The preparation called STOCK is for some inscrutable reason a stumbling-block to average cooks, and even by experienced housekeepers is often looked upon as troublesome and expensive. Where large amounts of fresh meat are used in its preparation, the latter adjective might be appropriate; but stock in reality is the only mode by which every scrap of bone or meat, whether cooked or uncooked, can be made to yield the last particle of nourishment contained in it. Properly prepared and strained into a stone jar, it will keep a week, and is as useful in the making of hashes and gravies as in soup itself.
The first essential is a tightly-covered kettle, either tinned iron or porcelain-lined, holding not less than two gallons; three being a preferable size. Whether cooked or uncooked meat is used, it should be cut into small bits, and all bones broken or sawn into short pieces, that the marrow may be easily extracted.
To every pound of meat and bone allow one quart of cold water, one even teaspoon of salt, and half a saltspoon of pepper. Let the meat stand till the water is slightly colored with its juice; then put upon the fire, and let it come slowly to a boil, skimming off every particle of scum as it rises. The least neglect of this point will give a broth in which bits of dark slime float about, unpleasant to sight and taste. A cup of cold water, thrown in as the kettle boils, will make the scum rise more freely. Let it boil steadily, but very slowly, allowing an hour to each pound of meat. The water will boil away, leaving, at the end of the time specified, not more than half or one-third the original amount. In winter this will become a firm jelly, which can be used by simply melting it, thus obtaining a strong, clear broth; or can be diluted with an equal quantity of water, and vegetables added for a vegetable soup.
The meat used in stock, if boiled the full length of time given, has parted with all its juices, and is therefore useless as food. If wanted for hashes or croquettes, the portion needed should be taken out as soon as tender, and a pint of the stock with it, to use as gravy. Strain, when done, into a stone pot or crock kept for the purpose, and, when cold, remove the cake of fat which will rise to the top. This fat, melted and strained, serves for many purposes better than lard. If the stock is to be kept several days, leave the fat on till ready to use it.
Fresh and cooked meat may be used together, and all remains of poultry or game, and trimmings of chops and steaks, may be added, mutton being the only meat which can not as well be used in combination; though even this, by trimming off all the fat, may also be added. If it is intended to keep the stock for some days, no vegetables should be added, as vegetable juices ferment very easily. For clear soups they must be cooked with the meat; and directions will be given under that head for amounts and seasonings.
The secret of a savory soup lies in many flavors, none of which are allowed to predominate; and, minutely as rules for such flavoring may be given, only careful and frequent tasting will insure success. Every vegetable, spice, and sweet herb, curry-powders, catchups, sauces, dried or fresh lemon-peel, can be used; and the simple stock, by the addition of these various ingredients, becomes the myriad number of soups to be found in the pages of great cooking manuals like Gouffée's or Francatelli's.
Brown soups are made by frying the meat or game used in them till thoroughly brown on all sides, and using dark spices or sauces in their seasoning.
White soups are made with light meats, and often with the addition of milk or cream.
Purées are merely thick soups strained carefully before serving, and made usually of some vegetable which thickens in boiling, as beans, pease, &c, though there are several forms of fish purées in which the foundation is thickened milk, to which the fish is added, and the whole then rubbed through a common sieve, if a regular purée-sieve is not to be had.
Browned flour is often used for coloring, but does not thicken a soup, as, in browning it, the starchy portion has been destroyed; and it will not therefore mix, but settles at the bottom. Burned sugar or caramel makes a better coloring, and also adds flavor. With clear soups grated cheese is often served, either Parmesan or any rich cheese being used. Onions give a better flavor if they are fried in a little butter or dripping before using, and many professional cooks fry all soup vegetables lightly. Cabbage and potatoes should be parboiled in a separate water before adding to a soup. In using wine or catchup, add only at the last moment, as boiling dissipates the flavor. Unless a thick vegetable soup is desired, always strain into the tureen. Rice, sago, macaroni, or any cereal may be used as thickening; the amounts required being found under the different headings. Careful skimming, long boiling, and as careful removing of fat, will secure a broth especially desirable as a food for children and the old, but almost equally so for any age; while many fragments, otherwise entirely useless, discover themselves as savory and nutritious parts of the day's supply of food.
THE EASIEST WAY IN HOUSEKEEPING AND COOKING.
Adapted to Domestic Use or Study in Classes