It was like Christmas at the Shack Household recently. Although it was the middle of May and the sun was shining you would well have thought that Santa had actually squeezed his fat arse down our chimney to see Mrs Shack's expression when she laid eyes on the Ginger Pig box waiting for her on our kitchen counter.
Wrapped in a swaddle of protective wool cool, wafts of farm filled our noses as we unwrapped this beast of a bird and removed it from the box. You may think a chicken is a chicken but I'm here to tell you this is definitely no ordinary bird.
A cross between a Cornish Game cockerel and a Sussex or Dorking hen, these birds are grown up to a month longer than their British counterparts, from 93-110 days as opposed to just 65 for a commercially grown free range British chicken. These happy go lucky fowl have been reared outdoors by Richard Botterill and his small team, free-ranging and chomping on grass and herbage nestled on the Lincolnshire and Leicestershire border on a patch of the beautiful Belvoir Estate until they are dry-plucked, hung for a week and shipped off ready to be sold in the Ginger Pig butchers.
Because of the pure mass and the fact that these chickens have developed considerable muscles through natural growth and maturity, low and slow cooking is paramount to get a thorough cook, although I can tell you Mrs Shack stomped her feet a number of times whilst she impatiently waited for her breasts!
I started off by cranking the Traeger up to the max temperature of 232c. Whilst waiting for things to heat up I tenderly rubbed the chicken with olive oil, smoked salt and cracked black pepper. Mrs Shack pissed off at this point to do some yoga. To prevent "dry bird" I always use Olive oil as it keeps the skin with a slight moisture as well as helping the salt and pepper stick.
As usual we went with our favourite Chicken and Brussels recipe putting everything on the grill at the max temperature similar to a reverse sear for approximately 20 minutes before reducing the heat to 162c. Then all there is to do is wait.
After what seems a lifetime and a lot of bitching and moaning from the hangry Missus, the bird was ready when the internal temperature hit 75c. It took us a good 2 hours but BOY WAS IT WORTH IT.
Carving up it was immediately noticeable just how much meat was on this bloody bird! Normally when we cut up a chicken they break away at the joint however this old cock kept his composure as we sliced off big portions of white meat and tucked in. We also noticed delicious fat between the skin and the meat which we had never seen before, presumably because your average Tescos chicken has been injected full of water and hasn't matured to this age.
It is pretty difficult to explain the taste of this chicken without giving you a slice (and trust me even if you was here it is unlikely I would share!). The only thing I can think to say is that it was almost as if the flavour was like chicken as you know it but on turbo charge... like the perfection of a roast chicken flavoured crisp without all the nastiness and flavourings, just chicken au naturel.
We can normally go at a chicken and polish the whole thing of in a sitting but we didn't even close to this almost 3kg bad boy, we managed about half and was washing up with the meat sweats. Fear not, with everything here at the shack nothing goes to waste, we boiled up those humongous bones for an incredible chicken stock which we used the next day to indulge in a beautiful peanut chicken curry and even used the giblets for extra flavour..
The initial outlay for one of these birds will set you back just under £30 and I can't lie and say that I did not balk at the price when I initially saw it... HOWEVER, having had this experience and knowing the results this most definitely wont be a one off. This is an amazing treat, fed us handsomely for two nights in a row (to be fair we pigged out both times so probably could have stretched to three) and you can't put a price on this type of quality. If you think about the cost of eating out a meal for two will set you back at least a nifty with drinks really it's a no brainer...