29 November 2015

Thanksgiving capon dinner

First, the "empty stomach warning" ... that is, do not look if you have an empty stomach.  Go snack before reading on!

We had Uno the capon as our Thanksgiving dinner, and yes indeed, he was tasty.  For those who may not recall, here is Uno out on the grass:
Uno the hatchery GLW capon
Note that his comb and wattles are small and still chick-pink ... that is how you can tell a capon from a slip.  When the hormones come back on a slip, they redden up and grow their comb and wattles again.  Even without his hormones, Uno still kept almost all of his tail feathers and held his own among the six slips.  I do recall him being a little pill as a cockerel, and unlike Pollux, Uno showed absolutely no aptitude for nannying chicks.  The one time we tried, all the chicks were huddled in the far corner of the tractor while Uno was eating all the food.

Uno plucked and dressed out beautifully.  My postal scale only goes up to five pounds, so I don't have a weight for him, but he was well-fleshed and had a generous amount of rich golden-yellow fat on him.  Here he is on the smoker:
capon on the smoker
Doesn't he look just positively scrumptious?   Hubby only gave him a light smoking - one hour - just enough for flavor.  Then, into the largest crock pot:
capon in the crock pot
For some reason, I thought I posted a pic of one of the cull cockerels in that same crock pot, but apparently not.  Uno was ten months old, and the next-oldest cockerel we've eaten was only six months old, so there is a definite difference in size and cooking time.  When I served dinner, he was cooked through, but not to tender stage yet.  Next time, I'll just set up the crock pot on low to go overnight, or maybe just "warm" which is one setting below low.

For those curious, dinner was rounded out with baked sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole (frozen from grocery store broccoli, as our plants out in the garden aren't ready yet), cranberry sauce, and homemade dinner rolls.  Dessert was baked pumpkin cheesecake, and was served a couple hours before dinner to give the rolls enough rising time.  It's a good thing we ate dessert first - no one had room for anything else after the dinner!  That was my first baked cheesecake, and I probably should have gotten a pic, but it is just too late for that now.

25 November 2015

Home made eggnog!

Recipe is "Spiced eggnog" from the New McCall's Cook Book, published 1963 (1973 printing), and this was the maiden voyage of the KitchenAide mixer father-in-law got us for Christmas this year.  He opened it up early himself a couple weeks ago, to make sure all pieces were there and it worked.  It will certainly come in handy for making mayonnaise!

More pics and posts to come ... I am hosting Thanksgiving so may need a bit of recovery time tomorrow.

20 November 2015

Cull cockerel harvest

OK, I was able to keep to my self-imposed work schedule for this first stretch of cooler weather, and slaughtered the eight remaining cull cockerels through the week, plus Uno the full capon this morning for Thanksgiving Day dinner.  Of the eight cockerels, two are big and meaty enough to roast whole, Brother, Feyd's larger cross-breed son and one of the Ameracauna cockerels from Luanne.  So, six went into jars: seven quarts of stock (two with a bunch of carcass meat for casseroles) and eight pints of meat.  I'll get pictures later on, as I am waiting for the quarts of stock to cool enough to open the pressure canner and check how many sealed.

The pints of meat canned up SO beautifully!  All I added to them was 1/4 teaspoon of canning salt, and each one ended up with rich golden liquid from the meat - canned in its "natural juices" as the grocery store label would read.

As I hoped, Brother had his sire's big meaty breasts.  He also had nicely fleshed leg quarters, and he'll be frozen whole along with the largest of the Ameracauna cockerels.  Meanwhile, Uno came out not only meaty, but with large deposits of rich golden-yellow fat, not only under his skin but in the abdominal cavity.  I tried to save as much of that as I could, and hubby held open a quart sized zip bag while admiring it as I put it in.  I am trying to decide if I want to render it first, or use it "raw" for making pot pie crust.  I'll need to get a new scale to weigh Uno's whole carcass - he is certainly more than five pounds (the limit on my postal scale).  I'd also like to get weights on Brother and the Am cockerel.  Especially Brother, since he was only five months old.

I am definitely looking forward with eager anticipation to next year's capon batch, from my Wyandotte sires: Feyd, Azar, Tiny, and even Spikey (over whatever remaining red broiler pullets and Feyd's daughters).  This morning's slaughter of my first full capon made all the efforts and slips worth it.

Full speed ahead, as I work towards the goal of consistently producing twelve pound capons!

11 November 2015

Rambling update 11 November

OK, so it's been nearly a month since I posted.  Whole lot of shtuff going on, just not typing away here on the blog.

  • Dad and Tammy visited right before the chicks hatched, and both thought the house and property and chickens were cool.  Tammy got a picture of every bird on the property!  LOL  Dad kept cocking his head and looking at the Silkies, commenting they look furry.  Tammy's best comment was about the Wyandottes, saying: "I always thought chickens were just ... chickens.  I never realized some could be so pretty!"  When the slips were let out, even more entertainment and comparisons to Jurassic Park.
  • Hubby's grandmother died right before Halloween.  She had been bouncing between the hospital and the rehab wing of a nursing home for a little over a week.  The funeral was last week Thursday.  She'll be missed, and remembered fondly here, as she was our #1 fan of our chickens.  Not just watching them, she said our meat birds were the best she'd ever tasted.
  • I finally saw a couple sprouts from all those seeds I planted last month - but only marigolds.  Everything else in the garden boxes are transplanted starts.
  • A majority of those transplants are doing good!  The broccoli is going great guns, and the Greek oregano start I planted last spring is running riot and now takes up almost a sixth of the box it's in.  I found some curled parsley and fernleaf dill starts, and those are settling in nicely, although the three different varieties of basil are trying to stay alive.  One Swiss chard start from the spring is not only still alive, but thriving.  A nice big leaf that broke off last week made some tasty omelettes.  Most of the spinach starts are making an honest effort, despite insect damage that also hit the green sweet basil pretty hard.  The purple and spicy globe basil plants are untouched so far (knock on wood!).
  • It is official: I am hosting Thanksgiving this year.  Just the in-laws, as brother-in-law is over in Korea, his wife and their two sons are down with her family, and Grandma will not be dining.  Since Uno the GLW full capon is not inclined to nanny chicks, he'll be the bird of honor for the meal.  I'll even be sure to serve him on the china platter I picked up last year at Pomona Park's "Everyone's Having a Yard Sale" weekend (which I skipped this year).
  • We planned to move Uno to the isolation crate, but that was quickly changed when I saw one of the pied guineas getting pecked.  Neither of us know what started it, but the poor thing has lost feathers on its back and right wing.  I tried putting Blu-Kote on it, but then the little stinker got loose and we both had to chase it into the iso crate, so I'll try again after dark.
  • We have a nice cool spell, and all I can think is, "Man if I still had my good pain pill, I could get SO MUCH done!"  As it is, VA took them from nearly everyone, and it's a high bar to get them back, so I'll just have to be content with what I can do without it.
  • Two cockerels slaughtered this morning, another two tomorrow morning, then the last two from Luanne hopefully Friday, leaving Nipper and Brother, Feyd's test-breeding sons - for the weekend.  I need grow-out space now.
  • Did the 4-week weigh-in for the Wyandotte chicks.  One pullet is lagging that far behind, and either had an injury or a neurological defect, and so needs to be culled.  I need to crunch numbers and play with basic statistical functions, not only because it is the geek thing to do, but because I would like to establish a baseline norm and also a cutoff point at four week intervals so I can compare among different batches of chicks.
For the upcoming rainy days, I have canning and baking planned.  Here's hoping.