Friday, April 1, 2011

A Few Words on Making Soup in 1855 America

Godey’s Lady’s Book, February, 1855, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A Few Words On Soup

“THE researches of Liebig offer a simple and convenient method of preparing, in a few minutes, a broth of the highest nutritive properties. Finely chopped lean beef is mixed with an equal weight of cold water, and left, if possible, to macerate for a short time, and the whole then slowly heated to ebullition; after gentle boiling for some minutes, the clear broth separates from the coagulated albumen and from the muscular fibre, which has now assumed a sinewy appearance. After straining, it requires only to be seasoned, and slightly colored with burnt onions, or with caramel (burnt sugar). The coloring of broth is nothing but a concession to the common prejudice, which cannot, however, be well dispensed with.

Lilly Martin Spencer (1822 –1902) The Young Wife First Stew

“By evaporation in a water-bath, or at a still lower temperature, the broth becomes spontaneously colored, and leaves behind a brown extract, possessing a delicate odor of roasted meat; it may be preserved for any length of time. This extract, when dissolved in about thirty parts of water, and flavored with salt, yields, at any moment, a most excellent broth. The advantage of extract of flesh for the nutrition of invalids, its use in hospitals, or in field service, as well as in domestic economy, is sufficiently obvious. We see, likewise, that bone broth, broth tablets, etc…, being preparations entirely different from a true broth from flesh, cannot compete with it as articles of food.”

The delicate and proper blending of savors is the chief art of good soup-making. Be sure to skim the grease off the soup when it first boils, or it will not become clear. Throw in a little salt to bring up the scum. Remove all the fat. Be careful to simmer softly, and never allow a soup to boil hard.

Put your meat into cold water, and let it grow warm slowly. This dissolves the gelatine, allows the albumen to disengage, the scum to rise, and the heat to penetrate to the centre of the meat. But, if the meat be put into hot water, or the soup over a hot fire to boil, the albumen coagulates, and the external surface of the meat is hardened; the water is prevented from penetrating to the interior, and the nutritious part of the meat from disengaging itself. The broth will be without flavor, and the meat tough, if so managed. Allow two tablespoonsful of salt to four quarts of soup, where there are many vegetables; and one and one—half, where there are few. One quart of water to one pound of meat is a good rule.

Soup made of meat not previously cooked is as good, perhaps better, on the second day, if heated to the boiling point. If more water is needed, use boiling water, as cold or lukewarm spoils the soup. Some persons have thought potato-water to be unhealthy; do not, therefore, boil potatoes in your soup, but, if required, boil them elsewhere, and add them when nearly cooked.

The water in which poultry or fresh meat is boiled should be saved for gravies or soups for the next day. If it is not needed in your own family, give it to the poor. The bones, also, of roasts, with a little meat, make a soup; and, if not required for this purpose, you may save them for the grease they contain. But this preparation, be it remembered, is entirely different, in its essential properties, from soup made from flesh; and it should never be given to an invalid or convalescent as an invigorating or nutritive repast. In boiling out the bones in water, not only the fat present in all bones, but also the gelatine (which is tasteless, and can impart neither flavor nor any nutritive property to the soup), is extracted. It follows, therefore, that the fat is the only matter obtained for the soup, the flavor of which must depend entirely on the vegetables and spices that may be added. As fat is both difficult and slow of digestion, would it not be quite as well to keep the grease for soap, and use the vegetables without it?

Keep the vessel covered tight in which you boil soup, that the flavor may not be lost. Never put away soup in metal pots. It is much better to boil your soup the day before wanted, and allow the liquid to cool, that the fat may be all removed. Thickened soups require more seasoning than thin soups; nearly twice the quantity is necessary.

In France few dinners are served without soup; and the pot-au-feu (soup-kettle) is a necessary utensil in the kitchens of both rich and poor. It might be termed the national dish, so constantly is it used by all classes. The white, thin soaps are intended only to commence a set dinner. The substantial, thick soups might, with vegetables, form a dinner satisfactory to any laboring man.

Clear soups should not be strong of the meat flavor and should be of a light-brown, sherry, or straw-color. All white or brown thick soups should be rather thin, with just sufficient consistency to adhere lightly to a spoon when hot; such as soups of fish, poultry, or game. Simple brown soups, no matter whether of meat or vegetables, require to be somewhat thicker.

If good housekeepers could bring themselves to give up the old notion of boiling for five and six hours, to obtain “the extract” of meat, and follow the advice of chemists, they would be able to serve up a nice soup in a short time, and with comparatively little labor. At the commencement of the French Revolution, public attention was directed to the improvement and management of food for the poor and the army. The scientific men of France were called upon for an opinion; and the government, led away by enthusiastic reports, were induced to send forth such language as the following: “A bone is a tablet of soup formed by nature; a pound of bones gives as much soup as six pounds of meat; bone soup, in a dietetical point of view, is preferable to meat soup.” It would seem that even cookery, at that time, was looked at through the same exaggerated medium as political matters. These expressions were soon found to be the grossest exaggerations, and the apparatus which was put up to convert the bones into soup was soon found to be useless, and totally abandoned. The medical officers of the Hotel Dieu drew up a report, which declared such soup to be of bad quality, and indigestible. Therefore, we may conclude soup made from bones of meat and poultry, to be nothing more than the stone soup of old, which, with plenty of vegetables and seasoning, made quite a delicious repast."