Lost and Found: A Way to Use a Whole Chicken X 3

This post is both a lost AND found.

When was the last time you made a whole chicken? I would challenge you to try it, or to do it more often. It is economical, and really healthy for you. I never really thought much of buying a bag of frozen chicken breasts, but as I started contemplating having backyard chickens, and looking at pictures of chicks on the internet (ha ha), I noticed something:

They had heads, legs, thighs, and backbones.

My hot chicks, last summer. Even though small, I hope its clear to see they have many parts.

Now that I’m a caretaker of a flock of chickens, I feel even more convicted that using the whole bird is better for the world, and for our diets. Being good stewards means, at times, learning about what we’ve lost along the way. One of those things is how to use a whole chicken.

Cooking a whole bird is so easy, and so delicious.

What I’m doing lately is using the crockpot to cook my bird (shhh — don’t tell my backyard hens). So, so, very, very easy.

Take a  4 to 5 lb fresh or defrosted chicken, preferably from your local farmer. Take out your slowcooker. Grease the inside. Cut up an onion or two, and put on the bottom. Make up a spice blend, or use one your like, such as the Wildtree Smoked Mozzarella and Tomato Blend. Place the chicken on top of the onions, and rub about 2 Tbl. of spice blend all over it. Set crock to high, and in about 5 – 6 hours (when chicken temps done and juices run clear), cut up to the best of your ability, and enjoy. Thank you to Lisa Leake at the 100 days of Real Food blog, where I found this recipe!

Important: Save the skin and bones! Even if someone has nibbled on it! Save it!

After dinner dishes are done by your husband, put all the bones and stuff back in the slowcooker. You don’t even need to clean it out (you could, if you want. But you don’t really have to, in my opinion). Fill up with water. You can add additional cut up veggies, like celery and carrots. Before you go to bed, turn the slowcooker on low, and in the morning,

take cheesecloth or a flour sack dishtowel and then put a colander over a large bowl or other broth-catching receptacle. Strain out the skin, bones, spices and veggies (you can use the veggies, but keep in mind their nutrients are now in your delicious broth. They still have some fiber, though).

I do like to squeeze the flour sack towel at the end to get out some more fat.

I like to then put the broth in a pitcher, and just put it in the fridge.

Broth, and you can see the layer of fat, even while still lukewarm, starting to rise to the top

Within a couple of hours, you’ll see the top of it hardening – that is chicken fat, or schmaltz. If you want to read a really wonderful, interesting, at times heart-wrenching book (that expounds succinctly on the highly valued schmaltz), check out 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, by Jane Ziegelman. Review to come. Use the broth when you boil pasta, make rice, or steam veggies. Broth is good for your bones, because it comes from bones. Makes sense.

I skim off the schmaltz

Hardened schmaltz, ready to be skimmed off

and put it in a capped jar which I keep in the top back shelf of my fridge. Its great for greasing a pan when I’m going to make something savory. You could also fry with it, though I don’t know what the flash/smoke point is, and I do keep it on the low side so it doesn’t burn, smoke, or destroy the nutrients present.

1 chicken – 3 ways.

For dinner, for broth, for fat.

B-gaaaaaawk!

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Lost: Fat

“Just the fats, Ma’am.”

“Fat-tastic”

“Fun with our favorite fats”

…Those were some of the rejected titles of this first post in a succession of fatty posts. But, in keeping with my original thoughts with this blog – to reconsider knowledge lost to us, to discover and find new food sources, and to keep it local – I decided to make sure you would be intrigued enough to read more.

Do I still have you? Maybe this picture will help.

Here we have, from L to R:  Natural expeller-pressed grapeseed oil, real butter, olive oil, beef tallow, chicken fat (or schmaltz) and pork lard. The last three I “made” myself, with a liiiiittle help from animals of  course. Local, organically and humanely raised animals, I might add. These are the current fats in my kitchen, and I use them for baking, sauteeing, putting on toast, and to grease the odd muffin tin.

Are you afraid of fats? I hope that by reading my “Lost” posts on the subject you’ll lose a little fear, and get into using real fat. Its way healthier for you. Seriously.

Look for the first installment next week on Monday.

In the meantime, consider your current relationship with fat. Do you fear it, or embrace it – in your cooking?