On a farm in 1960’s America you processed your own food. We grew and canned our own vegetables. Fruit would be bought by the crate and be “put up” into quart glass jars and stored in the cool cellar. We made our own jams and jellies, and the breads they were put on. We even grew our own meat, but we did not process all of it ourselves.
In the small town nearest our farm there was Carlson’s Meat Market–our local butcher shop. Every fall we would send some of the animals from our farm to them to be processed into meat. We would send a beef steer and a hog. However, chickens on the farm were processed by us.
Before I attended school, and I started first grade at age five, I helped with the process of butchering chickens. The process actually started in the spring when we would get our baby chicks from the grain elevator guy in town. We would get at least 100 chicks. They were to be all male chicks.
The little yellow chicks were so cute and grew very fast. They would come to us as day old chicks, just little bundles of soft fluff. Within a couple of weeks they would be several inches tall and completely feathered out.
Once they were feathered out, the door to the brooder house (chicken coop for baby chicks) was opened and they were allowed to roam the farm freely all summer.
Chicken harvesting took place in the fall. Even though the chicks were to be all male, there were always a couple of hens in the group. The hens were given an official reprieve and separated out to become egg laying hens.
Of all of the jobs I ever did on the farm, this is the one I hated the most. I hated the dispatching of the chickens, the smells of blood and wet feathers and the sounds of the whole operation. However, if you want to eat chicken, it was work that had to be done.
We all had our job assignments. Dad, my uncle and the older boy cousins killed the chickens with a hatchet. The younger boys carried the lifeless birds across the lawn and gave them to one of the mom’s at the scalding station. Here the birds were dipped into boiling water to loosen the feathers. Next, it was me and the other younger kids turns…we were the feather pluckers. After we had all of the feathers plucked out, the birds were given to one of the older cousins to remove the innards.
After the birds were gutted (being sure to retain the delicacies of the heart, liver and gizzard) and cleaned (the gizzard had to be cleaned separately by cutting it open and removing all the sand, gravel and grain), they went to the quality control station which was always manned by one of our moms. Here the bird was held over a Miracle Whip jar lid filled with lit alcohol to burn off any remaining pin feathers or hairs from the skin. At this time the bird was also checked to see that it was completely clean inside. Once it had passed all of the quality control inspections its legs and feet would be cut off and the bird would go into a freezer bag.
While whole process usually only took a day, the nightmares lasted for years.
Some years we would process more birds than we could use and then we would take them into Carlson’s Meat Market and they would buy them. I will never forget when I was in high school and my dad asked me to haul a bunch of cleaned chickens into Carlson’s to sell. He told me to be sure to get $3.00 each for those chickens.
When I arrived in town in front of their store old man Carlson came out to check out our chickens. Just at that moment, a fellow pulling a camper with a big Suburban van pulled in behind my vehicle. It was immediately obvious to both Mr. Carlson and I that he was a city fellow as his clothes were clean, color coordinated and his pants were so short his knees showed.
He explained that he had just driven all the way out from Minneapolis and was headed to a cabin for a week of vacation. He asked if those were really farm raised fresh chickens that I had.
I said that they were. He then said, “I will give you $10 a piece for those chickens.” To which I immediately responded, “Why would you pay $10 for $3 chickens?”
That is how I got the nickname $3 chicken. Sometimes it’s tough to live in a small town, obey your parents and be that painfully honest with absolutely no concept of capitalism.
Crispy $3 Chicken
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 chicken, cut up
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 cups of slightly crushed corn flakes
In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine melted butter, garlic, paprika and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until combined. Put corn flake crumbs on a flat plate.
Dip the chicken pieces into the melted butter mixture, then coat with the corn flack crumbs.
Place in a foil lined shallow pan. I use a 10 X 15 inch bar pan. Bake uncovered for one hour until done. Do not turn!