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Important Observations on Roasting, Boiling, Frying, etc.

In roasting butchers' meat, be careful not to run the spit through the nice parts: let the piece lie in water one hour, then wash it out, wipe it perfectly dry, and put it on the spit. Set it before a clear, steady fire: sprinkle some salt on it, and when it becomes hot, baste it for a time with salt and water: then put a good spoonful of nice lard into the dripping-pan, and when melted, continue to baste with it. When your meat, of whatever kind, has been down some time, but before it begins to look brown, cover it with paper and baste on it; when it is nearly done, take off the paper, dredge it with flour, turn the spit for some minutes very quick, and baste all the time to raise a froth—after which, serve it up. When mutton is roasted, after you take off the paper, loosen the skin and peel it off carefully, then dredge and froth it up. Beef and mutton must not be roasted as much as veal, lamb, or pork; the two last must be skinned in the manner directed for mutton. You may pour a little melted butter in the dish with veal, but all the others must be served without sauce, and garnished with horse-radish, nicely scraped. Be careful not to let a particle of dry flour be seen on the meat—it has a very ill appearance. Beef may look brown, but the whiter the other meats are, the more genteel are they, and if properly roasted, they may be perfectly done, and quite white. A loin of veal, and hind quarter of lamb, should be dished with the kidneys uppermost; and be sure to joint every thing that is to be separated at table, or it will be impossible to carve neatly. For those who must have gravy with these meats, let it be made in any way they like, and served in a boat. No meat can be well roasted except on a spit turned by a jack, and before a steady clear fire—other methods are no better than baking. Many cooks are in the habit of half boiling the meats to plump them as they term it, before they are spitted, but it destroys their fine flavour. Whatever is to be boiled, must be put into cold water with a little salt, which will cook them regularly. When they are put in boiling water, the outer side is done too much, before the inside gets heated. Nice lard is much better than butter for basting roasted meats, or for frying. To choose butchers' meat, you must see that the fat is not yellow, and that the lean parts are of a fine close grain, a lively colour, and will feel tender when pinched. Poultry should be well covered with white fat; if the bottom of the breast bone be gristly, it is young, but if it be a hard bone, it is an old one. Fish are judged by the liveliness of their eyes, and bright red of their gills. Dredge every thing with flour before it is put on to boil, and be sure to add salt to the water.

Fish, and all other articles for frying, after being nicely prepared, should be laid on a board and dredged with flour or meal mixed with salt: when it becomes dry on one side, turn it, and dredge the other. For broiling, have very clear coals, sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the pieces, and when done, dish them, and pour over some melted butter and chopped parsley—this is for broiled veal, wild fowl, birds or poultry: beef-steaks and mutton chops require only a table-spoonful of hot water to be poured over. Slice an onion in the dish before you put in the steaks or chops, and garnish both with rasped horse-radish. To have viands served in perfection, the dishes should be made hot, either by setting them over hot water, or by putting some in them, and the instant the meats are laid in and garnished, put on a pewter dish cover. A dinner looks very enticing, when the steam rises from each dish on removing the covers, and if it be judiciously ordered, will have a double relish. Profusion is not elegance—a dinner justly calculated for the company, and consisting for the greater part of small articles, correctly prepared, and neatly served up, will make a much more pleasing appearance to the sight, and give a far greater gratification to the appetite, than a table loaded with food, and from the multiplicity of dishes, unavoidably neglected in the preparation, and served up cold.

There should always be a supply of brown flour kept in readiness to thicken brown gravies, which must be prepared in the following manner: put a pint of flour in a Dutch oven, with some coals under it; keep constantly stirring it until it is uniformly of a dark brown, but none of it burnt, which would look like dirt in the gravy. All kitchens should be provided with a saw for trimming meat, and also with larding needles.


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The Virginia Housewife (1860).

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