Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Money Saved!

It's been a busy couple of days and (financially) worth me taking a day off writing my blog. But more about yesterday's expedition will be 'rambled' on about tomorrow.

Today am concentrating on the benefits of portioning out fresh chicken ourselves instead of buying pre-packed chicken breasts and joints.
We start with the three chicken delivered the other day (seen in the photo below) these havig worked out at around a £1 cheaper than if I'd bought that "3 for £10 offer", so that was already £1 saved.

The chickens are resting on a stainless steel that that was later used for jointing the birds. The one thing NOT to use when jointing chicken is a plastic mat or board that will end up with slashes in it from various cutting jobs over time. These cuts can hold chicken juices and if not THOROUGHLY washed could be dangerous as bacteria can the be passed onto something else. Metal dishes or ceramic plates (also glass cutting boards) are easily cleaned, therefore safer. I also wear plastic gloves when handling the chicken to prevent my own 'bacteria' from contaminating the flesh.

As each chicken weighed more than 3lb (I'm not into the metrics today), each was of a size to serve four when roasted. So we would expect to get 12 servings from the three birds whether cooked whole or when jointed. It is up to the cook to make chicken meat go as far as possible, and when you see a bird in joints it does help to make us realise how it go further.

In the picture below you (after the three birds had been jointed - and I have to say I made a bit of a hash job of it, leaving quite a lot of meat on the carcases) - you can see the five chicken breasts on the left of the tray, the sixth middle top, and top right is the pile of chicken 'fillets' trimmed from the back of each breast. At the bottom you can see the six chicken wings. The pointed tips from these wings were cut off to be added to the stock. The tips have virtually no flesh but plenty of gelatinous 'stuff' that helps set the stock.
Sometimes I remove the skins from the joints and add these to the stock-pot as they carry enough fat to allow me to skim it from the top of the liquid after chilling in the fridge. Also I sometimes remove the bones from the thighs and drumsticks for the same reason. On the other hand 'cooked on the bone' DOES add extra flavour when cooking any meats, and chicken skin also becomes lovely and crispy when roasted/fried (my B loves this), so this time bones and skin stayed with the joints.

Next picture you see three chicken 'quarters' each having the thigh and leg (aka 'drumstick') still attached. These I prefer to keep whole as they make a good 'roast chicken' meal for B, but I could have divided them into two joints each. Next to them are the remaining three chicken thighs and three drumsticks. On a little saucer top right are the wing tips.

We are then left with the three carcases (seen below). As you can see still plenty scraps of meat left on (looks a lot more than there really is), but that is all to the good as once cooked this flesh can be picked from the bones to make meals in their own right.

Before I move on to the next bit, it's worth mentioning the savings made. I took down the prices of all the various joints (breast, fillets, wings, thighs, drumsticks...) and discovered that it would certainly have cost me AT LEAST twice as much if I'd bought the same breast and joints pre-packaged (and I wouldn't have had the carcases to make stock either). The simplest way to explain the savings made is that when I weighed the chicken breasts INCLUDING their fillets, the cost of these pre-packed would have come to the same as the total price for the three whole chickens. This means by jointing the birds myself I gained six thighs, six drumsticks, six wings, and three carcases all 'for free'. Well, that's the way I like to look at it.

The picture above shows my casserole pot with the three carcases, two carrots (each cut into big chunks, two onions and two ribs celery also cut into quarters, plus three bay leaves. To this poured over a good two pints of water (to barely cover). Had to break the carcases up slightly to fit everything into the pot.

Put the stock-pot on to simmer (a very low simmer gives a clear stock) for a couple of hours, then strained the lot through a sieve. The stock I found has set to a light gel overnight and this morning will be reboiled to reduce down by half (making a much firmer set and will then freeze it in small tubs).
Interestingly noticed on Tesco's grocery price list that 'fresh' chicken stock could be bought for £2 (!!!) per 300g tub (300g is 11 fl oz). So that is yet another saving made to add to the above.
There are cooks that will still use chicken stock cubes, and although I do use beef stock cubes I ALWAYS make my own chicken stock. Have done for several decades. It is just SO good.
You will remember recently how my Beloved was given chicken 'soup' (aka Jewish penicillin) although this was only a 'stock' made with chicken winglets (all that I had) and veggies, when he had a bad throat and within a few hours felt a lot better, and very rapidly recovered after that.

The final picture today shows the bowl of cooked chicken picked from the carcases. You can see there are some good chunks as well as smaller pieces. This is because underneath the chicken, either side of the centre bone there is a lovely lump of flesh called the 'oyster' that chefs say has the best flavour of all the bird, so we should never discard these even if we don't intend using a carcase for stock.

The weight of the cooked chicken in the bowl (and it is a deep 8" dia. soup bowl, not a plate) is 15oz (close enough to 1lb/450g), and this enough to make at least two meals to serve four, and certainly will serve more if the right recipe is chosen.

Am hoping the above will give some idea of the value of jointing chickens ourselves. Did also take a photo of the joints when wrapped ready for the freezer, but will save that for tomorrow when I intend showing photos of the chicken stock.

Thanks for the comments and am pleased you enjoyed the Caribbean soup Eileen. If it really does contain that 'feel-good' ingredient, then worth making and eating it often. It sad to find that Lancaster is now no longer a port (due to silting up), and many of the warehouses lining on side of the river are at least now being turned into apartments, but still a few left empty.

Our fruit trees seem to blossom later than your Lisa, at the moment most of our flowers are just the spring bulbs and hellebores with a few camellias covered in blossom in some lucky gardens. The council has filled the town flower beds with primroses, primulas and winter pansies, and these look so pretty.

Sad that one of your daughter's friends prefers snacks for lunch rather than your meals Lisa, but then some boys just don't appreciate good food when they have it. At least you still have a couple that do, so keep up the good work!

That's it for today. With a high pressure area over the country this week, spring has got into my system with a vengeance and I have great plans for more money-saving, so intend to make a start right now. More on this later, so watch this space!

Hope you will all be able to join me tomorrow, so see you then. Keep those comments coming!