A good carver knows how to get the most out of the material at his disposal.
SOME people are born carvers, others have learnt to carve by practice and by taking pains, others seem as if they either cannot or will not take the trouble to acquire the art.
These last perhaps may be numbered among those who hold that carving should be done off, like a murder in a play. Few things are more distressing at a dinner-table than bad carving, distressing to the unskilful executant no less than to his victims. What more unappetizing than a mangled heap of bones and meat on ones plate?
Moreover, the economic side of the matter is important, for a good carver knows how to get the very most out of the material at his disposal. If the carving is skilfully done there is little or no waste. Thus it will be seen that carving is an accomplishment well worth mastering.
A young lady, having learnt that she was to sit next to a famous Victorian poet at a dinner-party, was eagerly expecting to hear jewelled phrases flowing from his lips, but the only words he uttered were: Mutton should be cut in wedges. Though disappointing to his dinner partner, these were true words and quite excellent advice.
Two important things for the carver to remember are – that beef, except the undercut and steak, should be cut thin, and that mutton should be cut thick. Bearing these in mind, and following out the detailed instructions given, it should be found possible for a carver to acquit himself well with any dish that is likely to be set before him.
Beef, Sirloin of. – This is a very easy joint to carve, but, as in other joints, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it. In carving the upper part the meat should be cut with one sharp firm stroke from one end of the joint to the other, and very cleanly and evenly. At every slice the knife should penetrate to the bone, and after every cut the point of the knife should be used to sever the meat from the bono by a horizontal cut.
If proper care is not taken the right hand may be found to work away from the carver towards the rind of the joint, and after several cuts have been made the rind will peel over to the far side in a most disconcerting manner and leave a goodly amount of the very best of the meat stiil on the bone. But if every slice is carved right down to the bone and then loosened with the tip of the knife, there will be no waste whatever, and, what is almost as important, the joint will look well to the very end.
Before embarking on the undercut, first remove the fat. Tiiere are two ways of carving the undercut. Some people like it cut in the same direction as the upper portion, that is, from end to end of the joint; but in the view of the majority such folk are misguided. The usual and most generally approved method is to cut the slices across the bone, in a direction exactly opposite to that adopted for this upper cut. This cutting against the grain seems to give a peculiarly attractive texture to the meat.
In carving the undercut the same principle should be observed as has been explained for the upper portions. In every cut made the knife should be brought into contact with the bone, to save waste and preserve the appearance of the joint.
Calfs Head. – Though not difficult to carve, this dish requires rather special and or r ;ful treatment.
First of all, cut several long slices right across the cheek, making sure that the knife touches the bono the whole way. A small piece of the throat sweetbread, which will be found at the fleshy part of the neck end, should accompany the cheek slices. Underneath the mouth the meat is very gelatinous and delicate, and it is usual to add a slice or two from here (c to B) to each portion.
Many people like the eye meat. To get this out, insert the point of the knifo, starting at the point E, pushing it into the centre below the eye. Then turn the hand round, keeping the circle with the blade of the knife, the point of the knife still remaining in the centre. This operation will release the eye.
In order to remove the lower jaw the dish will have to be turned and incisions made at c. The palate, too, is considered a delicacy. The tongue and brains are usually served on a separate dish. The tongue should be cut in thinnish slices.
Cods Head. – A cods head and shoulders are brought to table with a series of slices from the top to the gill level partly cut. Cut well down through these incisions with the fish-knife, .and then sever the slices with a transverse stroke of the knife along the gill line.
The gelatinous substance known as sounds will be found at the end of the fish under the backbone.
Flat Fish. – Of these the turbot and the sole are the most esteemed. With a fish of considerable size the following method of carving is used. First of all, make a long cut right along the fish from tail to head. Then a scries of cuts are made across these, each reaching the side of the fish.
Up to this point the silver fish-knife should be used. Now take a steel knife and sever the bones at every cut. Then with the fish-knife cut each section right through the fish, and serve with the fishslice.
The only difference in the carving of smaller fish is that fewer sections are obtainable. Very small fish may be cut in half, or, if the size allows, served whole. Fowl. – One of the most important points in the carving of all kinds of birds is to be able to hit upon the joints without fumbling. Once this knack is acquired the rest will be found comparatively easy.
Another thing the carver should know is what are considered the favourito parts of the various birds. In the case of fowls these may perhaps be listed as the wings (with preference for the liver wing), the breast, and the merrythought.
In carving a fowl, the fork should be thrust firmly into the middle of the breast, in such a way as to give a good grip but at the same time not to jag the white meat. Holding the bird securely with the fork, first make up your mind whereabouts the wing joint should be, and then draw the knife firmly across the bird to the joint of the wing, taking off a good piece of the breast with the stroke.
To sever the joint, feel for the centre of it with the knife, insert the tip of the knife, press it downwards hard, and turn it over. This should snap the joint, and the wing will be free. Repeat this process for the other wing.
