Sunday, January 10, 2016

Turkey Butchering for Thanksgiving

This year we had a turkey butchering frolic on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
We had a wonderful time with the family and friends who came to help us.

The winners of life's lotteries- the ones selected for breeding stock.
 We hatched all but the senior tom ourselves this spring.  They did really well.  They free-range all over our property grazing and catching bugs. The bourbon reds are a heritage breed. They are Thomas's project.

The broad breasted turkeys are always out grazing, except for the morning of butchering.  It is less stressful for them to stay contained rather than chasing them around and trying to catch them.  That has happened a few times.  The young boys seem to like when that happens, but it's not the best for the birds, so we try and avoid chasing.

It seems the initial killing station is the place everyone wants to gather.  I prefer the garage, unless I am taking pictures.

 The dead birds are hauled over to the plucking station.  

The plucking station is often a hold up as you have to maintain the water temperature to scald the birds before you put them in the plucker.  We use a version of the "Whiz-bang" plucker that Paul built.  It works well for both chickens and turkeys.

 We take the feet off the turkeys before they go into the plucker, as they can get caught in the bottom ring and can result in broken legs.

Victoria gave a demonstration on how to properly eviscerate a turkey to all the first-time helpers and those who felt they needed a review.  Turkeys are a little different than chickens.  They do require more strength to complete, but there is more room to work on the inside.

Since the temperature outside was chilly, we used heaters in the garage.  Marbles came into warm himself up as well.  Cats love a warm spot.  Marbles is now 21 years old.  He still is an active mouser.  Not bad for an old guy!

We have a very skilled QC area (Quality Control).  The birds are given a very careful going over to make sure every feather and inside has been removed.  I love it when people come back to us and say that they heave never bought a cleaner bird.

Sanitation is a big part of the process as well.  Cutting boards and knives are given a thorough cleaning between every turkey.  We use hydrogen peroxide in spray bottles and our Norwax cloths in hot soapy water.  

The finished birds are weighed and given a good chilling in ice water.

Mikayla- Thomas's former debate partner

You never know who will show up at a butchering frolic....

We spend a lot of time preparing for the butchering day.  A big part of our preparation is food for all the helpers.  We made big pans of enchilladas,  butternut squash soup, and several varieties of fruit cobblers. Feeding your help well, makes for happy workers.

Little ones are taken care of by an older sister.   She keeps the children occupied with the legos and other toys we still have around.  She also helps with getting the food heated up for lunch.

The butchering was accomplished quickly and our friends even helped with raking the yard. That was a really big help to us.

Happy kids

After dinner the now chilled turkeys are bagged and the ones to be cut up are cut up.

All the weights were recorded with their numbers on a BIG piece of cardboard so that we can select the right sized bird fo each customer.

A big thank-you to the yard crew!

As everything was finished being bagged,  the clean-up began and our butchering day was over. It was another successful workday.  We did 30 broad breasted turkeys and 9 of the Bourbon reds. We have only 3 remaining in the freezer. 1 of the broad breasted and 2 bourbon reds. 

We have loved having the turkey in the freezer.  We enjoy the turkey stock we make from the carcasses, the baked turkey thighs, the stewed turkey legs and the roasted breasts.  So much goodness. Turkeys are so yummy for more than just Thanksgiving!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Mighty Hunter

Our family has done some deer hunting in the past, but we have not had much success with hunting since moving to the farm.  We feed our dog on deer carcasses most of the winter, so we are always on the lookout for free dog food.  Many of our friends who hunt, know this and send us their remains after taking the meat they want off of them.

The three boys, Elizabeth and I went south to a friend's going away party.   As we were driving home at 6:30 at night, we went around the north end of the swamp. There is a wooded hill that comes down to the road.  As we went past the hill, a large deer bounded out in front of us and we struck it squarely as it crossed. I hit the brakes, but it was too late.  The buck's head swung around and hit the side of the car and slid off to the opposite side of the road where he died instantly.

We stopped at once to make sure that our vehicle was OK.  We rarely see police in this area, but within two minutes we had a state patrol pull up behind us.  She asked if we were OK, we were, and then went to make sure the deer was dead, it was.  We asked if we could take the deer with us.  Roadkill is free for the taking with a tag in Ohio.  She wrote us up a deer tag for a FIFTEEN point buck.

The boys dragged it across the road and hefted him into the back of the van.  He was really heavy and it took a lot of heaving to get him there.  We had used the mini-van to take our goat to visit her boyfriend in this car, so the back was ready for  animal hauling.

We hauled the deer home and gutted it... after taking a number of photos.

We left the deer to age in a tree for a few days.

Then Paul and I went to work to butcher it.  Paul helped me get the skin off.  

He used the "golf ball, rope, and car trick to get the skin off.  You take a golf ball and tie a rope around the ball covered with the hide. Then you attach the other end of the rope to a car and gradually reverse the car.

Assuming that one has cut the fur loose along the limbs properly, the hide just peels right off as the car backs up, very slick!  You do have to be careful to not stand opposite the deer during this process, because when the hide comes off the deer rockets forward as it rapidly releases.

I did the rest of the butchering of the deer and processed all the meat.  The buck was most likely about 7-8years old and weighed about 250#.  The meat has been tender and tasty.  We could only use one side of the deer, because the other side was so bruised by the car.  For those who wondered, the car is fine.  We had to replace a headlight and the plastic grill is slightly cracked up, but that was the extent of the damage.  The mini-van is really not worse for the encounter.

Here is the rack of the deer.  The antler is broken off on one side.  It came off when it struck the car.  It had 15 points and 1 dropped tine.  Obviously, it is atypical.  It scored a little over 130.

I have decided that I will not ever have to go deer hunting!  I already have my trophy buck!!!

( My nephew is going to mount the antlers for me. I will post a picture when it is completed.)