The art of composing a rich soup is so to proportion the several ingredients one to another, that no particular taste be stronger than the rest, but to produce such a fine harmonious relish that the whole is delightful. This requires that judicious combination of the materials which constitutes the "chef d'oeuvre" of culinary science.
In the first place, take care that the roots and herbs be perfectly well cleaned; proportion the water to the quantity of meat and other ingredients, generally a pound of meat to a quart of water for soups, and double that quantity for gravies. If they stew gently, little more water need be put in at first than is expected at the end; for when the pot is covered quite close, and the fire gentle, very little is wasted.
Gentle stewing is incomparably the best; the meat is more tender, and the soup better flavored.
It is of the first importance that the cover of a soup-kettle should fit very close, or the broth will evaporate before you are aware of it.
Place your soup-pot over a moderate fire, which will make the water hot without causing it to boil for at least half an hour; if the water boils immediately, it will not penetrate the meat, and cleanse it from the clotted blood, and other matters which ought to go off in scum; the meat will be hardened all over by violent heat; will shrink up as if it was scorched, and give hardly any gravy: on the contrary, by keeping the water a certain time heating without boiling, the meat swells, becomes tender, its fibres are dilated, and it yields a quantity of scum, which must be taken off as soon as it appears.
It is not till after a good half hour's hot infusion that we may mend the fire, and make the pot boil: still continue to remove the scum; and when no more appears, put in the vegetables, etc. and a little salt. These will cause more scum to rise, which must be taken off immediately; then cover the pot very closely, and place it at a proper distance from the fire, where it will boil very gently, and equally, and by no means fast.
By quick and strong boiling the volatile and finest parts of the ingredients are evaporated, and fly off with the steam, and the coarser parts are rendered soluble; so you lose the good, and get the bad.
Soups will generally take from three to six hours.
Prepare your broths and soups the evening before you want them. This will give you more time to attend to the rest of your dinner the next day; and when the soup is cold, the fat may bo much more easily and completely removed from the surface of if. When you decant it, take care not to disturb the settlings at the bottom of the vessel, which are so fine that they will escape through a sieve, or even through a tamis, which is the best strainer, the soups appear smoother and finer, and it is much easier cleaned than any sieve. If you strain it while it is hot, pass it through a clean tamis or napkin, previously soaked in cold water; the .coldness of this will coagulate the fat, and only suffer the pure broth to pass through.
The full flavor of the ingredients can only be extracted by very long and slow simmering; during which take care to prevent evaporation, by covering the pot as close as possible: the best stew-pot is a digester.
Clear soups must be perfectly transparent; thickened soups, about the consistence of rich cream; and remember that thickened soups require nearly double the quantity of seasoning.
To thicken and give body to soups and sauces, the following materials are used: they must be gradually mixed with the soup till thoroughly incorporated with it; and it should have at least half an hour's gentle simmering after: if it is at all lumpy, pass it through a tamis or a fine sieve. Bread raspings, bread, isinglass, potato mucilage, flour, or fat skimmings and flour, or flour and butter, barley, rice, or oatmeal and water rubbed well together.
To their very rich gravies, etc. the French add the white meat of partridges, pigeons, or fowls, pounded to a pulp, and rubbed through a sieve. A piece of beef, which has been boiled to make broth, pounded in the like manner with a bit of butter and flour, and gradually incorporated with the gravy or soup, will be found a satisfactory substitute for these more expensive articles.
Meat from which broth has been made and all its juice has been extracted, is then excellently well prepared for potting, and is quite as good, or better, than that which has been baked till it is dry; indeed, if it be pounded, and seasoned in the usual manner, it will be an elegant and savory luncheon, or supper, and costs nothing but the trouble of preparing it, which is very little, and a relish is procured for sandwiches, etc. of what heretofore has been by the poorest housekeeper considered the perquisite of the cat.
Keep some spare broth lest your soup-liquor waste in boiling, and get too thick, and for gravy for your made dishes, various sauces, etc.; for many of which it is a much better basis than melted butter.
The soup of mock turtle, and the other thickened soups, will supply you with a thick gravy sauce for poultry, fish, ragouts, &c; and by a little management of this sort, you may generally contrive to have plenty of good gravies and good sauces with very little trouble or expense.
It soup is too thin or too weak, take off the cover of your soup-pot, and let it boil till some of the watery part of it has evaporated, or else add some of the thickening materials we have before mentioned; and have at hand some plain browning. This simple preparation is much better than any of the compounds bearing that name; as it colors, sauce or soup without much interfering with its flavor, and is a much better way of coloring them than burning the surface of the meat.
When soups and gravies are kept from day to day, in hot weather, they should be warmed up every day, and put into fresh-scalded tureens or pans, and placed in a cool cellar; in temperate weather every other day may be enough.
We hope we have now put the common cook into possession of the whole arcana of soup-making, without much trouble to herself, or expense to her employers. It would greatly diminish the expense, and improve soups, if the agents employed to give them a zest were not put in above fifteen minutes before the finish, and half the quantity of spice, etc. would do. A strong heat soon dissipates the spirit of the wine, and evaporates the aroma and flavor of the spices and herbs, which are volatile in the heat of boiling water.
Warm fluids, in the form of soup, unite with our juices much sooner and better than. those that are cold and raw: on this account, restorative soup is the best food for those who are enfeebled by disease or dissipation, and for old people, whose teeth and digestive organs are impaired.
After catching cold, in nervous headaches, cholics, indigestions, and different kinds of cramp and spasms in the stomach, warm broth is of excellent service.
After intemperate feasting, to give the stomach a holyday for a day or two by a diet on mutton broth, or vegetable soup, etc. is the best way to restore its tone. "The stretching any power to its utmost extent weakens it. If the stomach be every day obliged to do as much as it can, it will every day be able to do less. A wise traveller will never force his horse to perform as much as he can in one day upon a long journey."