To Chuse Meats.
Young Ox Beef, is of a red carnation colour, the grain smooth and open, the fat white, with a yellow and pink shade, and of a crumbling, oily softness. The meat of yellow fat is seldom good.
Cow Beef has a closer grain, the colour less bright, the fat whiter and more tender; if young it easily dents with the pressure of the finger, and immediately rises again.
Bull Beef is of a more dusky red, the grain closer and firmer than the ox or cow, the fat hard, skinny, and smells strong.
In old meat, an appearance of a horny substance runs along the ribs, which increases in hardness with the age, while the flavour diminishes.
Meat, if fresh, is of a lively, flesh colour; if stale, of a darkish, dull colour.
The flesh of overdriven cattle has a strong smell like bull beef; and, upon pressing it hard between the fingers, yields a red juice. Before you salt such beef, make a strong pickle of salt and water, boil and skim it; when cold lay the meat in it for twenty-fours, then dry salt it.
The following cut, and description, shows the names of the various pieces, according to the English and Scotch method of dividing the carcase.
The Hind Quarter contains
|1 Sirloin||6 Veiny Piece|
|2 Rump||7 Thick Flank|
|3 Edgebone||8 Thin Flank|
|4 Buttock||9 Leg|
|5 Mouse ditto||10 Fore Rib, 5 ribs|
The Fore Quarter contains
|11 Middle Rib, of 4 ribs||15 Clod|
|12 Cheek, of 3 ribs||16 Neck End, or Sticking Piece|
|13 Shoulder, or Leg of Mutton Piece, containing a part of the Blade Bone||17 Shin|
|14 Brisket||18 Cheek|
|1 Middle Sirloin||13 & 14 The Breast and Nine-holes|
|2 & 3 Top of the Rump and Hook Bone||15 The Lair|
|4 & 6 Middle Hook Bone and Round||16 Neck and Sticking Piece|
|5 & 9 The Hough||17 The Knap|
|7 & 8 The Flank and part of the Hough||18 Cheek and head|
|10, 11 & 12 The Fore Saye|
Besides these, are the tongue and palate. The entrails are the sweetbreads, kidneys, skirts, and three kinds of tripe, the double, the roll, and the red tripe.
The flesh of the cow calf is whiter than that of the bull, and not so firm, but is preferred on account of the udder. The place which taints first in the neck and breast, is the upper end; the loin taints soonest under the kidney. If the meat is fresh, it will be white and dry, the vein in the shoulder of a bright red, or blue; but if stale, it will feel soft and clammy. The leg is known to be new by the stiffness of the joint; if limber, and the flesh slimy, with greenish or yellow specks, it is proportionally bad as these signs obtain.
The calf is divided thus.
|Hind Quarter.||Fore Quarter.|
|1 Loin, best end||6 Neck, best end|
|2 Loin, champ end||7 Neck, scrag end|
|3 Fillet||8 Blade Bone|
|4 Hind Knuckle||9 Breast, best end|
|5 Fore Knuckle||10 Breast, brisket end|
|1, 2, & 3 The Loin, Fillet, and Knuckle||7 & 8 Back Ribs|
|5 Knuckle||9 & 10 Breast, Saye, and Head|
In Scotland, the veal seldom exceeds four months old; therefore, it is not cut into so many divisions as is the practice in England, where it is often eight months old, and the carcase much larger. The entrails are named the pluck; which consists of the heart, liver, lungs, nut, melt, and skirts; the throat, windpipe, and sweetbreads.
Choose it by the fineness of the grain, good colour, and firm, white fat; from three to five years old. The flesh of the ewe is paler than that of the wether mutton, and the grain closer. In ram mutton the grain is closer than the ewe, the flesh a deep red, the fat spungy and very strongly flavoured.
If the mutton be young the flesh will pinch tender, the fat easily separates from the lean. If old, when pinched with the finger and thumb it will feel hard, and does not regain its shape; the fat will feel clammy and adhere by strings.
If tainted with a Rot, the flesh will appear pale, the fat a faint whitish colour, inclining to yellow, and the flesh loose at the bone; if you squeeze it hard, drops of water will stand up like sweat.
|Hind Quarter.||For Quarter.|
|1 Leg||5 Neck, scrag end|
|2 Loin, best end||6 Shoulder|
|3 Loin, champ end||7 Breast|
|4 Neck, best end|
|1, 2, 3 The Gigot||5 & 6 The Fore Quarter|
|4 The Loin||The two Loins joined together are called a Chine, or Saddle of Mutton.|
In the fore quarter of lamb the vein of the neck generally indicates its state if it appears of an azure blue it is fresh, but if greenish, or yellow, it is stale.
The place in the hind quarter which taints soonest is under the kidneys; therefore, if it smells disagreeably and the knuckle feels limber, it is stale. The head is known by the eyes, if they are plump and lively, it is fresh; but if sunk and wrinkled, it is stale.
The fore quarter of lamb consists of the shoulder, neck and breast together; the hind quarter is the leg and loin. There is also the head and pluck, the fry, or sweetbreads, skirts, lambstones, and liver.
