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A young turkey has a smooth black leg, and if male, a short spur. The eyes are
bright and full, and the feet are supple, when fresh. The absence of these signs
denotes age and staleness.
In young geese, the bills and feet are yellow and supple and the skin may be
easily broken; the breast is plump and the fat white; an old goose has red and
hairy legs and is unfit for the table.
Young ducks feel tender under the wings and the web of the foot is transparent;
those with thick, hard breasts are best. Tame ducks have yellow legs, wild ducks
Young fowls have a tender skin, smooth legs and comb, and the best have yellow
legs. In old fowls the legs are rough and hard.
In pheasants and quails yellow legs and dark bills are signs of a young bird.
They are in season in autumn.
Pigeons should be fresh, fat and tender, and the feet pliant and smooth.
In prairie chickens, when fresh, the eyes are full and round, not sunken, and if
young, the breast bone is soft and yields to pressure. The latter test also
applies to all fowls and game birds.
Plover, woodcock, snipe, etc., may be chosen by the same rules.
When fresh, the eyes of fish are full and bright, and the gills a fine clear
red, the body stiff and the smell not unpleasant. Mackerel must be lately caught
or it is very indifferent fish, and the flavor and excellence of salmon depends
entirely on its freshness. Lobsters when freshly caught have some muscular
action in their claws which may be excited by pressing the eyes. The heaviest
lobsters are the best. The male is thought to have the highest flavor, the flesh
is firmer, and the shell has a brighter red; it may be readily distinguished
from the female, as the tail is narrower, and the two uppermost fins, within the
tail, are stiff and hard; those of the female are soft, and the tail broader.
Hen lobsters are prepared for sauces on account of their coral. The head and
smallest claws are never used. If crabs are fresh, the eyes are bright, the
joints of the legs are stiff and the inside has an agreeable smell. The heaviest
are the best, the light ones being watery. Scallops are not much used; when
fresh the shell closes tight; hard-shell clams are also closed tight when fresh.
Soft-shell clams are good only in cold weather, and should be fresh. Oysters, if
alive and healthy, close tight upon the knife. They are good from September to
In fresh-water fish the same signs of freshness are good tests. Of course it is
impossible to name all the excellent varieties, as they differ with the
locality. In the South is the shad, the sheep's-head, the golden mullet and the
Spanish mackerel; in the North-west the luscious brook trout, and the wonderful
and choice tribes that people the inland lakes. Among the best of the
fresh-water fish sold generally in the markets of the interior, are the
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