November 18, 2012

Slaughtering our Turkeys

Feathers mark the spot. It wasn't as awful as we imagined, and for me, it touched a nostalgic note, as we raised and killed these birds on the same soil, in the exact same spot where my parents would raise and butcher their own birds from the 1940's until the 1980's, and where my fathers parents raised their birds from 1910 until 1945. Not that I could do this every day, it's true, the first one is the hardest.

If there is one single thing I've realized about trying to be more conscious about where our food comes from, is simply this - raising your own food is crazy hard. Just slaughtering ( as sanely and respectfully as we could) our own home-raise, free range heritage-breed turkeys, as well as a couple of geese for Christmas, took an entire day. A day which required recovery for our sore backs from the heavy plucking, plucking and more plucking, let alone the gutting, cleanup and butchering.

Then, there was the plucking.

...but first, the dirty deed.

(I will spare you all the graphic details, but in case you are interested - click on the MORE button below, for  narrative (yet edited and bloodless ) images.

Wayne Park, who works with at hasbro as a Nerf product designer, was recruited to do the dirty deed since he is not only a hunter, but insane enough to find the task exciting. Without his help, I don't think we could have followed through this first time. Joe reacted here, but he actually killed his two goose which he raised ( the ones our late dog Margaret actually raised from gooselings last summer).

Where is Sarah Palin when you need her?
The heritage breed turkeys were then.....well, you know. We kept three alive for eggs, a tom and two hens. 

The 3 toms are a cross between our native wild American Turkey found in our forests here in the eastern US,which become a crossed-breed commonly known as Narragansett. The other breed we killed were two Bronze Breasted turkeys.

The chickens, turkeys and ducks all watched with curiosity, often picking at parts which fell, and would steal feathers to play with them. 
A quick dunk into boiling water makes the feathers easier to pluck out, but the geese proved to be more difficult since they were not only oily, but full of goose down. Who would have thunk!

A very Audubonesque Chinese White Goose, which will be the center piece roast for Christmas day dinner.

Yeah, me at 10 in the exact, same spot plucking chickens.

In the end, we found the entire experience profoundly tolerable. Gutting was easy, butchering poultry albeit not pleasant, it was not awful, perhaps because I remembered doing it as a child many times. Our friend Jess came to be "near" the event, but as a strict vegetarian, stayed far away from the action in the kitchen where she sketched cookie cutter shapes using my turkey salt and pepper collection as reference. She said that it reinforced her vegetarianess a bit more, but she did come out to view some of the aftermath, and confirmed that the amazing coral color of the lungs was indeed the Pantone color of the year last year.

1 comment :

  1. Well done. We've recently started raising rabbits for meat, we're now in the process of trying to breed them (which is much more difficult than one might think). But once we're successful the litter will be born in a month then they'll be butchered at three months. We're new to this whole thing and we're not looking forward to it, but we are looking forward to having the healthy, nutritious meat that you can only guarantee by raising your own.

    (FYI Mike Brown, who was the little brother of your friend, told me about your blog. I write a similar blog here in the Seattle WA area.)


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