Thursday, 30 April 2009


Well that was a lovely morning. Which I'm surprised about because I thought killing chickens was going to be unpleasant. We have spent the morning on the sort of farm that has lots of baby animals and that was looking as lovely as it possibly could, everything lush and green, flowers and blossom everywhere, welcoming dogs. And in a very lovely setting.

OK so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Joined in a discussion on a french forum about how people got their chickens killed and ended up with an invitation to come and see and learn.

Today was the day. Up at 6.00 and off to near Perigueux to a farm run by a Welsh woman who has been here 30 years who was killing and preparing 10 chickens for market with her french neighbour. Mixed farm with chickens/rabbits/ducks/quail/pigs/sheep/cows. She prepares meat for sale on a market and also delivers to local customers.

First catch your chickens from the shed where they have spent the night and put in a crate, hold at top of wings. Don't let them eat the night before. Wheel the crate down to the barn and meet up with the neighbour and her sister. One person takes one chicken, holds firmly by feet and upper wings with head down. Other person puts hand over head which seems to calm it and inserts knife through wattle and cut up towards chin. Catch blood in plate already containing garlic and pepper. Wait til stops dripping and it's done. Put in large cardboard box and on to the next one.

(This blood makes sanguette. Leave the plate to coagulate and when solid, slide off plate into a pot of boiling water for about 20 minutes. Cool and fry like black pudding.)

And it really is that simple. The chicken doesn't seem to notice that you are slitting its throat, it struggles a bit but very little, you've got your hand over its eyes so you can't see it dying and the others in the crate don't seem to notice.

To get the feathers off you dunk the bird up and down in a large pot of water that is just off the boil, for a couple of minutes - don't cook it. And when you put it on the table the feathers come out really easily.

Cut where neck meets chest and remove a bag of stuff - think it's the crop. Cut below chin and pull out the tube (airway?) and if it's for the french market cut off the bottom beak and clean up. At the bum end you have to cut out the anus in one piece and gently pull out the guts. DON'T cut the gall bladder or everything will be green, bitter and spoilt. Apart from that just pull everything out. Cut off and discard feet, cut off the gland that oils the feathers. Cut gizzard in half and empty out, remove layer of skin next to the contents, wash. For market put heart, liver, gizzard back in the cavity. Then use a blow lamp all over to singe any feathers and rub with cloth to make sure all spotless and tie up.

It was a good experience. I can do it, it seemed simple, I enjoyed being part of a gossipy, good humoured group of women preparing something.

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