DARK BROWN EGGS

MARANS AS MEAT BIRDS

As the title suggests this page is about the dual purpose utility qualities for which the Marans was originally developed - so if for any reason you are opposed to the eating of meat in general or chickens in particular please navigate away from this page.

If not please scroll on down for further information

COOKING "CHICKEN"
I think it is quite a "modern" idea that all "chicken" should be roasted

And in fact commercial "roaster chickens" are generally slaughtered when they are around 14 weeks old, and many are butchered when they are 6 weeks old or even less, so unless you are raising a modern fast growing meat breed you are going to end up with quite a small bird. This of course is fine if it is meat factory which is processing them, but if you are going to do the job yourself it is more sensible to let the bird get to a bigger size, and have more of a meal for your efforts.

Home grown birds will normally be allowed some sort of exercise, which will change the texture of the meat and result in slower growth - which of course means a more flavoursome bird, which is less "pappy" in texture.

My personal preference (for my Marans) is to allow the surplus male birds total free range and ad lib straight wheat (after the initial few weeks on chick/grower ration). For the last 10 days to a fortnight the birds can be confined to a smaller pen somewhere where they can be kept calm.

In past times they would be caged and the cage covered with a sack to darken it so the birds slept when they were not feeding. They would not be fed the first evening, though they always have good clean fresh water available. Then 2 or preferrably 3 times a day they are fed a wet mash (wet mash should be just wet enough to crumble) They are given as much as they will eat in around 15 mins, and then the feed pans removed and washed so nothing "sours".

Boiled mashed potatoes, milk, soaked and cooked grains, were fed in the old days together with a little sharp grit in a separate pot -all easily eaten and digested - though now one must comply with DEFRA regulations regarding feeding (check with their website)

The reduction in exercise by penning encourages the laying down of intermuscular fat which leads to more tender and flavoursome meat. My Marans will usually reach a dressed weight of around 5-6 lbs in 24-30 weeks, and raised this way are cheap to produce, plus this gives a virtually fat free bird of beautiful texture.

Cooking
If I really need to roast one I would put it in a casserole type pot with a well fitting lid. First filling the cavity of the dressed bird with veg or fruit, depending on what I was trying to achieve with the final flavour. ie onions, apples celery lemons etc.
Sage and onion stuffing or parsley and thyme stuffing can be put under the breast skin and in the neck cavity.

Put a layer of chopped root vegetables and a little water or stock in the bottom of the casserole. Then I put it in top oven of the aga for around 30 mins, then transfer to bottom oven for 3+ hours. Then take lid off pot and a quick blast in top oven to brown skin

But my preferred cooking method is to put the plucked and dressed bird in a large pot with some vegetables, say onions, and carrots, maybe some chopt celery and a good bunch of any fresh herbs, cover with water and season with salt and pepper and some ground celery seed if you have it; bring it up to nearly boiling on the hotplate or in the top oven, then transfer to bottom Aga oven overnight. Next morning take the pot out of oven and leave the whole to slowly cool in the liquid till required. You then have a beautifully moist and tender bird and big pot of lovely stock for soup

If the bird is wanted hot then take out of the water after 30 or so minutes, and if it is wanted cold leave in the stock till cool, in this case rest the pot on the cool floor of a pantry or similar.

Another wonderful way with a good Marans is to cut off the raw breast meat for stir fries and quick cook dishes. Then use legs for coq au vin and other casseroles or curries. The stripped carcass and giblets make excellent stock.

I strain the stock off and off and freeze it down for future use in soups and casseroles, and the bones and veg are fed to dog. (Yes my dogs have always eaten chicken bones without problems both raw and cooked, but they are Great Danes, and don't gobble their food but chew it properly - as they are used to this from puppyhood )

When I get the time I hope to add a list of my favourite recipes. Meantime try this one for a 6 months plus bird

CIDER CASSEROLED CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS
Joint the bird and take off skin if that is your preference (the skin can go in stock below)

Make a stock (or get some out of the freezer from last time) This is made from carcass, neck and giblets except the liver - which is too nice to use in stock. Simply simmer the lot covered in water with a carrot and onion, bunch of herbs and ground black pepper for a couple of hours. I bring to nearly boiling then put in bottom oven of aga overnight. Tip the lot through a colander and reduce the stock if it tastes a bit watery. I give the chicken bits and veg to the dog but if your dog is not used to eating cooked chicken bones make sure you remove those first.

Then

Peel and slice a couple of large sweet onions and peel and crush a couple of cloves of garlic

Gently soften the above in butter or oil (Olive or Sunflower is nicest) Add the joints and cook a bit without burning. If you like your gravy/sauce very thick (I don't) then sprinkle on about a tablespoon of flour and cook another few mins, again make sure not to burn

Add enough stock and cider to almost cover and add some salt and pepper. Put on a tight fitting lid, and simmer gently or put in a low oven. Should be cooked in about two and a half or three hours- check by running a small knife into a thigh joint which should slide in easily, in the last half hour add some quartered button mushrooms.

As I don't add flour I check the gravy/sauce at the end, and if I think it needs reducing then I remove the chicken and veg to a warm dish and simmer the sauce (almost boiling but not quite) until the taste and consistency is good then put the chicken and veg back in. This can wait for up to an hour without spoiling.

If you want you can add a little double cream stirred through at the end, and if you want to make it look fancy sprinkle with some chopped parsley or a little tarragon

Serve with jacket potatoes and leeks, or anything else you fancy.

I have sold up and am travelling If you want to see where I am and what I am doing now follow the link below, which opens in a new window

www.thebusphoebeandme.us

email for altenative egg/bird
suppliers and I will try to help

Purchasers Comments....

Big thankyou for the eighteen eggs that arrived safely and all intact. My eyes nearly popped out when I saw just how big and chunky they were.......easily the biggest i've ever received.........and what a colour, definite wow factor and so looking forward to hatching.Many many thanks.

......A huge thank you for the 100% fertile hatching eggs, 11from 12 hatched, they are very large and very strong chicks! Thank you for all your advice, it is appreciated

...Just to let you know i have hatched 7 lovely chicks including 1 from your 2 best eggs and 10 out of the 14 eggs ...so very pleased ..... they were worth the wait, they are massive!

... the eggs arrived safely this morning - "eggstra" early 9.00 delivery from my lovely postman who recognised a very important parcel (normal delivery is around 2.00pm!). The eggs are real beauties ...If anyone is looking for marans, I'll certainly send them your way!

....I received 12 gorgeous dark brown eggs yesterday - I have never seen Maran eggs like that before in my life. ... Was the best of packaging...

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