Smoked chicken and a little compassion

I am having a strange feeling of happiness...
It's sunday evening, I'm ready to go to sleep and I m looking back on my weekend.
This weekend was all about a chicken, not any chicken, a chicken that was reared with care and had lived a worthy life.
From the moment the 'Poelier' handed over this *chicken to me I felt like I had the task of giving this animal the send off it deserved.
It might sound strange but I truly felt that it was my duty to continue to care for this animal.
Someone had taken good care of this -very large- chicken, it had been roaming free in the Vogesen in France for at least 120 days. Knowing that the chickens we usually come by have only lived 40 days and sometimes less, this was a big bird.
After I picked up the chicken, my whole weekend started to evolve around it. First I had to clean it, quite a task as it was the first time I had to clean a bird from scratch.
I stood there for a minute, until I came to my senses. If I am going to eat this animal I might as well look it straight in the eye.
If you buy these chickens you get everything, the whole bird. This is so you can see first hand how this animal has lived.
What might be disgusting to some, really made me feel humble.
I wasn't going to let anything go to waste out of respect and gratitude for the life this beautiful animal has given.
This is a feeling we have often forgotten in Western civilization, raising and caring for an animal and then when it comes to the point where it’s going to be eaten, use every part so not one single bit of this animal will go to waste. 

So this is what I made of my beautiful bird.
On saturday I smoked the whole bird for 6 hours and had it for dinner, on sunday we had the leftovers and froze what was left of the leftovers to make chicken pie next weekend and sunday evening I made stock from the bones, smoked chicken stock! So this chicken will be enjoyed for months to come.

For the smoked chicken

1 free range/Organic chicken, mine was a 4,5 kg Bresse* Chicken
(Just try and find the best quality animal and ask your butcher for advice)
1 onion
a hand of fresh parsley
a hand of fresh sage
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
apple juice
1 apple

For the smoker
Wood chips, wood from fruit trees works best. I used wood from old Whisky barrels which gave an extra flavour.
Extra wood, I used wood from old grape vines. As coals do have some glue and/or additives in them most of the time, I think it's best to use wood when the chicken is already in the smoker.

I served the chicken 'old school' with apple compote, carrots and hand cut chips which I baked in the oven.


Clean your chicken if your butcher hasn’t done so yet.
Start by firing your smoker or closed up BBQ
Stuff the chicken with 1 onion, fresh parsley, sage and thyme.
Bind the chicken with some kitchen rope so the stuffing doesn’t fall out.
Rub the meat with apple juice.

Soak the wood chips in some hot water

Prepare a jug with water, add a glass of apple juice, some apple slices and thyme.
When your fire is ready, add the watercontainer to the smoker which you then fill with the water you just prepared.
Just before you put the chicken on the heat, add the soaked wood chips by placing them on top of the coals.

The heat inside the smoker has to be at least 80% to cook chicken.
Now the fire is ready to start cooking the meat.
Close the lid and don’t open it again for at least 4-5 hours.
This will prevent any dropping of temperature in the smoker.

After an hour check on the coals and add some new ones or a piece of wood if necessary.
I found it was necessary to do so, to keep up the temperature in the smoker. (I used the old grape vines at this stage)
After 3 hours we added some wood chips again.
You can check on it after 4-5 hours, but with a 4 kg chicken like ours it took almost 6 hours to be perfect.
Remember the juices have to run clear before it is safe to eat chicken. 

 *Bresse chickens are protected by Appellation d’origine contrôlée since 1957 - the first livestock to be granted such protection. The rules about raising these chickens are very strict, for example, stocks are limited by the size of the farm - with a minimum allocation of 10 square meters for each bird.

Today is world food day, I signed up for Blog Action day #bad11 and that's why I felt I needed to write the next bit:
I haven't had chicken in my country for years and when I did I felt guilty but frankly more sick then guilty.
The cruelty these animals are raised in is just beyond your imagination.
They live -survive- on a tiny spot in a large closed barn until they drop dead or stop laying eggs.
I hate intensive farming, we do not have the right to let an animal suffer to put food on our table.
The most important thing I feel is "think before you eat". You don't have to become a vegetarian or a vegan if you don't want to, just think before you buy your meat.
Try and find an alternative to the meat you usually buy in supermarkets, search for a farm where you can go, so you can see first hand where and how the animals live.

I used to be a vegetarian for 6 years because I didn't want to eat an animal that had a miserable life. I found a farm where I can go and see the animals every month, when it's meat day.
I do not get veal as the children on that farm don't want to slaughter their calves, so I don't eat veal. (and one of my favourite dishes is Osso Buco -veal shank- so I would love some veal)

I don't want to get all 'activist' on you, it's just something I feel very strongly about.
You make your own choices in life. I choose to only eat meat from humanely raised animals.
I firmly believe that happy animals just produce better meat and I know a few chef's and farmers who will back me up on that.

Buying my meat from a farm changed the way I live.
For example, I missed last months meat day (as you have to order your meat a week in advance so the butcher on the farm knows what to prepare) so now I have no pork or beef for two weeks, and I'm fine with it. We only do have meat once or twice a week anyway.
It does take some planning, but to be honest I like it that way.
Does it cost more, no it doesn't. 
Not on a local farm, you are a huge help to them if your buy directly from them. The price supermarkets pay the farms for their meat is criminal, the animals cost more to raise then what they get back from the meat. (not saying it is this way in every country) No wonder some farmers resort to cheaper feeds and more animals in one barn.

The system is just wrong.
I'm not saying it's the same in every country, it is not. 
For example France has 'label Rouge' for poultry and eggs which is very strict, the UK has more and more farms with rare breed animals who are allowed to live longer than other livestock.

But if you want the system to change, you have to change your own.
Once you go directly to the producer, you never go back!
The end.

A few good websites to take a look at:

If you know of a great producer, feel free to post the details in the comments section below.(doesn't matter where it is, we want to know)
Help others to find meat from animals that are raised with kindness and compassion.
(I will group this information and turn it into a page for all to use.)
Many, many thanks for sharing!

Here are a few to start with:
The Ginger pig
Shop's all over London, farms based in Yorkshire

Foxbury farm
Family run farmshop in the Cotwolds 

Salts farmshop near Rye
Folkestone Road East Guldeford, Kent
‪01797 226 540‬

Daylesford farm
Farm and farmshop based in the Cotswolds, shop's in London

Sandfields Farm
Family run farm in Oxforshire  

De zeshoek
Family run farm in East-Flanders, Belgium