Home-made infusions of beef, mutton, veal, and chicken are always in demand for the sickroom. They are to be regarded more in the nature of pleasant, palatable, and stimulating beverages than as foods. Their nutritive value depends entirely on how they are made. If the cooking is carried out so that the infusion contains some of the protein of the meat, then there is some nutritive value; but, on the other hand, if made as ordinarily done, only the extractives and salts of the meat are dissolved out, and it cannot rank as a food. There is evidence that the meat extractives are capable of removing the effects of muscular fatigue, and enabling an exhausted muscle to become active again. On this account they can claim to be stimulating.
When it is possible to select the portion of meat to be used, it is best to order for beef-tea, meat freshly killed, from the buttock, rump, or thick flank in preference to the shin of beef. In the same way fillet of veal is preferable to the knuckle or neck. For chicken-tea a full-grown fowl should be selected; the legs and dark part of the fowl can be used for soup, while the white portion can be served in some other way. In mutton and veal tea equal parts of the meats are used: this gives a very delicate flavour, and is often a pleasant change. In the process of cooking, the tea must not be allowed to boil, otherwise the juices are not extracted, owing to the insoluble albuminous coating formed on the surface of the meat. In every case care must be taken to insure that all the fat is removed from the surface before serving.
The following recipe gives method of extracting the greatest possible quantity of nutriment: -
1 lb. lean juicy beef.
1 pint cold water.
1 small teaspoonful salt.
Wipe the meat with a damp cloth, and then place on a board, and with a sharp knife shred clown as finely as possible. Keep back any pieces of connective tissue and fat. In this way all the fibres of the meat are removed from the connective tissue which holds them together. Place the shredded meat in a basin with salt and water, stir it well up, cover the basin with a plate, and let it stand for half an -hour. While the mixture is standing most of the soluble proteins of the meat will be dissolved out along with the extractives and salt. By the end of the half-hour the solution is practically a raw-beef juice. Then pour the contents of the basin into a clean, lined saucepan, place the pan over a slow fire, and whisk it well until it almost reaches boiling-point - on no account let it boil. Draw the pan to the side of the fire, put on the lid, and allow the beef-tea to simmer as slowly as possible for about fifteen minutes. Strain through a coarse strainer, pressing the meat as dry as possible with a wooden spoon. Skim all the fat off carefully before serving. After cooling, the tea will be found to have settled into two layers, a lower layer composed of flocculent particles and an upper layer of brown fluid. The lower flocculent layer consists of the protein which has been slightly coagulated by the heat. If the tea has passed through a muslin or fine strainer these particles would have been kept back and the value of the infusion lessened. The upper or fluid layer consists of a solution of the extractives and salts of the meat only.
The same proportion of meat and water are used. The meat is prepared in the same way, but is placed, after standing in water for half an hour, in a beef-tea jar, and cooked in a very cool oven for two hours. The jars are strong stone jars, with a strong screw lid, and can be obtained from Dale & Co., Edinburgh. This method of making beef-tea gives the best flavour. It may be too savoury for a delicate palate.
(Caution. - After making beef-tea in this way the jar must not be opened until the contents are cold. If opened too soon the steam rushes up, and it is very apt to scald the cook's face and arms).
There are various ways in which beef-tea may be thickened, e.g., with tapioca, breadcrumbs, or baked flour, thus adding considerably to the nutritive value. When permissible, the flavouring can be improved by the addition of vegetables and celery seed; or a muslin bag containing a variety of vegetables can be cooked with the beef-tea and afterwards removed.
1/2 pint of made beef-tea.
1 yolk of egg.
1 teaspoonful tapioca grout.
Warm the beef-tea and sprinkle in the tapioca, stirring all the time. Let it simmer slowly by the side of the fire until the tapioca turns quite clear. This will probably take about fifteen minutes. Beat up the yolk of an egg in a cup, pour the beef-tea gradually over it, stirring all the time, and it is ready for serving.
1 teaspoonful of arrowroot.
1 teaspoonful cold water.
Mix the arrowroot and the water in a small basin until quite smooth Then add it to beef-tea that is being warmed in a pan; stir well for a fe\ minutes to prevent it becoming lumpy. Then simmer slowly for fiftee minutes.
1 gill beef-tea. Salt.
Make the gruel (see p. 296). When cooked, add it to the beef-tea; stir them together until quite hot, but do not boil. It is then ready for use.
1/2 pint good beef-tea. 1/4 lb. lean juicy meat.
Warm in a pan the beef-tea. Wipe and shred very finely \ lb. of meat, pound it well, and rub it through a fine wire sieve. Take a cup, make it thoroughly hot, put in the pounded meat, and pour on the hot beef-tea. Stir it up well, and serve at once.
One pound of meat will make 1 gill of essence. Chicken can be prepared in a similar manner.
Prepare meat as in last recipe, shredding it down very finely. The chicken is jointed and meat chopped down finely. Place in a jar with a pinch of salt, cover with a strong piece of greased kitchen paper. Place the jar in a saucepan containing sufficient cold water to reach fully halfway up the jar, and let it steam slowly from four to five hours. When ready, strain through a coarse strainer, and press the meat well with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the juice. This liquid is thus pure extract. When cold, this is in the form of a jelly.