Eggs should have fresh-looking, not shiny, shells. If lifted in the hand, they should feel comparatively heavy. There is where farmers have the greatest advantage. Eggs are selected fresh for them daily.
In selecting fish, choose those with firm, stiff fins, red gills, and full, clear eyes.
Choose butter by its fresh odor, freedom from buttermilk and streaks of color, and see that the flavor is good.
A dry surface is a pretty sure indication of freshness in strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. It is wise to pour a portion of the berries from the box into the hand, in order to ascertain whether the quality is the same throughout. Plumpness, brightness of skin, and freedom from spots of decay are the most reliable indications of freshness in such fruits as apples, peaches, plums, cherries, grapes, etc.
Macaroni should break with a clean, glassy surface, and should not be too white. A white appearance indicates that the flour from which the macaroni was made contained a large proportion of starch and little protein.
All vegetables should be unwilted, and if there are leaves with them, these should be crisp. The best potatoes have smooth, unbroken skins, and should be comparatively heavy. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc., of medium size, are better than very large ones, as large ones are apt to be coarse and less delicate. Corn and peas deteriorate in flavor very rapidly, and are at their best very soon after gathering. The Spanish onion, a large white onion, is very mild in flavor. Select all onions same as other vegetables. They should be plump, and not too large. Cabbage heads should be solid, heavy and unwilted. The heads of cauliflower should be close, or solid, the leaves green and fresh-looking, and the flowers creamy white.
Cereals should be free from insects, and have a fresh odor. The best rice has large grains, and very few broken ones.
Dry beans, like dried fruit, should be fresh, to give the best flavor. The white navy bean is the most desirable, as the larger white beans are coarser and less delicate in flavor. Dark beans, as red, black, etc., are less delicate than white beans. Dried lima beans can be obtained on the market, and are much cheaper, and nearly as good, as the canned beans.
Dried fruit should be free from insects, have a bright skin, and a pleasant odor. Evaporated apples and pears should be free from cores, and not too white, as this sometimes indicates excessive bleaching, and consequent contamination with sulphur.
Extracts from Bulletin No. 48, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Division of Chemistry:
"By reason of the oxidizing effects of the air, the freshly-cut surfaces of the apples soon turn brown. The sulphuring prevents this, and preserves the natural color of the fruit for a considerable period when exposed to the air.
"It might be supposed that the sulphuring of the whole apples before slicing would not be sufficient to preserve the fresh color of the surfaces after slicing. The time of exposure does not usually exceed half an hour. Experience shows that this is quite sufficient to preserve the fresh color of the surface after slicing and to prevent them becoming dark during the process of evaporation. The quantity of sulphurous acid which is absorbed is not sufficient in any way to impair the flavor of the fruit.
"While it is evident that the process of sulphuring is in no sense a sterilizing proceeding, yet it seems sufficient to prevent insects depositing their eggs upon the evaporated slices to at least a certain extent. Nevertheless insects have been found in some of the slices collected for analysis. As a further protection against insects in dried fruits, Hilgard states that the sulphuring is sometimes repeated after evaporation. This process is to be condemned becauses the dried fruit retains more persistently the sulphurous acid, which affects its flavor very seriously.
"The consumer has reason to object to the sulphuring of the dried fruit for two reasons, one of which is that the ill-prepared or damaged fruit, which otherwise could not be sold, is bleached and made presentable in the market, and, second, that the flavor of the fruit is either seriously impaired or totally destroyed. Such sulphured fruit contains also considerable quantities of the sulphurous acid, the excessive consumption of which may impair digestion and affect the health of the consumer.
"It is probable that the zinc contained in evaporated apples exists entirely in the form of organic salts the most abundant of which is zinc malate. All writers on toxicology agree that in certain quantities zinc salts exercise a poisonous effect, while the continued administration of zinc salts in smaller quantities has not been known to produce any very decided disturbance of the physiological functions of the body. Yet the continued administration of zinc salts, even in minute doses, cannot be recommended. All authorities agree that, even if zinc be regarded as poisonous, it is decidedly less so than lead and copper.
"The continued use of bodies that are not distinctly poisonous, but which are foreign to the natural constituents of the system, may finally produce derangement of the health, and for this reason the manufacturers of evaporated fruits in this country should pursue such processes as would exclude even the traces of zinc above mentioned. The zinc in evaporated apples comes from the galvanized iron wire cloth used in making the trays on which they are evaporated.'
References: U. S. Dept. Agr., Div. of Chemistry, Bulletin No. 13, pt. 7, pp. 908, 920, 926, 927; U. S. Dept. Agr., Div. of Chemistry, Bulletin No. 48, pp. 9, 35, 36; U. S. Dept. Agr., Farmers' Bulletin No. 122, pp. 22, 23;Wyo. Exp. Station Bulletin No. 33, pp. 82-84.