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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/379

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THE CHEMISTRY OF COOKERY.

outer water simmer—very gently, so as not to jump the basin with its steam. Stew thus for about double the time usually prescribed in English cookery-books, and compare the result with similar materials stewed in boiling or "simmering" water.

 
XXI.

In my last I explained the hardening effect of boiling water on meat, and the consequent necessity of keeping down the temperature considerably below the boiling-point in order to obtain a tender and full-flavored stew. Some further explanation is necessary, as it is quite possible to obtain what commonly passes for tenderness by a very flagrant violation of the principles there expounded. This is done on a large scale and in extreme degree in the preparation of ordinary Australian tinned meat. A number of tins are filled with the meat, and soldered down close, all but a small pin-hole. They are then placed in a bath charged with a saline substance, such as chloride of zinc, which has a higher boiling-point than water. This is heated up to its boiling-point, and consequently the water which is in the tins with the meat boils vigorously, and a jet of steam mixed with air blows from the pin-hole. When all the air is expelled and the jet is of pure steam only (a difference detected at once by the trained expert), the tin is removed, and a little melted solder skillfully dropped on the hole to seal the tin hermetically. An examination of one of these tins will show this final soldering with—in some—a flap below to prevent any solder from falling in among the meat. The object of this is to exclude all air, for, if only a very small quantity remains, oxidation and putrefaction speedily ensue, as shown by a bulging of the tins instead of the partial collapse that should occur when the steam condenses, the display of which collapse is an indication of good quality of the contents.

By "good quality" I mean good of its kind; but, as everybody knows who has tried beef and mutton thus prepared, it is not satisfactory. The preservation from putrefactive decomposition is perfectly successful, and all the original constituents of the meat are there. It is apparently tender, but practically tough—i. e., it falls to pieces at a mere touch of the knife, but these fragments offer to the teeth a peculiar resistance to proper masticatory comminution. I may describe their condition as one of pertinacious fibrosity. The fibers separate, but there they are as stubborn fibers still.

This is a very serious matter, for, were it otherwise, the great problem of supplying our dense population with an abundance of cheap animal food would have been solved about twenty years ago. As it is, the plain tinned-meat enterprise has not developed to any important extent beyond affording a variation with salt junk on board ship.

What is the rationale of this defect? Beyond the general statement that the meat is "overdone," I have met with no attempt at