Samhain (May 1st) - The Rooster Crows and Crokes...
(Please be aware that this post contains information about killing a rooster to eat, and could upset or offend some people with particular views on such a sensitive topic. Please, if this has potential to offend you, do not read any further. This blog is to document all the learnings in my journey, death and growth all included.)On May 1st, which is Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere (the Celtic day of the dead, the pagan festival of 'all hallows' or 'haloween') I awoke with a fresh sense of independance, freedom and vitality, despite the growing cold. Our household had been planning to take the life of one of our roosters for dinner, as one of our hens hatched a rooster a few months back and we can't have the two competing.
Now, I am not a huge fan of killing animals, but I do get a sense of gratification that I can provide for myself and others when I prepare a meal, whether it be animal or vegetable. It also helps to connect me to the earth, when I can see something living and breathing, and then hours later have it give me some nourishment to sustain my own life. It gives me a sense of appreciation. I don't want to just see meat wrapped in plastic like some lifeless product, I want to actually see what happens for myself, and do it as humanely as possible.
Being the day of the dead, this seemed fitting and allowed me to feel a deeper connection with the surest thing in life: death.
There are many tutorials online, various websites with diagrams and advice, and youtube.com clips. I have helped other people kill poultry, on two occasions, but on this day I was filled with a warrior-like essence of being able to do this by myself for the first time.
I don't know if its like this for everyone, but for me some primal instinct seems to take over and I kind of understand what needs to be done.
I had three big stainless steel pots lined up, one with nothing in, one with near to boiling water and one with cold water. After catching the rooster, sitting with him for a minute and calming him, and then killing him with a sharpened knife (of which I won't go into too much detail for the light hearted) I bleed it into the empty pot, then dunked it into the hot water for a minute or so, then into the cold. This opens up the pores of the skin (and then the cold insures that the skin doesn't burn) so that the feathers are easy to pluck out.
You don't so much pluck as wipe, they will usually wipe off fairly easy, and one of the pieces of advice I can offer is to do the wing feathers first, as these will be the toughest as the skin cools and the pores become smaller.
I then took the bird into the kitchen, and with my sharp knife started the gutting process. This is actually more straight forward than I thought. I will not go into much detail, there are endless websites that will tell you how to do this, but a few things I learned along the way include: being gentle but not timid! The vent has to be cut around properly because then you will get chicken manure everywhere, which, although can be washed off, isn't the nicest thing to have happen! Also, there is only a small slice that needs to be made to fit your hand into in order to gut the animal, not a slice down the front (which is how animals such as rabbits and kangaroos are skinned). Some people may not be so bold, but I like to do the gutting with my hands... its easy to feel your way around and know all the bits you need to tug at and all the other pieces you need to leave intact. Basically, all the internal organs are taken out, and don't be shy to use a little force with this, especially when it comes to removing the esophagus and crop (the bit with all the shellgrit in it that the chickens use to 'chew' their food).
Next I cut some of the neck off (leaving the wishbone!) and stuffed the bird with cloves and oranges, warm spices to welcome the Autumn and coming winter.
I have to say that I was filled with a sense of pride and satisfaction when I sat down to my meal that night, and fed 3 other people too. There is something nourishing about seeing food from the yard on your plate.
I now know that whenever we get too many roosters I can make a wonderful dinner.
I honor the lifeforce which I took in order to sustain my own life, and although part of me battles with my conscious thought of the animal having no choice in the matter, I do thank our wonderful rooster, Midnight, for the sustenance it provided us, and also the experience it gave me. <3