I bought a chicken at the Kitchener Market on Saturday. It was labeled as a stewing hen and an old one at that, so it is perfect for making a rich tasting chicken broth. Stocks and broth are an important base for some of the savoury recipes in The New Galt Cook Book (1898). Although today we can buy a carton or can of broth, homemade was the main option at the end of the 19th century. I’m using Mrs. A. Taylor‘s recipe for Chicken Broth but I’m also going to share some of the information about Poultry from The New Galt Cook Book including How to Draw a Fowl. That is not about art but about butchering. No contributor is attributed to this information.
How do you buy chicken? Today we have a number of choices when buying chicken but the one most of us never see, at least not in Waterloo Region, is the opportunity to turn a live chicken into supper. We don’t even see poultry that resembles the bird. There are no feathers on our chickens and unless you enter some specialty stores poultry doesn’t even have feet or heads. Many people buy chicken parts — a package of boneless breast, chicken wings, or thighs — rather than a whole roasting or stewing bird.
One of the most memorable meals I ever had was in the north-eastern part of Thailand. Everything served had been grown, raised and cooked right there by the farmer — an amazing woman raising a family on her own — and that included the chicken. It had been running around the yard a short time before it became supper. The feathers and blood were saved and each part of the bird was cooked including the feet.
Chicken in the pot
In the 1890s the chicken dinner could come from the yard or from a butcher shop or market stall like this at the Berlin Ontario Market. The information about how to Draw a Fowl would be useful for anyone who was buying a live or partially prepared chicken like in this photo from the Byward Market in Ottawa in the 1920s. Fortunately the chicken I bought had been killed, plucked, and cleaned (drawn) so I just needed to cut it up — a more challenging task than I expected. A sharp knife is important and I found it difficult to cut through the skin. I realized that I’ve always cut a chicken after it was cooked. I managed to split it open and partially remove the wings and legs. I put the chicken in a stewing pot and added 6 cups (3 pints) of cold water. I put the pot on the stove and turned the heat to medium.
Chicken and rice
I measured half a cup of rice and put it in with the chicken. I decided to use rice in honour of that long ago chicken meal in Thailand. I added a few shakes of salt and covered the pot. I turned the heat down and left it to simmer for one hour. Close your eyes and imagine the smell — a very nice chicken soup smell. After an hour, I removed the chicken to a plate and poured the broth in a large bowl. I had to scoop some of the rice out of the chicken. I added pepper to the broth and put a bit of butter on the plated chicken. It was time for sampling.
Mrs. A. Taylor contributed many recipes and I’ve already made several of them. Until her marriage to Alfred Taylor a dry goods merchant she was known as Maggie (Margaret) Fisher. By the time this cook book appears she is a well established Galt matron living in a lovely home on Grand Avenue in Galt. Her card is one of the visiting cards saved by the Stirling McGregor family and donated to the Cambridge Archives. Just imagine her coming out of her home to pay a call on Mrs. McGregor. You can see the house here.
I’m not sure how Mrs. A. Taylor (Maggie) served her chicken broth but it is very good. This sort of simple soup could be served at the beginning of a family or company meal. There’s nothing really different about it but it is nice to know everything that went into the broth. I don’t know the history of the chicken but at least I know the rest of the ingredients. This broth makes a good base for other soup recipes and it is basically chicken and rice soup. The rice was starting to get mushy. Add it a little later in the cooking time if you prefer a firmer rice in your soup.
Chicken with butter
The chicken meat however was tough. I think it needs to cook longer than one hour indicated in Mrs. A.Taylor’s recipe. The chicken was cooked but wasn’t tender. Give the Chicken Broth recipe a try if you can find a flavourful chicken and be grateful you don’t need the other recipes.
To judge the age of a fowl touch the end of the breast bone; if it bends easily from side to side the fowl is young.
The skin of the chicken should be firm, smooth and white.
If a fowl is tough rub it inside with a teaspoonful of baking soda, being careful to wipe it off before cooking it; it is also good for tough meat.
Lumps of charcoal put with fowls when they are a little tainted will restore the flavor.
Slices of lemon cut into small pieces and stirred into drawn butter and allowed to come to the boiling point, served with fowl is a fine addition.
The inside of poultry should be ribbed with salt after it is drawn.
TO DRAW A FOWL
It is not every housekeeper that understands how to draw a fowl so that all the interior parts come out in one piece. In order to do this, first split the skin on the back of the neck and turn it back over the neck. Loosen the pipes around the neck with the finger. Remove all fat that can be reached under the skin and lay it aside for use. When this is done, cut with a sharp-pointed knife from the leg to and around the vent, in order to open the chicken. Pass the hand up the back of the chicken on the inside carefully till you reach two little ligaments near the wings, which seem to bind the intestines down to the back. Loosen them and pull slowly and firmly, and all the pipes in the neck, with the entire mass of intestines, will come out together without breaking. When they are on a plate it is easy enough to cut out the gall bladder and separate the liver and other giblets from the parts that are to be thrown away. The fat of poultry should always be taken out of the bird, because it gives a strong taste if cooked in it, but it should be saved, as it has many uses in cookery, except in the case of turkeys, geese and ducks, when it is too strong. Goose oil is saved for medicinal purposes by prudent mothers, and that of turkeys and ducks may well be added to the soap-fat can.
Mrs. A. Taylor
One chicken, three pints of water half a teacupful of pearl barley or rice, pepper and salt. Cut up the chicken put it in the cold water with the barley or rice and salt, cover it close and let it simmer for an hour, add pepper to your taste. The chicken my be placed on a plate with pieces of butter over it.