Chef Kelly Myers of Nostrana tells her story of meeting two young farmers and twelve old birds:
Recently I needed eggs, but I ended up buying a bunch of stewing hens. I was looking online at FoodHub, the new website for wholesale sellers and buyers of local food, where I met farmers Rachel and Keith Prickett. The Pricketts run Provenance Farm in Philomath, Oregon, where they raise pastured lamb, turkeys, and chickens.
Rachel and Keith said sure, they had eggs for sale, but would I also like to try a few stewing hens? Hmm, I thought, searching my brain for what I knew about stewing hens. They are small and tough. They are full of tendons, and their recalcitrant meat requires hours of cooking. But I’d also heard about their exceptional flavor.
Yes, I said. Absolutely. I would take a dozen.
I really wanted a chicken that actually tastes like chicken. My yearning felt like nostalgia for something I barely knew. Sure enough, Rachel told me that customers her grandparents’ age were buying up their hens for chicken and dumplings and chicken soup with homemade noodles.
Buying local food online is a pretty new concept. But stewing a tough old bird until the meat falls off the bone into its own rich broth is not. It’s just that now, with more small farms dotting the landscape, we have the chance to rediscover stewing hens.