There they are: 38 newly processed chickens, freezing solid in the chest freezer (39 minus the one we took to roast fresh). It’s the last stop before the table on what was a pretty fine meat bird run.
Like everything else on the tiny farm (and in life in general!), when you get down to freezing chickens, there are the details. What I noticed this year is the amount time it takes to actually freeze chickens solid. This wasn’t quite as apparent last year, when we started with under 20 processed birds. Here, checking out the new freezer’s manual, I loosely followed the advice against freezing too much at once. I put in half, around 20 chickens, for a few hours, then added the rest. I’ve also been rotating them—they freeze faster when they’re exposed—but after a day, they’re not all rock hard.
I have it in mind that the faster you freeze stuff, the better it is when you thaw it out: firmer, not mushy. Something about smaller ice crystals doing less cellular damage. Sounds plausible to me!
Luckily, the chickens came heavily pre-chilled from the processing house. Processing your own in any sort of quantity, I imagine you need a fair bit of refrigerator space to cool them down, or a walk-in cooler, or lots of chest freezers. Another thing to look into for…the future!
Of course, the whole freezing thing is another puzzle. It’s quick and easy, and works really well for all kinds of food. Newer chest freezers seem quite energy efficient: this 15 cu ft one uses 400 kWh a year, which is like keeping a 60W lightbulb on for 9 months (at current electricity rates around here, that’s about $50). Doesn’t sound so bad, and there’s room for lots more in there. Still, we’re trusting a lot to yet another plug…
FINALLY, there’s the sticker, another fine feature of commercially-processed chicken. The meat is Ontario government-inspected (a provincial inspector is always on-site, that’s the law), which is indicated by a little logo on the label. Plus you get the date, weight down to two decimal places of precision, AND a price-per-pound of your choice. I picked $4. These birds are for our own use—not for sale—but it’s always fun pulling out an EXPENSIVE farm chicken for dinner, as long as it’s priced kinda within reason…
9 thoughts on “Chickens, frozen”
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*confused* Why wouldn’t you just throw the lot of them into the freezer and be done with it? And let them freeze on their own? Did you have limited freezer space? If you did then where did they all go when they were rock solid? Where was the half sitting when the other half was in the freezer for a few hours?
Was it expensive to get the chickens processed?
I’m considering doing some meat chickens next year, but the family isn’t too jazzed up about the slaughter and cleaning process, and as much as I’m jonesing for home-grown chicken, I think that it’s too big a job to do on my own.
Read last years chicken story to get an idea of cost.
Just keeping the birds in a tap water bath (usually 50 degrees if you’re pulling from a deep well) while you work on plucking the other ones gets a good jump start on cooling them down. Change the water every couple hours.
If you’re concerned about unreliable power, a chest freezer full of frozen stuff, and well insulated, will stay below freezing for quite a while if the power goes off, and if you’re concerned more generally about grid dependence, there are high efficiency ones you can run quite happily from a small solar panel (will freeze things more slowly though — keeping things cold only takes as much power as the heat leakage rate, making things cold always takes the same amount of energy, and the rate at which you can pump the heat out is limited by the power input), or you can use a kerosene/propane or other flame driven phase change refrigeration — there are even solar versions that use a fresnel lens to vaporize the refrigerant (not commercialized though). If you live somewhere that freezes hard in the winter, it’s also possible to create an earth-sheltered high-thermal-mass, thermally isolated (in the summer) north-facing root cellar that can keep a significant amount of material below freezing all year long, without any external energy inputs.
That reminds me–I always thought it was a bit redundant to have to freeze stuff inside a warm house in the middle of winter…I wondered if it was possible to design the fridge/kitchen so it could be exposed to outside cold air to save energy, but don’t know if anyone’s done that. You could move the fridge into the garage in winter I guess…maybe that’s the best solution….
Just wondering why you didn’t process the birds yourself if it was only for your own use? Less stress on the birds, less cost, more control on quality… why go with a processor?
I hope that you didn’t just toss all those chickens in the freezer all at once to freeze… It could take days, sometimes even weeks for meat at the center of the pile to freeze. They should be frozen as quickly as possible for best quality. Usually placed on metal wire shelving with a small muffin fan to circulate air, cranking the freezer to maximum cold for a few days.
I worked in a place where they have a walk in freezer, about 16×8 feet, one wall of the freezer solid fans and condensers. It could take the temperature down to 48 below zero F. in just thirty minutes. All food would be trundled in on open wheeled racks. It could freeze several tons of food solid in just eight hours.
During the summer you could go from a sweltering kitchen to a freezer that would literally freeze the sweat on my face in seconds.