( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The housekeeper who understands the raising and use of poultry can do much to lessen the cost of the important protein foods.
Selecting Live Poultry. When possible, chickens or other poultry should be purchased alive as the presence of disease is then more easily detected. Healthy chickens should have bright eyes; a drooping bird is sick. The legs should be smooth. A young chicken or other fowl has soft feet and a smooth skin; the cartilage at the end of the breast bone is soft, and pin feathers are abundant. Very long hairs denote age. If grown fowls are old the breast cartilage is stiff. A fowl should be fat and plump; young chickens are not as plump as older ones. The bird should be heavy in proportion to its size. Examine carefully, especially under wings and legs, and on neck and head, for lice, fleas, and ticks. A bird so infested cannot be in good condition. In most markets birds of light or yellow skins are in demand. Grown chickens are known as fowls and young ones as spring chickens. The smaller of these are called broilers, the larger, fryers.
If one has a place for keeping chickens it is well to purchase them by the dozen, thus reducing cost. Careful feeding for a week or two will improve the flavor of the meat. A ration of corn, wheat bran, and skimmed milk, with some green vegetable not too highly flavored, produces a plump, tender bird of good flavor. Table scraps are a good supplement to such a ration.
Dressed Poultry. Poultry should be drawn as soon as killed, as the digestive organs are filled with substances that decompose rapidly. The liquids pass readily through the walls of the intestines, and are absorbed by the tender flesh.
A good fresh fowl should have a well-rounded, plump form with no bony angles about the breast. These always indicate a lack of tender white meat. The skin should be free from bruises, blotches, and pin feathers. If the bird is scalded before picking, the skin may look drawn. The flesh should not be flabby, but should yield evenly and gently when pressed with the fingers. If the chicken is fresh, the feet are moist and limber, and the eyes appear bright and full.
Poultry does not keep as well in cold storage as beef does ; the young chickens especially decompose very quickly. Cold storage chickens have a peculiar squeezed appearance, due to the way in which they have been packed. They also have a distinctive odor that is not found about the fresh birds.
Fowls carefully dressed and promptly cooled may be kept in a refrigerator for a week if the temperature does not go above 50° F. If dressed birds are to be kept longer, the atmosphere should be dry and the temperature not above 34° F.
Dressing Fowls. No food should be given to fowls for at least twelve hours before they are killed. This makes the removal of the intestines much easier. The usual manner of killing is by cutting off the head.. The bird is then hung head down for several minutes. It should be picked before the feathers become set. Dry picking is considered the best for market fowls, but for home use scalding before picking is to be preferred. Insects on the bird will be killed in this manner. Never use water that ;is quite boiling for young chickens, as boiling water softens the skin so that it is apt to be torn when the feathers are pulled out.
Put the chicken in a deep pan. Have a kettle of boiling water ready. Pour a cup of cold water in the kettle. Then pour the water over the chicken. Turn the chicken from side to side, holding it by one foot ; then with a cloth and fork lift it by the neck and turn the feet down into the water. Hold it up to drain. Then lay it in a pan and pick off the feathers. Remove pin feathers with the point of a knife, being careful not to break the skin. When all the feathers are off, the fowl should be singed to remove the hairs that are to be found even on young birds. Hold the chicken over a gas or alcohol flame, turning it about so that the flame will reach every part, but do not let the skin and flesh become too hot, as they will then become scorched and will have a bad taste. If there is no gas flame singe the bird by holding it over burning paper. As soon as the chicken is singed cut off the legs at the knee joint. Lay the chicken in a pan of cold water and scrub well with a clean cloth, then dry and lay on a meat board.
Cutting Up and Dressing a Chicken for Panning or Frying. With a sharp knife cut off the oil bag that lies at the top of the tail. Take out the crop, first cutting through the skin about the middle of the crop, then pulling out the pouch. Cut the neck bone off close to the shoulders. After this is done cut off the wings and legs close to the body and turn the tips of the wings under the first joint. Divide the legs at the joint between the second joint and the drum stick. Put the knife in at the point of the wish-bone which lies over the breast. Then slice up toward the neck where the points of the wish-bone are joined to the shoulders. Cut down at each side of the neck and take off the bones which look like the wish-bone, but which lie in a reverse position. Lay the chicken on the meat board with the underside up. Cut across the skin a little way from the tail, making a horizontal cut. Be careful not to make the cut deep enough to enter the intestines. Lift, and turn the breast-bone back until the intestines are visible. Lift the heart, gizzard, and intestines, being careful not to break anything, and cut around the tube that joins the intestines to the skin. Separate the back from the breast and neck. Divide in two parts, cutting along the side of the back-bone. Separate the breast from the neck and cut into two pieces lengthwise. The neck may be used for stock or gravy. Remove the gizzard, liver, and heart from the intestines, being careful not to break the gall bladder, which is a greenish gland lying under the left lobe of the liver. Remove the gall bladder, taking a part of the liver with it. The liver should be smooth and of a solid brown color. If mottled or very much enlarged it should be discarded; if it shows abscesses or parasites throw the bird away. Make a cut around the gizzard, being careful not to cut the inner lining, pull the gizzard open, and turn out the inner sack. Cut off the tubes of the heart. Wash the giblets (the heart, liver, and gizzard) very thoroughly. Remove the lungs from the cavities formed by the ribs and take out the kidneys, which are found in the back. Throw away kidneys and lungs. Wipe the chicken with a damp cloth. Keep in a very cold place for twenty-four hours, or cook immediately.
Dressing a Fowl for Roasting. Make a slit in the skin at the side of the neck and remove the crop and wind pipe, cutting off the tube. that goes from the crop to the gizzard. Make a vertical cut in the skin from the tip of the breast bone to the under part of the tail. Insert the hand as high up as possible and remove the heart, liver, and intestines, cutting carefully around the part of the intestines that joins the skin. Remove the lungs and kidneys. Pour water through the fowl until the cavity is well washed. Wipe inside and out, then truss into shape.
