The best BEEF is of a clear red color, slightly marbled with fat, and the fat itself of a clear white. Where the beef is dark red or bluish, and the fat yellow, it is too old, or too poorly fed, to be good. The sirloin and ribs, especially the sixth, seventh, and eighth, make the best roasting-pieces. The ribs can be removed and used for stock, and the beef rolled or skewered firmly, making a piece very easily carved, and almost as presentable the second day as the first. For steaks sirloin is nearly as good, and much more economical, than porter-house, which gives only a small eatable portion, the remainder being only fit for the stock-pot. If the beef be very young and tender, steaks from the round may be used; but these are usually best stewed. Other pieces and modes of cooking are given under their respective heads.
MUTTON should be a light, clear red, and the fat very white and firm. It is always improved by keeping, and in cold weather can be hung for a month, if carefully watched to see that it has not become tainted. Treated in this way, well-fed mutton is equal to venison. If the fat is deep yellow, and the lean dark red, the animal is too old; and no keeping will make it really good eating. Four years is considered the best age for prime mutton.
VEAL also must have clear white fat, and should be fine in grain. If the kidney is covered with firm white fat, it indicates health, and the meat is good; if yellow, it is unwholesome, and should not be eaten. The loin and fillet are used in roasting, and are the choice pieces, the breast coming next, and the neck and ribs being good for stewing and fricassees.
PORK should have fine, white fat, and the meat should be white and smooth. Only country-fed pork should ever be eaten, the pig even then being liable to diseases unknown to other animals, and the meat, even when carefully fed, being at all times less digestible than any sort. Bacon, carefully cured and smoked, is considered its most wholesome form.
POULTRY come last. The best Turkeys have black legs; and, if young, the toes and bill are soft and pliable. The combs of fowls should be bright colored, and the legs smooth.
Geese, if young and fine, are plump in the breast, have white soft fat, and yellow feet.
Ducks are chosen by the same rule as geese, and are firm and thick on the breast.
Pigeons should be fresh, the breast plump, and the feet elastic. Only experience can make one familiar with other signs; and a good butcher can usually be trusted to tide one over the season of inexperience, though the sooner it ends the better for all parties concerned.
BOILED MEATS AND STEWS.
All meats intended to be boiled and served whole at table must be put into boiling water, thus following an entirely opposite rule from those intended for soups. In the latter, the object being to extract all the juice, cold water must always be used first, and then heated with the meat in. In the former, all the juice is to be kept in; and, by putting into boiling water, the albumen of the meat hardens on the surface and makes a case or coating for the meat, which accomplishes this end. Where something between a soup and plain boiled meat is desired, as in beef bouilli, the meat is put on in cold water, which is brought to a boil very quickly, thus securing good gravy, yet not robbing the meat of all its juices. With corned or salted meats, tongue, &c., cold water must be used, and half an hour to the pound allowed. If to be eaten cold, such meats should always be allowed to cool in the water in which they were boiled; and this water, if not too salt, can be used for dried bean or pea soups.
BEEF À LA MODE.
Six or eight pounds of beef from the round, cut thick. Take out the bone, trim off all rough bits carefully, and rub the meat well with the following spicing: One teaspoonful each of pepper and ground clove, quarter of a cup of brown sugar, and three teaspoonfuls of salt. Mix these all together, and rub thoroughly into the beef, which must stand over-night.
Next morning make a stuffing of one pint of bread or cracker crumbs; one large onion chopped fine; a tablespoonful of sweet marjoram or thyme; half a teaspoonful each of pepper and ground clove, and a heaping teaspoonful of salt. Add a large cup of hot water, in which has been melted a heaping tablespoonful of butter, and stir into the crumbs. Beat an egg light, and mix with it. If there is more than needed to fill the hole, make gashes in the meat, and stuff with the remainder. Now bind into shape with a strip of cotton cloth, sewing or tying it firmly. Put a trivet or small iron stand into a soup-pot, and lay the beef upon it. Half cover it with cold water; put in two onions stuck with three cloves each, a large tablespoonful of salt, and a half teaspoonful of pepper; and stew very slowly, allowing half an hour to the pound, and turning the meat twice while cooking. At the end of this time take off the cloth, and put the meat, which must remain on the trivet, in a roasting-pan. Dredge it quickly with flour, set into a hot oven, and brown thoroughly. Baste once with the gravy, and dredge again, the whole operation requiring about half an hour. The water in the pot should have been reduced to about a pint. Pour this into the roasting-pan after the meat is taken up, skimming off every particle of fat. Thicken with a heaping tablespoonful of browned flour, stirred smooth in a little cold water, and add a tablespoonful of catchup and two of wine, if desired, though neither is necessary. Taste, as a little more salt may be required.
