What do you do with old hens? You make delicious sausage!
During the summer of 2009 we raised meat birds. When it came time to butcher them we thought we'd also do some of our old hens who were no longer laying. Old hens are not very good to eat - they are tough and stringy. They are good, though, for making stock. We butchered about six of them and put them in the freezer.
I've been mulling over the idea of using old hens to make sausage for a couple of years and today I tried it. Wow! It really works and is the best use of old hen I've found yet. I made up my own recipe utilizing standard sausage ratios of fat, salt, and meat.
Here it is:
600 grams of chicken meat, trimmed of all fat and sinew and diced
300 grams of pork back fat, diced
20 grams of kosher salt (this might be a bit too much salt for some people. You might want to start with about 16 grams and add more after you taste the sample (see below)
just under 1 gram of ground black pepper
24 grams (dry weight) of dried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water, drained, and chopped fine
24 grams of basil pesto (basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts ground together)
Mix all of the above together and refrigerate.
Chill until ice cold 24 grams *each* of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and dry red wine.
Grind the meat mixture using a 1/8" die into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the ice-cold liquids and mix for about 2 minutes until the mixture looks sticky.
Make a very small patty, cook in a pan, taste and adjust the seasoning. If it doesn't seem like it has enough salt, add a few more grams to the mixture now, after tasting.
Use a sausage stuffer and about 4 feet of hog casings (soaked and rinsed for at least 30 minutes) to stuff the sausages. Alternately, you could just use this like bulk sausage and not stuff it into casings.
Because this sausage contains poultry it needs to be cooked to a temperature of about 165 degrees F.
I have only tasted this sausage as a sample bit (it had very good taste), but I plan on cooking the stuffed sausage by braising it in a pan, covered, for about 20 minutes, drain the water and then pan fry them slowly to brown them.
My 4 and 7 year old, looking at the finished sausages in the tray, admired them and thought that they looked like "real" (i.e. store-bought) sausages!