Have you ever heard of a stewing hen? I hadn’t, until a few weeks ago. My farmer started offering them, so I asked him what they were. Turns out they are the old laying hens that became too old to lay. They’re different because most chickens are raised only for about 3 months before slaughter, while these might be a couple years old. They’re also quite a bit smaller, generally.
What does this mean for eating? The meat tends to be more tender. They tend to have more dark meat (some of the darkest I’ve ever seen, actually), and seem to have more fat. Mine had lots of little bits of yellow fat all over it.
It’s really easy and yummy to make soup from these. And my kids, who have been a bit picky about eating meat lately, loved the meat from this and kept begging for more while I was cutting it off the bones. Well, pulling it, because it was so tender by that time!
- 1 stewing hen (2 – 3 lbs.)
- 2 onions
- 3 – 4 stalks celery
- 2 – 3 medium carrots
- 1/2 c. barley, rice, or pasta (if desired)
- Other veggies (if desired)
- Sea salt and pepper to taste; parsely and celery salt if desired
Add the stewing hen to an 8-qt. stock pot and cover with water. Slice one onion in half and add it to the pot. Turn the pot onto medium and allow this to simmer for 4 – 6 hours, until the water has turned to rich, golden stock.
Remove the chicken from the pan (allow it to drain for a minute when you lift it) and set it aside. Add the other onion, chopped; celery and carrots, chopped. If using barley or rice (any grain that takes awhile to cook), add it now. If you’re using pasta (which will cook in 5 – 10 minutes) wait at least 30 minutes before adding, to allow the veggies to soften. Add any other veggies that you want, too.
When the chicken is cooled, pull the meat off the bones and cut into bite-sized chunks. Return to the pot. You will probably have one or two cups of extra meat, which you can use to make sandwiches later, or just let the kids have a snack! (Mine did this and still ate full bowls of soup!)
Serve. Makes 6 – 8 servings. Easy and yummy! If you chop the veggies ahead of time, you could even do this in the crock pot and just add the veggies quickly an hour before serving.
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