The French say: 'To the uninitiated this bird is as a sealed book; eaten after it has been killed but three days, it is insipid and bad - neither so delicate as a pullet, nor so odoriferous as quail. Cooked at the right moment, the flesh is tender and the flavour sublime, partaking equally of the qualities of poultry and game. The moment so necessary to be known and seized on is when decomposition is about to take place. A trifling odour and a change in the colour of the breast are manifested, and great care must be taken not to pluck the bird till it is to be larded and cooked, as the contact of the air will completely neutralise the aroma, consisting of a subtle oil, to which hydrogen is fatal. The bird being larded, the first thing to do is to stuff it, which is effected in the following manner: Provide two woodcocks, bone and divide them into two portions, the one being the flesh, and the other trail, brains, and livers. You then take the flesh and make a forcemeat by chopping it up with some beef-marrow cooked by steam, a little rasped bacon, pepper, salt, fine herbs, and so much of the best truffles as will, with the above, quite fill the interior of the pheasant. You must take care to secure this forcemeat in such a manner that it shall not escape, which is sometimes sufficiently difficult if the bird is in an advanced state; however, it is possible to do so in diverse ways, one of which is by fitting a crust of bread and attaching it with a bit of ribbon. Take a slice of bread one-third of an inch thick and two inches wider on each side than the bird when laid on it. Then take the livers, brains, and the trail of the woodcocks; pound them up with two large truffles, an anchovy, a little rasped bacon, and as much of the finest fresh butter as may seem necessary. Spread then this paste on the toast equally, and let the pheasant, prepared as above, be roasted over it in such a manner as that the toast may be saturated with the juices that drop during the operation of roasting. When that is done, serve the pheasant gracefully laid on its bed (the toast). Garnish with Seville orange, and be tranquil as to the result.' This extract from 'Les Classiques de la Table' (p. 129) I have taken from 'The Gentlewoman.' The gourmets must make haste and try this dish, for fear that woodcocks, which are getting very scarce, should disappear altogether. It is rather a mystery why they are becoming so rare in England, for they are birds that migrate. It has been suggested as an explanation that sport is now so cosmopolitan, and breech-loading weapons have so favourably handicapped the modern gunner, that the woodcock is being gradually eliminated. Poor little, clever, swift-flying thing, he is safe nowhere!
Mince-meat for Christmas should be made about the 20th of this month. I think this old Suffolk receipt is better than the one in 'Dainty Dishes' or in Mrs. Roundell's 'Practical Cookery.' The following directions are for a large quantity, but of course the proportions can be greatly reduced: Two pounds of beef suet finely chopped, two pounds of raisins stoned and chopped, two pounds of currants washed and picked, two pounds of apples chopped fine, one pound and a half of raw beef scraped and chopped fine (every little bit of gristle having first been removed), one pound of finely preserved ginger, six lemons (juice and peel), twelve oranges (only the juice), a little salt, one pound and a half of sugar, a little spice. Mix well with brandy and sherry to taste. Keep in stone jars in a cool place.