This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
Of the birds we use for food, fowls and chickens, turkeys, and tame ducks and geese are classed together as poultry. Wild fowl, like wild animals used for food, come under the head of game. Among game-birds are quail, partridges, grouse, wild ducks, and wild geese. Game is now scarce and expensive.
The flesh of ducks and geese, like pork, is so fat that it is not easily digested. Of what use is fat in the bodies of waterfowl?
The light meat from the breasts of poultry is tender, but poorer in flavor than the less delicate meat from the leg and hip-joint, or "second joint," a difference corresponding to that between the loin of beef and the shin and round. The delicacy of the breast-meat is owing partly to the shortness of its muscle-fibres. The legs are tough because fowls use them constantly. Strong tendons run through the "drumsticks." Why is the meat on the wings of domestic fowls so much more tender than that on the legs? Wild fowl have dark, rich meat on breast and wings. Can you explain why?
In market terms, chicken not more than five months old is "spring chicken"; chicken over a year old, fowl.
These tendons should be removed if the fowl is to be roasted, but need not be if it is to be boiled or fricasseed. What is the reason?
In a chicken or young fowl the scales on the legs are yellow and soft, and the breast-bone yielding. How do the bones of young animals differ in composition from those of older ones? Older fowls have horny scales, a hard breast-bone, thicker and yellower skin, and more fat. Pin-feathers, usually an indication of youth, give place to hairs as the bird grows older. A young cock is best for roasting.
A young turkey is known by the same points as a young fowl. Good turkeys have, besides, plump breasts, black legs, and white flesh. A young cock turkey (gobbler) has small spurs. As a rule, hen turkeys are best; old gobblers are never good.
In a young duck or goose the windpipe is brittle enough to snap readily between the thumb and finger, and the feet are soft and yellow. Neither ducks nor geese are good if more than one year old.
1. To remove hairs, singe the bird over a flame, holding it by neck and legs. A gas or an alcohol flame is best. Lacking these, use lighted paper on top of the range. Cut off the head. Pull out pin-feathers with a vegetable-knife and your thumb.
2. To remove tendons, bend the leg back to stretch the skin over the joint, and cut carefully through the skin. Break the joint. Slip a skewer under one tendon at a time and pull them out. Break off the foot with the loose tendons.
3. To draw the bird, make a cut just large enough to admit your hand between one leg and the body. Make another cut around the rump (the part just below the tail). Slip a finger in here and free the entrails from the body. Then put your hand into the other opening and work it carefully around between the entrails and the body, till the entrails can be drawn out all together. Put two fingers down between the neck and the skin and find the windpipe and the crop (a little bag). Draw these out. The kidneys lie in a hollow near the end of the back-bone. Make sure that these are removed. See also that none of the red, spongy lung-substance clings to the chest wall. Turn down the skin on the neck and cut the neck off close to the body. Save the neck. Leave about two inches of skin to fold over. Cut off the oil-bag from the rump. Pieces of fat may be saved to be melted for basting.
4. To clean, run water through the body. Wipe it with a damp cloth inside and out.
5. The giblets. - The gizzard, heart, and liver, called "giblets," are saved to use in gravy. The gizzard is large, hard, and purplish. The liver, soft and red, lies next to it, with the gall-bladder attached. Gall (bile) is very bitter; in cutting off the gall-bladder take great care not to break it. If a drop of gall escapes, wash instantly whatever part of the bird it touches. Cut slowly through the thick wall of the gizzard, stopping as soon as the inner sac comes to view. This sac may contain corn or whatever the bird has fed on. Peel off the outer coat without breaking the sac, and throw the sac away. Wash the giblets.