Ah, spring. The temperatures have finally climbed above the finger-numbing range so I took it upon myself to off a few supernumerary roosters on Sunday.
It seems that March through June is such a fraught time around the place, so much so that I awake at night with worries of “did I do that already? ohgah when am I going to find the time to do X time-intensive, necessary farm task?” and it’s tasks like killing roosters that I put off and put off again and again. Usually, things need to rise to near crisis level (read: they’ve begun fighting) for me to really jump into action. Let’s face it: Chores like cleaning out the chicken coop or putting up a new fence, however distasteful, beat chicken killing any day. But it’s come to that with these birds. Spring means rooster testosterone flows just as readily as chlorophyll in the grass or lutenizing hormone in the egg chickens.
Life became a lot more cushy for this farmgirl when I found a local butcher to do in my critters for me. Fifteen chickens takes him two hours, whereas five chickens nearly kills me and shoots my whole day (it takes me four hours, plus recovery for my feather-plucking fingers). At $2.50 a bird, it beats the heck out of what I bill an hour, and even math-averse me can see that Mike’s skills, though cheap, are priceless. But I won’t bring him these eight-month-old little bantam roosters. It’s not worth his time!
Two of the birds went to the freezer, but the last went into a wonderful mild soup called Cock-a-leekie…it’s a Scottish dish. It’s traditionally prepared with the losing roo in a cockfight, actually! Perhaps this boy didn’t lose a cockfight, but he lost the game of numbers…a farm only needs a tiny number of roosters. Caput kaput, which makes me snort.
Cock-a-Leekie: I harvest a good pound or more each of leeks and carrots out of the outdoor garden, grab a huge hank of thyme from the herb garden and scrounge up celery leaves, parsley, scallions and chervil from the greenhouse. The rooster, gutted, headless and footless, is in a heavy pot with hot salted water to cover; I start braising him at the barest boil while I prepare the veggies and herbs. After about an hour, I take the meat off the carcass, pan-sear the leeks and a handful of pearled barley in some butter and then put the leek/barley mixture, meat, bouquet garni (thyme, chervil, parsley tied w/ string), chopped carrots and celery back in the broth pot to cook another hour or so until the carrots are softened…adding spices to taste. Traditionally served with prunes, this soup is sweet enough without them thanks to the winter-grown leeks and carrots, methinks. Thanks, little annoying rooster!