What we call flesh is chiefly composed of muscle, with a certain proportion of fat and a considerable quantity of water. A piece of fresh beef, thoroughly dried, will lose three-fourths of its weight. Starch and sugar, which compose nearly fifty per cent. of wheat bread, are absent from meat. For this reason a due admixture of animal and vegetable food seems best adapted for the nutrition of the human body.
18 the model cook book fat. Such fattening as this is unprofitable to the consumer, causing much waste. Good meat may be told from its firmness and elasticity to the touch, from its marbled appearance, its color, between pale pink and deep purple, its lack of unpleasant odor, and its slight shrinkage in cooking.
The following directions for the choice of meat will be of service to the young housekeeper:
In ox-beef the grains should be loose, the flesh red, and the fat of a fine cream-color. Cow-beef has a closer grain, a whiter fat, and meat not quite so red. Poor beef is indicated by a hard, skinny fat, a dark-red lean. In old animals a line of horny texture runs through the meat of the ribs. When pressed by the finger the meat should rise up quickly, if it does so slowly, age is indicated.
The meat of sheep should have a firm, close grain and dark-red color, the fat being white and firm. If too young, the flesh is tender when pinched ; if too old, it wrinkles and remains so.
This meat will not keep long after it is killed. If fresh the large vein in the fore-quarter should be bluish in color ; if stale this becomes green. The flesh should be light-colored and juicy, the fat white and rich.
Good veal is white, smooth and juicy; the fat white and firm. The flesh of a bull-calf is firmer and darker than that of a cow-calf. If stale, the color changes quickly, the flesh feels moist and clammy, the joints flabby, and there is a faint musty odor.
Pork - Here we should have a thin, smooth rind, cold to the touch, the fat must be very firm and the lean white. The rind of young pork should yield easily to the finger. The flesh should be smooth and dry; if clammy, it is tainted. "Measly pork" is very unwholesome, and may be told by the fat being full of enlarged glands, or kernels.
This should have a thin rind, and firm and reddish fat; the flesh a tender, clear red, with no yellowish mixture, and clinging closely to the bone. 386
To judge this, put a knife under the bone and up to the knuckle. If particles of meat adhere to the knife or the odor is unpleasant, the ham is not good.
In selecting poultry choose those that are full-grown, but not old. When young and fresh-killed, the eyes are full and bright, the joints neither stiff nor flabby ; the skin is thin and tender, so that it may be easily torn with a pin ; the breastbone is pliable, yielding easily to pressure. Fowls, if young, have a hard, close vent, and the legs and comb are smooth. Old turkeys have rough and reddish legs ; young ones smooth and black. If fresh killed the eyes are full and clear and the feet moist. A goose, if young, has but few hairs, a yellow bill, and is limber-footed. Ducks, when fat, are hard and thick on. the belly ; if young and good, they are limber-footed.
Put your tongue to the larger end ; if it feel warm, the egg is fresh. Or put the egg into a pan of cold water; if perfectly fresh, it will sink immediately, and so in proportion to its freshness ; a rotten egg will float on the top of the water.
Of ordinary meats mutton is at once the most nutritious and the easiest of digestion. Beef is usually considered more strengthening, but demands more vigorous digestive powers. Veal and lamb, though tender, are less digestible than the flesh of mature animals, this being especially the case with veal. Of all meats, however, pork stands first in the rank of the indigestible.
When meat comes from the market it should be wiped at once with a fresh, damp cloth, covered, and put in a cool place. Never wash fresh meat, as cold water draws out the juice. Remove from mutton all the pink skin attached to the meat; if left it will give it an unpleasant taste when cooked. The organs of animals, as the heart and kidneys, should be washed thoroughly; salted meats need washing to remove the salt.