I know. I know. I know what you are thinking! Dis-gusting! Why would anyone want to consume such a nasty animal by-product?
Everyone knows what chicken feet are exposed to! Think manure, wet or dry. Rotting scraps of food. Feet that daily walk through a dirty, soiled pen. G-r-o-s-s!
Go ahead and turn away in disgust. No one will judge you! But should you decide to stick around, you may learn something new that has potential to benefit both health and the quality of your life!
WANT NOT, WASTE NOT
We live in a wasteful culture. One of the ways our inefficiency is displayed? Our meat eating and butchering. Traditionally, almost every part of the animal was used. But today? We take the best and leave the rest!
Think about buying a whole, prepared chicken at the grocery store.
Did you know that only 60% of a (cleaned) bird’s weight is found in the meat? That the other 40% is bones and cartilage? If the carcass isn’t used as a soup base, 40% of the bird has been wasted!
Think about those who are fortunate enough to raise and butcher their own poultry.
They have the ability to utilize much, much more! I like to think that in the case of home butchering, its possible to reduce waste to 5%-10% of a (uncleaned) bird’s body weight.
But what else can be put to use, you ask?
Think about the carcass with bits of meat clinging to it. The long, meaty neck? Hello soup pot!
The giblets (heart, gizzard)? Pull out the slow cooker or pressure canner!
The feet? Read on!
HOW TO USE CHICKEN FEET
I’m sure at this point you’ve imagined the dinner table, complete with a main dish of well season, crunchy chicken feet! My grandpa remembers eating them during the Depression.
But we never have. Nope.
Chicken feet are full of bones, tendons and actually contain a bit of meat and fat as well. For this reason, they make an exceptionally rich soup stock. One that is loaded with collagen.
What’s so important about col-a-what? It supports the human body in every way! If you want more information, read this article by Katie of Wellness Mama.
The key to making stock is to boil, boil and boil them lil’ feet until they fall apart! You’ll have a very white, almost tasteless, steaming hot liquid! Liquid that, upon being chilled, forms into a solid mass of gelatin! Super healthy and a wonderful addition to winter soups!
Longer ago they made jellied chicken with this stuff…which is a historical recipe for another day!
HOW TO PREPARE CHICKEN FEET
Feet must be well rinsed and blanched so that the scaly skin can be removed. If left on in mass quantity, it imparts a strange flavor most folks don’t appreciate.
Often, there isn’t time to process them on butchering day. Don’t let this deter you! Feet can be rinsed clean, bagged and popped into the freezer. To be used at your leisure.
Sometimes, its difficult to clean the underside of a foot, in the skin folds and claws. If you are having troubles, soak for several minutes to soft the dirt. Then use the kitchen sink spray nozzle to power-wash dirt away!
Ah yes! A perfectly clean chicken foot.
TECHNIQUE #1: HOW TO PEEL CHICKEN FEET
NOTE: tackle the first technique only when you have several hours of time at your disposal.
If feet are frozen, let them thaw the day before.
Place clean chicken feet in a pot and cover with water. Better yet, use a stockpot that has a colander/blanching insert! Bring chicken feet to a boil and simmer for about 3-4 minutes.
Remove feet from pot and instantly submerge in a cold water bath. They should be cool enough to handle.
And then the work begins!
Chicken feet must be peeled or your broth will have a strange flavor. I prefer to start on the topside of the chicken’s food. Work downward, toward the toes. The very tips can be difficult to skin because of the curvature. If you can’t be bothered, cut ’em off.
The outer skin is papery and colored according to the bird’s breed. Ideally, this is the only part you would remove. However, if feet are blanched for too long, you’ll find the papery skin coming off with a somewhat fatty sub layer.
Don’t sweat it! Either way, the feet will make a wonderful broth! A bit of skin always makes way into the stockpot. And that’s ok.
Once the job is complete, cover feet in water and simmer for 12-24 hrs on the stove top. Or pop them into a crock pot if you are so inclined, giving them 2 days of slow simmering.
Don’t like the thought of so much work? Try this second technique!
TECHNIQUE #2: HOW TO SKIP THE PEELING PROCESS
This second method (only discovered this year) enables you to skip over the skin peeling without imparting a strange flavor. I highly recommend using a pot with a fitted colander!
Wash feet as outlined above. Cover with water and boil on the stove top for 3-5 minutes. Once accomplished, remove feet. Pour hot water down the drain and rinse your pot with hot tap water. Place feet in the sink and also rinse with hot water.
Return feet to pot and place on oven burner. Boil for another 3-5 minutes. Regardless of original color, the feet should be turning the same bland gray at the end of the second blanching. Again, pour all water down the drain. Rinse both feet and pot. Repeat the process one more time. After refilling the pot a fourth time, you’re done!
Feet can be cooked down for the desired length of time without the strange flavors that the skin imparts.
HOW TO USE THE CHICKEN FEET
Strain the hot liquid through a cloth, catching hundreds of disjointed toe bones! These can be fed to the cat, the dog, etc. The clear chicken foot broth can be salted (if desired) and refrigerated, frozen or pressure canned until ready to use.
Use broth in the same manner you would chicken stock. Add meat and vegetables, making a delicious soup or stew. Add broth in the place of milk when making homemade biscuits. Use it as gravy. Drink it in place of hot tea.
We can hardly keep broth (chicken foot or not) on the canning shelf! Yes, even when I make 40 quarts a year! It’s a well-loved commodity in our home, particularly during winter. Nothing like a cup of hot chicken stock to warm both hands and stomach!