By Rita Pray
At the annual IFC meeting and potluck last fall, I cornered the Holdeman family of Holdeman ABF Poultry farm and peppered them with questions about Capons. Not having grown up on a farm, I didn’t know what this new breed of feathered friend could be. The IFC website description of capons being “an old tradition” did not fully satisfy my curiosity, so I interrogated the Producers in person. Being generous and good natured, the Holdemans shared some great information and persuaded me to try some of their product.
According to the Holdemans, a Capon is a neutered rooster. A rooster naturally grows larger than a hen, so the average size of a capon runs greater (5-6 pounds) than the average roasting or boiling chicken (3-4 pounds). The neutering process keeps the meat from becoming tough and strong tasting. They assured me that I could use capon interchangeably with chicken, but that I should expect a more tender and moist result.
Sold! I ordered a variety of capon products and am here to tell you that everything I was told in praise of capons is true. I roasted a whole bird (about 6 pounds) which I stuffed with onion and lemon and some herbs and rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper. The meat was moist, tender and delicious. There was plenty of meat left over to take off the bone and freeze for future use. I used the carcass for a batch of stock, which will add flavor and depth to soups and casseroles.
I used a pound of ground capon in my usual chili recipe and it was fantastic. You have to get over the lighter color of the meat, but with the tomatoes and dark chili beans, it was kind of pretty. It was very lean, so I added a little olive oil to enhance the browning process. I felt virtuous using it as a beef substitute to serve to my dad, who limits his red meat intake on doctor’s orders after a recent heart attack.
I have some capon breast waiting in the freezer, which I anticipate will also yield an excellent meal.
So branch out a bit and try this old but new product. You just might have a little explaining to do when you serve your next “chicken” dish.