Here again I shall be brief and practical. Nobody would read this page were I to prate learnedly (apparently) of proteids, phosphates, dextrine, hyposulphites and computed chemical and dietetic values. The purpose of the honest cook-book is to help, not hinder.
A few facts relative to chemical effects and changes in everyday cookery should be tabulated.
For example, the mission of the much-used and oft-abused bicarbonate of soda - familiarly called "baking-soda" - is imperfectly apprehended by those who handle it most frequently. The average cook does this handling heavily. "Soda makes bread and biscuits rise," is the sum of her knowledge and the aim of her practice in this direction.
Soda should be measured as accurately as if it were a potent drug, and never used except in combination with an acid. Even then, lean to the side of mercy in measuring. One even tea-spoonful of soda to two rounded teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar, one even teaspoonful of soda to two cupfuls of buttermilk, or "bonny clabber," one even teaspoonful of soda to one cupful (one-half pint) of molasses, cause what may be considered an equitable effervescence, liberating gases that lighten dough and batter without making them unwholesome. The "greeny-yellowy" streaks in farmhouse quick biscuits are poisonous, but the alkali is not in fault. Soda should never be driven in single harness.
The first stage of incipient decomposition is acidity. If, when a slightly-suspected fowl or cut of meat is to be boiled or stewed, a teaspoonful of soda be thrown into the pot as soon as the boil begins, violent effervescence will attest the presence of the disturbing acid. This subsiding will leave the meat free from unpleasant taint.
Beefsteak and chops, which are just a trifle "touched," may be restored to sanity by a bath of soda and water, well rubbed in. Butter that has suffered in quality through the neglect of the maker in not working all the milk out may be made tolerable for kitchen use by working it over in iced water in which a little soda has been dissolved. After which the butter should be wrapped in a salted cloth with a lump of charcoal in the outer fold.
Ammonia is another beneficent agent in correcting natural or artificial deficiencies. A bottle of household ammonia should be as invariably an adjunct to the kitchen sink and that of the waitress's pantry as the soap-dish. It "kills" grease by a chemical combination with it, and lends luster to silver by the same.
Dry soda, laid upon a burn or scald, heals, but not merely by excluding the air. Flour would do that as well. The alkali acts directly upon the decomposing skin and vitiated juices of the flesh. The sting of a bee, wasp or hornet is formic acid; that of a mosquito something akin to it. Ammonia, applied instantly, neutralizes the venom and eases the smart.
In the composition of salad dressing, stirring the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and dash of mustard together. long and skilfully, makes a chemical emulsion smoother and more palatable than the hasty slap-dash mixture too often served as "French dressing."
Bread-dough which has begun to sour can be brought to terms by working into the batch a little saleratus dissolved in boiling water, which is then allowed to become lukewarm before it is kneaded faithfully through the dough. A like solution should be beaten hard into griddle-cake batter that has a pungent smell.
Vinegar and lemon juice are invaluable aids in the business of "tendering" tough meats. Beefsteak, covered for some hours with vinegar or lemon juice, and olive oil, is made eatable by the action of the acid upon the fibers which are further "suppled" by the oil.
Powdered alum stirred into turbid water - an even tablespoon-ful to four gallons - will cause a precipitate and a settlement. The clear water may be drawn off cautiously and used for washing and even for drinking, having no perceptible taste of the alum.
A bag of powdered charcoal sunk in a pork barrel will keep the brine sweet through the winter, without blackening it or the meat.