The thick part of a leg of veal may be treated in the same manner, both being good either hot or cold; and a round of beef may be also used without spicing or stuffing, and browned in the same way, the remains being either warmed in the gravy or used for hashes or croquettes.
BEEF À LA MODE (Virginia fashion).
Use the round, as in the foregoing receipt, and remove the bone; and for eight pounds allow half a pint of good vinegar; one large onion minced fine; half a teaspoonful each of mustard, black pepper, clove, and allspice; and two tablespoonfuls of brown sugar. Cut half a pound of fat salt pork into lardoons, or strips, two or three inches long and about half an inch square. Boil the vinegar with the onion and seasoning, and pour over the strips of pork, and let them stand till cold. Then pour off the liquor, and thicken it with bread or cracker crumbs. Make incisions in the beef at regular intervals,—a carving-steel being very good for this purpose,—and push in the strips of pork. Fill the hole from which the bone was taken with the rest of the pork and the dressing, and tie the beef firmly into shape. Put two tablespoonfuls of dripping or lard in a frying-pan, and brown the meat on all sides. This will take about half an hour. Now put the meat on a trivet in the kettle; half cover with boiling water; and add a tablespoonful of salt, a teaspoonful of pepper, an onion and a small carrot cut fine, and two or three sprigs of parsley. Cook very slowly, allowing half an hour to a pound, and make gravy by the directions given for it in the preceding receipt.
Braised beef is prepared by either method given here for à la mode beef, but cooked in a covered iron pan, which comes for the purpose, and which is good also for beef à la mode, or for any tough meat which requires long cooking, and is made tenderer by keeping in all the steam.
A shoulder, or fore-quarter, of mutton, weighing five or six pounds, will boil in an hour, as it is so thin. The leg, or hind-quarter, requires twenty minutes to the pound; though, if very young and tender, it will do in less. It can be tried with a knitting-needle to see if it is tender. It is made whiter and more delicate by boiling in a cloth, but should be served without it. Boil in well-salted water according to the rule already given. Boiled or mashed turnips are usually served with it, and either drawn butter or caper sauce as on p. 169.
Lamb may be boiled in the same manner, but is better roasted; and so also with veal.
BOILED CORNED BEEF.
If to be eaten hot, the round is the best piece. If cold and pressed, what are called "plate pieces"—that is, the brisket, the flank, and the thin part of the ribs—may be used. Wash, and put into cold water, allowing half an hour to a pound after it begins to boil. If to be eaten cold, let it stand in the water till nearly cold, as this makes it richer. Take out all bones from a thin piece; wrap in a cloth, and put upon a large platter. Lay a tin sheet over it, and set on a heavy weight,—flat-irons will do,—and let it stand over-night. Or the meat may be picked apart with a knife and fork; the fat and lean evenly mixed and packed into a pan, into which a smaller pan is set on top of the meat, and the weight in this. Thus marbled slices may be had. All corned beef is improved by pressing, and all trimmings from it can be used in hash or croquettes.
Smoked tongue will be found much better than either fresh or pickled tongues.
Soak it over night, after washing it. Put on in cold water, and boil steadily four hours. Then take out; peel off the skin, and return to the water to cool. Cut in lengthwise slices, as this makes it tenderer. The root of the tongue may be chopped very fine, and seasoned like deviled ham (p. 265).
Small hams are better in flavor and quality than large ones. A brush should be kept to scrub them with, as it is impossible to get them clean without it. Soak over-night in plenty of cold water. Next morning, scrape, and trim off all the hard black parts, scrubbing it well. Put on to boil in cold water. Let it heat very gradually. Allow half an hour to the pound. When done, take from the water, skin, and return, letting it remain till cold. Dot with spots of black pepper, and cover the knuckle with a frill of white paper. It is much nicer, whether eaten hot or cold, if covered with bread or cracker crumbs and browned in the oven. The fat is useless, save for soap-grease. In carving, cut down in thin slices through the middle. The knuckle can always be deviled (p. 265). A leg of pork which has simply been corned is boiled in the same way as ham, soaking over-night, and browning in the oven or not, as liked.
