Prehistoric man may have lived on uncooked foods, but there are no savage races to-day who do not practise cookery in some way, however crude. Progress in civilization has been accompanied by progress in cookery.
Much time has been given in the last few years to the study of foods, their necessary proportions, and manner of cooking them. Educators have been shown by scientists that this knowledge should be disseminated; as a result, Cookery is found in the curriculum of public schools of many of our towns and cities.
Food is cooked to develop new flavors, to make it more palatable and digestible, and to destroy micro-organisms. For cooking there are three essentials (besides the material to be cooked), heat, air, and moisture.
Among fuels, kerosene oil is the cheapest; gas gives the greatest amount of heat in the shortest time. Soft wood, like pine, on account of its coarse fibre, burns quickly; therefore makes the best kindling. Hard wood, like oak and ash, having the fibres closely packed, burns slowly, and is used in addition to pine wood for kindling coal. Where only wood is used as a fuel, it is principally hard wood.
There are two kinds of coal: Anthracite, or hard coal. Examples: Hard and free-burning White Ash, Shamokin, and Franklin. Nut is any kind of hard coal obtained from screenings. Bituminous, or soft coal. Example: cannel coal.
Fire for cookery is confined in a stove or range, so that heat may be utilized and regulated. Flame-heat is obtained from kerosene, gas, or alcohol, as used in oil-stoves, gas-stoves or gas-ranges, and chafing-dishes.
A cooking-stove is a large iron box set on legs. It has a fire-box in the front, the sides of which are lined with fire-proof material similar to that of which bricks are made. The bottom is furnished with a movable iron grate. Underneath the fire-box is a space which extends from the grate to a pan for receiving ashes. At the back of fire-box is a compartment called the oven, accessible on each side of the stove by a door. Between the oven and the top of the stove is a space for the circulation of air.
The oven is heated by a circulation of hot air. This is accomplished by closing the oven-damper, which is situated near the oven. When this damper is left open, the hot air rushes up the chimney. The damper near the chimney is known as the chimney-damper. When open it gives a free outlet for the escape of smoke and gas. When partially closed, as is usually the case in most ranges, except when the fire is started, it serves as a saver of heat. There is also a check, which, when open, cools the fire and saves heat, but should always be closed except when used for this purpose.
A gas range is growing in popularity. Coal-range companies recognizing their value have put on the market combination ranges for the use of gas as well as coal. The gas companies, who furnish the fuel, send out demonstrators upon request who teach their use.
Before starting to build a fire, free the grate from ashes. To do this, put on covers, close front and back dampers, and open oven-damper; turn grate, and ashes will fall into the ash receiver. If these rules are not followed, ashes will fly over the room. Turn grate back into place, remove the covers over fire-box, and cover grate with pieces of paper (twisted in centre and left loose at the ends). Cover paper with small sticks, or pieces of pine wood, being sure that the wood reaches the ends of fire-box, and so arranged that it will admit air. Over pine wood arrange hard wood then sprinkle with two shovelfuls of coal. Put on covers, open closed dampers, strike a match,sufficient friction is formed to burn the phosphorus, this in turn lights the sulphur, and the sulphur the wood,then apply the lighted match under the grate, and you have a fire.
Now blacken the stove. Begin at front of range, and work towards the back; as the iron heats, a good polish may be obtained. When the wood is thoroughly kindled, add more coal. A blue flame will soon appear, which is the gas (CO) in the coal burning to carbon dioxide (CO2), when the blue flame changes to a white flame; then the oven-damper should be closed. In a few moments the front damper may be nearly closed, leaving space to admit sufficient oxygen to feed the fire. It is sometimes forgotten that oxygen is necessary to keep a fire burning. As soon as the coal is well ignited, half close the chimney-damper, unless the draft be very poor.
Never allow the fire-box to be more than three-fourths filled. When full, the draft is checked, a larger amount of fuel is consumed, and much heat is lost. This is a point that should be impressed on the mind of the cook.
