Open main menu

Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/849

This page has been validated.

The Stag (Fr. cerf).—The male of the red-deer is called the stag or hart, and the female a hind. The stag is much larger than the fallow-deer, and his age is indicated by his horns, which are round instead of palmated, like those of the fallow-deer. During the first year the stag has no horns, but a short and rough excrescence with a thin hairy skin. The following year the horns are single and straight, and in the third year they have two antlers, three the fourth, four the fifth, and five the sixth year.

This number is not always constant, for they are sometimes more and frequently are less. After the sixth year the antlers do not invariably increase; and though they may amount in number to six or seven on each side, the animal's age is estimated rather by the size of the antlers and the thickness of the branch which sustains them than by their variety. These horns are shed every year, usually in the spring, and new ones supply their place. When the old horns have fallen off the new ones do not make their appearance immediately, but the bones of the skull are covered with a transparent periosteum, or membrane which enwraps the bones of animals. After a short time the skin begins to swell and to form a sort of tumour. From this presently rising from the head the antlers shoot forth from side to side; and in a short time, if the animal is in good condition, the entire horns are completed. The solidity of the extremities, however, is not perfect until the horns have arrived at their full growth. Old stags usually shed their horns first, which generally happens towards the end of February or the beginning of March. Those between five and six years old shed theirs about the middle or latter end of March; those still younger in April, and the youngest of all not until the middle or latter end of May. These rules, which are applicable generally, are subject to variation, for a severe winter will retard the shedding of the horns. The hind has no horns, and is less fitted for being hunted than the stag. She takes the utmost care of her fawns and secretes them in the most obscure thickets, lest they should fall a prey to their numerous enemies, as the wolf, the dog, the eagle and the falcon. When the hind has young she defends her offspring with the most resolute bravery. If pursued by the hunter she will fly before the hounds for half a day and then return to her fawn, whose life she has thus preserved at the hazard of her own.

1332.—VENISON, HAUNCH OF, ROASTED. (Fr.Quartier de Chevreuil Rôti.)

Ingredients.—A haunch of venison, flour, brown sauce or brown gravy (see Sauce and Gravies), red currant jelly.

Method.—The haunch is the prime part of venison, and its excellence depends greatly on the relative proportions of fat and lean. An abundance of clear creamy-white fat of close texture may be generally accepted as an indication of the good quality of the meat. The flesh of the buck is more highly esteemed than that of the doe. Venison, like mutton, improves with age, and this can be judged by the condition of the hoof, which in an old animal is deeply cut and rugged, whereas that of a young one has a small and smooth cleft. In cold weather venison should be allowed to hang for about 14 days in a cool, dry place, but it must be carefully examined every day. The meat round the haunch bone first becomes tainted; it is therefore advisable to run a small sharp knife into the flesh; on being withdrawn, it has an unpleasant smell, the effected parts must at once be washed with warm milk and water, dried thoroughly, and covered thickly with ground ginger and pepper, which must, however, be washed off before cooking. If a little of these condiments be sprinkled on the venison in the first instance, and the meat wiped dry every day, decomposition may be considerably retarded. When ready for use, saw off the knuckle-bone, rub well all over with clarified fat or dripping, and enfold in a well-greased paper. Make a stiff paste of common flour and water, put it over the joint, cover with another well-greased paper, and tie securely with string. Roast in front of a clear fire or in a moderate oven from 3 to 4 hours, according to size and baste frequently. Within ½ an hour of serving remove the paper and paste, dredge lightly with flour, and