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Monday, May 4, 2009

Fires, Lights and things to work with

The popular idea of a fire to cook by seems to be, a red-hot top, the cover of every pot and saucepan dancing over the bubbling, heaving contents, and coal packed in even with the covers. Try to convince a servant that the lid need not hop to assure boiling, nor the fire rise above the fire-box, and there is a profound skepticism, which, even if not expressed, finds vent in the same amount of fuel and the same general course of action as before the remonstrance.

The modern stove has brought simplicity of working, and yet the highest point of convenience, nearly to perfection. With full faith that the fuel of the future will be gas, its use is as yet, for many reasons, very limited; the cost of gas in our smaller cities and towns preventing its adoption by any but the wealthy, who are really in least need of it. With the best gas-stoves, a large part of the disagreeable in cooking is done away. No flying ashes, no cinders, no uneven heat, affected by every change of wind, but a steady flame, regulated to any desired point, and, when used, requiring only a turn of the hand to end the operation.

Ranges set in a solid brick-work are considered the best form of cooking-apparatus; but there are some serious objections to their use, the first being the large amount of fuel required, and then the intense heat thrown out. Even with water in the house, they are not a necessity. A water-back, fully as effectual as the range water-back, can be set in any good stove, and connected with a boiler, large or small, according to the size of the stove; and for such stove, if properly managed, only about half the amount of coal will be needed.

Fix thoroughly in your minds the directions for making and keeping a fire; for, by doing so, one of the heaviest expenses in housekeeping can be lessened fully half.

First, then, remove the covers, and gather all ashes and cinders from the inside top of the stove, into the grate. Now put on the covers; shut the doors; close all the draughts, and dump the contents of the grate into the pan below. In some stoves there is an under-grate, to which a handle is attached; and, this grate being shaken, the ashes pass through to the ash-pan, and the cinders remain in the grate. In that case, they can simply be shoveled out into the extra coal-hod, all pieces of clinker picked out, and a little water sprinkled on them. If all must be dumped together, a regular ash-sifter will be required, placed over a barrel which receives the ashes, while the cinders remain, and are to be treated as described.

Into the grate put shavings or paper, or the fat pine known as lightwood. If the latter be used, paper is unnecessary. Lay on some small sticks of wood, crossing them so that there may be a draught through them; add then one or two sticks of hard wood, and set the shavings or paper on fire, seeing that every draught is open. As soon as the wood is well on fire, cover with about six inches of coal, the smaller, or nut-coal, being always best for stove use. When the coal is burning brightly, shut up all the dampers save the slide in front of the grate, and you will have a fire which will last, without poking or touching in any way, four hours. Even if a little more heat is needed for ovens, and you open the draughts, this rule still holds good.

Never, for any reason, allow the coal to come above the edge of the fire-box or lining. If you do, ashes and cinders will fall into the oven-flues, and they will soon be choked up, and require cleaning. Another reason also lies in the fact that the stove-covers resting on red-hot coals soon burn out, and must be renewed; whereas, by carefully avoiding such chance, a stove may be used many years without crack or failure of any sort.

If fresh heat is required for baking or any purpose after the first four hours, let the fire burn low, then take off the covers, and with the poker from the bottom rake out all the ashes thoroughly. Then put in two or three sticks of wood, fill as before with fresh coal, and the fire is good for another four hours or more. If only a light fire be required after dinner for getting tea, rake only slightly; then, fill with cinders, and close all the dampers. Half an hour before using the stove, open them, and the fire will rekindle enough for any ordinary purpose. As there is great difference in the "drawing" of chimneys, the exact time required for making a fire can not be given.

