There is no bird, nor any bird’s egg, that is known to be poisonous, though they may, and often do, become unwholesome because of the food that the birds eat, which at all times greatly changes the quality of the flesh, even in birds of the same breed.
Wild ducks and other aquatic birds are often rank and fishy-flavoured. Pigeons fatten and waste in the course of a few hours. The pronounced flavour of grouse is said to be due to the heather shoots on which they feed.

Age and Flavour of Chickens: The flesh of young chickens is the most delicate and easily assimilated of bird meats, which makes it especially suitable for invalids and people with weak digestion.

Few birds undergo so great a change with regard to the quality of their flesh as the domestic fowl. When quite young, cocks and hens are equally tender, but as chickens grow older the flesh of the cock is the first to toughen, and a cock over a year old is fit only for conversion into soup. A hen of the same age affords a substantial and palatable dish.

Birds of all sizes may now be obtained all the year round, so that a variety of recipes may be used, according to the bird chosen. The youngest birds may be called Baby Chicks, Spring Chickens or Squabs (French—poussins, petits poulets); these are usually grilled or fried and have a delicate flavour.

The birds likely to be the most popular in the average household are cockerels, roasting chickens and fowls and capons (French—poulets de grain, poulets reine, poulardes, chapons). These may be cooked in a number of ways, two of the most popular being roasting and braising.

Older birds used for boiling may also be an economical purchase for the housewife (French—poules).

To Choose Poultry: As a rule small-boned birds are an economical purchase; they should be plump and not devoid of fat.

When fresh, they should be free from any tainted smell, the eyes clear and not sunken, the feet limp and pliable. The legs should be soft and smooth, and the breastbone and wing-tips pliable. The signs of an old fowl are its stiff, horny-looking feet, long spurs, dark-coloured and hairy thighs, stiff beak and hard bones.
Chapons and Poulardes: The male fowl, the capon (chapon), and the female bird, the poularde, are both, by treatment while young, made incapable of generating, with the result that their size is increased, and they become fatter than ordinary fowls. The flesh of these birds does not toughen with age, and even when three years old they are as tender as chicken—with a delicate flavour. The flavour of the poularde is considered more delicate than that of the capon (chapon), but the latter is the larger bird. They may be boiled, braised, roasted or otherwise prepared, according to the directions given for cooking chickens and fowls.

Turkeys: These when young have smooth black legs and short spurs. The eyes of a fresh bird are bright and not sunken. Choose one which has a broad, plump breast and white flesh, the best being from seven to nine months old. The flesh of the hen is usually found to be more tender than the cock.

An old bird will have pale or reddish, rough legs, and the spurs will be long.

Ducks: When young these usually have yellow feet and bills. The underbill should be so soft that it will bend back easily, and the webbing of the feet should be soft; the breast should be meaty. (French: duck—canard: duckling —caneton.)

Geese: The signs of freshness in a goose are the same as those in a duck, and the former should still have some down on its legs. A gosling or green goose is one up to four months old.

Dressing Poultry (see plates 8 and 9)

Plucking: If a strong hook firmly fixed to a wall is available, plucking can be facilitated by tying the two feet of the bird together with strong string, and hanging the bird over the hook. Draw out one wing and pull out the under feathers, taking a few at a time. Work towards the breast and then down to the tail. Repeat on the other side. Small hairs may be singed away with a taper; burnt feathers, however, will impart an unpleasant flavour to the bird.

Drawing: Half-way along the neck, cut a ring round the outer skin and pull or cut off the head. Slip the knife under the skin and cut back towards the body. Holding the neck in a dry cloth, pull the skin loose. At the base of the neck cut through the meat and then, still holding the neck in a dry cloth, twist firmly round until it is detached from the body. (Keep the neck for stock.) Push the index finger into the crop cavity to loosen the crop and gizzard.

Turn the bird around and with a sharp knife cut the skin on the leg, place over a board or table edge and snap the bone. Grasp the foot in one hand and the thigh of the bird in the other and pull off the foot with the tendons. There should be 7 tendons.
To remove the viscera make a slit of about 2–3 in. above the vent, taking care not to cut into the rectal end of the gut. Insert the first two fingers of the right hand, knuckles upwards, and gently draw out the intestines. Several attempts will have to be made in the first instance to remove all the organs, including the crop, which has to be pulled with the gizzard from the neck end, out to the back of the bird. When they are free, trim the end of the intestines and the vent away. The liver can now be separated from the gall bladder, taking care not to break the latter. The meaty outside of the crop can be skinned or cut away from the gritty contents.
The lungs, which are bright red, lie close to the ribs. They are best removed by wrapping the index finger in a dry cloth and pushing in turn down from the back bone and out along each rib.
Bum the inedible waste, i.e. head, intestines, lungs, crop, feet, container of grit from the gizzard, etc., immediately. The giblets, i.e. the neck, gizzard, liver and heart should be kept away from the bird so that its flesh will not be discoloured.
Wipe the inside of the bird with a dry cloth. Do not wet it by washing unless the bird is to be cooked immediately.

