Be careful first to have your proper carving-knife; and next to consider the number of the company. If a small number, it will only be necessary in carving a goose, turkey, or cluck, to cut deep slices from each side of the breast, without winging the birds. In a large party they must absolutely be cut up.
In carving a goose, the neck must be turned towards you, and the skin below the breast, called the apron, be removed in a semicircular direction, to enable you to reach the stuffing inside. Some carvers choose to pour in a glass of port wine, or claret mixed with mustard, before beginning to cut up. The slices first cut are on each side of the breast-bone, marked a, b. Then, if required, the wing may be removed, by putting the fork into the small end of the pinion, and pressing it close to the body until you divide the shoulder-joint at 1, carrying the knife on as far as 2, and then separating by drawing the fork back. The leg must be removed in the same manner in the direction 2, 3, and the thigh, which is by many considered the best part, must be separated from the inferior drumstick. The merry-thought may be removed by raising it a little from the neck, and then passing the knife beneath, and the delicate neck-bones are taken off the same way. The rump is looked on by epicures as a dainty. After each plate has been supplied with the part asked for, a spoon must be introduced at the neck to draw out the proper portion of stuffing.
A green goose is carved much in the same way, but is not stuffed, and only the breast regarded as very delicate.
The prime part of the turkey is the breast, and it is only after this is exhausted that the real cutting up of the bird is required. The knife must be passed down close to the bone and through the forcemeat which fills the breast, and then thin slices, with a due portion of the forcemeat, distributed; and except in a very large party, this usually is sufficient; but if more be required, the pinions and legs must be taken off like those of the goose. The thigh is good; the pinion and drumstick are usually tough, and reserved till the last; the side or neck-bones are delicate; also the small round piece of flesh on each side of the centre of the back called the oyster. Beyond these the turkey requires no more carving.
The fork must be firmly fixed in the centre of the breast, draw the knife along the line 1 to 3, and then proceed to take off the wing, by inserting the knife under the joint at 1, and lifting the pinion with the fork, drawing off the wing with a slice of the breast attached. The leg, cut round, is easily released in the same way. The merry-thought may next be detached by turning it back from the breast; the neck-bones which are beneath the upper part of the wings are easily raised. Then the breast must be divided from the back by cutting through the ribs close under the breast. The back may then be turned uppermost, press the point of the knife in the midst, and raise the lower end to separate it. Then remove the rump, and cut off the side bones which lie on each side of the back by forcing the knife through the rump-bone and drawing them from the back-bone; these side bones include the delicate morsel called the oyster. The breast and wings are the choice parts; the liver, which is trussed under one wing, should be divided to offer part with the other wing, the gizzard being rarely eaten; but the legs in a young fowl, and especially in a boiled fowl, are very good; the merry-thought too is a delicacy. If the fowl be very large, it is commonly carved like a turkey, with slices first cut from the breast. When a fowl is sent to table cold at luncheon or supper, it is often carved first and then neatly tied together with white ribbons. This looks well, and is very convenient in a large party.
A duck, if large, must be carved as directed for a goose, by cutting slices from the breast, and afterwards removing the wings and legs; but if a very young bird, it is commonly disjointed first and then served in the same way as a fowl. The seasoned onions and sage placed under the apron may be removed with a spoon if required, but some have an objection to the strong flavor, and it is necessary to know that it is not disagreeable to them before you place it on the plate.
The choice part of a wild duck is the breast, which is cut in long slices from the neck to the leg. It is rarely the bird is required to be disjointed, but if it be necessary, it can be cut up like a fowl.
In the same manner in which you carve a fowl fix your fork in the centre of the breast; cut slices from the breast; remove the leg, which is considered excellent, in a line at 3, and the wing at 3, 5. To draw off the merry-thought, pass the knife through the line 6 beneath it towards the neck, and it will easily be detached. In other respects serve it in the same way as a fowl, the breast and thigh being most valued.
The first unrivalled bird of game, due on the 12th of August, breaking up the senate of the kingdom, and accessible only to the few whom wealth or privilege give the entree into the preserved regions, has, when even thrown into the market by the mercenary scions of the great, a considerable value; and perhaps it is only in the North that it is properly cooked and appreciated. A moor bird requires a particular sagacity in carving, which is a secret to the uninitiated. You may carve it like a common fowl; but the epicure alone knows that it is in the back that the true flavor of the heath is found, and in the North the back is recognized as the chief delicacy, and must be carefully proportioned among the guests.
The partridge is always well received in dinner society; and if the party be large and the supply of game small, the partridges must be jointed like a fowl, to make the most of them, but in a small party it is only necessary to fix the knife in the back, and separate the bird at once into back and breast, dividing it then according to the number of guests, always remembering that the back of a well-fed partridge is by no means a despicable morsel.
The great peculiarity in carving the woodcock or snipe is, that the bird is not drawn like other birds, but roasted as it is plucked, suspended by the head, with a toast beneath, on which the trail, as it is called, or internal part, is allowed to drop; and when the birds are roasted, which should be rapidly done in twenty minutes, the trail should be spread over each toast and the bird served up on it. It is then only necessary to carve each bird through the breast and back, with its due proportion of the trail and toast. The best part, however, if carved, is the thigh.
As the pigeon is too small a bird to disjoint, it is the fairest division to cut it through the middle of the breast and back in two equal parts. Another mode is to insert the knife at 1, and cut on each side to 2 and 3, and forcing them asunder, to divide each portion into two; but this is not needed except in a large party.
Fieldfares, larks, corn-crakes, quails, plovers, and ruffs and reeves, should be always cut through the breast, and served only for two helps.
The old way of carving a hare, still insisted on at many economical tables, is somewhat elaborate. You must first insert the knife in the point of the shoulder marked 1, and divide it down along the line to the rump, 2; and doing the same at the opposite side, the hare falls into three pieces. Pass the knife under the shoulder, 2--1, and remove it; then the leg, which is really good, in a similar manner. The animal must be beheaded, for it is necessary to divide the head, which must be done by turning the mouth towards you, holding it steadily down with the fork, inserting the knife through the bone between the ears, and forcing it through, entirely dividing it. Half the head is given to any one that requires it, the crisp ears being first cut off, a delicacy some prefer. The back, which is the most tender part, must now be divided through the spine into several pieces; it is only after the back is distributed that it is necessary to have recourse to the shoulders and legs. If the hare be old, it is useless to attempt to carve it entirely at table, the joints become so stubborn with age; and it is then usual to cut long slices on each side of the back-bone. A great deal of the blood usually settles in the shoulders and back of the neck, giving the flesh a richness which epicures like; and these parts, called the sportsmanís pieces, are sometimes demanded. The seasoning or stuffing of a hare lies inside, and must be drawn out with a spoon.
The rules for carving a hare sufficiently direct the mode of carving a rabbit, except that, being so much smaller, the back is never divided into more than two or three pieces, and the head is served whole, if demanded. The wing is thought a choice part by many.
Original text by George Routledge, edited and revised by D. J. McAdam - this text © 2005. Please note: all applicable material on this website is protected by law and may not be copied without express written permission.
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