A Good housekeeper without perfected kitchen conveniences is as much of an anomaly as a carpenter without a plane, a dressmaker without a sewing machine."-Anonym.
What would we think of the farmer who to-day was cutting his hay with a scythe and reaping his grain with a cradle because he could not "afford" a reaper and mower?
While we should be able to adapt ourselves to circumstances, to improvise double boilers, steamers and ovens when necessary, it is at the same time true economy to have an abundance of cooking utensils if possible. A half dozen saucepans will last six times as long as one used for everything and save much valuable time.
"To many people, anything out of the usual custom is deemed extravagant." This I suppose accounts for the fact that many housewives who have beautifully furnished parlors and wear line clothing cannot afford conveniences for the kitchen.
The room in which is prepared the "food to sustain life and nourish brain, bone and muscle," should be the most attractive place in the house, and it will be when arranged and furnished for convenience. I can think of nothing more interesting than a kitchen with the frequently used utensils decorating the walls where they can be reached with few steps; and such little things as spoons, egg beaters, can openers, spatulas, cork screws, potato mashers, measuring cups, funnels, soup dippers, wire strainers, pinchers and skimmers, not forgetting a small cushion with pins, hanging just over the table; the table having drawers for knives, vegetable cutters and other unhangable articles.
The best quality of aluminum ware is the cheapest and best for fruits and for general cooking purposes, except for vegetables.
Never put lye or anything alkaline into aluminum vessels.
Copper and re-tinned vessels are unequaled in some respects (if they may not be used for acid foods); being flat bottomed, thick and heavy, milk, legumes, cereals and foods of that nature are not so apt to stick or scorch in them, and they are almost everlasting. They can be re-tinned when the lining wears off.
Iron kettles and frying pans are excellent for many things. Some of the uses of a nice smooth iron frying pan are to bake a round cake or a thick pie or a pudding in, to scallop corn or potatoes, or to scald milk.
Use granite, agate, and porcelain lined utensils with care.
Never dry them on the stove as that causes them to crack; and do not knock the edges of the kettles and saucepans with a spoon, nor strike any kind of a vessel with an agate spoon, as it causes the little particles of glazing to flake off. These flakes from agate utensils often work serious injury to the delicate membranes of the digestive tract.
One large double boiler holding from 8 to 16 qts. is very desirable as it furnishes two kettles for fruit canning and other purposes and can be used as a double boiler when required. Several smaller ones of different sizes economize time and food material.
To improvise a double boiler, set a close covered pan over a kettle of boiling water; or set a covered dish into a pail with water in it, cover and put into the oven; or put a pan or other covered vessel into a kettle of water on top of the stove with something under it to keep it from the bottom of the kettle; or set one milk crock into another, with water in the lower one; or a bowl into the top of the teakettle. The first double boiler I ever owned was a gluepot.
Use wire strainers or small and large colanders, well covered, over dishes of boiling water, for steamers; and when a deeper receptacle is required, turn a basin or pan that just fits, over the top.
Two sizes of flat colanders with pin head holes are to be found at the 5 and 10 cent stores, which are just as useful and durable as more expensive ones. They answer the purpose of both steamer and colander.
Be sure to have deep kettles or boilers into which the colanders fit perfectly. I have been in kitchens where, though there was a sufficient variety of utensils, they were of little use, for no two things fitted; the steamers and colanders were just a little too large or a little too small for all the kettles, requiring double the expenditure of time and strength in using.
Iron rings from small wooden kegs or little rings melted from the tops of tin cans are great treasures to use on the top of the stove, in kettles, or in the oven, to set vessels on to keep the contents from sticking and burning.
"Gunboats"-empty tin cans-of all sizes, have a great variety of uses.
A book of asbestos sheets costing ten cents is invaluable. Each sheet can be used again and again for laying over bread, cake and other foods in the oven.
After using an aluminum frying or omelet pan for a time, one would always feel it to be a necessity.
The uses of timbale molds and custard cups are almost innumerable, and when you once get them you have them.
A pastry brush saves greasy fingers and much time, in oiling cold or warm pans. Never use it on a hot griddle.