If a fire is used constantly during the day, replenish coal frequently, but in small quantities. If for any length of time the fire is not needed, open check, the dampers being closed; when again wanted for use, close check, open front damper, and with a poker rake out ashes from under fire, and wait for fire to burn brightly before adding new coal.
To keep a fire over night, remove the ashes from under the fire, put on enough coal to fill the box, close the dampers, and lift the back covers enough to admit air. This is better than lifting the covers over the fire-box and prevents poisonous gases entering the room.
Water boils at 212° F. (sea level), and simmers at 185° F. Slowly boiling water has the same temperature as rapidly boiling water, consequently is able to do the same work,a fact often forgotten by the cook, who is too apt to wood the fire that water may boil vigorously.
Watery vapor and steam pass off from boiling water. Steam is invisible; watery vapor is visible, and is often miscalled steam. Cooking utensils commonly used permit the escape of watery vapor and steam; thereby much heat is lost if food is cooked in rapidly boiling water.
Water is boiled for two purposes: first, cooking of itself to destroy organic impurities; second, for cooking foods. Boiling water toughens and hardens albumen in eggs; toughens fibrin and dissolves tissues in meat; bursts starch-grains and softens cellulose in cereals and vegetables. Milk should never be allowed to boil. At boiling temperature (214° F.) the casein is slightly hardened, and the fat is rendered more difficult of digestion. Milk heated over boiling water, as in a double boiler, is called scalded milk, and reaches a temperature of 196° F. When foods are cooked over hot water the process is called steaming.
Stewing is cooking in a small amount of hot water for a long time at low temperature; it is the most economical way of cooking meats, as all nutriment is retained, and the ordinary way of cooking cheaper cuts. Thus fibre and connective tissues are softened, and the whole is made tender and palatable.
Broiling is cooking over or in front of a clear fire. The food to be cooked is usually placed in a greased broiler or on a gridiron held near the coals, turned often at first to sear the outside,thus preventing escape of inner juices,afterwards turned occasionally. Tender meats and fish may be cooked in this way. The flavor obtained by broiling is particularly fine; there is, however, a greater loss of weight in this than in any other way of cooking, as the food thus cooked is exposed to free circulation of air. When coal is not used, or a fire is not in condition for broiling, a plan for pan broiling has been adopted. This is done by placing food to be cooked in a hissing hot frying-pan, turning often as in broiling.
Roasting is cooking before a clear fire, with a reflector to concentrate the heat. Heat is applied in the same way as for broiling, the difference being that the meat for roasting is placed on a spit and allowed to revolve, thicker pieces alway being employed. Tin-kitchens are now but seldom used. Meats cooked in a range oven, though really baked, are said to be roasted. Meats so cooked are pleasing to the sight and agreeable to the palate, although, according to Edward Atkinson, not so easily digested as when cooked at a lower temperature in the Aladdin oven.
Frying is cooking by means of immersion in deep fat raised to a temperature of 350° to 400° F. For frying purposes olive oil, lard, beef drippings, cottolene, coto suet, and cocoanut butter are used. A combination of two-thirds lard and one-third beef suet (tried out and clarified) is better than lard alone. Cottolene, coto suet, and cocoanut butter are economical, inasmuch as they may be heated to a high temperature without discoloring, therefore may be used for a larger number of fryings. Cod fat obtained from beef is often used by chefs for frying.
Nearly all foods which do not contain eggs are dipped in flour or crumbs, egg, and crumbs, before frying. The intense heat of fat hardens the albumen, thus forming a coating which prevents food from soaking fat.
When meat or fish is to be fried, it should be kept in a warm room for some time previous to cooking, and wiped as dry as possible. If cold, it decreases the temperature of the fat to such extent that a coating is not formed quickly enough to prevent fat from penetrating the food. The ebullition of fat is due to water found in food to be cooked.
Great care must be taken that too much is not put into the fat at one time, not only because it lowers the temperature of the fat, but because it causes it to bubble and go over the sides of the kettle. It is not fat that boils, but water which fat has received from food.
Rules for Testing Fat for Frying. 1. When the fat begins to smoke, drop in an inch cube of bread from soft part of loaf, and if in forty seconds it is golden brown, the fat is then of right temperature for frying any cooked mixture.
