This is the time of year when farmers are thinking, “What were we thinking? This is a lot of hard work and we're tired.” Alas, the days are getting shorter and the nights colder. Fall is on it’s way and by January we’ll forget how tired and burnt out we are now. Plus we're getting to bed a lot earlier than we were a month or two ago. Who knew chickens would be out foraging until 9:30pm in the middle of summer. This is our last week of locking up the chickens every night. We will be processing our last batch of chickens this Sunday. It’s been a great season. We’ve dialed in our day range system. We’ve been using two different types of “chicken tractors.” What we call low coops and hoop coops. They both have open floors so that the chickens have access to pasture and roofs to provide shelter from the weather. The low coops are a modified Salatin-type coop (named after Joel Salatin the pasture-poultry guru). They are 4’x8’ and about 3’ tall, light and easy to move. The hoop coops are an 8’x8’ frame with two cattle panels attached in the shape of a hoop and covered with a tarp. We’ve decided that the hoop coops work a lot better for us. They are easier to get into and don’t require bending and lifting out waterers. The low coop roofs are so light that the wind blows them off. It takes almost twice as long to do the morning and evening chores with the low coops.
Our system has evolved over the past three years. We began using only the low coops, the chickens were kept in the coops to protect them from predators and were moved twice a day to ensure access to fresh pasture. Now we’re doing a “day range” system, where we surround the coops with electric poultry fencing and let the chickens free-range. The coops provide shade and protection from the rain, but the chickens are free to roam around the pasture all day. We lock them into the coops at night to protect them from predators. We move the coops every other day or as needed and we move the fence once a week. We much prefer the “day range” system (and so do the chickens), they have more space run around and flap their wings and take dust baths. Our chickens have been making a steady procession through our pasture all summer, leaving the grass mowed down and the soil fertilized in their wake.
Let us know if you'd like to order any chickens for this up coming Sunday. We will be delivering chickens to Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle next week if that works better for you. We also still have Fall Chicken CSA shares available. The Fall CSA runs from October through December. Let us know now if you'd like to join so that we know how many chickens to set aside.
We will be teaching a workshop on chicken butchery through the Olympia Food Co-op this Fall. If you want some hands on experience cuting up a whole chicken and learning how to cook a whole chicken including making chicken stock be on the look out for the Fall Olympia Co-op workshop series.
To see an easy to follow online tutorial for cutting up a whole chicken check out the gourmet slueth website.
We've made a couple really delicious chicken recipes in the past week that we want to share with you.
Chicken with Herb Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce
from August 2012 Bon Appetit
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes or other small tomatoes on the vine
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
Preheat oven to 450°. Combine tomatoes, 2 Tbsp. oil, and herbes de Provence in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet until oil shimmers. Carefully add tomatoes to pan (oil may spatter). Transfer skillet to oven and roast, turning once, until tomatoes burst and give up some of their juices, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with Worcestershire sauce.
Meanwhile, season chicken all over with 1 tsp. salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear chicken on both sides until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer pan to oven and roast chicken until cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to same skillet; heat over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze pan with vinegar, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan; add tomatoes and their juices and simmer until sauce is just beginning to thicken, about 1 minute. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Slice chicken; divide among plates. Spoon tomatoes and sauce over; garnish with herbs.
Adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 onion, sliced
3 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
2 lemons, halved
1 whole 3-to-4 lbs. chicken
Combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot; squeeze the lemons as they are added. Bring to a simmer over high heat to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until chilled.
Add the chicken to the brine and weigh it down with a plate to keep it submerged. Allow to brine for 2 to 6 hours.
Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse well, and dry with paper towels. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 450ºF or grill.
Roast the chicken in a roasting tray until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes or cook on grill.
Serves 3 to 4.