Economy of Materials and Cooking

This is the fourth article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 24, 1909, and is a continuation of Marion’s series on economy.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Economy of Materials and Cooking

This is the third of a series of articles written by Marion Harland with a view to helping the housewife at a time when the practice of economy may mean the keeping of a home.

The two articles preceding this were “A Stubborn Fact,” dealing with the question of necessary economics and “Economy in Buying.” Next Sunday’s article will be entitled “Economy in Hired Labor.” The writer of the articles will welcome letters and suggestions from readers.

THE admirable editorial which is the keynote of the present economy series supplies us with another and a pregnant text:

“Our garbage barrels are filled with material upon which European families would grow fat. Meat that here upon the average table would be a tough and tasteless mess, if properly treated, would set forth a feast of soup, finely seasoned, a garnished stew and, for the breakfast following, a hash which, with the cheap vegetables boiled with the meat and some little additions of salad and cheese and coffee rightly made, would tempt the palate of the patron of the most expensive restaurant. And all at less than the cost of a tough hunk of indigestible and flavorless stuff set upon tens of thousands of American tables to deaden, not gratify, appetite and to breed dyspepsia.”

Plain, strong language this, but not a whit plainer and stronger than is demanded by the facts in the case before us. We provide more lavishly for our tables than any other people on the globe. The householder who rises early and sits up late and eats the bitter bread of carelessness, in order to join the ends of expense and income on the first day of the year, will state as a self-evident fact that “the nest is always the cheapest.” Furthermore, with the honest (?) pride of the freeborn American citizen, that “the best is none too good for him.”

A year ago I awaited my turn in a butcher’s shop, and as my wont is—

Whene’er I take my walks abroad,

I kept an eye upon my fellow-customers. A neatly dressed woman said something in a low voice to the man behind the counter, who walked to the corner of the shop and uncovered a pile of what looked like odds and ends of meat. She made her selection and purchase and went her way. In reply to the query I presently put him, the man smiled indulgently and let me have a closer view of the reserved fragments. That was what they were—the ends of steaks and chops and roasts pared away in trimming, and laid aside, not as offal, but as salable stock. All were clean and there was nothing unpleasing about the pile.

“They are never bought by Americans,” the man explained, “except now and then by a ‘cute’ boarding-house keeper. The French and Germans get them whenever they can. How do I happen to have so many? You see, not one lady in ten who trades with me gives orders to have the trimmings of roast or steak sent home. Yet she knows that they are trimmed into shape after she buys them. Unless we have orders to that effect, we never send the trimmings. Most cooks don’t like to be bothered with them.”

I learned, too, that the odd bits—for which our American housewife pays and which she does not get—are bought by the canny foreigner for 6 and 8 cents per pound. I did not remind the civil dealer that we pay for the steak and roast and chop before it is trimmed into shape. Hence, that he pockets a tidy profit upon each sale, even when he charges at the second one-third as much as the easy-going native housemother paid at the first.

Since it is my invariable practice to order the “trimmings” sent home with the bulk of the meat, it was none of my business to disturb his complacent computation of the petty gains that are beneath the average customer’s thoughts.

As surely as Michelangelo discerned the embryo angel in the shapeless block of marble, the clever economist sees in the collection of odds and ends at the far end of the marble counter the possibilities of soups, ragouts, hashes, cannelons, meat pies, curries—and an infinite series of other savories. The trimmings of her neighbors’ tables would set forth hers for a week, and her family be well fed.

Our editorial has a smart slap at this form of improvidence:

“We sit and growl at the impossible prices of meat, and all the while we insist upon having nothing set before us but prime ribs, porterhouses or sirloin steak, leg of lamb or round roast.”

A sharper thrust at the native housemother comes in the next paragraph:

“Because there is practically no proper cooking of cuck, flank, rump, neck or shin parts of mutton or beef.”

I subjoin to the justly severe comment upon our national cuisine the assertion that our housemother looks down disdainfully upon what a very “uppish” cook of mine once stigmatized as “innards.” I have had queens of the kitchen of the same feather and lineage who objected to cooking the giblets of poultry, as “ongentale.” If the old saw respecting the behavior of a beggar on horseback applies to them, it cannot be fitted to our well-to-do American matron. The best is none too good for her John and the children. Her wiser compatriot, who has made economy a study, buys a lamb’s liver at 10 or 12 cents and orders it to be left at her door, and this without a blush of shame. She has taught her boys and girls to like it when ‘mother’ cooks it.