In using wood, the same principles apply; but of course the fire must be fed much oftener. Grate-fires, as well as those in the ordinary stove, are to be made in much the same way. In a grate, a blower is fastened on until the coal is burning well; but, if the fire is undisturbed after its renewal, it should burn from six to eight hours without further attention. Then rake out the ashes, add coal, put on the blower a few minutes, and then proceed as before. If an exceedingly slow fire is desired, cover the top with cinders, or with ashes moistened with water. In making a grate or stove fire, keep a coarse cloth to lay before it, that ashes may not spoil the carpet; and wipe about the fire-place with a damp, coarse cloth. In putting on coal in a sick-room, where noise would disturb the patient, it is a good plan to put it in small paper bags or in pieces of newspaper, in which it can be laid on silently. A short table of degrees of heat in various forms of fuel is given below; the degree required for baking, &c, finding place when we come to general operations in cooking.

Willow charcoal600°Fah.
Ordinary charcoal700°Fah.
Hard wood800° to 900°Fah.

Lights are next in order. Gas hardly requires mention, as the care of it is limited to seeing that it is not turned too high, the flame in such case not only vitiating the air of the room with double speed, but leaving a film of smoke upon every thing in it. Kerosene is the oil most largely used for lamps; and the light from either a student-lamp, or the lamp to which a "student-burner" has been applied, is the purest and steadiest now in use. A few simple rules for the care of lamps will prevent, not only danger of explosion, but much breakage of chimneys, smoking, &c.

1. Let the wick always touch the bottom of the lamp, and see that the top is trimmed square and even across, with a pair of scissors kept for the purpose.

2. Remember that a lamp, if burned with only a little oil in it, generates a gas which is liable at any moment to explode. Fill lamps to within half an inch of the top. If filled brimming full, the outside of the lamp will be constantly covered with the oil, even when unlighted; while as soon as lighted, heat expanding it, it will run over, and grease every thing near it.

3. In lighting a lamp, turn the wick up gradually, that the chimney may heat slowly: otherwise the glass expands too rapidly, and will crack.

4. Keep the wick turned high enough to burn freely. Many persons turn down the wick to save oil, but the room is quickly poisoned by the evil smell from the gas thus formed. If necessary, as in a sick-room, to have little light, put the lamp in the hall or another room, rather than to turn it down.

5. Remember, that, as with the fire, plenty of fresh air is necessary for a free blaze, and that your lamp must be kept as free from dirt as the stove from ashes. In washing the chimneys, use hot suds; and wipe with bits of newspaper, which not only dry the glass better than a cloth, but polish it also.

6. In using either student-lamps, whether German or American, or the beautiful and costly forms known as moderator-lamps, remember, that, to secure a clear flame, the oil which accumulates in the cup below the wick, as well as any surplus which has overflowed from the reservoir, must be poured out daily. The neglect of this precaution is the secret of much of the trouble attending the easy getting out of order of expensive lamps, which will cease to be sources of difficulty if this rule be followed carefully.

7. Keep every thing used in such cleaning in a small box; the ordinary starch-box with sliding lid being excellent for this purpose. Extra wicks, lamp-scissors, rags for wiping off oil, can all find place here. See that lamp-rags are burned now and then, and fresh ones taken; as the smell of kerosene is very penetrating, and a room is often made unpleasant by the presence of dirty lamp-rags. If properly cared for, lamps need be no more offensive than gas.

Things to work with.

We have settled that our kitchen shall be neat, cheerful, and sunny, with closets as much as possible near enough together to prevent extra steps being taken. If the servant is sufficiently well-trained to respect the fittings of a well-appointed kitchen, and to take pleasure in keeping them in order, the whole apparatus can be arranged in the kitchen-closets. If, however, there is any doubt on this point, it will be far better to have your own special table, and shelf or so above it, where the utensils required for your own personal use in delicate cooking can be arranged.