Grass lamb begins about April, or May, if the season is favourable, and generally holds good till the middle of August. House lamb may be got at any time in populous towns, and is in highest perfection in December and January.
Beef, Veal, and Mutton, are in season at all times of the year.
In young pork the lean will break in pinching; if fresh, the skin will feel cool and smooth. If old, the skin will be thick and rough, nor will it yield on pinching; the fat, flabby and spongy. If stale, the skin will feel clammy; to know if it is tainted, examine the knuckle, which first smells. The flesh of the boar feels hard and rough, the skin thick, and the fat hard; the lean of a dusky red, and rank smell. If there are small kernels, like peas, in the fat, it is measly and unwholesome. Good pork should have a thin skin.1970
|Fore Quarter.||Hind Quarter.|
|1 Spar Rib||4 Fore Loin|
|2 Hand||5 Hind Loin, (if too long, a spar rib may be cut off.)|
|3 Belly, or Spring||6 Leg|
|1 Spar Rib||4 & 5 Sirloin|
|2 Breast and Shoulder||6 The Ham, or Gigot|
The entrails are named the liver, crow, kidney, skirts; sometimes called the hastlet; also the chitterlins, or guts, which are used for sausages and puddings.
Chuse those that are short in the hock, or shank; if, upon running a large packing needle, or small bladed knife, under the bone, it comes out clean, and has a pleasant smell, it is good; but if it is smeared, and has a disagreeable, or musty scent, it is bad. A good ham has always a degree of plumpness on it, is of a clean, dark reddish colour, and pale coloured fat; if the fat is very yellow, even on the outside, depend upon finding the ham rancid.
The fat of good bacon will feel firm, and appear white, inclining to pink; the lean tender, of a good colour, and adheres close to the bone. If there appear streaks of yellow running through it, conclude it rusty and spoiling fast. If old, or young, see Pork. Brawn is judged by the same rules.
The same rules apply to venison as to freshness. If young, the fat will be thick, clear, and bright; the clefts smooth and close. The parts are the neck, shoulders, breast, and haunch. The season for buck venison is the months of June, July, August, and September; and for the doe, October, November, and December.
Poultry, Game, &c.
The most certain sign of a cock turkey being young is the shortness of the spurs, and the smoothness and blackness of the legs; the eyes full and bright, the feet limber and moist. Sometimes the spurs are cut short and blunted by the poulterers, for the purpose of deceiving. The eyes sunk in the head, and the feet dry, denotes its being very old. Hen turkey is judged by the same rule; if with egg the vent is open, if not, it will be hard and close. Bustards are judged in the same manner.
Almost the same rules apply in judging of cocks and hens. The spurs of young cocks are short and blunt, the vents close, and the comb of the capon is pale; if old, the vent is open. Hens are best when full of eggs, before beginning to lay.
Chickens, when new, are stiff; if stale, they are limber and their vents green.
When young, the bill and feet are yellow and few hairs upon them. If old, they are red, full of hairs, and dry footed. When fresh, the feet are soft and pliable; but dry and stiff when stale. Green geese are in season from May to June, till three months old. A stubble until they are six months old, and should be picked dry; but a green goose should be scalded. The same rules apply to wild geese.
When newly killed, have the legs supple; and if fat, the belly will be hard and thick. If stale, the feet feel dry and stiff. The feet of tame ducks feel thick and incline to yellow; wild ducks are smaller, and the feet a reddish colour. Ducks should be picked dry, and ducklings scalded.
When fresh, are full and fat at the vent; but when the vent is open, green, and loose, they are stale. In old pigeons the legs are large and red, and the toes rough. Tame pigeons are preferable to wild, being larger and fatter; the wood pigeon is the largest.
The same rules apply to Plovers, Fieldfares, Larks, and other small birds.
If young, the legs are yellowish and the bill of a dark colour; if old, the legs are bluish, and the bill white. When fresh, the vent is firm; but greenish if old, and the skin peels off when rubbed with the finger.
Being birds of passage, are only found with us in winter, and are best about three weeks after their first appearance, being then recovered from their fatigue. When fat, and in good condition, they feel firm and thick, the vent thick and hard; a vein of fat also runs by the side of the breast. If newly killed, the feet are pliant, and the head and throat clean; the contrary if stale.
If the claws are blunt and rugged, the ears dry and tough, the cleft in the lip wide and large, and the haunch thick, it is old. If young, the claws are smooth and sharp, the ears tear easily, and the cleft of the lip not much spread. If fresh and newly killed, the body will be stiff and the flesh appear pale; but if the body is pliant and the flesh blackish, it is stale. A leveret has a knob, or small bone, near the foot, on the fore leg, which distinguishes it from the hare.
In modern cookery, the hare is considered the better of being kept until it acquires a scent.
In old rabbits the claws are very long and rough, with grey hairs intermixed with the wool; when young, the claws and wool are smooth. A new killed rabbit is stiff, and the flesh white and dry; but limber, the flesh bluish, and a kind of slime upon it, when stale.
General Rule to know when Fish are Fresh or Stale.
