"One likes the pheasant's wing and one the leg."
The dressing of poultry has everything to do with its delicacy as an article of food. When properly dressed, the skin is of a clear color and free from blotches and pin feathers. The flesh is firm, yet yields easily to pressure, never tight and drawn.
The surest way to test the age of a dressed fowl is to bend the point of the breast bone to one side. If the fowl is very young, it will respond to little pressure. At medium age the point is brittle; in an old fowl it is very hard and tough. The older the fowl, the harder and rougher its feet and blunter its claws. On the other hand, young fowls have soft, smooth feet and sharp claws.
When birds are intended for immediate use it is just as well to have them prepared by the poulterer, otherwise they should be bought untrussed and undrawn, and hung up until required. They keep so much better when not drawn that it is always advisable to postpone the operation as long as possible. In drawing a fowl, begin by cutting a long slit in the back of the neck, then cut off the neck close to the body, leaving three inches of skin to cover the opening. Remove the crop, then insert two fingers and tear away the skin which connects the various internal organs of the bird. Now cut a small opening just above the tail, insert the fingers as before, detach the skin adhering to the body, take firm hold of the gizzard, which is situated under the breast bone, and remove it. The other internal parts, being indirectly attached to it, will be withdrawn at the same time.
Care must be taken not to break the gall bladder, the dark green bag between the lobes of the liver, for the gall would impart a bitter flavor to the bird that no amount of washing would completely remove.
Game may be correctly described as anything that has been hunted by sportsmen. Any bird or animal which is shot or snared for amusement should by right be classed as game, but the term now is applied to a select few only. The flesh of game is believed to possess strengthening qualities superior to that of poultry; it also contains less fat and is tender. It forms a valuable diet for the invalid by reason of its easy digestibility.
Until cooked, game has little or no flavor, and very little smell; when cooked the " game flavor", as it is termed, is to be distinguished and is modified to style of cooking.
The flesh of all kinds of game undergoes changes after death. The supple muscles stiffen with rigor, after which putrefaction sets in very slowly. During these successive changes various substances are formed. The " fumet " of game shows the development of certain substances which not only give it its special characteristic flavor, but render the flesh more easy of digestion. On this account game that is well hung makes appetizing and digestible fare for invalids.
Game that has hung too long develops an acrid flavor. It is termed " high "; this means that it is decomposing. Birds that are becoming soft-fleshed, gelatinous, flabby, even green, should be thrown away, because it is dangerous to eat them. Cooking may change the flavor of " high game ", making the flesh more wholesome, but there is great risk of ptomaine poisoning if a " turned " bird be eaten.
With well-hung game, washing must be avoided. Wiping it inside and out with a damp cloth is the most that should be attempted, and when the bird is served, the gravy should be served in a tureen and not poured over the bird, since the aim is to conserve the flavor of the bird as much as possible.
All game requires careful cooking, with frequent bastings, or otherwise it eats dry and deficient in flavor. Most game requires to be well cooked.