Posts Tagged ‘Craig Fournier’

Craig and Omar are in the news lately because of their efforts to build a new USDA-inspected chicken processing facility in Leominster, Massachusetts. Residents of the next-door residential neighborhood are objecting, mainly because they fear for the values of their property. No matter how much modern technology might prevent any public nuisance, the word “slaughterhouse” triggers negative emotions. I think this would happen anywhere—or am I wrong? Any volunteers out there for bringing a chicken plant to their town?

Chicken Processing Facility -- Front

Chicken Processing Facility — Front

Chicken Processing Facility -- Back

Chicken Processing Facility — Back

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InspectionAnother first for us this month was a visit from the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service. Small producer-growers like us are not required to have a government inspector present when we process chicken. However, we ARE required to abide by all the food safety requirements of the law–and the government can theoretically drop in whenever they want to see if we are doing it right.  Normally for an operation as small as we are, that theoretical possibility is remote. However, mobile processing units like ours have been popping up around the country, and the USDA is curious and concerned to learn more about them. For our part, we have been bragging about our training, our planning, our testing, and our documentation. So the USDA decided to see how we like the taste of a little scrutiny.

Craig was understandably nervous about the visit—as was our food safety consultant Ellen Weist (herself an ex-military meat inspector). Those USDA guys don’t smile or chat very much. But we did get a one-word report card before they left: “Phenomenal.” Afterward, Craig had to sit down, and we made him breathe into a paper bag.

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Today was the first day of chicken processing, which is normally not my favorite chore. However this year, Craig Fournier and Omar (my farming partner) are starting a chicken processing business, and they are taking the entire job off my hands. Craig has converted a camper trailer into a mobile chicken processing facility that he tows from farm to farm. And Craig and Omar plan to establish a fixed base operation as their business grows. This is a much needed service for farms in southern New Hampshire. I am rooting for them to succeed.

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Chicken Stew

Stew season is upon us again! Yesterday, I had some chicken and half a cabbage I wanted to put in a stew, so I called up Chef Craig Fournier for advice. I gave him a list of what I had in the cupboard and he came up with this recipe. It was delicious!

Chef Craig Chicken Stew

1 whole chicken, cut up
3 lg potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
3 parsnips, peeled and cut in 2 inch long sections
1 lg onion, chopped
½ cup flour
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
½ cabbage, chopped in 1 inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°. Put ½ cup flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper in a large Ziploc bag. Put half the chicken pieces in the bag at a time and shake the bag to coat. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet until it just starts to smoke. Brown the chicken on all sides over medium high heat. Transfer the chicken to a Dutch oven. Sauté the onions, parsnips, and potatoes in the skillet until the onions turn clear (5-8 min). Transfer the vegetables to the Dutch oven. Add 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp flour to the skillet and cook 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Add ½ cup white wine to the skillet and deglaze. Add 2 cups of chicken stock to the skillet and bring it to a boil. Transfer the liquid to the Dutch oven. Pour in more chicken stock if necessary to just cover all the meat and vegetables. Throw in the cabbage on top. Cover and bake @ 350° 30-40 minutes. Take it out, stir it, taste it, salt & pepper to taste. If the sauce is too thin, strain out the meat & vegetables and reduce the sauce. Optional: remove the chicken meat from the bones and skin before mixing the meat & vegetables back into the sauce.

Serve with fresh bread.

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Who knew that you could fill a whole day learning about egg quality? Not me! Not until this week, when I attended a seminar by Dr. Kenneth Anderson from North Carolina State University. In this photo, Dr. Anderson (background) is giving pointers to Craig Fournier on how to grade an egg. Besides grading, here are some other things we learned that I never knew before:

  • Eggs should be packaged small end down for best protection of the yolk.
  • That plastic egg-holder in your fridge? Throw it away! Eggs keep much better in cartons.
  • Larger eggs degrade faster than smaller eggs.
  • Smaller eggs have higher quality shells than larger eggs.
  • Younger hens lay higher quality eggs than older hens.
  • Modern laying hens will lay one egg each day about an hour later than the previous day until they hit mid-afternoon. Then they will skip a day and start over in the morning.
  • If promptly refrigerated, eggs will remain grade AA quality for about 7 days, then grade A for about 60 days (but the sell-by date must be no more than 30 days from packaging).
  • It is true that the cuticle (bloom) on an unwashed egg has anti-microbial properties, but only for 96 hours. After that, it sloughs off.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Many thanks to Dr. Anderson for making the trip north to help us Yankees re-learn some of our forgotten skills!

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Steve and I were exhausted today after our first day of chicken processing on Wednesday. We owe a tremendous thank-you to volunteer Craig Fournier (Patrick’s Dad), who worked way above and beyond the call of duty to help us. Craig applied his training as a chef everywhere from eviscerating to following all the food safety best practices to barbecuing a chicken lunch for us on his smoker grill. Plus, his cheerful spirit and iPod/boombox really helped make the day fun.

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