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Posts Tagged ‘sojourner farms’

Since we’ve found Sojourner Farms and have bought a bunch of fresh pasture raised whole chickens direct from the farm, we have really been enjoying butterflied grilled chickens. This is such an effortless and delicious summer meal, perfect for those warm summer nights where you just want to relax on the patio with a cocktail and grill out. By butterflying the chicken, it takes less time to cook and you certainly don’t have to worry about it rolling off the grill or falling off of that sticky beer can. We usually get at least two meals from each chicken and once you’ve done the simple work of butterflying you can just sit back and enjoy the evening while it cooks.

I know I have already said this before about everything we have bought from Sojourner, but nothing can describe the taste of the food we are buying from them. Their chickens taste better than any chicken we have ever eaten before. It is unreal. I really cannot recommend enough buying your meats directly from a farm that raises their animals on pasture and without all the chemicals, hormones and antibiotics. You really can taste the extra love and care.

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Start with a whole broiler/fryer chicken weighing approximately 4 pounds. Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity, then trim away any excess fat from around the cavity opening. Position the chicken so the breast side is down and the drumsticks are pointing towards you.

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Using a pair of kitchen shears (you can use a sharp knife, but I really recommend the shears), cut all the way down one side of the backbone from the tail to the neck. You’re just cutting through the small rib bones, not through the center of the backbone itself. Cut close to the backbone so you don’t lose too much meat.

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Next, cut all the way down the other side of the backbone, removing it completely.

I have read that some people like to cut down only one side of the backbone, leaving it intact. We remove the backbone completely, since we aren’t going to eat it. Reserve the backbone for making stock, if you’re so inclined.

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Flip the chicken over, breast side up and simply press firmly to full open the carcass, break the breastbone and flatten out the chicken. We prefer to leave the breastbone intact for less fuss and less steps. We could probably get ours even flatter, but it cooked wonderfully so we have no complaints.

Many people prefer to actually cut the breastbone out for better presentation, we don’t mess with the extra steps. If you wish to do that, after you remove the backbone, keep the chicken breast side down, position it with drumsticks pointing away from you (turned 180 degrees from where you started). Use a paring knife make a small cut in the white cartilage that conceals the top of the breastbone. Bend both halves of the carcass backward at the cut to expose the breastbone. It should pop right up through the cut.

Run your thumbs or index fingers down both sides of the breastbone to separate it from the meat, then pull the bone out. If the breastbone breaks into two pieces when you are removing it, it could just mean you haven’t separated it well enough from the meat, just remove both pieces and you are good.

Now you are ready to grill!!

Preheat your grill by turning both sides all the way to high. Pull the hood down and allow the grill to get to a very high heat, this takes about 5-10 minutes, or use your temperature gauge if you have one on your grill.

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Brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season generously with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. You can definitely use other seasonings, add lemon or use butter instead of olive oil, we just prefer to keep it simple and not overwhelm it with tons of different flavors. You could also add chips to your grill to get a smoked flavor. Feel free to experiment with different things.

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Once your grill gets to a high heat, turn one side off and leave the other on high. Place the chicken breast side up on the off heat side. Allow it to cook for 45 minutes, leave the hood down, don’t play around with it.

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After 45 minutes, as long as you kept the hood down and the heat of the grill stayed at high, your skin should have already started to brown and crisp up. Turn the direct heat side down to a low flame and move the chicken over to the flame side, breast side down. Close the hood and continue to grill about 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160°F. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Carve the chicken by removing the wings, legs, thighs and breasts from the bird. If it is a bigger bird, you can cut each breast in half.

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All done. YUM!

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There she is again, Derby was especially loving this photo session.

Dinner. Grilled chicken, pasta salad, grilled veggies
Dinner is served.

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I am very excited to tell you about this great farm we took a trip to this past Friday. It was just over an hour drive from Downtown Buffalo and worth every minute of it. Sojourner Farms is located in Olean, NY, run by Pierre and Lesa Dionne.

