Choose potatoes of uniform size, free from specks. Wash them well with a coarse cloth or brush; dig out all eyes, and rinse in cold water; cook in just enough boiling water to prevent burning, till easily pierced with a fork, but not till they have burst the skin and fallen in pieces. Drain thoroughly, take out the potatoes, and place them in the oven for five minutes, or place the kettle back on the range; remove the skins, and cover with a cloth to absorb all moisture, and let them steam three or four minutes. By either method they will be dry and mealy. In removing the skins, draw them off without cutting the potatoes.
Pare very thin, and wash clean. If not of an equal size, cut the larger potatoes in two. Cook in only sufficient water to prevent burning, until a fork will easily pierce their center; drain thoroughly, place the kettle back on the range, allow most of the steam to escape before covering them, leave a small aperture for the escaping steam, and let them dry four or five minutes. Shake the kettle several times while they are drying, to make them floury.
Potatoes may be steamed either with or without the skin. Only mature potatoes should be steamed. Prepare as for boiling; place in a steamer over boiling water and steam until tender. If water is needed to replenish, let it be boiling hot, and do not allow the potatoes to stop steaming, or they will be watery. When done, uncover, remove the potatoes to the oven, and let them dry a few minutes. If peeled before steaming, shake the steamer occasionally, to make them floury.
Potatoes are much more rich and mealy roasted, than when cooked in any other way. Wash them carefully, dry with a cloth, and wrap in tissue paper; bury in ashes not too hot, then cover with coals, and roast until tender. The coals will need renewing occasionally, unless the roasting is done very close to the main fire.
Choose large, smooth potatoes as nearly the same size as possible; wash and scrub with a brush until perfectly clean; dry with a cloth, and bake in a moderately hot oven (the heat of which should at no time be so great that the hand cannot be held therein while moderately counting twenty-five) until a fork will easily pierce them, or until they yield to pressure between the fingers. They should be turned about occasionally. In a slow oven the skins become hardened and thickened, and much of the most nutritious portion is wasted. When done, take up in a clean cloth, press each one till it bursts slightly, as that will allow the steam to escape, and prevent the potatoes from becoming soggy. They should be served at once, in a folded napkin placed in a hot dish. Cold baked potatoes may be warmed over by rebaking, if of good quality, and not overdone the first time. Old potatoes with shriveled skins are better pared before baking.