On Tuesday, we went to start processing chickens at 8:30 a.m. but the bottleneck in our system has always been how long it takes the water to heat up for a good scald before putting the birds in the plucker for a clean pluck.
I did chores and did some work in the green house. Jenifer bleached and sanitized every nook and cranny in the processing area. Still at noon, the water was only 145 degrees, the minimum to scald. We started anyway because we had a long-time customer picking up 10 birds in less than two hours.
We were spending 10-plus minutes a bird just pulling feathers that did not come off in the scald. It was a big pain but we got the chickens ready before the customer arrived.
After she got her order, the scald water was up to 155 degrees and we finished the other 34 birds in two hours. We had quickly realized when we started that we had left out one very important step. In the past, we had always brought hot tap water from the house in 5 gallon buckets to fill the scalder but on Tuesday morning, we used cold water from the hose. What we ended up doing was having to raise the temperature of about 40 gallons of water from 58 degrees to 150.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
We have a method. I kill, scald, and pluck the chickens and Jenifer eviscerates them. I start eviscerating as soon as the last chicken comes out of the plucker. After they sit on ice overnight and we cut up and process them, Jenifer cuts up the chickens and and I weigh, make labels, and vacuum pack them.
On Wednesday, Jenifer left me in the processing shed on my own. She had to pick up Ellie and Levi from school, go by the bank and our tax accountant, go pick up chicken and pig feed, and pick up our weekly gallon of raw certified organic milk (for pet use only). She left me with 4 cut-up chickens to vacuum pack and after that, I had to start cutting them up myself.
I would like to think I am capable of cutting up a chicken.
But I ended up packing and labeling about one-third of my cuts for home use.
Dean Mullis writes from Laughing Owl Farm in Richfield; email@example.com.