Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Stew hens!

 In the Coop and Kitchen

The time had come to retire several of Mark's first hens that he bought to start his egg business.  I always knew this day would come and was not looking forward to it.  We did our best to make lemonade out of lemons and held a butchering class for people in the community.  Five people came and learned how to humanely kill, scald, pluck, and eviscerate a chicken.  
Everyone that came to the class got to take 2 stew hens home.  Then, we still had a few left so I put two stew hens in a bag and let them "age" in the cold room for several days before putting into the freezer.  They are for sale now in our online store! 
Next was to figure out how to to cook these ladies.  I have made bone broth several times but never cooked a stew hen.  Since these chickens were almost 3 years old, you can't just roast, bake or fry them.  The meat would be too tough for that type of cooking.   You have to cook them over low heat with lots of liquid - to stew them.  As muscles get older, they develop lots of connective tissue so the long slow cooking time is needed to break that tissue down, which in turn flavors the broth.  I decided to try two different methods of cooking.  

Method 1 is the Instant Pot:  I put one stew hen in a instant pot, added carrots, celery, and onion,  4 quarts of water and a splash of apple cider vinegar then pressure cooked it for 90 minutes.  I basically followed the information in this post: How To Cook Stewing Hens In Pressure Cooker  I did not add the spices that were featured in this blog post.  I like to keep the chicken broth neutral and add spices when I use it in a recipe.

Method 2 is the Crock Pot:  For the crock pot method, I just put the stew hens in the crock pot like I do when I make chicken broth from bones.  I put them in the crock pot (I was able to get 2 stew hens in the crock pot) and added celery, carrots and onion.   Another important thing that I included in both methods was a tablespoon of vinegar.  This helps to get some of the minerals out of the bones. 
I turned the crock pot on low and let it go overnight.
I strained off the broth and then let the hens cool down so I could pull the meat off the bones.  I got almost 2 cups of meat from one hen.  One thing I noticed is that the dark meat was very dark and the fat was very yellow!  While stewing hen meat is a little chewier, not as plump and juicy as young chicken, it has SOOOO much more flavor.
I chopped up the meat and used it to make enchiladas and they were great!  Since I had done 3 stew hens, I even had some extra meat that I put into the freezer to use in maybe a taco soup later this winter.
Here is a pic of the chicken enchiladas!  
I wanted to include a couple more links to information about cooking stew hens that I found useful:
How to Cook a Stewing Hen - this blog has links to some recipes on how to use the meat

After pulling off all the meat, I put the bones back into the crock pot and added some chicken feet (yes, I saved a few feet...they are GREAT for making broth) and let it go again over night.  I ended up canning up about 15 quarts of broth!
I prefer to the crock pot method.  Most likely because I am used to making bone broth using this method.  The instant pot is clearly faster but I don't mind waiting and the house smells amazing!
This is a great way to honor these ladies for the years of service that they provided.  We appreciate their service to Mark's egg business!

Have an eggcellent day!

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