Open main menu

Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/491

This page has been validated.


Choosing Meat.—Every housekeeper ought to know how to choose a good piece of meat in the butcher's shop, and how to detect a bad piece sent to her kitchen. It is almost needless to say that the first necessity is that the meat should be wholesome, It may be unwholesome from a variety of causes.

Parasites.—It may be infested with parasites, and this condition is known to be without doubt most injurious to the consumer. We shall have to speak again of "measly pork" in another chapter, and of the parasite known as "Trichina Spiralis," that also frequently infests the pig. The chief, indeed, the only safeguard against this danger lies in the thorough cooking of the meat, every part of which should be raised to the temperature of boiling water, 212 Fahr. This applies particularly to all the visceral organs, where these are eaten, for in these parts of the animal that parasites are most often found.

Putrefaction.—Even if the animal be killed in a healthy condition, the meat may become unwholesome by putrefaction. Habit has much to do in accommodating mankind to various kinds of foods. Some American Indians prefer putrid meat, and they bury salmon for some months in order to bring it to what they consider a state of perfection. Until recently Englishmen preferred game in a half-putrid condition, but now the taste for it is rapidly disappearing.

To Choose Good Meat it is necessary to see that it possesses the following qualifications:—

(1) It should have a marbled appearance, from the ramifications of little veins of fat among the muscles; this is specially characteristic of beef.

Meat may be wholesome, yet not fat, as we shall explain later, but a sickly animal never fattens.

(2) It should be firm and elastic to the touch, and should scarcely moisten the fingers, bad meat being wet, sodden and flabby, with the fat looking like wet jelly or parchment.

(3) It should be neither of a pale pink colour nor a deep purple tint; the former is a sign of disease, the latter indicates that the animal has not been slaughtered, but has died with the blood in it, or has suffered from acute fever. In this case the inside fat surrounding the kidneys and the liver is often suffused with blood, showing plainly that there has been inflammation of those organs.

(4) It should have little or no odour, and the odour should not be disagreeable, for diseased meat has a sickly, cadaverous smell, and sometimes a smell of physic. This is easily discovered when the meat is cut up finely and put into warm water.

(5) It should not shrink or waste much in cooking, though this depends partly on the mode of cooking, as, for instance, roast meat wastes more than baked, and some joints more than others. Badly