Let the young cook never forget that cleanliness is the chief cardinal virtue of the kitchen; the first preparation for roasting is to take care that the spit be properly cleaned with sand and water; nothing else. When it has been well scoured with this, dry it with a clean cloth. If spits are wiped clean as soon as the meat is drawn from them, and while they are hot, a very little cleaning will be required. The less the spit is passed through the meat the better; and, before you spit it, joint it properly, especially necks and loins, that the carver may separate them easily and neatly, and take especial care it be evenly balanced on the spit, that its motion may be regular, and the fire operate equally on each part of it; therefore, be provided with balancing-skewers and cookholds, and see it is properly jointed.
Make up the fire in time; let it be proportioned to the dinner to be dressed, and about three or four inches longer at each end than the thing to be roasted, or the ends of the meat cannot be done nice and brown.
A cook must be as particular to proportion her fire to the business she has to do, as a chemist: the degree of heat most desirable for dressing the different sorts of food ought to be attended to with the utmost precision.
The fire that is but just sufficient to receive the noble sirloin will parch up a lighter joint.
Never put meat down to a burned-up fire, if you can possibly avoid it; but should the fire become fierce, place the spit at a considerable distance, and allow a little more time.
Preserve the fat, by covering it with paper, for this purpose called "kitchen-paper," and tie it on with fine twine; pins and skewers can by no means be allowed; they are so many taps to let out the gravy: besides, the paper often starts from them and catches fire, to the great injury of the meat.
If the thing to be roasted be thin and tender, the fire should be little and brisk: when you have a large joint to roast, make up a sound, strong fire, equally good in every part, or your meat cannot be equally roasted, nor have that uniform color which constitutes the beauty of good roasting.
Give the fire a good stirring before you lay the joint down; examine it from time to time while the spit is going round; keep it clear at the bottom, and take care there are no smoky coals in the front, which will spoil the look and taste of the meat, and hinder it from roasting evenly.
When the joint to be roasted is thicker at one end than the other, place the spit slanting, with the thickest part nearest the fire
Do not put meat too near the fire at first; the larger the joint, the farther it must be kept from the fire: if once it gets scorched, the outside will become hard, and acquire a disagreeable, empyr-eumatic taste; and the fire being prevented from penetrating into it, the meat will appear done before it is little more than half done, besides losing the pale brown color, which it is the beauty of roasted meat to have.
Be very careful to place the dripping-pan at such a distance from the fire as just to catch the drippings: if it is too near, the ashes will fall into it, and spoil the drippings.
If it is too far from the fire to catch them, you will not only lose your drippings, but the meat will be blackened and spoiled by the fetid smoke, which will arise when the fat falls on the live cinders.
A large dripping-pan is convenient for several purposes. It should not be less than twenty-eight inches long and twenty inches wide, and have a covered well on the side from the fife, to collect the drippings; this will preserve them in the most delicate state: in a pan of the above size you may set fried fish, and various dishes, to keep hot.
The time meat will take roasting will vary according to the time it has been kept, and the temperature of the weather; the same weight will be twenty minutes or half an hour longer in cold weather, than it will be in warm; and if fresh killed, than if it has been kept till it is tender.
Everybody knows the advantage of slow boiling. Slow roasting is equally important.
It is difficult to give any specific rule for time; but if your fire is made as before directed, your meat-screen sufficiently large to guard what you are dressing from currents of air, and the meat is not frosted, you cannot do better than follow the old general rule of allowing rather more than a quarter of an hour to the pound; a little more or less, according to the temperature of the weather, in proportion as the piece is thick or thin, the strength of the fire, the nearness of the meat to it, and the frequency with which you baste it; the more it is basted the less time it will take, as it keeps the meat soft and mellow on the outside, and the fire acts with more force upon it.
Reckon the time, not to the hour when dinner is ordered, but to the moment the roasts will be wanted. Supposing there are a dozen people to sip soup and eat fish first, you may allow them ten or fifteen minutes for the former, and about as long for the latter, more or less, according to the temptations the "bon gout" of these preceding courses has to attract their attention.
When the joint is half done, remove the spit and dripping-pan back, and stir up your fire thoroughly, that it may burn clear and bright for the browning; when the steam from the meat draws towards the fire, it is a sign of its being done enough; but you will be the best judge of that, from the time it has been down, the strength of the fire you have used, and the distance your spit has been from it.
Half an hour before your meat is done, make some gravy, and just before you take it up, put it nearer the fire to brown it. If you wish to froth it, haste it, and dredge it with flour carefully: you cannot do this delicately nice without a very good light. The common fault seems to be using too much flour. The meat should have a fine light varnish of froth, not the appearance of being covered with a paste. Those who are particular about the froth use butter instead of drippings.
A good cook is as anxiously attentive to the appearance and color of her roasts, as a young beauty is to her complexion at a birthday ball. If your meat does not brown so much, or so evenly as you wish, take two ounces of glaze, i. e portable soup, put four table-spoonfuls of water, and let it warm and dissolve gradu ally by the side of the fire. This will be done in about a quarter of an hour; put it on the meat equally all over with a paste-brush the last thing before it goes to table.
Though roasting is one of the most common, and is generally considered one of the most easy and simple processes of cookery, it requires more unremitting attention to perform it perfectly well than it does to make most made dishes.
That made dishes are the most difficult preparations, deserves to be reckoned among the culinary vulgar errors; in plain roasting and boiling it is not easy to repair a mistake once made; and all the discretion and attention of a steady, careful cook, must be unremittingly upon the alert.