In the selection of meat it is most essential that we understand how to choose it; in beef it should be a smooth, fine grain, of a clear bright red color, the fat white, and will feel tender when pinched with the fingers. Will also have abundant kidney fat or suet. The most choice pieces for roast are the sirloin, fore and middle ribs.
Veal, to be good, should have the flesh firm and dry, fine grained and of a delicate pinkish color, and plenty of kidney fat; the joints stiff.
Mutton is good when the flesh is a bright red, firm and juicy and a close grain, the fat firm and white.
Pork, if young, the lean will break on being pinched smooth when nipped with the fingers, also the skin will break and dent; if the rind is rough and hard it is old.
In roasting meat, allow from fifteen to twenty minutes to the pound, which will vary according to the thickness of the roast. A great deal of the success in roasting depends on the heat and goodness of the fire; if put into a cool oven it loses its juices, and the result is a tough, tasteless roast; whereas, if the oven is of the proper heat, it immediately sears up the pores of the meat and the juices are retained.
The oven should be the hottest when the meat is put into it, in order to quickly crisp the surface and close the pores of the meat, thereby confining its natural juices. If the oven is too hot to hold the hand in for only a moment, then it is right to receive the meat. The roast should first be washed in pure water, then wiped dry with a clean dry cloth, placed in a baking pan without any seasoning; some pieces of suet or cold drippings laid under it, but no water should be put into the pan, for this would have a tendency to soften the outside of the meat. The water can never get so hot as the hot fat upon the surface of the meat, and the generating of the steam prevents its crispness, so desirable in a roast.
It should be frequently basted with its own drippings, which flow from the meat when partly cooked, and well seasoned. Lamb, veal and pork should be cooked rather slower than beef, with a more moderate fire, covering the fat with a piece of paper, and thoroughly cooked till the flesh parts from the bone, and nicely browned, without being burned. An onion sliced and put on top of a roast while cooking, especially roast of pork, gives a nice flavor. Remove the onion before serving.
Larding meats is drawing ribbons of fat pork through the upper surface of the meat, leaving both ends protruding. This is accomplished by the use of a larding needle, which may be procured at house-furnishing stores.
Boiling or stewing meat, if fresh, should be put into boiling water, closely covered and boiled slowly, allowing twenty minutes to each pound, and, when partly cooked, or when it begins to get tender, salted, adding spices and vegetables.
Salt meats should be covered with cold water, and require thirty minutes very slow boiling, from the time the water boils, for each pound; if it is very salt, pour off the first water and put it in another of boiling water, or it may be soaked one night in cold water. After meat commences to boil the pot should never stop simmering and always be replenished from the boiling teakettle.
Frying may be done in two ways. One method, which is most generally used, is by putting one ounce or more (as the case requires) of beef drippings, lard or butter into a frying pan, and when at the boiling point lay in the meat, cooking both sides a nice brown. The other method is to completely immerse the article to be cooked in sufficient hot lard to cover it, similar to frying doughnuts.
Broiled meats should be placed over clear, red coals free from smoke, giving out a good heat, but not too brisk, or the meat will be hardened and scorched; but if the fire is dead the gravy will escape and drop upon the coals, creating a blaze, which will blacken and smoke the meat. Steaks and chops should be turned often, in order that every part should be evenly done - never sticking a fork into the lean part, as that lets the juices escape; it should be put into the outer skin or fat. When the meat is sufficiently broiled it should be laid on a hot dish and seasoned. The best pieces for steak are the porterhouse, sirloin and rump.
If meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, or any other article of food, when found frozen, is thawed by putting it into warm water or placing it before the fire, it will most certainly spoil by that process, and be rendered unfit to eat. The only way to thaw these things is by immersing them in cold water. This should be done as soon as they are brought in from market, that they may have time to be well thawed before they are cooked. If meat that has been frozen is to be boiled, put it on in cold water. If to be roasted, begin by setting it at a distance from the fire, for if it should not chance to be thoroughly thawed all through to the centre, placing it at first too near the fire will cause it to spoil. If it is expedient to thaw the meat or poultry the night before cooking, lay it in cold water early in the evening, and change the water at bed-time. If found crusted with ice in the morning, remove the ice, and put the meat in fresh cold water, letting it lie in it till wanted for cooking.
Potatoes are injured by being frozen. Other vegetables are not the worse for it, provided they are always thawed in cold water.
Put in sacks, with enough straw around it so the flies cannot reach through. Three-fourths of a yard of yard-wide muslin is the right size for the sack. Put a little straw in the bottom, then put in the ham and lay straw in all around it; tie it tightly and hang it in a cool, dry place. Be sure the straw is all around the meat, so the flies cannot reach through to deposit the eggs. (The sacking must be done early in the season before the fly appears.) Muslin lets the air in and is much better than paper. Thin muslin is as good as thick, and will last for years if washed when laid away when emptied.