The Art of Living in Australia, by Philip E. Muskett

Chapter XV.

The Stock Pot.

The stock pot is indispensable to good cooking, and although many soups and sauces can be made with water as a foundation, nearly all of them are improved by using stock, and no cook who desires to achieve good results should be without a basin of stock when she commences operations in the morning. There are saucepans now called digesters, which are most useful as stock pots, but any good-sized saucepan or boiler will do very well indeed. This should be put on fresh every morning with everything the larder contains that is suitable — such, for instance, as the bones of fresh or cooked meat, poultry, or rabbits. Never put in fat, as this can be rendered down for pastry and frying, and only makes the stock greasy; always cover the bones with cold water, but regulate the quantity by the material used. Put in cold water with a teaspoonful of salt, and when it boils up, skim well; when skimming, take an iron spoon and a basin of water, and dip the spoon in the water each time the scum is removed; then put in the peppercorns and vegetables. In very hot weather put peppercorns and a fagot of herbs only, as the vegetables cause the stock to turn sour very soon; peppercorns should always be used, as they impart a much pleasanter flavour to soup than pepper. A fagot of herbs is made with a bay or peach leaf, a sprig each of parsley, thyme, and marjoram tied together with a piece of cotton. These herbs can be grown so easily if one has a small garden, or even in a box, with very little care; they impart such a pleasant flavour to soups and gravies. Leeks cut up with the green tops and put into the stock pot instead of onions are very good. Part of the onion skin left on makes a good colour, but it can be coloured by burning half a teaspoonful of sugar in an old spoon, or by a few drops of caramel — the recipe for which is given elsewhere. All fresh meat and bones should be carefully trimmed and wiped with a warm damp cloth before putting into the pot; when the stock has boiled, stand the saucepan at the back of the stove and simmer slowly for at least five or six hours. If strong stock is desired, leave the lid off the saucepan for the last hour; the water will then evaporate and make the stock richer. The stock should be strained through a hair sieve or a colander, and should stand in a cool place till the next day. If it has been carefully made it will be in a jelly; the fat can very easily be removed with a spoon. It should finally be wiped with a damp cloth. Removing the fat thoroughly is a most important item, for greasy soups and sauces are most indigestible and unwholesome. If the stock has to be used at once, remove the fat first with a spoon, and then pass pieces of this paper lightly across the surface; these will absorb the fat. A small piece of charcoal laid on top of the stock will prevent it turning sour in the hot weather. With this basin of stock to work on, many dainty tit-bits are possible which could not be made without it. How often has the cookery book been searched for “something nice” and laid down with a sigh when half a pint of gravy has been found necessary to concoct the desired dainty! But with a basin of stock on hand, all these things are procurable, and it certainly does not take more than ten minutes to break up the bones, skim the pot, and strain it, and last of all it costs nothing. In cases of sudden emergency, when stock is wanted and is not to be had, the recipe for Quick Beef Tea answers very well, using one quart of water instead of one pint, and by adding a few vegetables; this is made in five minutes. White soup is looked upon as quite a high-class soup, but it is just as easy to make as any other kind. A piece of stewed veal or mutton, or a boiled chicken, gives the stock at once, or the bones of mutton, veal, or pork alone will form the foundation. Never throw away the water in which carrots, parsnips, celery, or even cauliflowers have been boiled. Vegetables contain a great deal of potash, which is a valuable food for the blood. A great deal of this potash comes out in the water during the process of cooking; if this liquor is used as a foundation for soup, we utilize this. For this reason vegetable soups, and stews containing plenty of vegetables, are such a good diet for anyone suffering from or subject to diseases of the blood and bones. These simple facts seem to be overlooked; but if Australia is to become in the future, as we all hope it may, a power in the world second to none, the wives and mothers of her husbands and sons must understand the necessity of providing them with a diet which shall make them strong and brave, and root out what now seems to be the curse of the land — dyspepsia — brought on in a great measure by badly cooked and therefore indigestible food. The remedy for this is in the hands of the women of Australia, and if they will rise to their position and importance and do their work with a high and holy motive, they will not find it the drudgery it is often supposed to be. What does Owen Meredith say? —

“We may live without poetry, music, and art, We may live without conscience, and live without heart, We may live without friends, we may live without books, But civilised man cannot live without cooks. He may live without books — what is knowledge but grieving? He may live without hope — what is hope but deceiving? He may live without love — what is passion but pining? But where is the man that can live without dining?”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09