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Recently I purchased a 40 pound box of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The chicken came in four bags of 10 pounds each, and this is what I did with it…
(drum roll, please)
With the first bag of chicken, I sliced the breasts into planks and soaked them in marinade. My dear hubby, Ray, then smoked the chicken planks before grilling them to perfection. Once they had cooled a bit, I placed them on waxed paper and slid them into the freezer. An hour or so later, when they were frozen, I used my Food Saver (aka “sucky machine”) to package them into meal sized portions. We have done this many times before and really enjoy using this chicken sliced onto salads or mixed into pasta. Because of the smoked/grilled flavor and spicy marinade, it’s also great shredded in tacos and enchiladas, or used to make southwestern chicken chili or soup. Of course, it’s really good just eaten as is – you don’t even need to reheat – just thaw and enjoy!
While Ray was grilling, I took another ten pound bag, sliced the breasts into cubes, then packed them into pint sized canning jars. After adding plain ole’ water with a generous 1 inch headspace, I wiped the rims with vinegar (to make sure there wasn’t any grease, which could prevent a proper seal) placed the lids and rings finger tight, and pressure canned them for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. I opted not to add salt because this chicken would be used for cooking and/or baking, at which time I would add the appropriate amount of salt. The canned chicken can be used to make pasta dishes, ravioli fillings, chicken tacos, chicken soup – the list goes on and on! The best part about canning chicken is that no further energy is needed to preserve it once it is properly canned! If you will be pressure canning at an elevation above 1,000 feet, please follow current guidelines for processing time and pressures. You can get that information here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_05/chicken_rabbit.html
Next, I prepared the rest of the chicken breasts for freezing whole. There wasn’t really much to do except cut the two halves apart, and place them on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet to flash freeze. I used four cookie sheets to do this because it’s important that the chicken doesn’t freeze together. Also, the air space between the breasts helps to freeze them quicker. I did cut off that weird nugget piece that goes under the wing of the chicken, and any fat on the chicken, and saved these pieces to make chicken stock. Once frozen, they were individually placed into Ziploc Bags and vacuum sealed. This ensures freshness for at least six months, usually longer. Our’s won’t last that long because chicken is our favorite meat protein.
The bits, pieces and parts that were trimmed off the breasts were slow roasted for several hours (to get that wonderful flavor), then dumped into a large pot of cold water and stored in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I skimmed off the fat that was floating on the top of the water, and then simmered for several hours with carrots, onions, garlic, salt, pepper and one bay leaf. The broth was strained (reserving the chicken meat) and returned to the heat to reduce until it was a beautiful amber color. I let the broth reduce to about half the volume I started with because this really intensifies the flavor. The broth was strained once more as it was ladled into pint sized canning jars, then pressure canned for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure to preserve it’s goodness. I live lower than 1,000 feet in elevation, so 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure are sufficient to stop botulism in it’s track for me. If you live at a higher elevation, please see the current recommendations for processing time and pressure for your area. Again, you can read about the current processing times and recommendations on this website: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_05/chicken_rabbit.html
The final tally from 40 pounds of chicken:
15 bags of marinated smoked and grilled chicken strips, each bag consisting of 5 to 6 planks (which is 2 meal sized portions – perfect for hubby and I)
8 pints of pressure canned chicken breast chunks.
14 frozen whole chicken breasts.
4 pints of canned reduced chicken broth (plus one half pint which is in my refrigerator)
2 cups of shredded chicken from the trimmings used to make the broth. Chicken enchiladas, anyone?
“Zaycon Foods is a privately owned company based in Spokane, Washington. The company was founded in 2009 with the simple mission to bring farm fresh meats direct to consumers at wholesale prices. You see, we knew all the farmers who had the best stuff around. Thanks to our experience in the grocery industry, we knew how to quickly move that great stuff from point to point, preserving its freshness, taste, and nutrition. So we asked ourselves: “Why are there middlemen involved? Why aren’t we just getting this food directly from the farms to the people who are going to eat it?” That idea grew into the company we are today. When we started off just a few short years ago, we offered only a few meats in a few areas. But thanks to the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response we’ve gotten from all of you, Zaycon has grown like wildfire!”
That sounded pretty good to me, but I am a skeptic, so I decided to try it out by buying just one forty pound box of boneless, skinless chicken. I paid $1.89 pound, which is a very good price where I live here in Northern California. Zaycon calls the delivery of their food an “event”, and there are “events” all over the place! All I had to do was arrive at a certain parking lot in my city between 5 and 5:30 PM on the specified date. Easy enough.
I was amazed to see just how simple the whole process was. Ordering was easy. Then, on the appointed day, we got in the line-up of cars (we were #4) and in just a few minutes we were at the front of the line. The gentleman asked us our last name, confirmed that we had bought one box, and forty pounds of chicken was placed into the trunk of our car. It took less than 10 minutes and we were already on our way home.
When I got the chicken home and inspected it…
Holy moly! Heavens to Mergatroyd!
These breasts were huge! And to be honest, I had never seen chicken breasts sold like this before, still attached to the other breast! I was also pleased to see that there was very little fat clinging onto the breasts. When I opened the bag containing the chicken, the odor wasn’t at all like the odor ofl store bought chicken. Ah ha… so this is what fresh chicken is supposed to smell like!!
Will I use Zaycon Foods again? Yes! YES! This was the best chicken I have ever purchased in my life – seriously! Cross my heart!
The next “event” in my town that I will be ordering from will be the bacon event. I have to be careful not to buy too much, because my freezer space will be limited when we move up to the future homestead (hopefully soon!). But, this will give me a chance to try canning bacon! To me, having to buy in bulk is really the only disadvantage of buying from Zaycon… You see, 40 pounds is the smallest box of chicken breasts that they sell. That being said, having customers buy in bulk is exactly how they are able to keep prices so low – which is okay for me because I am able to can some and freeze some. However, sharing the cost of a box or two and then processing the meat with friends sounds like an excuse for a party!
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