To get the legs off, it is a good plan to press the thigh-bone away from the bird. The carver will thus be able to see where the joint is, and all that is now needed is a skilful nick with the knife.
If the fowl is not very large the breast may be carved off in one piece. Before doing this the merrythought should be removed. This is done by passing the knife behind the point of the merrythought across the wing end of the fowl, and then pressing the flat of the knife forward and slitting the skin.
When doaling with a sizable bird several good slices can be cut from the breast and served as portions.
Goose, Duck. – The joints of a goose are difficult to separate, and it is this that makes it such an awkward bird to carve. If the bird is an old one the carving of it may undoubtedly be a pretty tough proposition, but a young goose, skilfully manipulated, ought not to give too much trouble.
As with turkey, slices off the breast are considered the most desirable parts of a goose. These, and the wings, are dealt with in the same way as those of a turkey.
It is when the carver tackles the legs that the chief difficulty is liable to arise.
It is a fairly common custom to truss the legs of a goose a good way under the body of the bird. If this is found to be the case, the carver will have to turn the bird on its side in order to be able to get at the leg properly. Then the tussle is ready to begin. First the fork must be pressed down the smaller end of the leg, and then the knife must be drawn right underneath it from the end as far as the joint, and, finally, the thigh-bone loosened with the tip of the knife.
There is very little to eat on the wings of a duck, but the legs make good eating, while the breast is very delicate. The bird is carved in the same way as the goose.
Ham. – This favourite dish is so often the accompaniment of some other dish that one may at any time be called upon to carve it, even though not occupying the responsible position of carver-in-chief. For this reason, therefore, it behoves everyone to know how to carve ham.
The first thing to learn is where to start. The most usual way to begin CARVING
CARVING cutting a ham is to put the- knife in at a point not quite in the middle, beyond the knuckle in fact, where the ham begins to grow thicker. The slices should be, as it were, shaved off, not cut through to the bone, and should bear towards the fat.
The ham should be cut across, in such a way as to reach the fat gradually, until the slice slopes considerably from the fat towards the bone. The slices should be made as thin as possible.
There is another way of tackling a ham, but it is not often seen, and before adopting it a general consensus of opinion should be obtained. In this second method the slicing begins as above prescribed, but much nearer the frill. After a few slices have been taken off here, the rest of the ham is carved lengthwise.
Mutton, Leg of. – Although this is perhaps the staple joint for a family, it is often not carved quite as advantageously and elegantly as it should be.
To begin with, the carving-fork should be thrust firmly into the joint at the point A, a little on the far side, away from the carver. Then the joint should be drawn slightly towards the carver until the fork comes to the position shown in outline, and here it should remain. The leg is now in position for carving to begin.
The first cut is made vertically at the point c, care being taken that it does not go quite deep enough to reach the bone; it should stop just before it comes to the round piece of fat that is embedded in a leg of mutton. The second cut is mado slantwise, to the right of the first, at the point marked D, and the slice so formed should be taken out.
All that is required after this is to go on cutting slices in a slanting direction on each sido of the first cut. As regards the knuckle, this should first be cut out bodily in a semicircular piece and then sliced.
The round piece of fat in the centre of the joint is sometimes called the popes eye. If anybody likes this, it should be removed with a circular sweep of the knife, with plenty of lean round it.
The back of a leg of mutton is perhaps better cold than hot. It is sliced along the length of the joint, and the slices should not be cut quite so thick as those from the other side.
Mutton, Neck of. – In neck of mutton the matter of jointing is all-important. If the neck has been properly jointed, all will be well, but if the bones between the chops have not been well separated the carver is in for a bad time.
The first thing to do is to cut the short bones right through. Then run the knife along the top of the neck and feel for the joint of the first chop, and when this is found, break it through and cut off the chop. One of the short bones is usually served with each chop. If two chops are cut together, two of the small bones, not severed, should accompany them. Two chops are as a rule served together for loin of mutton.
Saddle of Mutton. – Tins joint consists of two loins not divided, but it must not be regarded as a double assemblage of chops, for it is carved quite differently from loin or neck.
First of all, slices must be taken lengthwise from the middle of the saddle. To do this, make a series of parallel incisions from the tail end to the end nearest the carver, each cut being carried down to the bone all the way. Then, by sloping the knife, detach the slices.
Similar slantwise slices may afterwards be obtained by cutting slantwise from about half-way along the line of these slices towards the front of the joint, nearest the carver. Further slices may then be taken by cutting lower down, in a direction crossing the last series and parallel to the first. The slices should all be fairly thick.
Mutton, Shoulder of. – Having planted the fork securely at the point A, the joint should be lifted slightly towards the carver, and carved in that position.
The first incision is made at the point B, and should stop just before the bone. Then carve fairly thick slices on each side of this cut and inasloping direction, so that they meet at the point marked c. The fat, shown at D, should be cut off with a semicircular sweep and sliced, ready for anybody who likes it. Slices from other parts should be cut thinner.
