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Victorian Cookery: Recipes and History

Victorian Cookery: Recipes and History
by Maggie Black
  With more than 30 recipes covering the whole range of Victorian society, this book gives a fascinating insight into the way food was prepared and enjoyed by our ancestors.
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Baking - The Victorian Way

From 'The Dictionary of Daily Wants' - 1859

BAKING. This is a cheap and convenient mode of dressing food, and is especialy acceptable to persons with small families and to the poorer classes. Although the process of baking deteriorates the flavour and tenderness of some joints, there are others which taste equally well baked as roasted; among these are legs of pork, shoulders of mutton, and fillets of veal. Certain kinds of fish are also better dressed in this manner, particularly pike and red mullet. Hams, also, when covered with coarse paste and baked, have a finer flavour and are more juicy than when boiled.

Baking may either be performed at the baker's or at home. In London, the former mode is usually preferred; because for a few pence the expense and trouble that would be otherwise incurred are obviated. When a dinner is sent to the bakehouse, the hour at which it will be required should be named at the time when it is left, and it should not be allowed to remain at the baker's beyond that time, otherwise the meat becomes soddened and the potatoes clammy. On Sunday there are more dinners baked in London than all the rest of the week put together, and the generally understood interval for the process of baking is from eleven o'clock till one.

If the baking is performed at home, a good fire should be kept up so long as the joint is in the oven; the time required varies with the nature of the meat, and the size of the joint, but, as a general rule, a quarter of an hour for each pound will not be found unsuitable. While the meat is cooking, the oven should be opened as seldom as possible, otherwise the temperature is disturbed and the cooking considerably retarded.

To prepare meat for baking, it should be placed in the dish on a stand, so as to allow room for potatoes underneath; a few spoonfuls of water should be mixed with the potatoes, and a little salt sprinkled over them. In order to prevent the meat from being too much dried by the heat of the oven, two sheets of paper spread separately, with a thick coat of butter or clarified marrow, should be fastened on the outside of the joint.

A receptacle for joints intended for baking has been invented by H. Soyer, which admits of a joint of meat, a dish of potatoes, and a pudding, being baked at one and the same time. This simple contrivance consists of an open framework of wire, which lies upon a deep tin or earthenware dish, in two stages, so that as the meat is raised above the potatoes, and these again are above the pudding, dripping falls on both.

Nottingham Jar

One of the most useful appliances of baking is that known as the Nottingham jar, as shewn in the accompanying illustration. This is adapted for cooking rice, meat, fish, or fruit, and is extremely useful in keeping edibles hot, and at the same time retaining their juices. Food for invalids is recommended to be dressed in this way, as the entire amount of nourishment contained in the food is thus preserved. When this jar is used for baking it should be well pasted down, covered with a fold of thick paper, and placed in a gentle oven.

Pies, cakes, &c., require various times for cooking, according to their size, but the degree of brownness they present, gives unmistakable indications of the stage they have arrived at.

Objections are urged against baked meats, and with a great deal of truth, that they are not so wholesome as roasted; the reason of this is, that the process does not admit of the passing off of the vapours, so rapidly as boiling or roasting; the fat is also more retained, and becomes converted, by the agency of the heat, into an empyreumatic oil, so as to render the meat less fitted for delicate stomachs, and more difficult of digestion generally. As a partial provision against these consequences, the meat should not be taken immediately from the oven to the table, but placed on a dish for a few minutes before the fire, so as to allow some of the gases it contains to escape. See OVEN.

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