Homestead Poultry Butchering: Evisceration: 2
Table of Contents
Opening the body cavity
Lay the bird on its back and make a shallow slicing cut into the abdomen, just beyond the end of the keel (breastbone). Cut through skin and fascia (the translucent membrane surrounding the inner organs) only. Remember good knife technique: Avoid poking at the skin with the point of the knife, the bird’s intestines are millimeters below.
Sooner or later, you will have a slip of the knife and nick the intestine, spilling some of its contents into the body cavity. Do not despair, even with such a mishap, your home butchering is vastly more sanitary than the filthy conditions under which commercial poultry is processed. After eviscerating, simply do a more thorough rinse of the interior cavity than usual.
Make the cut into the abdomen just big enough to hook two fingers from either direction and give a stout pull, tearing a larger hole in the skin and fully opening the interior cavity.
Please note that the pressure exerted on the intestinal tract at this point can cause what I call a “poop attack”, the forcing out of some residual fecal material from the cloaca. A poop attack is likely to happen only if the bird was not properly starved in preparation for slaughter, but you can guard against it any time by hanging the vent end of the bird over a drain when you pull open the carcass. If there is an expulsion, carefully rinse it away from the vent, being careful to avoid backwash into the body cavity.
Reach as far as you can into the body cavity to find an organ that feels like a large grape, the heart. Hook two fingers around it and pull it out. Squeezing out the remaining coagulated blood, rinse it and set aside (I use the steel mixing bowl with lid which I mentioned), along with the neck and feet and other good things you will be saving.
Reach again into the body cavity, fingers and hand encircling the gastrointestinal tract. The fingernails lead the way, tight to the rib cage, finding the seam between the chest wall and the ropy tubes of the tract and other organs, the large purple-red ball of the gizzard filling your grasp like a slippery apple. Grip all and pull. The tract and the organs pull free in one mass, connected only at the base of the abdomen, which you allow to hang over your drain.
The liver is the large reddish organ beside the gizzard. The clear tissue connecting it to the other organs is easily torn away with the fingers to leave it attached at one point only, to a small, dark-green sack the shape and size of a caterpillar, the bile sack. The bile it contains is essential for the bird’s digestion of fats but is extremely bitter. Sacrifice a bit of the liver as you pare it away from its connection to the bile sack with your small knife. If on occasion you do have a spillage of bile, rinse with more than usual thoroughness and proceed.
Incidentally, note the picture of this cut as an example of proper knife technique: The weight of the hanging gizzard is used to put a little tension on the connection between liver and bile sack, allowing the cut to be made against that tension, rather than against the steel work surface. Of course, the blade must be sharp, to enable cutting against such a tiny bit of tension.
The liver of a young, healthy bird (on the right in the comparative picture) is plump, dark red, glistening. Such a liver is extremely nutritious, rich in fat-soluble vitamins (especially A and D), antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, and most delicious if cooked quite rare. The liver of an old bird (on the left in the picture), equally healthy, equally well-fed, is usually pale brown, indicating longer service as the bird’s major metabolic filter. While I honor this liver for the good work it has done, I do not eat such livers.
The gizzard is a large, muscular organ with a tough interior pouch, filled with bits of rock. In lieu of chewing its food, the chicken processes it inside the gizzard, using the grinding stones and digestive enzymes. One tube goes in, one comes out. Cut off both, flush with the surface of the gizzard, and add to the other “goodies”.