This very wholesome, convenient, and economical mode of cookery is by no means so well understood nor profited by in England or America as on the continent, where its advantages are fully appreciated. So very small a quantity of fuel is necessary to sustain the gentle degree of ebullition which it requires, that this alone would recommend it to the careful housekeeper; but if the process be skilfully conducted, meat softly stoved or stewed, in close-shutting, or luted vessels, is in every respect equal, if not superior, to that which is roasted; but it must be simmered only, and in the gentlest possible manner, or, instead of being tender, nutritious, and highly palatable, it will be dry, hard, and indigestible. The common cooking stoves in this country, as they have hitherto been constructed, have rendered the exact regulation of heat which stewing requires rather difficult; and the smoke and blaze of a large coal fire are very unfavourable to many other modes of cookery as well. . The American as well as the French have generally the advantage of the embers and ashes of the wood which is their ordinary fuel; and they have always, in addition, a stove of this construction in which charcoal or braise (for explanation of this word, see remarks on preserving, Chapter XXI (Preserves).) only is burned; and upon which their stewpans can, when there is occasion, be left uncovered, without the danger of their contents being spoiled, which there generally is with us.
It is true that of late great improvements have been made in our own stoves ;* and the hot plates, or hearths with which the kitchens of good houses are always furnished, are admirably adapted to the simmering system; but when the cook has not the convenience of one, the stewpans must be placed on trevets high above the fire, and be constantly watched, and moved, as occasion may require, nearer to, or further from the flame.
Saucepan, with Steamer.
No copper vessels from which the inner tinning is in the slightest degree worn away should ever be used for this or for any other kind of cookery; for not health only, but life itself, may be endangered by them.† We have ourselves seen a dish of acid fruit which had been boiled without sugar, in a copper pan from which the tin lining was half worn away, coated with verdigris after it had become cold; and from the careless habits of the person who had prepared it, the chances were greatly in favour of its being served to a family afterwards, if it had not been accidentally discovered. Salt acts upon the copper in the same manner as acids: vegetables, too, from the portion of the latter which they contain, have the same injurious effect; and the greatest danger results from allowing preparations containing any of these to become cold (or cool) in the stewpan, in contact with the exposed part of the copper in the inside. Thick, well-tinned iron saucepans will answer for all the ordinary purposes of common English cookery, even for stewing, provided they have tightly-fitting lids to prevent the escape of the steam; but the copper ones are of more convenient form, and better adapted to a superior order of cookery.
Hot Plate, or Hearth.
[* This remark will apply well to this country: an intelligent housekeeper can readily adapt the various improvements that are constantly making in stoves and ranges for cooking.]
† Sugar, being an antidote to the poisonous effects of verdigris, should be plentifully taken, dissolved in water, so as to form quite a syrup, by persons who may unfortu nately have partaken of any dish into which this dangerous ingredient has entered.
We shall have occasion to speak more particularly in another part of this work, of the German enamelled stewpans, so safe, and so well suited, from the extreme nicety of the composition, resembling earthenware or china, with which they are lined, to all delicate compounds. The cook should be warned, however, that they retain the heat so long that the contents will boil for several minutes after they are removed from the fire, and this must be guarded against when they have reached the exact point at which further boiling would have a bad effect; as would be the case with some preserves, and other sweets.