In any kitchen not less than two tables are required: one for all rough work,—preparing meat, vegetables, &c, and dishing up meals; the other for general convenience. The first must stand as near the sink and fire as possible; and close to it, on a dresser, which it is well to have just above the table and within reach of the hand, should be all the essentials for convenient work, namely:—

A meat-block or board;

A small meat-saw;

A small cleaver and meat-knife;

Spoons, skewers, vegetable-cutters, and any other small conveniences used at this table, such as potato-slicer, larding and trussing needles, &c.;

A chopping-knife and wooden tray or bowl;

Rolling-pin, and bread and pastry board;

Narrow-bladed, very sharp knife for paring, the French cook-knife being the best ever invented for this purpose.

A deep drawer in the table for holding coarse towels and aprons, balls of twine of two sizes, squares of cloth used in boiling delicate fish or meats, &c., will be found almost essential. Basting-spoons and many small articles can hang on small hooks or nails, and are more easily picked up than if one must feel over a shelf for them. These will be egg-beaters, graters, ladle, &c. The same dresser, or a space over the sink, must hold washing-pans for meat and vegetables, dish-pans, tin measures from a gill up to one quart, saucepans, milk-boiler, &c. Below the sink, the closet for iron-ware can be placed, or, if preferred, be between sink and stove. A list in detail of every article required for a comfortably-fitted-up kitchen is given at the end of the book. House-furnishing stores furnish elaborate and confusing ones. The present list is simply what is needed for the most efficient work. Of course, as you experiment and advance, it may be enlarged; but the simple outfit can be made to produce all the results likely to be needed, and many complicated patent arrangements are hindrances, rather than helps.

The Iron-ware closet must hold at least two iron pots, frying-pans large and small, and a Scotch kettle with frying-basket for oysters, fish-balls, &c.,—this kettle being a broad shallow one four or five inches deep. Roasting-pans, commonly called dripping-pans, are best of Russia iron.

Tin-ware must include colander, gravy and jelly strainers, and vegetable-sifter or purée-sieve; six tin pie-plates, and from four to six jelly-cake tins with straight edges; and at least one porcelain-lined kettle, holding not less than four quarts, while a three-gallon one for preserving and canning is also desirable;

Muffin rings or pans; "gem-pans;"

Four bread-tins, of best tin (or, better still, Russia iron), the best size for which is ten inches long by four wide and four deep; the loaf baked in such pan requiring less time, and giving a slice of just the right shape and size;

Cake-tins of various shapes as desired, a set of small tins being desirable for little cakes.

A small sifter in basket shape will be found good for cake-making, and a larger one for bread; and spices can be most conveniently kept in a spice-caster, which is a stand holding six or eight small labeled canisters. Near it can also be small tin boxes or glass cans for dried sweet herbs, the salt-box, &c.

The Crockery required will be: at least two large mixing-bowls, holding not less than eight or ten quarts, and intended for bread, cake, and many other purposes; a bowl with lip to pour from, and also a smaller-sized one holding about two quarts; half a dozen quart and pint bowls;

Half a dozen one-and two-quart round or oval pudding-dishes or nappies;

Several deep plates for use in putting away cold food;

Blancmange-molds, three sizes;

One large pitcher, also three-pint and quart sizes;

Yeast-jar, or, what is better, two or three Mason's glass cans, kept for yeast.

This list does not include any crockery for setting a servant's table; that being governed by the number kept, and other considerations. Such dishes should be of heavier ware than your own, as they are likely to receive rougher handling; but there should be a full supply as one means of teaching neatness.

Wooden-ware is essential in the shape of a nest of boxes for rice, tapioca, &c.; and wooden pails for sugar, Graham-flour, &c.; while you will gradually accumulate many conveniences in the way of jars, stone pots for pickling, demijohns, &c., which give the store-room, at last, the expression dear to all thrifty housekeepers.

Scrubbing and water pails, scrubbing and blacking brushes, soap-dishes, sand-box, knife-board, and necessities in cleaning, must all find place, and, having found it, keep it to the end; absolute order and system being the first condition of comfortable housekeeping.

Taken from:

Adapted to Domestic Use or Study in Classes

Copyright 1903
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