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Game1The term game is applied to wild animals and birds which are hunted and eaten. In Britain, there is a close season for most game, when hunting is forbidden. Only rabbits, pigeons and quails are not protected by law and are available fresh throughout the year.

For roasting and grilling, all game should be young - a condition that is easiest recognised on unplucked game. The beak and feet should be pliable, the plumage or fur soft, and the breast plump.

Most game is bought from licensed poulterers and fishmongers, prepared and often barded, ready for cooking. In practice, customers must rely on the retailer for quality products, and many game birds are labelled as 'young birds' or 'casserole birds'.

Before it is ready for cooking, game must be hung in order to tenderise the flesh and develop the gamey flavour. It is not necessary to hang game until it is 'high', hanging time depends on the weather - and on individual taste. Game birds are hung, unplucked and undrawn, by their beaks in a cool airy place and are ready for cooking when the tail feathers can be pulled out easily. Furred game is hung by the feet for one or two weeks.

Although many types of game are commercially frozen and therefore available throughout the year, the flavour is at its best in freshly killed and well-hung game.

Game Birds

Game2Grouse, red or Scottish - The most common and popular grouse. Young birds, with soft downy breast feathers and pointed flight wings, are roasted and served one per person. Older birds, with rounded tips to wings, are better casseroled. Hang for about three days. Season from August 12 to December 10, but best from August to October.

Mallard - The largest wild duck, with lean, dry flesh. The flight feathers are pointed and the breast downy in young birds. Hang for one day only. Serve roasted, allowing one bird for two or three persons. Season from September 1 to February 28, but best from November to December.

Game4Partridge - There are two varieties, the English or grey partridge, which has better flavour, and the slightly larger, red-legged French partridge. Young birds have pointed tips to the feathers, yellow-brown pliable feet and light-coloured plump flesh. Hang for three or four days before roasting or grilling, serve one per person. Season from September 1 to January 31, but best October and November.

Pheasant - The cock and hen may be sold singly or as a brace. Young birds of both sexes have pliable beaks and feet, soft and pointed feathers,on cocks the short spurs are rounded. A hen pheasant, which is considered the tastiest, will serve three, and a cock four people. Season from October 1 to January 31, but best November and December.

Game6Pigeon - Wood pigeons are inexpensive game birds, often tough and best casseroled. Very young birds, with pink legs, downy feathers and plump breast, may be roasted or grilled. Hang for one day, and serve one bird per person. Season is all year round, but best from August to October.

Quail - Rare in Britain, although it is now reared on poultry farms and also imported. Quail has a less gamey flavour than other birds and should not be hung. On young birds, the feathers are pointed and the feet soft with rounded spurs. Roast or grill, serving one bird per person. Season is all year round.

Snipe - Small birds not often seen in shops. Hang for three or four days. Some gourmets maintain that snipe should not be drawn before being cooked, the head is twisted round so that the long bill can be pushed like a skewer between the legs and into the body. Serve one roast snipe per person. Season from August 12 to January 31, but best in November.

Game9Teal - The most common wild duck, with short pointed feathers and thin soft feet in young birds. It generally requires no hanging. Excellent for roasting and grilling. Serve one teal per person. Season from September 1 to February 28, but best in December.

Wild Goose - Canada goose is occasionally seen, although it is illegal to offer it for sale. On young birds, with lean dark flesh, the flight feathers are pointed and long dark feet pliable. Hang for four or five days. One goose will serve six persons.

Game11Woodcock - This bird is slightly larger than snipe, which it resembles, with plumper breasts. Like snipe, it should be hung for three days and may be roasted undrawn, trussed with the long bill.Season from October 1 to January 31, but best in November and December.

Furred Game

Game13Hare - There are two types, the English or brown hare and the Scottish or blue hare. A young hare weight is about 2.7 kilograms to 3.2 kilograms,known as leveret, can be recognised by its small, sharp, white teeth, smooth fur and hidden claws, the soft ears tear easily. Hang for about one week. Young hares may be roasted whole, to serve four to six persons, older animals are better casseroled, although the saddle can be roasted. Season from August 1 to end March, but best from October onwards.

Rabbit - The flesh of the wild rabbit often has a gamey flavour. Smaller than the hare, serving about three persons, a young rabbit can be recognised by the same signs.It is prepared and cooked in the same way, but is skinned at once after killing and should not be hung.Rabbits on sale in the shops are domesticated, with a flavour like chicken.Sold whole or jointed. Season is all year round.

Game12Venison - The best meat comes from the young male deer at an age of about 1 ½ - 2 years when the hooves are small and smooth. The lean meat is dark red and close grained, with firm white fat. Hang for at least one week. Venison is sold in joints, the leg and saddle being the choicest cuts. Lion chops, neck cutlets and shoulder may be braised. Season from June to January.

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