Trussing a Fowl. When a bird is to be cooked whole, it should be trussed into shape as soon as it is cleaned. For trussing, use metal skewers or a mattress needle and twine. Press the legs closely against the body, pass the needle through the second joint (from the right), bring out on the left side, pass the needle back near to first stitch, and tie. Put a like stitch through the wings. Draw the drumsticks together and tie, bringing the ends of the joints close to the tail and passing the string around it. Turn the neck skin to the back between the wings and fasten with a stitch. Skewers may be used in this manner. When ready to stuff remove the skewers, if necessary.
METHODS OF COOKING CHICKEN
Spring chickens are more palatable when cooked by some of the quick methods and with little water. The large fryers make good stews, but the juices of the young, tender birds will not bear so much dilution. The flesh of young chicken is easily digested if properly cooked ; that is, by a simple method without high seasoning. Frying is most objectionable, as chicken cooked in this way taxes any but the strongest digestion. Older fowls may be roasted or fricasseed. Very old fowls are seldom palatable. They must be stewed, braised, or boiled.
Select a chicken not over a year old. Dress and truss as directed. If the chicken is to be cooked unstuffed, split it down the back when drawing it, and after wiping it fasten the legs and wings in position.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt, dredge with flour, and place it in a baking pan, flesh side up. Lay over the legs thin slices of salt pork and put a few small pieces in the pan. Cook in a hot oven, basting frequently. When the flesh side is well seared, cook for a short time with the skin side up in order to brown it. Cook fifteen minutes to the pound.
Do not fill the cavity entirely when stuffing. While cooking turn the fowl frequently as the breast will be more tender than if kept up all the time. Serve with giblet sauce.
Feet with skin removed 1 1/2 c. cold water
Piece of neck
Tips of wings
GIBLET STOCK Heart, liver, and gizzard
Cook as directed for soup stock until flesh is tender.
1 c. of giblet stock 2 tbsp. butter or chicken fat 1 1/2 tbsp. browned flour or 1 tbsp. white flour
Proceed as for brown sauce, add chopped giblets, and serve in a gravy boat.
Select a medium-sized spring chicken. Dress and cut in pieces as directed. Wash and, while still. moist, sprinkle with salt and a very little pepper. Roll in flour. Place in a shallow baking pan, just large enough to hold the chicken. Put directly over the flame and pour in two cups of boiling water. When the water is boiling briskly, lay the chicken in. Add two slices of salt pork and let boil for three minutes. Then put the pan under the flame of a gas stove or on the grate of a wood stove. When the surface of the chicken is crusted over and slightly browned, cover and cook until tender. When done arrange the chicken on a hot platter, and place the pan over the flame. Dilute the gravy with a little hot water if necessary. Add one-fourth cup of thin or two tablespoonfuls of thick cream. Bring to the boiling point and season to taste. Pour it over the chicken. The gravy should be moderately thick and if necessary flour may be added when the cream is put in. Stewed Chicken
Cut a chicken as for panning. Sprinkle with salt and flour. Drop into barely enough boiling water to cover, and boil for five minutes. Then cook gently until tender. Season to taste. Thicken the gravy if necessary. Serve hot. The time needed depends on the age of the chicken.
Dredge chicken with flour, brown in bacon fat, and then proceed as for stewed chicken. Thicken the gravy by adding the yolk of one egg to each cup of liquid.
2 qts. cold water One medium-sized fowl
Cut up the fowl as for panning. Reserve the giblets, as they give a strong flavor to the soup. Proceed as for white soup stock omitting-the mace and adding one tablespoonful of carrot. Strain and cool.
Remove the fat from the stock. Add one cup of thin cream for each quart of stock. Heat to the boiling point. Season and serve.
METHODS OF COOKING TURKEY
Turkeys have considerable fat in the fibers and therefore are not adapted to use in hot weather. The half-grown turkeys are delicious if split down the back and quickly roasted. Older birds may be stuffed and cooked. A young turkey hen, if plump, is more economical for a small family than a large gobbler, but the latter furnishes a greater proportion of breast.
Turkey is dressed as other poultry, for roasting. If one is skillful the tendons may be removed before the legs are taken off. Cut the skin around the leg one and a half inches below the knee joint. Bend the leg over the edge of the table just at the cut and break the bone. Pull off the foot, bringing the tendons with it. If the bird is old, use a steel skewer, removing each tendon separately.
When are turkeys plentiful in your markets? What is the cost per pound? How does this compare with the price of beef? In selecting turkey, how would you judge the age?
After the turkey is cleaned and trussed, put it in a cool place over night, or keep on ice for several days if desired. Any preferred stuffing may be used. Never use oyster stuffing unless the bird is to be eaten immediately after cooking.
when the stuffing is ready, fill the neck cavity (using a spoon) until the breast looks plump ; then turn the skin to the back and sew it down. Fill the body cavity well but do not pack. Sew up the opening, using a large needle and a coarse thread. Take a few stitches but do not draw them very tight. Skewer. or sew the legs in place. Dampen the outside of the fowl, sprinkle with salt, dredge thoroughly with flour, lay on a rack in a baking pan with the breast up, place in a hot oven, and baste every ten minutes with equal parts of hot water and melted butter. At the end of the first half hour, add one-half cup of water and use the liquid in the pan for basting. Have the oven very hot for the first half-hour and then lower the heat slightly. Cook an eight-pound fowl for two and one-half or three hours. Keep the breast down part of the time, and it will be more juicy. When ready to serve, garnish with curled celery tips or parsley and serve with it giblet sauce and a tart jelly.