As nothing is easier than making good soups, they should be the first lesson in cooking.
They are one of the most nutritious and inexpensive foods presented, and have a very wide range, extending from the clear, transparent soups, through many degrees of consistency, color and material, to the heavy varieties which contain enough nourishment for a meal in themselves. The pot-au-feu as managed in the families of the French peasantry furnishes their chief source of diet. The pot on the fire receives every bit of nutritious material of every kind; by slow cooking the juices and flavors are extracted, and a savory combination is made which is both pleasant to the taste and satisfying to the hunger.
The stock-pot should be on every range, and its contents ever ready to be drawn upon, not only for soup, but for sauces, and for flavoring the numerous dishes which can be enriched and improved by stock. It is not meant to imply that the stock-pot should never be removed from the range and that articles should be added at any time. When the nutriment is extracted from one collection of materials, the stock should be strained off, the pot thoroughly cleaned, and a new stock started as soon as enough materials have again accumulated.
The many kinds of soups are variations of the few kinds of stock.
The brown stock is made from beef, or from beef, veal, and fowl combined, and mixed vegetables.
White stock is made of veal and chicken together, or from veal alone, seasoned with onion, celery, white pepper, and salt, nothing being used which will give color.
Chicken stock is made from the fowl alone, and seasoned with celery, white pepper, and salt.
Cream soups are made without stock, the basis being vegetables boiled and mashed to a puree by being pressed through a colander or sieve, then mixed with cream or milk and seasoned to taste.
The meats used for soups are: the lower or tough part of the round, the shin, and the neck pieces of beef, the knuckle of veal, and fowls. Mutton is not used except for mutton broth. A very little ham is sometimes used; game also gives good flavor.
Bones contain gelatine and cause the stock to jelly when cold.
The soup vegetables are onions, carrots, turnips, and celery. They are cut into small pieces and are sometimes fried before being added to the soup pot.
Parsley wrapped around peppercorns, cloves, bay-leaves and other herbs, excepting sage, and tied, makes what is called a bouquet. In this shape the herbs are more easily removed.
The proportions are one quart of cold water to a pound of meat, and to four quarts of water one each of the vegetables of medium size, named above, two sticks of celery, and a bouquet containing one root of parsley with leaves, one bay-leaf, twelve peppercorns, six cloves, one sprig of thyme, and sweet marjoram if desired.
In making good soup the first essential is a perfectly clean pot. I would emphasize the word clean. First have the pot thoroughly washed with soda and water to remove any grease, then scoured with sapolio to take off any bits of burned or hardened matter.
The meat should be wiped clean with a wet cloth and carefully examined to see if there are any tainted spots, then cut into pieces about one and a half inches square (except in the case where a round of beef is used, which is to be removed when tender and served as bouilli). The meat and bones must be put into cold water in order to extract the juices, and never be allowed to boil. Slow cooking best effects the object desired. After the meat has stood fifteen minutes in cold water, put it on the fire, cover, and let it come slowly to the simmering-point, then place on the back of range to simmer for six hours or more. An hour before the cooking is completed, add the vegetables, cut into small pieces. When the soup is to be served clear, it is well to remove the scum as it rises, but this is not essential, for much of it comes off when the soup is strained, and perfectly clear soup requires clarifying in any case. The French receipts all say remove the scum, but as it is a nutrient part of the meat, unless clearness is desired, it seems better to let it remain during the period of cooking.
When the soup has simmered five or six hours, it should be strained into an earthen bowl and left to cool uncovered. Under no circumstances let it stand in the pot after it is cooked. The grease will rise to the top and form a cake which can be easily removed when cold. Any little particles which may stick to the jelly may be wiped off with a cloth wet in hot water. Where a quantity of stock is made at one time, it is well to strain it into two or even three bowls; the grease forms an air-tight cover and will help to keep it from souring. Stock should be made the day before it is to be used in order to let the grease rise and the floating particles settle, but where it is needed at once, the grease that cannot be skimmed off with a spoon can be absorbed by passing tissue paper over it carefully.
Soup can be made perfectly clear by taking the jellied stock from which every particle of grease and sediment has been removed, and stirring into it, while cold, the slightly-beaten white and crushed shell of one egg to each quart of stock. It must be stirred constantly until the soup is hot enough to coagulate the albumen, by which time it has thoroughly mixed with and imprisoned the fine particles which cloud the liquid. Let it boil violently for five minutes, then let it stand five minutes longer on the side of the range to settle. Strain through a fine cloth laid on a sieve. Let it drain through without pressing. In some cases a small bit of lemon rind used with the egg in clearing gives a pleasant flavor to the soup. After clearing it will ordinarily need to be heated again before serving. In high-class cooking, soups are cleared with chopped raw meat or chicken, which adds to, instead of detracting from the richness of the soup. The albumen of egg does not materially affect the quality of the soup, and is recommended for general practice. It will be difficult if not impossible to make a perfectly clear and brilliant soup from stock where bones have been used, if the stock has been subjected to boiling heat. Boiling dissolves the lime in the bones, and this gives a cloudiness which clarifying will not entirely remove.
If a deeper color is wanted, it may be obtained by adding a very little caramel or a few drops of a preparation called "Kitchen Bouquet." Artificial coloring, however, is not so good as that obtained by browning the vegetables and part of the meat before adding them to the soup pot.
The meat soups are called broths, bouillon, or consomme, according to their richness.
The purees are thick soups made with or without stock, the basis being mashed vegetables or meat pounded to a paste.
Stock made of meat alone will keep better than where vegetables are used. In warm weather it is well to have it so prepared.