Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/389

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THE CHEMISTRY OF COOKERY.

Existing thus in a liquid state in our ordinary flesh-meats, it is liable to be wasted in the course of cookery, especially if the cook has only received the customary technical education and remains in technological ignorance.

To illustrate this, let us suppose that a leg of mutton, a slice of cod, or a piece of salmon, is to be cooked in water, "boiled," as the cook says. Keeping in mind the results of the previously-described experiments on the egg-albumen, and also the fact that in its liquid state albumen is diffusible in water, the reader may now stand as scientific umpire in answering the question whether the fish or the flesh should be put in hot water at once, or in cold water, and be gradually heated. The "big-endians" and the "little-endians" of Lilliput were not more definitely divided than are certain cookery authorities on this question in reference to fish. I refer to the two which are practically consulted in my own household, that by Mrs. Beeton, and some sheet tablets hanging in the kitchen. Mrs. Beeton says pour cold water on the fish, the tablets say immerse in hot water.

Confining our attention at present to the albumen, what must happen if the fish or flesh is put in cold water, which is gradually heated? Obviously a loss of albumen by exudation and diffusion through the water, especially in the case of sliced fish or of meat exposing much surface of fibers cut across. It is also evident that such loss of albumen will be shown by its coagulation when the water is sufficiently heated.

Practical readers will at once recognize in the "scum" which rises to the surface of the boiling water, and in the milkiness that is more or less diffused throughout it, the evidence of such loss of albumen. This loss indicates the desirability of plunging the fish or flesh at once into water hot enough to immediately coagulate the superficial albumen, and thereby plug the pores through which the inner albuminous juice otherwise exudes.

But this is not all. There are other juices besides the albumen, and these are the most important of the flavoring constituents, and, with the other constituents of animal food, have great nutritive value; so much so, that animal food is quite tasteless and almost worthless without them. I have laid especial emphasis on the above qualification, lest the reader should be led into an error originated by the bone-soup committee of the French Academy, and propagated widely by Liebig—that of regarding these juices as a concentrated nutriment when taken alone.

They constitute collectively the extraction carnis, which, with the addition of more or less of gelatine (the less the better), is commonly sold as Liebig's "Extract of Meat." It is prepared by simply mincing lean meat, exposing it to the action of cold water, and then evaporating down the solution of extract thus obtained.

I shall return to this on reaching the subjects of clear soups and