boiling water for about ten minutes. It seemed to firm up a bit, so I took it out and cooled it off enough so that I could remove the membrane. In the videos I've seen for cooking them, they appeared to have the membrane intact, but I didn't want it to "pop" when I took a bite so I stripped it off first. I also refrained from adding any salt or seasonings as I wanted to taste the unadulterated flavor.

It. Was. Good. And I didn't gag, although I didn't expect I would. It has the texture and coloring of a soft tofu with the flavor of a mild chicken liver. And as you already know, I do love me some livers! The next time we butchered roosters, I made them all and Rhiannon and I ate them for lunch. She said it was ok, but I think she was a little put off by the fact it was a chicken testicle. Or maybe she just wasn't very hungry. We will find out next butchering day. I may even try to cook them like little sausages, fry them up with the membrane still on, pan fry and crisp the exterior up a bit and add some seasoning.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Ending of an Era (or Error???)

I haven't been the offical "Keeper of Goats" at the homestead for almost six years now. After re-establishing myself in the weekday 9-5 grind, the daily Care of the Caprines was no longer my responsibility. I don't recall how many goats we had when the Goat Baton was passed to Paul, but I swear it was no where near what we had last week. Specifically, thirty-nine goats. As in just one less than forty. As in, "Holy Crappers! Where in the hell did all these goats come from??" Well, when a mommy goat and a daddy goat love each other.......

But I regress

We've been talking about thinning the herd for a few years now but it just never seemed to happen. Until last week:

Two separate buyers releived us of twenty-seven goats. Not only do we not have to feed these goats any longer, but we ended up with a few extra dollars in our pockets. Not to say we actually MADE any money on them because as anyone who raises small-scale livestock painfully understands that you never, EVER make money, but we did not send the goats off without getting a little bit of green for the trouble.

Hopefully we will be visited by an additional buyer this week who will take a few more off our hands, leaving us with only MamaGoat, Cactus, Sunflower and the two bottle buckliings. MamaGoat is past her kidding years so she will live out her life here. Rhiannon was unwilling to give up Cactus and Sunflower as they were her bottle babies from last year and Cactus is pregnant; she wants to be with her for her first kidding. Sunflower is a little bit gangly and not really fit for breeding, so she's become a pet; she may eventually be sold if it's to another family as a pampered pet goat. And the two bottle bucklings will hopefully be sold as soon as possible.

Going out into the goat yard yesterday was still a bit eerie. Not being mobbed by them nor hearing the screams of "starving" goats whenever you make eye contact with them is taking a little getting used to. Wait, what's that racket now?? Oh yeah. We still have seven roosters. Five more than we need. Time for rooster stew.

And I've got a rooster story for you as well. Stay tuned!