Many kinds of food may be fried in the same fat; new fat should be used for batter and dough mixtures, potatoes, and fishballs; after these, fish, meat, and croquettes. Fat should be frequently clarified.
To Clarify Fat. Melt fat, add raw potato cut in quarter-inch slices, and allow fat to heat gradually; when fat ceases to bubble and potatoes are well browned, strain through double cheesecloth, placed over wire strainer, into a pan. The potato absorbs any odors or gases, and collects to itself some of the sediment, remainder settling to bottom of kettle.
When small amount of fat is to be clarified, add to cold fat boiling water, stir vigorously, and set aside to cool; the fat will form a cake on top, which may be easily removed; on bottom of the cake will be found sediment, which may be readily scraped off with a knife.
Fat from beef, poultry, chicken, and pork, may be used for shortening or frying purposes; fat from mutton and smoked meats may be used for making hard and soft soap; fat removed from soup stock, the water in which corned beef has been cooked, and drippings from roast beef, may be tried out, clarified, and used for shortening or frying purposes.
To Try out Fat. Cut in small pieces and melt in top of a double boiler; in this way it will require less watching than if placed in kettle on the back of range. Leaf lard is tried out in the same way; in cutting the leaf, remove membrane. After straining lard, that which remains may be salted, pressed, and eaten as a relish, and is called scraps.
Sautéing is frying in a small quantity of fat. Food so cooked is much more difficult of digestion than when fried in deep fat; it is impossible to cook in this way without the food absorbing fat. A frying-pan or griddle is used; the food is cooked on one side, then turned, and cooked on the other.
Braising is stewing and baking (meat). Meat to be braised is frequently first sautéd to prevent escape of much juice in the gravy. The meat is placed in a pan with a small quantity of stock or water, vegetables (carrot, turnip, celery, and union) cut in pieces, salt, pepper, and sweet herbs. The pan should have a tight-fitting cover. Meat so prepared should be cooked in an oven at low uniform temperature for a long time. This is an economical way of cooking, and the only way besides stewing or boiling of making a large piece of tough meat palatable and digestible.
Fricasseeing is sautéing and serving with a sauce. Tender meat is fricasseed without previous cooking; less tender meat requires cooking in hot water before fricasseeing. Although veal is obtained from a young creature, it requires long cooking; it is usually sautéd, and then cooked in a sauce at low temperature for a long time.
Egging and Crumbing. Use for crumbing dried bread crumbs which have been rolled and sifted, or soft stale bread broken in pieces and forced through a colander. An ingenious machine on the market, The Bread Crumber, does this work. Egg used for crumbing should be broken into a shallow plate and beaten with a silver fork to blend yolk and white; dilute each egg with two tablespoons water. The crumbs should be taken on a board; food to be fried should be first rolled in crumbs (care being taken that all parts are covered with crumbs), then dipped in egg mixture (equal care being taken to cover all parts), then rolled in crumbs again; after the last crumbing remove food to a place on the board where there are no crumbs, and shake off some of the outer ones which make coating too thick. A broad-bladed knife with short handlethe Teller knifeis the most convenient utensil for lifting food to be crumbed from egg mixture. Small scallops, oysters, and crabs are more easily crumbed by putting crumbs and fish in paper and shaking paper until the fish is covered with crumbs. The object of first crumbing is to dry the surface that egg may cling to it; and where a thin coating is desired flour is often used in place of crumbs.
