It’s possible you’ve never even heard of a capon, and if you have it’s also possible you’ve never eaten one. Which is a shame, because the capon is a wonderful bird. In fact, it’s the Christmas bird of choice for much of Europe, and has been since, well, before there even was a Christmas.
Now you’re probably asking, “Just what is a capon?” Simple – it’s a rooster, but one that has been “caponised,” which means it’s been castrated before reaching sexual maturity. Because of that, a capon develops differently from other roosters because it doesn't get certain hormones that an uncastrated rooster would. They grow larger and produce dramatically flavorful and tender meat due to the higher fat content. In addition, their bodies undergo small physical changes, including the development of a smaller head, comb, and wattle.
Next, you’re probably wondering, “How did the capon become so popular in Europe as a Christmas meal?” The capon is a very old bird. It was first developed in the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. During a prolonged drought, a law was passed against using excess grain to fatten chickens. Instead, the breeders castrated roosters, who got big and delicious without the extra grain. And, being so big and delicious, the capon soon became the go-to choice for special feasts and celebrations of all kinds. Then, as people began to practice Christianity and celebrate Christmas, the capon naturally became a staple for those celebratory meals as well. Today the capon is a traditional Christmas meal in France and many parts of Italy.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Boy, capon sounds delicious. Where can I get one?” Well, as luck would have it, you can get one from Joyce Farms! Our Poulet Rouge Fermier™ Whole Heritage Capon (a whole bird, with head and feet, which is the Old World style) and Poulet Rouge Fermier™ Boneless Capon Roulade (sans head and feet) are selected from our flock of heritage Poulet Rouge Fermier™ chickens. They grow over a period of at least 22 weeks (versus 11 weeks for a commercially grown American capon), and they are raised using traditional methods as required in the French Label Rouge system and our “never EVER” standards of purity – no antibiotics, hormones, growth stimulants, or animal by-products. It is, we are proud to say, the only Label Rouge Capon available in North America.
And finally, you might be thinking, “Okay, if I get a capon, how do I cook it?” No problem – you can cook our capons like any chicken, but the best way to appreciate the flavor difference is simply to roast it at about 300°F with a little bit of olive oil, sea salt and pepper until the internal temperature reaches 160°F. Adding herb butters or truffles under the skin can also enhance the flavor of the capon.
So this year, take a very old Christmas tradition from Europe and start a brand new Christmas tradition of your own. Get a capon from Joyce Farms and make this holiday season one that will really stand out!