"When fresh, the eyes of fish are full and bright, and the gills a fine clear red, the body stiff and the smell not unpleasant. Mackerel must be lately caught, or it is very indifferent fish, and the flavor and excellence of salmon depends entirely on its freshness. Lobsters, when freshly caught, have some muscular action in their claws which may be excited by pressing the eyes. The heaviest lobsters are the best. The male is thought to have the highest flavor, the flesh is firmer, and the shell has a brighter red, and is considered best during the Fall and Spring; it may be readily distinguished from the female, as the tail is narrower, and the two uppermost fins, within the tail, are stiff and hard; those of the female are soft, and the tail broader. The latter are prepared for sauces on account of their coral, and are preferred during the summer, especially in June and July. The head is used in garnishing, by twisting it off after the lobster has been boiled and become cold. Lobsters ranging from four pounds are most delicate. If crabs are fresh, the eyes are bright, the joints of the legs are stiff, and the inside has an agreeable smell. The heaviest are the best, the light ones being watery. Scallops are not much used; when fresh, the shell closes tight; hard-shell clams are also closed tight when fresh. Soft-shell clams are good only in cold weather, and should be fresh. Oysters, if alive and healthy, close tight upon the knife. They are good from September to May.
In fresh-water fish, the same signs of freshness are good tests. Of course, it is impossible to name all the excellent varieties, as they differ with the locality. In the South is the shad, the sheep's-head, the golden mullet and the Spanish mackerel, in the North-west the luscious brook trout, and the wonderful and choice tribes that people the inland lakes. Among the best of the fresh-water fish, sold generally in the markets of the interior, are the Lake Superior trout and white fish, and, coming from cold waters, they keep best of all fresh-water fish; the latter is the best, most delicate, and has fewer bones, greatly resembling shad. The wall-eyed pike, bass and pickerel of the inland lakes are also excellent fish, and are shipped, packed in ice, reaching market as fresh as when caught, and are sold at moderate prices. California salmon is also shipped in the same way, and is sold fresh in ail cities, with fresh cod and other choice varieties from the Atlantic coast, but the long distance which they must be transported makes the price high. The cat-fish is the staple Mississippi River fish, and is cooked in various ways. Lake Superior trout are the best fresh fish for baking. All fish which have been packed in ice should be cooked immediately after removal, as they soon grow soft and lose their flavor. Stale fish must never be eaten. Fresh fish should be scaled and cleaned properly on a dry table, and not in a pan of water. As little water should be used as is compatible with perfect cleanliness. When dressed, place near ice until needed, then remove and cook immediately. If frozen when brought from market, thaw in ice-cold water. Fresh cod, whiting, haddock, and shad are better for being salted the night before cooking them, and the muddy smell and taste of fresh-water fish is removed by soaking, after cleaning, in strong salt and water.
Eels must be dressed as soon as possible, or they lose their sweetness; cut off the head, skin them, cut them open, and scrape them free from every string. They are good except in the hottest summer months, the fat ones being best. A fine codfish is thick at the back of the neck, and is best in cold weather. In sturgeon, the fish should be white, the veins blue, the grain even and the skin tender.
The best salt mackerel for general use are "English mess," but "bloaters" are considered nicer. In selecting always choose those which are thick on the belly and fat; poor mackerel are always dry. The salt California salmon are excellent, those of a dark rich yellow being best. To freshen, place with scale side up. Salmon boiled and served with egg sauce or butter dressing is nice. No. 1 white fish is also a favorite salt fish, and will be found in all markets.
A good deal of sturgeon is put up and sold for smoked halibut. The skin of halibut should be white; if dark it is more likely to be sturgeon. Smoked salmon should be firm and dry. Smoked white fish and trout are very nice, the former being a favorite in whatever way dressed. Select good firm whole fish. White fish is very nice broiled. Each of the above is better than herring.