This may be made of either beef or mutton, though mutton is generally used. Reject all bones, and trim off all fat and gristle, reserving these for the stock-pot. Cut the meat in small pieces, not over an inch square, and cover with cold water. Skim carefully as it boils up, and see that the water is kept at the same level by adding as it boils away. For two pounds of meat allow two sliced onions, eight good-sized potatoes, two teaspoonfuls of salt, and half a teaspoonful of pepper. Cover closely, and cook for two hours. Thicken the gravy with one tablespoonful of flour stirred smooth in a little cold water, and serve very hot. The trimmings from a fore-quarter of mutton will be enough for a stew, leaving a well-shaped roast besides. If beef is used, add one medium-sized carrot cut fine, and some sprigs of parsley. Such a stew would be called by a French cook a ragoût, and can be made of any pieces of meat or poultry.
WHITE STEW, OR FRICASSEE.
Use veal for this stew, allowing an hour to a pound of meat, and the same proportions of salt and pepper as in the preceding receipt, adding a saltspoonful of mace. Thicken, when done, with one heaping tablespoonful of flour rubbed smooth with a piece of butter the size of an egg, and one cup of hot milk added just at the last. A cauliflower nicely boiled, cut up, and stewed with it a moment, is very nice.
This stew becomes a pot-pie by making a nice biscuit-crust, as on p. 164; cutting it out in rounds, and laying in the kettle half an hour before the stew is done. Cover closely, and do not turn them. Lay them, when done, around the edge of the platter; pile the meat in the centre, and pour over it the thickened gravy. Two beaten eggs are sometimes added, and it is then called a blanquette of veal.
BROWN STEW OR FRICASSEE.
To make these stews the meat is cut in small pieces, and browned on each side in a little hot dripping; or, if preferred, quarter of a pound of pork is cut in thin slices and fried crisp, the fat from it being used for browning. Cover the meat with warm water when done. If a stew, any vegetables liked can be added; a fricassee never containing them, having only meat and a gravy, thickened with browned flour and seasoned in the proportions already given. Part of a can of mushrooms may be used with a beef stew, and a glass of wine added; this making a ragoût with mushrooms. The countless receipts one sees in large cook-books for ragoûts and fricassees are merely variations in the flavoring of simple stews; and, after a little experimenting, any one can improvise her own, remembering that the strongly-flavored vegetables (as carrots) belong especially to dark meats, and the more delicate ones to light. Fresh pork is sometimes used in a white fricassee, in which case a little powdered sage is better than mace as a seasoning.
Curries can be made by adding a heaping teaspoonful of curry-powder to a brown fricassee, and serving with boiled rice; put the rice around the edge of the platter, and pour the curry in the middle. Chicken makes the best curry; but veal is very good. In a genuine East-Indian curry, lemon-juice and grated cocoa-nut are added; but it is an unwholesome combination.
Two pounds of steak from the round, cut in very thin slices. Trim off all fat and gristle, and cut into pieces about four inches square. Now cut very thin as many slices of salt pork as you have slices of steak, making them a little smaller. Mix together one teaspoonful of salt and one of thyme or summer savory, and one saltspoonful of pepper. Lay the pork on a square of steak; sprinkle with the seasoning; roll up tightly, and tie. When all are tied, put the bits of fat and trimmings into a hot frying-pan, and add a tablespoonful of drippings. Lay in the rolls, and brown on all sides, which will require about ten minutes; then put them in a saucepan. Add to the fat in the pan a heaping tablespoonful of flour, and stir till a bright brown. Pour in gradually one quart of boiling water, and then strain it over the beef rolls. Cover closely, and cook two hours, or less if the steak is tender, stirring now and then to prevent scorching. Take off the strings before serving. These rolls can be prepared without the pork, and are very nice; or a whole beefsteak can be used, covering it with a dressing made as for stuffed veal, and then rolling; tying at each end, browning, and stewing in the same way. This can be eaten cold or hot; while the small rolls are much better hot. If wanted as a breakfast dish, they can be cooked the day beforehand, left in the gravy, and simply heated through next morning.
Two squirrels or small chickens; one quart of sliced tomatoes; one pint of sweet corn; one pint of lima or butter beans; one quart of sliced potatoes; two onions; half a pound of fat salt pork.
Cut the pork in slices, and fry brown; cut the squirrels or chickens in pieces, and brown a little, adding the onion cut fine. Now put all the materials in a soup-pot; cover with two quarts of boiling water, and season with one tablespoonful of salt, one of sugar, and half a teaspoonful of cayenne pepper. Stew slowly for four hours. Just before serving, cream a large spoonful of butter with a heaping tablespoonful of flour; thin with the broth, and pour in, letting all cook five minutes longer. To be eaten in soup-plates.
Our roasted meats are really baked meats; but ovens are now so well made and ventilated, that there is little difference of flavor in the two processes.
