Plucking poultry is a slow job for me compared to the efficiency of farm folk a century or more ago so today I will share a few thoughts on what many will find a repulsive practice. If the reader is such a one, easily offended by a discussion of preparing one’s own food, please take note and decide whether to read further. Our property is not a petting zoo, it is a fully functioning small farm operating primarily through knowledge gained in century old farm books and journals with heritage breed poultry that dress out like that of great grandma, not the mass produced, pale, store-bought variety.
For the unfamiliar, let’s note that plucking, or picking, is the process of removing the feathers from freshly killed fowl in preparation for cooking or freezing. There are two methods: dry plucking, and plucking after scalding in hot water (between 145 to 160 degrees).
“Dry plucking is possible only when the fowls are killed in such a way that the tissues of the skin are left in a relaxed condition and thus offer but little resistance to the removal of the feathers. The dry plucking, however, must be done immediately after the fowl has been killed and before the body heat has left the carcass. . . .”
“Plucking after scalding is practiced extensively throughout the rural districts where the greater portion of all poultry is killed by severing the head with a hatchet. Plucking after scalding is made necessary by the crude methods of killing employed…Their feathers will come off much more easily than in the method of dry plucking; in fact, their feathers will come off by handfuls, and in some instances can be rubbed off by the fingers…Scalded poultry will not keep so well in cold storage [not frozen] as dry-plucked poultry, and hence is not usually selected for cold-storage purposes unless it is particularly well prepared for market”.
I will dispense with the various ways of dispensing the birds and concentrate on the plucking and dressing. “Do not wait until the fowl becomes cold before you commence plucking, or even to stop fluttering, as they are perfectly numb. It is impossible to dry pick them after they become cold. Begin by pulling the light feathers and tail, then the breast and so on until perfectly clean. Do not leave any pin feathers, as nothing so destroys the appearance. Do not singe the fine feathers, as is often done, as it gives the skin an oily appearance. As soon as you are through plucking wash the blood from the head and the dirt from the shank and feet. When through, lay on dry table to cool.”
“In plucking fowls, the feathers should be drawn out of the skin in the direction opposite to that in which they lie naturally. Thus, if the fowl is hanging head down, the feathers are pulled down toward the head…”
“Directly after the feathers are plucked, all pinfeathers and long hairs should be removed from the plucked surface, so as to leave the carcass perfectly clean and smooth. The pinfeathers can be removed either with the thumb and finger or with the blade of a knife held against the thumb. The hairs are usually removed by singeing.
“The exact length of time to hold a fowl in hot water is a matter of judgment, which can be gained only by actual experience in dipping poultry. More care should be taken in dipping young fowls than in dipping older birds, as the skin of young fowls will scald or cook much sooner than the skin of more mature fowls. Plunging the body of the fowl into cold water immediately after it is taken from the hot water will materially lessen the danger of cooking the skin to a harmful extent.”
Dressing one’s own poultry may or may not be a precursor to a successful dinner for every reader, however, for those like myself that appreciate the old ways as good ways, perhaps you learned a thing or two from this post. I leave you, as always, with good wishes and blessings for Blissful Meals.©
Bib: Report, Vol. 1, by Ontario Dept. of Agriculture. 1897.
International Correspondence Schools. “Poultry Houses”.