How to keep food during the summer months is a difficult problem to many housewives, especially when living in flats or houses designed by architects who apparently overlooked the fact that it is desirable to keep a certain amount of food in a house.
Still, apart from these special drawbacks, there are many difficulties to contend with, which may be lessened by attention to the following hints :
The golden rule is, of course, absolute cleanliness, no matter if the larder is built on the most approved plan, or is merely a shelf, cupboard, or "safe" outside a door or window, or a refrigerator. Have the larder shelf or shelves washed daily with water containing a little disinfectant, and the floor washed at least three times a week. Be sure the place is perfectly dry before replacing any food.
Do not Sweep a Larder
Never allow the larder to be swept; this merely creates a dust, which soon re-settles. If actual washing is impossible, use a well-damped cloth to remove any crumbs, etc.
Good ventilation is essential, so endeavours must be made to ensure a current of air blowing through. The window must open top and bottom, and there should be a ventilator of some kind in the door; even large holes can be drilled in it. Over windows and ventilators perforated zinc should be nailed, with the mesh fine enough to keep out the flies, which attack and ruin untold quantities of food in summer-time.
If the zinc is unprocurable, fasten muslin up instead, but keep it clean. Put bags or bowls of powdered charcoal in the larder or safe; these keep it sweet, and be sure to scald all meat hooks frequently, or these will taint the meat, etc., into which they are thrust. If the sun strikes on the larder or safe, hang wet sacking or garden matting up during the hours it shines on the window, or, for a small safe, a piece of old carpet or a folded blanket can be used.
Careful inspection will do much to prevent waste of food. Any food that is absolutely bad or sour must be removed, or it will speedily contaminate the rest.
Some people imagine that no harm is done if food is left on dirty plates or dishes; this is a great mistake, and leads to much preventable souring of foodstuffs.
Even under the most favourable conditions of larder accommodation, the following precautions must be taken with various articles of food :
Meat causes much anxiety, for unless it hangs for a certain period, it will be hard and tough. It is well to remember that "red" meats - viz., beef and mutton - taint and sour far less rapidly than veal, lamb, chicken, or rabbits.
Meat must never be kept lying down on a dish or shelf, but must be hung up in as brisk a current of air as possible. Gauze hanging meat-safes in which to hang meats, etc., are excellent, but if one is not procurable, slip the" joint into a loose muslin bag, first wringing it out in vinegar; be sure and draw the ends so tightly that no fly can find a way in.
If foods are left uncovered, flies will attack them; starve the flies, and they will soon go elsewhere for their maintenance. Cut surfaces, crevices and folds of meat should be examined daily, and well dusted with coarse pepper, or brushed over with equal portions of salad oil or melted butter and vinegar. If, when proceeding to cook meat, it is found that any part is in the least tainted, cut that portion away and burn it, then wash the joint in strong vinegar and water; this will sweeten it.
Meat that is in the least doubtful must never be stewed or boiled, but roasted, baked, or fried. The former processes only augment the unpleasant smell and flavour.
Should the weather be very hot, it is far wiser to half-cook the meat, then lay it aside on a clean dish; the cooking can then be finished later. Care is needed not to merely warm the meat, or it will be hopelessly bad by morning. Stuffed meat, such as rolled and stuffed mutton, does not keep well, as the bread in the stuffing soon sours.
Fish. - Never attempt to freshen up fish, for stale fish is a serious danger to health. Better do without fish than try to keep it from day to day. If this must be done, half-cook it either by boiling for five or more minutes, according to its thickness, or bake it in the oven; it can then be egg-and-crumbed or cooked in some other fashion later.
The most dangerous kinds of fish to keep are mackerel, eels, herrings, and any kind of shellfish.
Sauces, soup, and stock must be well boiled every day, and then poured into perfectly clean jugs or basins. Never allow the meat-bones, vegetables, etc., to be left in them, and on no account leave them standing in a saucepan, or they will sour in a few hours.
Scraps of all kinds must be examined and put on clean plates daily. Pieces that there is no prospect of utilising in any fashion should be burnt at once, as they merely afford an attraction to flies. Bones being kept for stock should be baked sharply for about ten minutes.
Milk needs the greatest care. Keep it away from other foods if possible, at all events, from such as have a strong odour. Keep all milk vessels scrupulously clean, washing, scalding, and finally rinsing them in cold water, after use.
To keep milk overnight it is best to slowly heat it to just boiling-point, and then pour it into a clean jug. Directly milk is delivered it should be emptied out of the tin into jugs, and these should be placed in a vessel containing cold water or ice, and fine muslin laid over the top. Never leave milk uncovered.