From their website:

Having both grown up on commercial (i.e. chemical and fertilizer-intensive) potato farms, Lesa and I for several reasons, had no interest what-so-ever in that type of food production. Serendipity would have it that we would become owners of an abandoned dairy farm and the question was what to do with all that fallow land. We sure didn’t want to go into the type of farming we had grown up with but again, fate stepped in and a few years ago Cornell Co-op extension brought a gentleman by the name of Joel Salatin as a guest speaker at an alternative-farming seminar in Alfred and he planted the seed in me to seek further information about this up and coming “radical” approach to farming called pastured meat production.

This type of farming seemed much more user-friendly and sustainable ecologically, and as a practicing Physician, it was obvious to me that this was a much healthier way to raise meat both for the consumer and the farmer.  Not knowing if this was something we wanted to pursue in a big way, we followed Mr. Salatin’s suggestion and began with pastured poultry since it was seasonal and not capital intensive to get into.

IMG_3281The laying hens

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The moveable, open-air, chicken houses, which allow them plenty of room and constant fresh pasture to feed on.

I did a lot of research on what I was looking for in a farm, I knew that although we really didn’t eat meat often, when we did, I wanted to know where it came from and how it was raised. I want the meat I eat to be without hormones and antibiotics (or any chemicals for that matter), I want to know that the animals are raised humanely and given room to roam and fresh grass to eat. Having learned about Sojourner Farms a few months back, exchanging many emails with Pierre and subsequently placing an order for four chickens and 1/5 of a pig, this brought us on the journey to see the farm and to pick up our food this past Friday afternoon. What a fabulous and life-changing, short trip we were lucky enough to take. It is so incredibly refreshing to see the happy animals roaming the many acres of grassy farmland and to know that they are all well-treated and living the lives they deserve to live. We were able to speak at great length with Pierre about how he acquired the 260 acres of land he owns, how he got into farming in this manner, which (as you would guess) it isn’t easy and it is very costly to run. Pierre is still a practicing physician in town (two days a week) and has a full-time daily farm hand on staff. Lesa is a full time school teacher. Pierre and Lesa feel “…that if more people knew how most of our food is produced commercially, they would demand significant paradigm shifts. We, as a society, have delegated the task of monitoring food quality to others and they may not always have the consumer’s best interest at heart.”

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Happy cows, grazing on delicious pasture at Sojourner

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One of the very many beautiful views.

Being able to shake the hand of the man that raised the food we would soon be eating, asking questions about how the animals are raised and fed, seeing the land they live on and feed off of, it is an experience that really cannot be put into words. I truly feel that if more people were aware of the foods they eat and where it comes from, more people would take action to ensure that same food is of the utmost quality, both ethically and otherwise. We owe it to ourselves to be educated about what we consume, what it is doing to us, the animals (if you choose to eat meat), and the environment. Your actions can speak louder than you know and supporting the places that share those beliefs is the only way to help make the changes you seek, a reality. The trip to Sojourner was probably the single most emotional food related experience I can ever recall from my lifetime. I feel so lucky to have found their farms and to be able to support them and what they are doing.

On the drive back to the city, we stopped at a farmer’s stand bought some tomatoes, baby potatoes, and fresh from the field, strawberries and lettuce. From those two stops we were able to make an amazing dinner. We butterflied and grilled a whole chicken along with some baby potatoes for grilled herb potato salad and I threw together a delicious green salad with tomatoes, walnuts and feta. Since, I know we will be making this exact meal again, I decided to forgo the photos and recipes this time. Mark and I were so happy to not be rushing off somewhere and to be together (alone), that we wanted to enjoy a beautiful dinner, slowly and quietly without interruption. That chicken was hands-down, THE best chicken we have ever eaten in my life. So fresh, so flavorful and I truly feel like you can taste the love and care taken every single step of the way. Thank you Pierre and Lesa, for all that you are doing.

Us at Sojourner Farms

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