Larding is introducing small pieces of fat salt pork or bacon through the surface of uncooked meat. The flavor of lean and dry meat is much improved by larding; tenderloin of beef (fillet), grouse, partridge, pigeon, and liver are often prepared in this way. Pig pork being firm, is best for larding. Pork should be kept in a cold place that it may be well chilled. Remove rind and use the part of pork which lies between rind and vein. With sharp knife (which is sure to make a clean cut) remove slices a little less than one-fourth inch thick; cut the slices into strips a little less than one-fourth inch wide; these strips should be two and one-fourth inches long, and are called lardoons. Lardoons for small birdsquail, for exampleshould be cut smaller and not quite so long. To lard, insert one end of lardoon into larding-needle, hold needle firmly, and with pointed end take up a stitch one-third inch deep and three-fourths inch wide; draw needle through, care being taken that lardoon is left in meat and its ends project to equal lengths. Arrange lardoons in parallel rows, one inch apart, stitches in the alternate rows being directly underneath each other. Lard the upper surface of cuts of meat with the grain, never across it. In birds, insert lardoons at right angles to breast-bone on either side. When large lardoons are forced through meat from surface to surface, the process is called daubing. Example: Beef à la mode. Thin slices of fat salt pork placed over meat may be substituted for larding, but flavor is not the same as when pork is drawn through flesh, and the dish is far less sightly.
Boning is removing bones from meat or fish, leaving the flesh nearly in its original shape. For boning, a small sharp knife with pointed blade is essential. Legs of mutton and veal and loins of beef may be ordered boned at market, no extra charge being made.
Whoever wishes to learn how to bone should first be taught boning of a small bird; when this is accomplished, larger birds, chickens, and turkeys may easily be done, the processes varying but little. In large birds tendons are drawn from legs, and the wings are left on and boned.
In buying birds for boning, select those which have been fresh killed, dry picked, and not drawn. Singe, remove pinfeathers, head, and feet, and cut off wings close to body in small birds. Lay bird on a board, breast down.
Begin at neck and with sharp knife cut through the skin the entire length of body. Scrape the flesh from backbone until end of one shoulder-blade is found; scrape flesh from shoulder-blade and continue around wing-joint, cutting through tendinous portions which are encountered; then bone other side. Scrape skin from backbone the entire length of body, working across the ribs. Free wishbone and collar-bones, at same time removing crop and windpipe; continue down breastbone, particular care being taken not to break the skin as it lies very near bone, or to cut the delicate membranes which enclose entrails. Scrape flesh from second joints and drumsticks, laying it back and drawing off as a glove may be drawn from the hand. Withdraw carcass and put flesh back in its original shape. In large birds where wings are boned, scrape flesh to middle joint, where bone should be broken, leaving bone at tip end to assist in preserving shape.
Tin, granite-ware, and glass measuring-cups, divided in quarters or thirds, holding one half-pint, and tea and table spoons of regulation sizes,which may be bought at any store where kitchen furnishings are sold,and a ease knife, are essentials for correct measurement. Mixing-spoons, which are little larger than tablespoons, should not be con-founded with the latter.
Measuring Ingredients. Flour, meal, powdered and confectioners sugar, and soda should be sifted before measuring. Mustard and baking powder, from standing in boxes, settle, therefore should be stirred to lighten; salt frequently lumps, and these lumps should be broken. A cupful is measured level. To measure a cupful, put in the ingredient by spoonfuls or from a scoop, round slightly, and level with a case knife, care being taken not to shake the cup. A tablespoonful is measured level. A teaspoonful is measured level.
To measure tea or table spoonfuls, dip the spoon in the ingredient, fill, lift, and level with a knife, the sharp edge of knife being toward tip of spoon. Divide with knife lengthwise of spoon, for a half-spoonful; divide halves crosswise for quarters, and quarters crosswise for eighths. Less than one-eighth of a teaspoonful is considered a few grains.
To beat, turn ingredient or ingredients over and over, continually bringing the under part to the surface, thus allowing the utensil used for beating to be constantly brought in contact with bottom of the dish and throughout the mixture.
To cut and fold, introduce one ingredient into another ingredient or mixture by two motions: with a spoon, a repeated vertical downward motion, known as cutting; and a turning over and over of mixture, allowing bowl of spoon each time to come in contact with bottom of dish, is called folding. These repeated motions are alternated until thorough blending is accomplished.
2. By Refrigeration. Foods so preserved are kept in cold storage. The cooling is accomplished by means of ice, or by a machine where compressed gas is cooled and then permitted to expand. Examples: meat, milk, butter, eggs, etc.