It is washed and wiped; a few slices of fat salt pork are put into a frying pan, and when they are crisp are taken out. Into the fat goes a sliced onion, and when this is slightly browned the sliced liver is laid in the same hissing fat. It is left there just long enough to scar both sides of each piece. Then pork, onion, liver and fat are turned into a casserole. A half cupful of stock from the stockpot is added, and half a dozen button onions that have been parboiled. This is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, covered and set in the oven for an hour. It should be done tender by then. Next, the gravy is drained off and the covered casserole is kept hot over boiling water. The gravy is thickened with browned flour and seasoned with a dash of kitchen bouquet and a teaspoonful of chopped parsley. After boiling, it is poured back into the casserole. It is served in the same when it has stood, covered, for five minutes in an open oven that the gravy may soak into the liver.

Calf’s liver cooked in like manner is excellent. Or, if you wish to serve it whole, lard it with strips of fat salt pork, treat it as directed just now, and lay in the casserole. A spoonful of tomato catsup added to the seasoning improves the dish. Lay it upon a platter when done, pour the thickened gravy about it and garnish with the button onions. Half a can of French mushrooms (champignons) make of the baked liver a really elegant family dinner. The mushrooms are cooked in the gravy when it is strained off for thickening.

Cut it horizontally. What is left shrould be put under a weight. If properly seasoned and cooked, it is a fair imitation, when cold, of the famous (and costly) pate de foie gras. And this at an outlay of less than 70 cents, even if the champignons be added. Meat for two meals for four people for 35 cents a meal may be had by following the recipe I outline. I engage, also, that those who have never liked liver before will “Take to it” in this guise.

Beef’s Tongue.

A beef’s tongue retails in city markets for $1. Wash and wipe it and parboil for half an hour after the boil is fairly on. Take it up (saving the liquor in which it was boiled), rub all over with butter and put into a covered roaster when you have poured a cupful of the pot liquor about it. Roast until a fork pierces it easily. Turn the gravy into a saucepan and thicken with browned flour, two tablespoonfuls of stewed and strained tomato, a tablespoonful of onion juice, paprika and salt to taste.

Simmer gently at the side of the range while you wash the tongue with the yolk of an egg (beaten) and coat thickly with browned and crusted crumbs. Set in the oven, uncovered, for five minutes, or until smoking hot and slightly incrusted. Butter again and serve. Send in the gravy in a boat.

Carve perpendicularly. This tongue is delicious cold.

A “Left-Over” Soup.

A good soup may be made by adding minced vegetables to the stock in which the tongue was boiled. Simmer until the vegetable dice are tender; season with celery salt, color with caramel and drop tiny cubes of fried bread on the top.

Calf’s Head.

In a story depicting the trials and training of a young and ambitious housekeeper, who “thought she knew it all.” I have narrated, among the other “Distractions of Martha,” her struggles to prove the manifold capabilities of a calf’s head. I repeat now what was said there is serio-comic fashion: that a calf’s head may be wrought into more savory and popular forms than any other bit of meat known to the ingenious cook. It costs from 50 to 60 cents to begin with. The stock in which it is boiled makes delicious soup; the boned head, after it is boiled, may be breaded and baked, or made into that joy of the epicure, “tete de veau a la vinaigrette,” or into imitation terrapin almost as good as the genuine delicacy, for which we pay a dollar a plate at restaurants. The tongue is nice eaten cold or pickled; the brains may be fashioned into toothsome croquettes or fried in batter.

In skillful hands the calf’s head may be counted upon for four meals, and when all the seasoning ingredients that help to make these are considered from a financial standpoint the entire outlay should no exceed $1.

Sheep’s Head.

Who but a Scotch housemother ever thinks of cooking a sheep’s head?

I put the question to a notable housewife the other day, and she thought I meant the fish of the same name. She had “never imagined that anybody would eat a real sheep’s head!” Then she said, “Ugh!”

I stood up stoutly for my “head.” It yields the most palatable Scotch broth I have ever tasted. And there is no better in the world than that family soup one has in perfection in the Highlands. I have a recipe which was given to me in rhyme by the president of the University of Glasgow.

