Mature hen basis for easy-to-prepare economical meals

Mature doesn’t mean old when it comes to chickens. Mature hens, once known as stewing hens, are older female chickens.

According to Canadian chicken licensing regulations, “a mature chicken means a mature female bird of the species gallus domesticus that does not have flexible cartilage at the posterior end of the breast or keel bone, tender meat or soft skin of smooth texture (poulet adulte).”

A mature hen is the oldest commercially sold chicken, ranging in age from 10 to 18 months. Their size and age give them more fat and flavour than younger, smaller chickens.

The meat requires long, slow moist cooking to tenderize it, which means the hens are perfect for stews, soups and braised dishes. The slow cooking produces rich broths and sauces.

The meat can be used in numerous recipes for quick meals.

Mature hens are economical although not always available. I bought a three kilogram mature hen for $2.84 per kg, which is less than $9 for the whole bird.

Once cooked and deboned, there was more than one kilogram of meat and 750 millilitres of broth.

Stewed hen

Seasoning the bird liberally with herbs, garlic, onions and vegetables during the cooking process enhances the flavour of the meat and broth.

  • 1 mature hen, fresh or thawed 3 kg
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 celery ribs, with leaves, cut in quarters
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. sage or savoury 5 mL
  • 1 tbsp. parsley 15 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper 2 mL
  • 4 c. water 1 L

Rinse the hen, remove the neck and giblets and discard.
Place in large dutch oven, a large pot or kettle with a tight fitting lid and place the chicken breast-side up.
Place half of the vegetables and herbs in the body cavity and the rest around the bird in the pot. Add the water. Place on stove, heat water to boiling and then cover and turn heat down to medium.
Simmer for three hours and then turn chicken over so breast is in the liquid. Add more water if needed. Continue cooking three more hours until meat flakes and pulls off the bone easily. Turn off heat and allow to cool for half an hour.
Remove the skin and pull the meat from the bones. This is easier to do while the meat is still warm. The broth will have congealed around the meat if it is cold, which makes the deboning process more difficult.
Place the meat in a separate container. When all of the meat is removed from the back, legs, thighs and wings, pull bones off the breast and remove the breast meat.
Strain the broth into a separate container, rinse the bones and skin with a cup of water, add this water to the broth and discard the bones and skin.
Refrigerate meat and broth overnight. Remove the fat from the top of the broth and discard the fat.
Separate the large breast pieces from the smaller pieces of meat.
The breast meat can be sliced for sandwiches. Cube the meat for adding to a pizza, fried rice or stir-fry, or cut in thin strips for use in summer rolls or tacos. The smaller and darker pieces of meat are best chopped and used in soups, stews, chicken pies or a pasta sauce where their sizes are less noticeable.
Use the chicken broth as the basis of soups or stews or add to chicken dishes that call for broth. It can also be used for cooking rice or barley.
Any of the chicken or broth that will not be used immediately should be packaged in recipe-size portions and frozen in containers or freezer bags. Label as to the contents, amount and date. This will provide the basis for quickly prepared future meals. Use within two months for best flavour and texture.
The chicken can be cooked in a slow cooker on high for three hours. Turn breast side down and turn the heat to low and cook an additional four to six hours until the meat flakes and pulls off the bones.

Chicken pie

  • 2 c. cooked chicken, 500 mL cut up (use dark meat
from bones)
  • 1/3 c. butter or margarine 75 mL
  • 1/3 c. flour 75 mL
  • 1 c. leeks, chopped 250 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper 1 mL
  • 1 c. chicken broth 250 mL
  • 1 c. carrots, thinly sliced 250 mL
  • 1 c. broccoli, cut into small bunches 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. celery, sliced 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. red pepper, diced 60 mL
  • 2 potatoes, boiled and mashed

Peel potatoes and cut into chunks, add water and boil until soft.
Melt butter, add leeks, stir until translucent and add flour and seasonings. Stir to mix. Add broth and mix until smooth and thickened. Add carrots and simmer in sauce for five minutes. Add more broth if needed.
Add chicken and other vegetables, mix and turn into a casserole.
Drain potatoes, mash and add milk to mix until potatoes are smooth.
Spoon mashed potatoes onto the top of the chicken stew casserole. Smooth out potatoes, making a few peaks across the top. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 45 minutes until potatoes are nicely browned and the casserole is bubbling. Serve hot with a tossed salad or vegetables and dip.

Chicken and dumplings

This is a good cold weather comfort food that can easily be made using the ingredients for the chicken stew, but omitting the potatoes and adding an additional three cups of chicken broth (750 mL).
Add all of the ingredients to a dutch oven that has a tight fitting lid and heat to simmer. Make the dumpling batter and drop eight equal spoonfuls into the stew. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the dumplings rise and are cooked through.

Dumplings

  • 1 c. all-purpose or whole wheat flour 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley 15 mL
  • 2 tsp. baking powder 10 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 3/4 c. milk 175 mL

Stir flour with parsley, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl to combine and add milk.

Teriyaki chicken pizza

This is my daughter-in-law Lydia’s recipe. I just love the flavours in this pizza. The pre-cooked chicken makes this recipe quick and easy.

  • 4 naan bread
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
  • or precooked chicken breast, chopped
  • 14 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained, reserve the juice 398 mL
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch 15 mL
  • 1 c. teriyaki sauce 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. sliced ripe olives 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. yellow, green or red pepper, diced 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. fresh spinach, sliced thin 125 mL
  • 1 c. feta cheese 250 mL

Combine reserved pineapple juice, chicken, garlic and cornstarch in a small baking dish. Cover, and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).
Remove chicken from pineapple juice. Saute raw chicken and garlic in a hot pan so that the chicken browns just slightly. Stir the juice and cornstarch to mix, add to the chicken and cook and stir, at a lower heat, until thickened.
If using precooked chicken, marinate in the juice, garlic and cornstarch and then add to a pan and heat while stirring until juice thickens.
Brush naan bread with a thin layer of teriyaki sauce. Divide the chicken pieces and sauce between the four breads, add the pineapple, olive slices, peppers and spinach and top with feta cheese.
Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese and sauce are bubbly and cheese is slightly browned.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: [email protected].

  • Christine Wolzl

    I found it really interesting that on page 19 of the February 27 edition, there is an article titled “Study Tackles Food Waste Issue’”. As consumers, we are throwing out good food, and not being cognizant of our wastefulness. Turn the page to the next article, “Mature Hens Basis For Easy-To-Prepare Economical Meals”. A very fitting article, complementing the first article, But read the first line in the third column! “Rinse the hen, remove the neck and giblets and discard”. DISCARD! As in throw way a good source of protein which can be added to the stew! I have always used the neck and giblets in my chicken soups and stews, and would never consider discarding them! I was saddened to see one article pointing out our need to be more aware and accountable for food waste, yet a recipe on the following page condoning food waste. This recipe needed be corrected to reflect our responsibility as consumers to value and appreciate food!