When fresh, the gills should be of a lively red colour, firm, and not easily opened; the eyes standing plump and clear, the fins apparently full of blood, and stiff. Stale fish are judged of by the contrary marks, such as suppleness, the eyes muddy and sunk, the gills of a dark colour, and tainted smell.
Turbot and Soles.
Good turbot is thick and plump, the belly of a cream colour; if of a bluish colour they are not good. They are in season most part of the year.
Haddocks and Cod.
Chuse them with small heads, and thick over the shoulders, a very small tail, and the flesh white and firm.
Are judged as to goodness by the same rules; they should be firm, white, and thick, not too large. The she ones are the sweetest, and are best from January to March. The female skate is known by having very few thorns on its back. If fresh, the belly is white, of a delicate lilac colour, and the fins quite red.
The flesh of fresh salmon is of a fine red colour, particularly at the gills; the scales bright, and the whole fish firm and stiff. Chuse them thick over the shoulders, with small heads. The spring is the best season for them.
Herrings, Mackarel, and Whitings,
Are judged in the same way as the salmon, by the gills being of a fine red; the fish, when held out by the head, quite stiff, the eyes bright and standing well out of the head. The herrings, in particular, have, like the salmon, a fine luminous appearance over the whole body; but if the contrary signs appear, they are undoubtedly bad.
Are an excellent and beautiful fresh water fish; those that are red and yellow are the best; the females are considered the finest, and are known by having a smaller head and deeper body than the male. Chuse them by the same rule as salmon. Their season is May and June.
Tench, Flounders, Pike, Carp, Perch, and Gudgeon,
Are judged by the general rule. They are in highest perfection when dressed immediately after being caught. The sliminess of the skate, tench, and flounder, is easily removed by using a handful of salt when cleaning them.
Are a fresh water fish of a silver hue, very firm when fresh and in good condition. They have a strong smell, resembling newly sliced cucumbers, or the roots of newly pulled rushes, which leaves them when dressed.
If good, cuts firm without crumbling; the flesh very white, the veins and gristles a fine blue; the grain even, the skin tender, well coloured, soft, and of a pleasant smell. The females are full of roe, which is taken and spread out on a table, beaten flat, sprinkled with salt, then dried in the open air, exposed to the sun, and afterwards dried in an oven. It should be a reddish brown colour and very dry. This is called caveach, and is eaten with oil and vinegar.
Should be dressed as soon as taken out of the water, and are in season all the year, a few of the hot months excepted.
Boiled lobsters, when fresh, are stiff, and the tails pull up with a spring when you draw them out; but the tail has no spring, and is flabby, when stale. If live lobsters have not been long caught, the claws will have a quick and strong motion upon pressing the eyes with your finger; the heaviest are the best. The male lobster is known by the narrow back part of the tail, which has to spawn under it, and the flaps of the tail are stiff and hard; those of the female are soft and the tail broader. In general the male lobster is preferred for its superior flavour; the flesh is also firmer, and the shell when boiled a deeper red. In boiling them you fill up the vent under the flaps of the tail with a wooden pin, or part of their horn, taken off for that purpose; put them in when the water boils; half an hour or three quarters, according to the size, will boil them.
Crabs, or Partans,
When fresh, like the lobsters, have a sweet smell. In chusing them, observe that the claws are stiff; break a small piece off the end of the shell to know if there is water in the body; as they are chosen by their weight, a person is often deceived by the water. The carle partan, or male crab, is esteemed the best, and is known by being longer than the quean, or female, and has a narrower flap on the breast.
When alive, and in full vigour, close fast upon the knife when opening them, but give way immediately when wounded. They are in season from September to April. They should be eaten immediately when opened, otherwise the fine flavour goes off. Oysters are fed, or fattened, thus. They are first well washed and made clean; then laid, bottom downwards, into a small tub, or pan, sprinkled over with flour, or oatmeal, and salt, then covered with water; the water should be pretty salt, and the operation repeated daily. In London, the Colchester, Pyefleet, Milford, and Milton oysters, are the best; and in Scotland the Pandore is the largest and best.
Prawns and Shrimps,
When in perfection, have an agreeable smell; they are firm, and the tail, as noticed in the lobster, turns in with a spring when drawn out, and their colour bright; but when stale, their tails grow limber and lose the spring, their brightness fades, and they become pale and clammy.
To judge of the quality of butter, either fresh or salt, certainly requires a very nice taste, and employs both the taste and smell. White, short butter, is never good; butter from cows newly calved eats rich, and is very beautiful, but will not keep when salted for winter stock. Butter from cows which feed on natural grass, is not only the best but will keep longest when salted.
New laid eggs, when held between your eye and a candle are quite transparent; in a short time specks appear, which increase in number and size daily; the egg then begins to grow muddy, and if very bad the yolk and white will appear mixed, it is then unfit for use. To preserve eggs for years, and in any climate, see page 152.
When an old cheese has a rough coat, or very dry top, it indicates worms or mites in it. If honeycombed, moist, or when pressed by the fingers it feels spungy, to a certainty there are maggots in it. If any part is spoiled, or perished, it should be pealed through to ascertain how far it has gone.