Nor is a boiled sheep’s head, served with caper sauce and accompanied by creamed turnips, a contemptible dinner for the American who arrogates as his the right to have the best things going. You may buy the cleaned head in a city market for 40 cents. In the country the butcher will toss it over to you with a laugh as a gift—with the wool on!

Take it home, scald and rub powdered resin into the fleece down to the roots, strip, and you have the foundation for enough nourishing broth to last a moderate-sized family for two days.

Scotch “Brose.”

Speaking of Scottish fare reminds one inevitably of the natinal dish of that hardy and frugal race.

“What did you have for breakfast?” asked a tourist of a bare-egged muscular Highland laddle.

“Brose,” was the answer.

“And what for dinner?”

“Brose,” still cheerfully.

“And what will you have for supper?”

“Why—brose!” surprised at the stranger’s inquisitiveness.

“And do you not get tired of eating the same thing all the time?”

“An’ wha’ for suld a mon weary o’ his meat?”

“Meat” with him stood for his daily food.

“Brose,” alias oatmeal porridge, has nutritive qualities to which the brawn and endurance of the Scottish peasantry bear triumphant testimony.

With us these would be better understood if oatmeal were properly cooked. The mother who would have her children strong in muscle and bone and generally hardy throughout their systems should learn the values of this cereal in the course of her economical studies. Soak it for hours. Distrust the plausible advertisements that commend this or that brand requiring no soaking and but 20 minutes’ cooking. That is a concession to the American habit of living fast and hard. Soak the Irish or Scotch meal long, and boil it longer. The fireless cooker cooks it to perfection without waste of fuel. Bring the sodden meal to a boil on the range, then shut it up in the heart of the cooker and leave it there for eight, ten, or twenty-four hours. It is then digestible and full of properties that foster wholesome growth in the young and keep adults vigorous.

Economical Pastry.

Butter is a grievously heavy item in the expense book of our frugal housemother, and one to which Bridget-Thekla-Dinah lends the full weight of her hand—one, too, that must know no degree. “Cooking butter” is not admitted to the economical calculations of sensible home caterers. Better buy and use half as much than purchase the second best. For table use, to spread on bread and eat out of hand, have fresh and sweet butter. And when you cannot afford to use the same for cake and pastry, go without them. Make plainer cakes and cookies, using half butter and half lard. Very fair “family pastry” may be made with the cheaper shortening alone.

Never waste a teaspoonful of good shortening, be it lard or dripping. Try out the dripping from roasts and set aside for frying.

You know, I suppose, that it may be used over and over, unless when you have fried fish in it? Strain what is left in the frying pan into a bowl half filled with hot water in which you have dissolved a bit of soda no bigger than a pea. When it is dead cold you will have a cake of clean, odorless fat on the top of the water, and all impurities will have sunk to the bottom. Take off the cake and keep it in a cold place.

Lemons may be kept soft and sound by leaving them in cold water in the refrigerator. You may get them by the dozen cheaper than by the single lemon.

Apples for apple sauce, and for pies for which they are cooked and strained should not be pared. Core them and cut into quarter or eights; then cook without sugar to a soft mass that may run through a fine colander or vegetable press. The peel gives a goodly flavor and plenty color to the sauce, and not an eatable bit of the king of fruit is lost. Sweeten to taste while hot and you have the veritable “bouquet” of the apple, instead of a taste and smell like preserves.

Chicken Broth.

Another small (which is not a “petty”) economy is to order your butcher or provision merchant to send home the heads, necks and feet of the fowls you buy from him. They make rich, good broth. Scald and scrape the legs, and scald the feathers from the heads. Then cook slowly until all the gelatinous strength is extracted. Let them get cold in the water, take off the fat, strip the meat from the bones and squeeze out all the moisture. Then throw the bones away. By adding rice to the liquor, seasoning with onion juice, pepper and salt, with a dash of minced parsley, and, just before serving, stirring in a cupful of milk thickened a little with a roux of butter and flour cooked together, you have a nourishing, savory broth.

I might draw out this talk indefinitely without exhausting the now-more-than-ever-before vital subject of the utilization of materials we are in the habit of underrating as foods for human beings. The list of palatable “left-overs” alone would fill many pages like this.

And this I must leave untouched.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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