Old turkeys and fowls have hard, scaly feet and legs. To be sure of getting young ones, choose those that have smooth legs and moist feet. (Yellow-legged chickens ard considered the best.) The skin should be thin and tender, and the breast bone can be bent when pressed by the finger.
The best ducks have thick, firm breasts. If young, the web of the feet will be transparent, and they will feel, tender under the wing. An old duck or goose is utterly worthless.
Clean it the moment it comes into your possession after being killed. If the entrails lie long in poultry they impart an unpleasant, sour taste to the whole inside, and the giblets of fowls bought in market are often unfit for use from this cause.
To Clean or Draw Fowls. Lay the chicken on its back, and make a long incision from the end of the breastbone to the tail. Keeping the tail toward the right hand, run the hand into the body, keeping it close to the flesh on the left side of the chicken. With a firm grasp close the fingers tight around the entrails, and draw them out without loosening the hold, as that might break the gallbag. If a particle of gall (which can be known by its green color) escapes within the chicken, it will be ruined by the bitter taste which will impregnate the whole. Even a drop of it on the knife used in preparing the chicken will spoil whatever it touches. Lay on one side the heart and liver, cutting off any part that looks green. Then cut open the gizzard; scrape out the inside, and throw it into hot water for a moment, after which the thick outer skin can easily be removed.
Next, make an incision along the backbone just below the neck, and draw out the crop, and the large cord at the neck.
Pick out the pin-feathers carefully, and singe off the hairs by holding the fowl by the feet over a blazing paper laid on top of the stove, and turning it on all sides.
Cut off the legs at the first joint, and cut off the neck, leaving the skin, and lay it with the giblets for gravy.
To Wash Poultry. Fill the inside with cold water, holding it over a pan. Keeping the hands over the openings, shake hard. Rinse it in this way in several waters.
In next to the last, it is well to dissolve one teaspoonful of soda, if there is any sourness.
To Stuff and Truss Poultry. Make a "stuffing." Fill the inside, using a teaspoon, and sew it up, doubling backwards the skin at the neck, and sewing it. Cross the ends of the legs, and tie them to the tail. Double the wings, and fasten them close to the body, with a string. Poultry never looks well when dished, unless proper attention is paid to trussing. It is well to stuff and truss the fowl the day before it is to be cooked. The flavor of the stuffing then permeates the whole, and it is, besides, a convenience to a busy housekeeper.
To Keep Poultry, it should be put in a cold place, but not where it will freeze, as that destroys the flavor. Wrap it in a cloth, to keep it moist. Hang it, or place it breast downwards on a shelf. If there is danger of its spoiling, or if the weather is warm, parboil it, after cleaning it. Poultry is tenderer and better for being kept several days after being killed.