For dispatch and thoroughness in oiling round bottomed gem pans, nothing equals a piece of cloth folded in several thicknesses 2 1/2 to 3 in. square, saturated with oil.
A spatula (similar to a palette knife) of medium size will soon pay for itself in the material it saves from the sides of the pans, as well as in time.
A large French knife chops vegetables on a board more rapidly than they can be done in a chopping bowl; it also slices onions, shaves cabbage, cuts croutons and does many things as no other knife can, while smaller ones of different sizes all have their uses.
The "Surprise" beater with fine cross wires makes the whites of eggs for meringues and cakes lighter than any other. The smaller the wire around the edge, the lighter the eggs will be. These very delicate ones are for sale in some of the five and ten cent stores at 3 for 5c. Next to the "Surprise" beater for beating whites of eggs comes the silver fork.
The "Dover" revolving beater gives a fine close grain when that is desired, as in egg creams, the "Holt" coming next and being more rapid in its work, while the "Lyon" gives a fine, fluffy result. A large sized beater is more useful.
Eggs can be beaten in a deep bowl, narrow at the bottom (the regular cooking bowl shape) in half the time that it takes to beat them in a broad bottomed bowl. The nearer the sides of the bowl are to the beater, the quicker the work will be done. The same is true of whipping cream, and as cream spatters at first, a pitcher or a tin can, not so deep but the handle of the beater can be operated, is best for the purpose. It is better to set the dish in the sink while whipping cream.
If possible have a good scale, as much more accurate results are obtained in cooking by weight than by measure. It will be useful in weighing articles from the grocery and market, for weighing letters and papers for mailing and many other things.
When you have used a good bread mixer for a time, you would not go back to the old, laborious way of kneading bread for double its cost. The mixer also makes better bread than can be made by hand.
One of the greatest labor savers is a food cutter. A large sized one, even for a small family, is most satisfactory. Many now have a nut butter attachment which is desirable, though a regular nut butter mill is preferable for nut preparations.
Try to have something for a quick fire. If you are out of the reach of gas, a well-cared-for two burner oil stove will do good service.
Eternal vigilance is the price of preventing double boilers from going dry. Add more water before there is the least danger.
Rinse off the egg beater or batter whip and hang it in its place as soon as you finish using it, before going on with what you are doing, unless, as in some cakes, it needs to drain, then have ready a pitcher, tin can or quart measure containing cold water to drop it into after draining.
The cogs of an egg beater should never be wet; when they are wet once, its usefulness is impaired.
The "Surprise" beater should never be touched with a cloth.
Always wipe a can opener after using, and hang it in its place.
Wire strainers should always be rinsed as soon as used; colanders also, unless they require soaking, in which case put them immediately into water.
Put sticky utensils to soaking as soon as emptied.
Rinse and put to draining everything that can be rinsed; then it will be ready for use instead of rusting in the sink.
Never put knives, spatulas, egg beaters or whips in the sink; always rinse them off at once.
Professional cooks never lay a knife down without wiping it off. Clean, dry cloths or towels should be at hand for such purposes.
A side towel fastened to the waist is almost a necessity.
Never scrape a knife or spoon on the edge of a dish.
It is just as necessary and as satisfactory to keep the inside of the oven blackened as the top of the stove, and it is very little more work.
Boil strong lye water in a scorched vessel (except aluminum), before trying to clean it.
I have noticed that if a little water is boiled for a few minutes in a close covered vessel in which some pasty food has been cooked, the particles are so loosened by the steam that the vessel washes easily.
I would suggest that instead of hanging the dish cloth on the inside of the sink door, you put it on a line near the stove or out of doors, where it will dry quickly.
Wet wooden spoons, chopping bowls and all wooden utensils in cold water before using, to prevent their absorbing the flavors and juices of foods.
Put new bread and cake tins into a hot oven and bake them until they look like old ones, if you wish your bread and cake to be well done on the bottom and sides.
Do not work in a "mess," keep your tables wiped up as you go.
Above all, pick up after yourself. It is often more work to pick up after people than to do the work.