Trussing: The object of trussing a bird is to ensure that when cooked it looks attractive. The easiest way to truss is with a needle, similar in size to a packing needle. When the bird is clean lay it down with the breast uppermost and away from you. Thread the needle and pass it through the left leg just above the thigh bone and near to the joint between the thigh and leg bone. (When the leg is folded down against the bird these two bones form a “V” shape with the apex of the “V” pointing towards the front of the bird.) Pass the needle on through the body, out the other side, and through the other leg joint. The legs should be pushed tight against the body during this operation.

The string should now be passing through the body and the leg joints. Leaving sufficient on either side, turn the bird breast downwards and carry the string through the elbow joint of the wing on each side, then twist the end of the wing under the neck of the bird to hold the neck flap of skin. The two ends may now be drawn together not too tightly and tied off. It now only remains to tie down the legs. This may simply be done by looping the string over the ends of the drumsticks and drawing them together, tying off round the tail end of the “parson’s nose”. To make this operation easier a slit may be cut in the flesh above the original vent cut and the “parson’s nose” pushed through. The legs may also be tied down, using the needle on each leg end in turn. The packing needle and string can also usefully be used to repair any tears that have occurred during plucking or drawing. When trussed the skin should be as complete as possible in order to prevent the loss of fat from the bird during cooking, so resulting in over-dryness and an unpalatable meat.

Boning poultry and game: Birds are invariably plucked and singed before boning, but not drawn. The crop, however, should be removed, the wings and legs cut off at the first joint, and the tendons of the legs carefully drawn at the same time. To bone the bird, use a small sharp knife, and first remove the merry-thought at the neck. Cut the skin down the centre of the back and raise the flesh carefully on either side, sever the wing joints, and continue to detach the flesh, keeping the blade of the knife close to the bone. When the legs are reached, dislocate the joints, cut the connecting tendons, but leave both wings and legs intact until the breast and backbones have been removed, together with the viscera. Turn the body completely inside out; take the thigh bones of one of the legs in the left hand and strip the flesh downwards. Repeat this until all the small bones are removed. The bird may then be turned right side out again, when it will be found completely boned and should be quite whole.

Both large and small birds may be boned in this way. They are then stuffed, re-shaped and trussed, or rolled into gallantines.

Jointing poultry: See plate 7.

Roast Chicken: Thin brown gravy, bread sauce, bacon rolls, green salad, game chips, watercress to garnish, veal forcemeat stuffing.

Roast Duck: Thickened gravy, sage and onion stuffing, apple-cranberry- or orange-sauce, watercress to garnish.

Roast Wild Duck: Port wine-or orange-sauce or orange salad.

Roast Turkey: Thickened gravy, veal or chestnut stuffing, sausage-meat stuffing, bacon rolls, grilled sausages, bread- or cranberry sauce.

Roast Goose: Thickened gravy, sage and onion stuffing, apple sauce.
General Hints

(a) Chicken is stuffed at the neck-end, duck and goose are stuffed from the vent-end, turkey is stuffed with veal or chestnut stuffing in the crop and with sausage-meat stuffing in the body.

(b) Chickens and game birds may be roasted for a little while at the beginning of the cooking time, on the breast. This will make the breast-meat more moist. It should not be done with duck or goose. All birds should be roasted on a trivet, not resting in the tin in basting fat.

(c) Sufficient garnish should be served with each dish to provide some with each portion served. When dishes are to be served hot, the garnish must be ready in advance and arranged quickly. If the process takes time, the serving dish may be placed in a shallow tin of hot water to ensure that the food is served very hot.

(d) Frozen chickens or chicken portions can be utilized in many of the following recipes.

(e) The use of metal foils for cooking can be recommended (1) to ensure a tight-fitting lid when stewing or braising, (2) to wrap birds during roasting when a covered roaster is not available or proves too small. Before cooking is completed the foil should be turned back from the breast and legs of the bird to allow the skin to become crisp and brown.

(f) If a good stock is not available it may be produced quickly by using one of the reliable makes of consommé soup-mix now on the market.

(g) When the method of cooking is in a casserole or by stewing, some dry cider or dry wine may be substituted for some of the stock.

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