21 December 2016

Chickens and capons for Christmas

As I think Walt and I have both said, we've ordered a « chapon de pintade » — a Guinea fowl capon — to cook for our Christmas dinner. We'll probably cook it on the rotisserie in our oven, and we plan to make cornbread stuffing with dried cranberries and walnuts to have with it. We'll also have winter squash (sucrine du Berry) and some garden greens (kale).

Locally, we have a really good poultry vendor who sets up at the Montrichard market on Fridays and the Saint-Aignan market on Saturdays and offers very competitive prices. But even if we didn't, we wouldn't lack for choices in picking a bird to roast for the holidays. Here are ads I've scanned from one of the advertising flyers we got from local supermarkets for this week. It's from Intermarché, which is about four miles from us by car. The store was recently taken over by new management and has experienced a kind of renaissance.

First, you probably know what a capon is, and maybe you can find capons for Christmas where you live. They are male chickens (or other fowl) that have been sterilized (castrated, either surgically or chemically) and fattened. Like neutered dogs or cats, they gain weight easily. On the right in the panel above, you see a Guinea fowl capon for 10.90 €/kg. That would come to about $5.20/lb. in American money. The ad specifies that the capon had lived at least 154 days before being killed and prepared for market, and that it weighs about 2.3 kilos (5 lbs.). It carries the Label Rouge, which is a good indication of superior quality.

Then you see two ordinary quality chicken capons that go for about half the price of the chapon de pintade, weigh about 3 kilos (6½ to 7 lbs.), and don't carry the Label Rouge. No minimum age is specified, but I'm sure they would be younger birds than the more expensive Guinea fowl capon. And I'm sure they would be very good too, if cooked correctly.

On the left in the panel above, you see what is called « une poularde ». What's that? Well, it's the female equivalent of a capon. A Wikipedia article I just glanced at says the poularde [poo-LARD] is a laying hen that is fed a special diet and environment to delay the onset of egg-laying and also is fattening. Such birds are killed after a minimum of 120 days of existence, and their meat is reputedly white and tender with a very fine flavor. This one sells for about $3.75/lb. and weighs about 4½ lbs. When you buy it, you also get a flat 5€ discount on each poularde in the form of credit against future purchases at Intermarché.

If you don't want a chapon or a poularde, you can get a "regular" Guinea hen — farm-raised outdoors and corn-fed for a minimun of 94 days (above left). It weighs about 3 lbs. and goes for close to $3/lb. at today's exchange rate. (By the way, the U.S. dollar is worth nearly a full euro right now.) Or you can get an ordinary turkey (une dinde) weighing just short of 7 lbs. and selling for about $2.30/lb. I actually bought one of these for the freezer yesterday; we'll cook and eat it in January or February, when whole turkeys are not usually available around here.

Again above, you have a 7 lb. chicken capon (well, rooster, of course) raised for 150 days, fed a diet of at least 80% grain, and selling for about $5/lb. These birds can come from one of two well-known producers, St Sever or Loué — both carry the Label Rouge — and you get a full 15€ discount for each one you purchase. On the right is a more affordable 7 lb. Douce France chicken capon that has been raised for 140 days, fed 70% grain, and includes a 4€ discount. I'm sure you wouldn't be disappointed.

Finally, here's a turkey capon, Label Rouge, farm-raised for 150 days (above left). There's no information about the average weight for this one. And on the right, a farm-raised poularde (is there not an English word?), 120 days of age, 75% grain-fed, no weight specified. When the label or ad says « prêt à cuire », it means there are no "giblets" or abats (liver, gizzard, etc. removed). By the way, these are just the whole birds in the Intermarché flyer. There are other, fancier choices in the flyer too, for rolled-and-tied poultry roasts, and so on.


  1. It would a great dish for festive season

  2. You've researched the market very well, Ken!

  3. Interesting, our Intermarche changed hands too and it too has had a huge 'makeover'.

  4. Not only do you have a great array of choices for poultry (for example, I was able to get a pintade before Thanksgiving, but now it's impossible to find one), but this ad indicates that you get so much more information about the birds than we do in the US.

  5. It's a good thing you have a freezer to take advantage of the sales. I wish we had more variety for poultry and who knows what our chickens are being fed!

  6. Hi gents. Can you post your cornbread stuffing?
    By the way, we are now here in France, in Castelmoron sur Lot. Settling in well.
    Tony Hull

    1. Castle Moron ? lol ... it sounds like a Monty Python location :)

    2. Tony, I will post about the cornbread stuffing or dressing next week, after I've made it. In other words, I don't have a specific or detailed recipe. See this older post about cornbread stuffing on my blog and you'll get the idea.

    3. Great, thanks. Your wonderful blog has inspired my own at goldenageinfrance.blogspot.fr

  7. I can;t find my glasses so the title, I thought, was Children and Capons ... that got my attention !


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