24 Oct How to Cook a Stew Hen
Wondering what to do with the stew hens being sold at the farmer’s market? Make this collagen-rich soup for fall in the slow cooker!
Stew hens are chickens that were bred for laying eggs, and not for meat. On small local farms, these hens spend their lives roaming on pasture hunting and pecking for grubs, seeds, and grains. At some point, the hen will begin producing fewer eggs and the farmer may decide to slaughter them. I find them mostly at my local farmer’s market in the fall, and they are a great bargain! They are typically sold for a fraction of the cost of a pastured boiler chicken and have very flavorful meat. Stew hens are smaller and leaner than a typical roast or broiler chicken. They can be tougher meat, but they also have more collagen, making them a great choice for stocks, soups, and stews.
Slow Cooker Stew Chicken
- 1 Whole Stew Chicken (typically 4 - 6 lbs)
- 1 lb Carrots
- 3 Medium Onions
- 2 Bulbs of Celeriac Root or 1 lb of Turnips
- 1 Bunch Fresh Parsley
- 6 Fresh Sage Leaves or 1/2 tsp Dried
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 1 tsp Whole Peppercorns
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 3 cups Chicken Stock
- 2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3 Bay Leaves
- Remove the giblets from inside the chicken. Rinse the bird under cold running water to wash off any dirt. Once clean, place the chicken in the slow cooker pot with the heat turned off.
- Peel the carrots and dice them, keeping them approximately all uniform in size. These will be cooking for several hours, so aim for a size that is about a half an inch. Remove the onion skins, and coarsely chop the onions. Place the carrots and the onion into the pot with the chicken when finished.
- If using celeriac root, wash, and scrub the root well under running water. Using a sharp paring knife, peel the root. Dice the root into similar sized pieces as the carrots. If using turnips, peel the turnips with a Y peeler and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Keep adding to the pot!
- Take the bunch of parsley, and chop off half of the green tips. Continue to coarsely chop the parsley tips, and then set aside for garnishing after the stew is cooked. It's best to keep the chopped parsley in a small bowl wrapped up in the fridge to prevent wilting and discoloration. Using kitchen twine, tie the remaining parsley together, stems and all, and toss into the pot.
- Tie together the sage leaves with some kitchen twine, and add to the pot.
- Using the side of your chef's knife, crush the garlic and then chop finely. Add to the pot, along with the bay leaves, peppercorns, vinegar, and salt.
- Pour the stock into the slow cooker pot, and turn on for 5 hours. The exact setting will depend on your slow cooker, you want the stew to be at a simmer, not a boil, for the 5 hours. Check as it cooks, adding more stock or water as needed.
- Once the carrots, celeriac/turnips are cooked, remove the chicken from the stew and place on a carving board. Let cool for several minutes, and then begin to pick off the meat. The meat should be falling off the bones at this point. Toss the meat pieces back into the pot, and reserve the bones for making bone broth or stock later.
- Remove the bunches of herbs and discard. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning as needed. I often add a bit more salt and pepper, and another tablespoon of vinegar at the end. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with parsley.