This summer we will be offering chicken processed in an old fashioned way. We are dedicated to breeding and raising the Rose Comb Ancona Chicken. It is an endangered breed, and one that has so much history and potential, it would be a shame to lose it. We procured our original stock from Yellow House Farm, and have bred them for a couple years. This year we will be hatching a large number, in the hopes we will be able to select a top notch flock of egg girls for the coming year.
In breeding, at least with poultry there is a rule of 10. For every 10 birds hatched 1 will be great. The other 9 will be okay to good, but for the most part 1 in 10 will be great. If you want a flock of 12 great hens, you need to hatch at least 120 birds, and maybe more because you are hatching males, too. But you get the idea. To improve the flock you need to hatch a lot more birds than you need.
On a homestead or small farm, trying to house 100-150 birds for 6 months could be challenging, in regards to space. This is where spatchcocking comes in. To spatchcock is to butterfly a chicken. When you butcher, you remove the back bone of the bird, which give you easier access to the offal on a small size bird.
The benefit to the homestead or small farm, is that this can be done when a heritage bird is about 13 weeks old. So just as it’s starting to need more space and the testosterone would be kicking in creating a chorus of crowing prepubescent roosters in your yard, you are harvesting. The Ancona is especially well developed for this style of butchery because of it’s early maturity, so the meat has started to form well at the age of 13 weeks. A bird at that age weighs about 2.5 pounds, dressed. We find one bird to be just about perfect for our family of 4, and you could probably feed 5, if you were creative.
The benefit to spatchcocking from a kitchen perspective, is the fact you can grill or cook at high temps a heritage chicken! Many people sacrifice the faster cooking techniques in favor of using a “proper chicken”. When a bird is 6 months old the muscles are well developed and they need to be allowed to cook slowly, and depending on the age, with enough moisture, so the muscles do not constrict and become tough. Because the spatchcock bird is so young, it’s muscles are still very flexible. This means you can cook them hot and fast! Grilling, broiling, frying, are all great techniques for the spatchocked chicken. The fact it doesn’t have a backbone allows it lay flat, making the breast and legs about the same thickness for consistent cooking. It is layed flat with a leg and a wing/breast on each side, looking something like a butterfly.
We will be offering Spatchcock Ancona Cockerels this summer. I cooked one, from last summer, tonight, and I can’t wait for a freezer full of them! So tender, ready in 45 minutes and so delicious!
On to the recipe:
Spatchcock Ancona Chicken with Bacon, on a bed of thinly sliced onions and minced garlic.
- 1 Spatchcock Ancona 2.5lb
- 4 Slices of bacon
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Place garlic and onions in the pan, lay chicken (skin side up) over the onions and garlic, top with 4 slices of bacon. I put a little lard in the pan with the onions.
Place in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the bacon and chicken skin are crisp, and the meat is to temp (165-170 degrees).
Plating the Spatchock Ancona with Bacon on a bed of onions and garlic:
I cut the chicken into 4 pieces, 2 thighs and 2 breast/wings. Side dish: Thinly sliced potatoes roasted in a pan with salt/pepper and lard/butter/duckfat, or other traditional fat. Roast for about 35 minutes until cooked and slightly crispy. Place chicken on plate, spoon potatoes, followed by onions and garlic from the chicken pan. Dice bacon, and sprinkle on top. Garnish with fresh, local greens or micro greens.
Sources for this delicious dinner:
- Iva Swaine Homestead – Microgreens, Spatchcock Ancona
- New Roots Farm – Bacon
- Nippo Brook Farm – Onions, Lard
- Root Cellar – Potatoes
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