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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/113

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THE CHEMISTRY OF COOKERY.

seed may be made to yield twenty-eight to thirty-two pounds of crude oil, the available quantity is very great. At present only a small quantity is made, the surplus seed being used as manure. Its fertilizing value would not be diminished by removing the oil, which is only a hydro-carbon, i. e., material supplied by air and water. All the fertilizing constituents of the seed are left behind in the oil-cake from which the oil has been pressed.

Hitherto cotton-seed oil has fallen among thieves. It is used as an adulterant of olive-oil; sardines and pilchards are packed in it. The sardine trade has declined lately, some say from deficient supplies of the fish. I suspect that there has been a decline in the demand, due to the substitution of this oil for that of the olive. Many people who formerly enjoyed sardines no longer care for them, and they do not know why. The substitution of cotton-seed oil explains this in most cases. It is not rancid, has no decided flavor, but still is unpleasant when eaten raw, as with salads or sardines. It has a flat, cold character, and an after-taste that is faintly suggestive of castor-oil; but faint as it is, it interferes with the demand for a purely luxurious article of food. This delicate defect is quite inappreciable in the results of its use as a frying medium. The very best lard or ordinary kitchen butter, eaten cold, has more of objectionable flavor than refined cotton-seed oil.

I have not tasted poppy-seed oil, but am told that it is similar to that from the cotton-seed. As regards the quantities available, some idea may be formed by plucking a ripe head from a garden poppy and shaking out the little round seeds through the windows on the top. Those who have not tried this will be astonished at the numbers produced by each flower. As poppies are largely cultivated for the production of opium, and the yield of the drug itself by each plant is very small, the supplies of oil may be considerable; 571,542 cwt. of seeds were exported from India last year, of which 346,031 cwt. went to France.

Palm-oil, though at present practically unknown in the kitchen, may easily become an esteemed material for the frying-kettle (I say "kettle," as the ordinary English frying-pan is only fit for the cooking of such things as barley bannocks, pancakes, fladbrod, or oatcakes). At present, the familiar uses of palm-oil in candle-making and for railway grease will cause my suggestion to shock the nerves of many delicate people, but these should remember that before palm-oil was imported at all, the material from which candles and soap were made, and by which cart-wheels and heavy machinery were greased, was tallow i. e., the fat of mutton and beef. The reason why our grandmothers did not use candles when short of dripping or suet was that the mutton-fat constituting the candle was impure; so are the yellow candles and yellow grease in the axle-boxes of the railway carriages. This vegetable fat is quite as inoffensive in itself, quite as