Stewing - The Victorian Way
From 'The Dictionary of Daily Wants' - 1859
STEWING. A wholesome, convenient and economical mode of cookery.
One of its great recommendations is the small amount of fuel consumed to sustain the
gentle degree of ebullition required.
The common cooking stoves employed in the country
are not very well adapted for the exact regulation of heat which stewing demands.
The stoves used in France are admirably suited for this purpose, as
are also the hot plates or hearths with which the kitchens of well-appointed
houses are also furnished; but when these conveniences do not exist, the stewpans must
be placed on trivets high above the fire, and be constantly watched and moved, as
occasion may require, nearer to, or further from the flame.
Thick, well-tinned iron saucepans will answer for stewing, provided
they have tightly-fitting lids to prevent the escape of the steam. The enamelled
stew-pans, which have lately superseded the old-fashioned metal ones, are peculiarly
well suited for this culinary process. They should always be filled with water
immediately after being emptied, and will then merely require to be well worked and
rinsed with more boiling water.
In order to produce a good stew, there should be prepared a sufficient
quantity of sweet and rich stock. The different ingredients of which the stew is
composed should also be well mixed. Meat, in stewing, is apt to stick the the bottom
of the vessel. To prevent this, it is desirable to place across the stewpan
some skewers, a little way from the bottom; or an inverted soup-plate may be used for the
If vegetables are old, they should be blanched or parboiled before they
are added to stews, otherwise they will give to the meat and gravy too strong a flavour.
Care should be taken that the various kinds of thickening should be added at the proper
time, and in a proper manner. Whole grain or seed, such as pearl-barley or rice, should
be put into stews when they are at boiling heat. When bread is used for thickening, a
similar rule must be observed, and care sshould be taken not to break it; but let it boil
whole till it becomes a pulp, and incorporates itself with the liquor. All thickenings of
flour or meal should be stirred with a cold liquid till it is perfectly smooth; it should
then be stirred into the general mass.
In spicing stews, great judgment is required, so as not to displease the
general taste. It is better to use whole spice than that pounded. If dried after using, it
will serve for several stews.
The fat which covers stews when they are cold should not be broken if they
are intended to be kept. By thus excluding the external air from the stew, it will prevent
the mass from fermentation and consequent decay.
The quantity of water used in stews should be double the
weight of the meat, that is. a quart of water to a pound of meat, which leaves a pint of
liquid stew. Salt should be used in sufficient quantity to separate the blood from the
meat, and to cause it to rise in the shape of scum, which carefully remove. When the
scum is raised by brisk boiling, and got rid of, let the stew simmer very gently till
the nourishing, flavouring, and colourful properties of the meat, &c., are thoroughly
incorporated with the liquor.
The stewpan, as seen in the engraving is usually made of copper,
and the handles of the cover are placed as shown Copper stewpans should be kept well
tinned on the inside, to prevent the unpleasant flavour and the injury like to result
from the impregnation of copper. In a dietetic point of view, stews are conceded to
be more digestible and nutritious than meats otherwise cooked, inasmuch as the nutrient
portions of the first are presented in a form most readily assimilated by the system,
whilst, at the same time, not a particle of that nutriment is wasted. Book:-
Housewife's Reason Why, 2s. 6d.