When people search for humane chicken their minds usually focus on one thing, access to the outdoors aka is it free range or pasture raised? The thing is that this doesn’t actually matter all that much when looking at the big picture. If you start with a genetically unhealthy animal then raising it outdoors will do little to improve its life. I’d much rather eat a genetically healthy chicken raised in a barn than a badly bred free range bird. Taking what are called hybrids and raising them naturally is the equivalent of planting a GMO seed of corn in an organic field and calling it organic… it just doesn’t make sense.
I only eat heritage poultry. Unfortunately this makes it real hard to keep kosher because there is no commercial kosher heritage chicken or turkey available anywhere on earth so I have to kill and process everything I want to eat. About a year ago I wrote a post about the sheer exhaustion that processing my own meat was causing me and that despite the fact that at first it was empowering at this point it's just become exhausting. Not much has changed in the way of commercial birds since I wrote Ethical Convenience but I’ve been determined to find a more convenient way to eat poultry ethically ever since. I spent nearly a year planning and all my hard work came to fruition with a successful shechita run in August. I killed and processed 30 birds in less than a quarter of the time it took me to do only 15 birds in the past. I even felt happy and energized afterwards. What I learned not only helped spare me energy but can also make producing local kosher poultry, a dream of many that still lies unfulfilled in the U.S., a reality.
I spent last Sunday at the Good Shepard Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, Kansas performing my 3rd annual fall heritage turkey harvest. People are used to buying turkey any time of year, but heritage turkeys mate naturally and are consequently restricted to doing so only during their late winter breeding season. After hatching in the spring, the birds grow for eight months and are ready for slaughter just in time for, you guessed it, Thanksgiving. I also spent the day processing several heritage chickens, including some older breeder hens, which gave a lot of rich, yellow chicken fat that I rendered into shmaltz. I even saved the feet and made 12 quarts of delicious poultry stock. To celebrate the harvest, I invited a few friends over for an “organ party,” where we grilled up some hearts and livers from the slaughter, yum! Just two weeks ago, my 10cf freezer was almost empty, but now it is just about two thirds full. Being able to do this all myself is very rewarding, but I also can’t begin to describe how much work it takes and how truly mentally and physically exhausting it all is. When I started doing shechita I wanted to be connected to my meat no matter what the hassle, but after almost three years, I admit, I would love sometimes to go the store and buy some meat like everybody else.
Writing this series has me on quite a journey. We've talked about so many of the elements that go into making a truly incredible chicken soup: the fat, the feet, the organs, the age... and most importantly the blood. I hope you've learned as much as me, so with no further ado enjoy the recipe!
Heritage Chicken Soup
Prep time: 1-2 hours
Cook time: 8- 10 hours
1 whole 4-6 lb heritage stewing chicken including the feet, gizzard, heart and neck - (if you source smaller 2-3 pound hens than you can use 2 birds)
2-4 tablespoons schmaltz (add more or less shmaltz depending on how fat your chicken is)
1 big bag of fresh or frozen vegetable scraps - such as onion skins & ends, carrot peels, celery leaves & buts, leek tops etc..
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 medium yellow onions - quartered
1 head of garlic - 1/2 peeled and the other half minced
3/4 pound carrots - roughly chopped into large pieces
3/4 pound celery - roughly chopped into large pieces
3/4 pound cauliflower - roughly chopped (optional, adds thickness to the soup)
1 1/2 pound russet potatoes -peeled and halved or quartered
3/4 pound parsnip or celery root - peeled and roughly chopped into large pieces
1 head of fresh parsley - minced
1 pinch of dried thyme
Your choice of fresh herbs, I personally enjoy thyme or dill (optional)
A few cups of fully cooked noodles or rice (optional)
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste (optional)
They say that “blood runs thicker than water”; well, in the case of poultry, it also runs deeper than feed or environment. While most feel secure in the animal welfare standards of organic and pasture-raised poultry, they don’t realize that the single most important thing one should consider when buying chicken or turkey is the bloodlines these animals come from. Should you buy hybrids or heritage? If you want to make the world’s best chicken soup, there’s only one way to go.
About the blog:
Welcome to The Kosher Omnivore's Quest! My old blog on kosher slaughter, kosher meat, and animal welfare. For new content check out my new website, The Kosher Cut™. There you'll find: blog posts about shechita and related topics, educational slaughter presentations, kosher slaughter training, and a selection of high quality professional kosher slaughter equipment.