Allow ten minutes to the pound if the meat is liked rare, and from twelve to fifteen, if well done. It is always better to place the meat on a trivet or stand made to fit easily in the roasting-pan, so that it may not become sodden in the water used for gravy. Put into a hot oven, that the surface may soon sear over and hold in the juices, enough of which will escape for the gravy. All rough bits should have been trimmed off, and a joint of eight or ten pounds rubbed with a tablespoonful of salt. Dredge thickly with flour, and let it brown on the meat before basting it, which must be done as often as once in fifteen minutes. Pepper lightly. If the water in the pan dries away, add enough to have a pint for gravy in the end. Dredge with flour at least twice, as this makes a crisp and relishable outer crust. Take up the meat, when done, on a hot platter. Make the gravy in the roasting-pan, by setting it on top of the stove, and first scraping up all the browning from the corners and bottom. If there is much fat, pour it carefully off. If the dredging has been well managed while roasting, the gravy will be thick enough. If not, stir a teaspoonful of browned flour smooth in cold water, and add. Should the gravy be too light, color with a teaspoonful of caramel, and taste to see that the seasoning is right.
Mutton requires fifteen minutes to the pound, unless preferred rare, in which case ten will be sufficient. If a tin kitchen is used, fifteen minutes for beef, and twenty for mutton, will be needed.
STUFFED LEG OF MUTTON.
Have the butcher take out the first joint in a leg of mutton; or it can be done at home by using a very sharp, narrow-bladed knife, and holding it close to the bone. Rub in a tablespoonful of salt, and then fill with a dressing made as follows: One pint of fine bread or cracker crumbs, in which have been mixed dry one even tablespoonful of salt and one of summer savory or thyme, and one teaspoonful of pepper. Chop one onion very fine, and add to it, with one egg well beaten. Melt a piece of butter the size of an egg in a cup of hot water, and pour on the crumbs. If not enough to thoroughly moisten them, add a little more. Either fasten with a skewer, or sew up, and roast as in previous directions. Skim all the fat from the gravy, as the flavor of mutton-fat is never pleasant. A tablespoonful of currant jelly may be put into the gravy-tureen, and the gravy strained upon it. The meat must be basted, and dredged with flour, as carefully as beef. Both the shoulder and saddle are roasted in the same way, but without stuffing; and the leg may be also, though used to more advantage with one.
Lamb requires less time; a leg weighing six pounds needing but one hour, or an hour and a quarter if roasted before an open fire.
Veal is so dry a meat, that a moist dressing is almost essential. This dressing may be made as in the previous receipt; or, instead of butter, quarter of a pound of salt pork can be chopped fine, and mixed with it. If the loin is used,—and this is always best,—take out the bone to the first joint, and fill the hole with dressing, as in the leg of mutton. In using the breast, bone also, reserving the bones for stock; lay the dressing on it; roll, and tie securely. Baste often. Three or four thin slices of salt pork may be laid on the top; or, if this is not liked, melt a tablespoonful of butter in a cup of hot water, and baste with that. Treat it as in directions for roasted meats, but allow a full half-hour to the pound, and make the gravy as for beef. Cold veal makes so many nice dishes, that a large piece can always be used satisfactorily.
Bone the leg as in mutton, and stuff; substituting sage for the sweet marjoram, and using two onions instead of one. Allow half an hour to the pound, and make gravy as for roast beef. Spare-ribs are considered most delicate; and both are best eaten cold, the hot pork being rather gross, and, whether hot or cold, less digestible than any other meat.
In winter venison can be kept a month; and, in all cases, it should hang in a cold place at least a month before using. Allow half an hour to a pound in roasting, and baste very often. Small squares of salt pork are sometimes inserted in incisions made here and there, and help to enrich the gravy. In roasting a haunch it is usually covered with a thick paste of flour and water, and a paper tied over this, not less than four hours being required to roast it. At the end of three, remove the paper and paste, dredge and baste till well browned. The last basting is with a glass of claret; and this, and half a small glass of currant jelly are added to the gravy. Venison steaks are treated as in directions for broiled meats.
BAKED PORK AND BEANS.
Turn off the water in the morning, and put on to boil in cold water till tender,—at least one hour. An earthen pot is always best for this, as a shallow dish does not allow enough water to keep them from drying. Drain off the water. Put the beans in the pot. Take half a pound of salt pork, fat and lean together being best. Score the skin in small squares with a knife, and bury it, all but the surface of this rind, in the beans. Cover them completely with boiling water. Stir in one tablespoonful of salt, and two of good molasses. Cover, and bake slowly,—not less than five hours,—renewing the water if it bakes away. Take off the cover an hour before they are done, that the pork may brown a little. If pork is disliked, use a large spoonful of butter instead. Cold baked beans can be warmed in a frying-pan with a little water, and are even better than at first, or they can be used in a soup as in directions given. A teaspoonful of made mustard is sometimes stirred in, and gives an excellent flavor to a pot of baked beans. Double the quality if the family is large, as they keep perfectly well in winter, the only season at which so hearty a dish is required, save for laborers.
