During one of the many times in my married life when means were very slender, I found a chicken farm that was selling molters for fifty cents apiece. Chickens shed their feathers once a year, and during the process, they stop laying for a period of several months. This farm was replacing its molters rather than feed them through the eggless period when they were growing new feathers. I had a beat-up VW bug, and I found that I could transport twenty-five live chickens (feet tied together, laid out atop newspapers on seats and floorboard). They were all strangely quiet during the ride home, and one in particular, occupying the front passenger seat, unnerved me with her steely stare.
Those chickens were candidates for the stew pot rather than the frying pan. Fryers have to be young chickens, and no telling how old these were. But, they boiled up great, and I used the stock for soup and the meat for everything from sandwiches to tacos to cannelloni.
A few years later, when I was Relief Society President, we experienced a severe recession here in the Pacific Northwest because of a downturn in the forest products industry. I decided that we needed to focus on provident living, and remembering how those molters stretched our food budget, I arranged for a class on how to dress and cut up a chicken. I never will forget how large some of the young sisters’ eyes were as they watched my mother demonstrate how to kill a chicken by wringing its neck. (We did this out in the church parking lot. Probably couldn’t do that today.)
We showed them how to scald the chicken in hot-hot water to release the feathers so it’s easy to pluck them off the carcass. Lost a few sisters there. Then we showed them how to eviscerate the chicken, making sure not to cut the bowel. Lost a few more sisters there. We demonstrated which giblets are edible and how to cut open the gizzard to take out the crop. We talked about the need to be careful about cleaning your utensils and cutting surface as we washed the chicken. Then we held it up for all to view. Ta-da! It looked just like one that came in a plastic bag at the supermarket. The few sisters we still had with us applauded.
I doubt that there are many reading this blog who have access to live chickens for fifty cents apiece, so my little trip down memory lane won’t benefit anyone except as cultural information. However, the next thing we taught the sisters that day was how to cut up a chicken. That’s relevant to most everyone, because you can save a considerable amount by buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself.
I’m not going to go into detail about how it’s done, but my service to you is to provide two links where you can find detailed, illustrated, step-by-step instructions: Link One and Link Two. Or, tell your Relief Society President you want to learn. She’ll pair you with a gray-haired sister who can show you.
Starting with a whole chicken is more time consuming than buying a cut-up chicken, but it’s a way to make a dollar stretch, and you’ll be surprised at how pioneerish and tied-to-the-earth you will feel by mastering that skill.
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