Other cuts can be made along the lines E and F, those from the bladebone (F) being usually considered very choice parte of the joint. The underside of a shoulder of mutton is by no means to be despised; indeed, the cuts from here are usually preferred. Thin slices of very delectable brown can be obtained from the part marked A, and excellent cuts also from the parts marked B and c. Ono thing to remember with a shoulder of mutton is that the slices should not be so thick as those cut from a leg.
Shoulder of lamb and shoulder of veal are carved in the same way as shoulder of mutton. In the case of shoulder of veal it is usual to start by cutting off the knuckle and then carving from the underside of the joint, before touching the upper part.
Partridge, Pigeon, etc. – The most usual way to carve a partridge or a pigeon is to cut it in half through the back and breastbone. If, however, one bird has to make do between three persons, a leg and a wing and a slice of breast are given to two, while the third has what remains of the breast.
As with pheasant, the back of a partridge, cold, is considered a delicacy. Snipes, larks and other very small birds are not carved at all, but served whole.
Pheasant. – This bird is carved in the same way as a fowl. The best part of a pheasant is the breast, which is carved in thinnish slices in a line with the breastbone. Perhaps the wing comes next in popularity, followed by the merrythought and the leg, but when all is said any part of the bird is delicious.
Many people are fond of the back of a pheasant, and like it better cold than hot. To get at the meat on the back the bird should be turned over on its side. Then, keeping it steady with the fork, the carver can prise the meat away from the backbone.
Pork. – Leg of pork is carved in much the same way as leg of mutton, except that cutting begins a good deal nearer the small end. The slices should be fairly thick, and a piece of the crackling should be served with each portion. The joint is brought to the table witli the back upwards. In loin of pork all that is required is to cut off the chops, as in loin of mutton.
Sabnon. – Fish is never difficult to carve, and the noble salmon is no exception, all that is needed being care combined with precision. A salmon should be first cut through with the blade of the fishslice from end to end, near the backbone, along the line marked A. One such cut is enough for a small fish, but two or more parallel cuts may be made for a big one.
Divide the section so marked off into Salmon.
Square pieces by cross cuts (n). This is the part of the salmon known as the thick. From the line A cut down smaller slices (c to D). These are known as the thin. A piece of the thick and one of the thin constitute a portion.
When the whole of this side is finished, take out the centre bone and start again on the other side. The middle of a salmon towards the shoulders and the centre cuts are considered the pick of the fish.
Tongue. – Cutting should begin from about the middle, and slices should be taken from each side, care being taken not to cut right through. The slices should be fairly thick, and a little of the fat should be served with each portion. In the case of rolled tongue rather thin slices should be cut horizontally.
Turkey. – With the best will and skill in the world a carver may expect to have some difficulty with a turkey.
The Christmas bird demands very dexterous manipulation, and in point of difficulty is only surpassed by the goose. The best parts of a turkey are considered to be the breast and the wings; many people, too, are fond of the drumstick, that is, the slender part of the leg.
In carving a turkey insert the fork firmly in the breast, with a prong on each side of the breastbone, and cut good thick slices lengthways parallel to the breastbone and right down to the bone. Now the wings must come off. These are dealt with hi much the same way as a fowls. The bird is held securely with the fork while the carver searches with the tip of the knife for the joint. When he has found this all that remains is to sever it.
Now for the legs. This is where (he main difficulty comes in, for the legs are very firmly fixed and require a certain amount of force to detach. Thrust the fork into the widest part of the thigh, and pull; while doing this press the carcass away from the fork with the flat of the knife. This will reveal the joint, which should be severed with the point of the knife without much trouble.
The two pieces comprising the leg are usually served separately. The stuffing of a turkey, as well as that of a goose, will be found at the wing end, covered by a piece of skin called the apron.
Neck of Veal. – The small bones are first cut through just as in neck of mutton. A veal chop, however, is much too large an affair for one person, so a different method is used. Instead of cutting off the chops, slices of meat are carved from the bones in a slanting direction, working from the top of the neck to the bottom, as far as the bone.
A quaint old writer has this to say about carving: Just as one docs not offer ones worst chair to an honoured guest, so one does not offer him an ill-served dinner. And with regard to the latter, be it said that neither the teste of the food nor the garnishing of it doth end the matter. Table linen may be the finest offering of the loom, and plates the choicest produce of the kiln, yet if the carving be not dono with the skill of an artist the meal is but a poor affair and dishonoures both guest and host. To carve ill is to show that ones learning in polite affairs is lacking.
Yet another knight of the pen has left observations on what he describes as a noble art that should be carried out with aitistry, as a painter would transfer a beautiful scene to canvas, not slapping colour from the brush. But with delicate refinement the carver of flesh and fowl slices with great daintiness as though not wishing to deform the creature on the dish until his task has left of it no more than the framework. And in the same manner he places the portions on the plates of his guests that they may be put in fine appetite thereby.