BROILED AND FRIED MEATS.
If the steak is tender, never pound or chop it. If there is much fat, trim it off, or it will drop on the coals and smoke. If tough, as in the country is very likely to be the case, pounding becomes necessary, but a better method is to use the chopping-knife; not chopping through, but going lightly over the whole surface. Broken as it may seem, it closes at once on the application of a quick heat.
The best broiler is by all means a light wire one, which can be held in the hand and turned quickly. The fire should be quick and hot. Place the steak in the centre of the broiler, and hold it close to the coals an instant on each side, letting both sear over before broiling really begins.
Where a steak has been cut three-quarters of an inch thick, ten minutes will be sufficient to cook it rare, and fifteen will make it well done. Turn almost constantly, and, when done, serve at once on a hot dish. Never salt broiled meats beforehand, as it extracts the juices. Cut up a tablespoonful of butter, and let it melt on the hot dish, turning the steak in it once or twice. Salt and pepper lightly, and, if necessary to have it stand at all, cover with an earthen dish, or stand in the open oven. Chops and cutlets are broiled in the same way. Veal is so dry a meat that it is better fried.
Where broiling for any reason cannot be conveniently done, the next best method is to heat a frying-pan very hot; grease it with a bit of fat cut from the steak, just enough to prevent it from sticking. Turn almost as constantly as in broiling, and season in the same way when done. Venison steaks are treated in the same manner.
Fry four or five slices of salt pork till brown, or use drippings instead, if this fat is disliked. Let the cutlets, which are best cut from the leg, be made as nearly of a size as possible; dip them in well-beaten egg and then in cracker-crumbs, and fry to a golden brown. Where the veal is tough, it is better to parboil it for ten or fifteen minutes before frying.
Pork steaks or chops should be cut quite thin, and sprinkled with pepper and salt and a little powdered sage. Have the pan hot; put in a tablespoonful of dripping, and fry the pork slowly for twenty minutes, turning often. A gravy can be made for these, and for veal cutlets also, by mixing a tablespoonful of flour with the fat left in the pan, and stirring it till a bright brown, then adding a large cup of boiling water, and salt to taste; a saltspoonful being sufficient, with half the amount of pepper.
Pigs' liver, which many consider very nice, is treated in precisely the same way, using a teaspoonful of powdered sage to two pounds of liver.
FRIED HAM OR BACON.
Cut the ham in very thin slices. Take off the rind, and, if the ham is old or hard, parboil it for five minutes. Have the pan hot, and, unless the ham is quite fat, use a teaspoonful of drippings. Turn the slices often, and cook from five to eight minutes. They can be served dry, or, if gravy is liked, add a tablespoonful of flour to the fat, stir till smooth, and pour in slowly a large cup of milk or water. Salt pork can be fried in the same way. If eggs are to be fried with the ham, take up the slices, break in the eggs, and dip the boiling fat over them as they fry. If there is not fat enough, add half a cup of lard. To make each egg round, put muffin-rings into the frying-pan, and break an egg into each, pouring the boiling fat over them from a spoon till done, which will be in from three to five minutes. Serve one on each slice of ham, and make no gravy. The fat can be strained, and used in frying potatoes.
The tripe can be merely cut in squares, rolled in flour, salted and peppered, and fried brown in drippings, or the pieces may be dipped in a batter made as for clam fritters, or egged and crumbed like oysters, and fried. In cities it can be bought already prepared. In the country it must first be cleaned, and then boiled till tender.
TO WARM COLD MEATS.
Cold roast beef should be cut in slices, the gravy brought to boiling-point, and each slice dipped in just long enough to heat, as stewing in the gravy toughens it. Rare mutton is treated in the same way, but is nicer warmed in a chafing-dish at table, adding a tablespoonful of currant jelly and one of wine to the gravy. Venison is served in the same manner. Veal and pork can cook in the gravy without toughening, and so with turkey and chicken. Cold duck or game is very nice warmed in the same way as mutton, the bones in all cases being reserved for stock.
THE EASIEST WAY IN HOUSEKEEPING AND COOKING.
Adapted to Domestic Use or Study in Classes