This most simple of culinary processes is not often performed in perfection. It does not require quite so much nicety and attendance as roasting; to skim your pot well, and keep it really boiling (the slower the better) all the while, to know how long is required for doing the joint, etc, and to take it up at the critical moment when it is done enough, comprehends almost the whole art and mystery. This, however, demands a patient and perpetual vigilance, of which few persons are capable.
The cook must take especial care that the water really boils all the while she is cooking, or she will be deceived in the time; and make up a sufficient fire at first, to last all the time, without much mending or stirring. A frugal cook will manage with much less fire for boiling than she uses for roasting.
When the pot is coming to a boil there will always, from the cleanest meat and clearest water, rise a scum to the top of it, proceeding partly from the water; this must be carefully taken off as soon as it rise..
On this depends the good appearance of all boiled things. When you have skimmed well, put in some cold water, which will throw up the rest of the scum.
The oftener it is skimmed, and the cleaner the too of the water is kept, the sweeter and the cleaner will be the meat.
If let alone, it soon boils down and sticks to the meat, which, instead of looking delicately white and nice, will have that coarse and filthy appearance we have too often to complain of, and the butcher and poulterer be blamed for the carelessness of the cook in not skimming her pot.
Many put in milk, to make what they boil look white; but this does more harm than good: others wrap it up in a cloth; but these are needless precautions: if the scum be attentively removed, meat will have a muck more delicate color and finer flavor than it has when muffled up. This may give rather more trouble, but those who wish to excel in their art must only consider how the processes of it can be most perfectly performed: a cook, who has a proper pride and pleasure in her business, will make this her maxim on all occasions.
It is desirable that meat for boiling be of an equal thickness, or, before thicker parts are done enough, the thinner will be done too much.
Put your meat into cold water, in the proportion of about a quart of water to a pound of meat: it should be covered with water during the whole of the process of boiling, but not drowned in it; the less water, provided the meat be covered with it, the more savory will-be the meat, and the better will be the broth.
The water should be heated gradually, according to the thickness, etc. of the article boiled. For instance, a leg of mutton of ten pounds weight should be placed over a moderate fire, which will gradually make the water hot, without causing it to boil for about forty minutes; if the water boils much sooner, the meat will be hardened, and shrink up as if it was scorched: by keeping the water a certain time heating without boiling, the fibres of the meat are dilated, and it yields a quantity of scum, which must be taken off as soon as it rises.
The editor placed a thermometer in water in that state which cooks call gentle simaiering; the heat was 212°, i. e. the same degree as the strongest boiling.
Two mutton chops were covered with cold water; one boiled a gallop, while the other simmered very gently for three-quarters of an hour: the chop which was slowly simmered was decidedly superior to that which was boiled; it was much tenderer, more juicy, and much higher flavored. The liquor which boiled fast was in like proportion more savory, and when cold had much more fat on its surface. This explains why quick boiling renders meat hard, etc, because its juices are extracted in a greater degree.
Reckon the time from its first coming to a boil.
The old rule of 15 minutes to a pound of meat, we think rather too little: the slower it boils, the tenderer, the plumper, and whiter it will be.
For those who choose their food thoroughly cooked (which all will who have any regard for their stomachs), twenty minutes to a pound for fresh, and rather more for salted meat, will not be found too much for gentle simmering by the side of the fire, allowing more or less time, according to the thickness of the joint, and the coldness of the weather: to know the state of which, let a thermometer be placed in the pantry; and when it falls below 40 °, tell jour cook to give rather more time in Both roasting and boiling, always remembering, the slower it boils the better.
Without some practice it is difficult to teach any art; and cooks seem to suppose they must be right, if they put meat into a pot, and set it over the fire for a certain time, making no allowance whether it simmers without a bubble or boils a gallop.
Fresh-killed meat will take much longer time boiling than that which has been kept till it is what the butchers call ripe; and longer in cold than in warm weather: if it be frozen, it must be thawed before boiling as before roasting; if it be fresh-killed, it will be tough and hard, if you stew it ever so long, and ever so gently. In cold weather, the night before the day you dress it, bring it into a place of which the temperature is not less than 45 degrees of Fahrenheit's thermometer.
The size of the boiling-pots should be adapted to what they are to contain: the larger the saucepan the more room it takes upon the fire, and a larger quantity of water requires a proportionate increase of fire to boil it.
In small families we recommend block-tin saucepans, etc. as lightest and safest. If proper care is taken of them, and they are well dried after they are cleaned, they are by far the cheapest; the purchase of a new tin saucepan being little more than the expense of tinning a copper one.
Let the covers of your boiling-pots fit close, not only to prevent unnecessary evaporation of the water, but to prevent the escape of the nutritive matter, which must then remain either in the meat or in the broth; and the smoke is prevented from insinuating itself under the edge of the lid, and so giving the meat a bad taste.
If you let meat or poultry remain in the water after it is done enough, it will become sodden, and lose its flavor.
Beef and mutton a little under-done (especially very large joints, which will make the better hash or broil,) is not a great fault; by some people it is preferred: but lamb, pork, and veal are uneatable if not thoroughly boiled; but do not over-do them.
A trivet or fish-drainer put on the bottom of the boiling-pot, raising the contents about an inch and a half from the bottom, will prevent that side of the meat which comes next the bottom from being done too much, and the lower part of the meat will be as delicately done as the other part; and this will enable you to take out the contents of the pot, without sticking a fork, etc. into it. you have not a trivet, use four skewers, or a soup-plate laid the wrong side upwards.