Of game birds the woodcock outranks all in delicate tenderness and sweet flavor. The thigh is especially deemed a choice tidbit. The leg is the finest part of the snipe, but generally the breast is the most juicy and nutritious part of birds.
White-meated game should be cooked to well-done; dark-meated game rare. The flesh of wild animals is harder and more solid, and has a less proportion of fat and juices to the lean, and is therefore less easy of mastication when eaten within a day, and more nutritious, and the flavor more concentrated. Their decided flavor recommends them to invalids or others who are satiated with ordinary food. Keeping game renders it more tender, and brings out its flavor. When birds have become tainted, pick clean as soon as possible and immerse in new milk for twenty-four hours, when they will be quite sweet and fit for cooking.
Birds should be carefully dry-picked (removing all feathers that come off easily), plunged in a pan of boiling water and skinned, drawn, wiped clean, and all shot removed. Game should not be washed, unless absolutely necessary for cleanliness. With care in dressing, wiping will render them perfectly clean. If necessary to wash, do it quickly and use as little water as possible. The more plainly all kinds of game are cooked, the better they retain their fine flavor. They require a brisker fire than poultry, but take less time to cook. Their color, when done, should be a fine yellowish brown. Serve on toast.
Broiling is a favorite method of cooking game, and all birds are exceedingly nice roasted. To broil, split down the back, open and flatten the breast by covering with a cloth and pounding, season with pepper, and lay the inside first upon the gridiron; turn as soon as browned, and when almost done take off, place on a platter, sprinkle with salt, and return to the gridiron. When done, place in a hot dish, butter both sides well, and serve at once. The time required is usually about twenty minutes.
To roast, season with salt and pepper, place a lump of butter inside; truss, skewer, and place in oven. The flavor is best preserved without stuffing, but a plain bread-dressing, with a piece of salt pork or ham skewered on the breast, is very nice. A delicate way of dressing is to place an oyster dipped in the well-beaten yolk of an egg or in melted butter, and then rolled in bread crumbs, inside each bird. Allow thirty minutes to roast or longer if stuffed. Wild ducks, pheasants and grouse are always best roasted.
To lard game, cut fat salt pork into thin, narrow strips, thread a larding-needle with one of the strips, run the needle under the skin and a little of the flesh of the bird, and draw the pork half way through, so that the ends of the strips exposed will be of equal length. The strips should be about one inch apart. The larding interferes with the natural flavor of the bird, hut renders it more juicy. Many prefer tying a piece of bacon on the breast instead.
Pigeons should be cooked a long time, as they are usually quite lean and tough, and they are better to lie in salt water half an hour, or to be parboiled in it for a few minutes. They are nice roasted or made into a pie.
If the "wild flavor" of the larger birds, such as pheasants, prairie chickens, etc., is disliked, they may be soaked over night in salt water, or two or three hours in soda and water, or parboiled with an onion or two in the water, and then cooked as desired. The coarser kinds of game, such as geese, ducks, etc., may lie in salt water for several hours, or be parboiled in it with an onion inside each to absorb the rank flavor, and afterwards thoroughly rinsed in clear water, stuffed and roasted; or pare a fresh lemon without breaking the thin, white, inside skin, put inside the game for a day or two, renewing the lemon every twelve hours This will absorb unpleasant flavors from almost all meat and game. Some lay slices of onion over game while cooking, and remove before serving. Id preparing lat wild ducks for invalids, it is a good plan to remove the skin, and keep a day or two before cooking. Squirrels should be carefully skinned and laid in salt water a short time before cooking; if old, parboil. They are delicious broiled, and are excellent cooked in any way with thin slices of bacon. Venison, as in the days of good old Isaac, is still justly considered a "savoury dish." The haunch, neck, shoulder and saddle should be roasted; roast or broil the breast, and fry or broil the steaks with slices of salt pork. Venison requires more time for cooking than beefsteak. The hams are excellent pickled, smoked and dried, but they will not keep so long as other smoked meats.