Open main menu

Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/341

This page has been validated.

rich, and likely to disagree with delicate persons. However, they are nourishing, and supplying, as they do, both fat and flavour at a small cost, are very largely consumed by the poor. Herring is said to contain more nourishment and is cheaper than any other kind of fish food.

Crimping is employed to increase the firmness of the flesh by contraction of the muscles, in the case of cod, skate, salmon, and some other species. The popular notion that fish must be crimped while it is alive is erroneous, but it must be done immediately after death, before RIGOR MORTIS has set in. It is said that crimped fish keeps fresh, longer than fish in its natural state.


The first necessity for fish is that it should be fresh. Stiffness and rigidity of the flesh are a sure guide, for RIGOR MORTIS passes off in the course of time, and the flesh then becomes flabby.

The smell is not a sure guide if the fish has been kept in ice, for it may smell fresh, and yet change directly it is taken from the ice.

The redness of the gills is a good indication, and the brightness of the eyes, which should not be sunken in the head.

A proof of freshness and goodness in most fish is their being covered with scales; if the scales are deficient, the fish may be stale or they may have been damaged, and then they will not keep.

In flat-fish the skin should be smooth and moist, and closely adherent to the flesh. It is a bad sign if the skin is blistered.

Salmon, cod and the large fish generally should have a bronze tint when freshly cut. Turbot and brill should have yellowish flesh.

Very large fish are not to be preferred, as they are probably old and tough. A flat fish should be thick in proportion to its size; all fish should have large girth rather than great length. In buying a slice of fish, it is better to choose a thick slice from a small fish than a thin slice from a large one.

The red-fleshed and oily fish cannot be eaten too soon after they are out of the water. If kept they should be cleaned and wiped very dry, and laid on ice, or on stones in a current of air, when ice cannot be obtained. The larger fish can be hung up by the gills. They can be parboiled, and so kept for a day or two.

Turbot, brill, dory, and some other cartilaginous white-fleshed fish may be kept for a day or two with advantage. A turbot must always be hung up by the tail until it is ready to be cooked. White fish can be rubbed over with salt, and so kept for a day or two; but fish loses nourishment and quality in the process, which should only be resorted to when absolutely necessary. Fish that is not quite fresh can be improved by thorough washing in vinegar and water, or permanganate of potash and water. It is afterwards better fried than, boiled, but no dressing will entirely conceal its quality.