It is astonishing what a prejudice roughish people have against soup. The objection is not so universal as it was a few years ago, but still it exists. I cannot but think that one reason of this is that the housekeepers who scorn it do not understand what soup really is. A friend of mine once told me that none of her girls would touch soup; they did not care for it at all. I was not astonished at this when I discovered that her only idea of making soup was to thicken the liquor in which meat had been boiled with prepared pea meal. Another lady, who sympathised with the first one in her want of appreciation of culinary delicacies, used to make it by thickening the liquor with oatmeal. On one occasion I was privileged to taste the latter preparation. I expected it would be insipid, but it was not; it was particularly tasty, for it was burnt. I sympathised with the young ladies who did not like it at all, for I decided that I could not have eaten much of that soup if I had been paid for it.
One erroneous idea concerning soup is that it is expensive, and that in order to make it good pounds upon pounds of meat must be obtained for it. If these are dispensed with the soup will not be worth drinking. Really, however, soup is an economy. It is a mistake to make it very rich and very strong. When, as is generally the case, it is succeeded by other dishes, it should be light and pleasantly flavoured, but not strong or nourishing enough to furnish a dinner in itself. People usually sit down to dinner tired, hungry and weary, and it is rather too much of a good thing to put a slice of roast beef or boiled mutton before them straight away. It is giving their digestive organs too much to do; they need to be set gently to work. To have light employment given them at first, and to be allowed to go on gradually to the heavy business. Sir Henry Thompson, I think it was, pointed out a little while ago, in some papers he published on food, that light liquid food was most valuable as a restorative. Those who have been accustomed to take soup, and have noticed how quickly it takes away the feeling of exhaustion, and prepares the way for the enjoyment of dinner, would be very sorry to do without it. At the same time, they would be equally sorry to make it very strong and rich, unless they intended the family to dine upon it entirely.
When I said soup was an economy, I meant that it might be made the means of preventing waste; also that when used regularly it saves the joint, and partially satisfies the appetite before the most expensive part of the dinner is touched. I daresay you have heard of the housekeeper who said to her friend, "We never have soup; we cannot afford it;" to which the other replied, "Indeed, we always have soup; we cannot afford to do without it." I certainly think the second housekeeper was the more economical of the two.
However, it is not my business now to sing the praises of soup. But I may say that I believe it would be seen on our tables more frequently than it is if the girls in a house were able and willing to make it. The secret of our not having soup is that it takes time and trouble, which servants do not always care to give. But in the good time coming, when all the girls in our homes understand and practice cookery, when our daughters would rather prepare with their own hands a good dinner for their fathers than tire their eyes in making so many useless mats and antimacassars, things will be quite different; we shall enter upon a delightful period, and we shall all live twice as well as we do now, at half the present cost.
There are three varieties of soup – clear soup, thick soup, and purees. For all these stock is required, and therefore the first thing we have to do is to learn how to make stock. For very nourishing, superior soup, and for clear soup, fresh meat is required; although it is quite true that clear soup may be made of weak bone stock, it is scarcely worth while to do so unless there was plenty of fresh meat left o bones, and to buy bones roughly trimmed would cost as much as to buy fresh meat. Ordinary stock, however, that will make excellent soup for daily use may be made of the trimmings of joints, the liquor in which meat and vegetables and fish have been boiled, and even of the bones, skin, and trimmings left after a joint has been served. For nothing of this kind should be thrown away until it has been stewed until every particle of goodness has been extracted from it.
I am quite prepared to hear that girls who tried to prevent waste in this way, and to make the most of things by stewing bones and trimmings for stock, would be laughed and sneered at by certain people. Let them never mind this. When we are doing right we can bear to be laughed at, and certainly we who try to be economical are in the right. It is wicked to waste good food while so many thousands are needing it. If we have more than re require let us give to those who want, not throw away. It is a great disgrace to English cooks that they act as though extravagance meant cleverness, and thrift meant incompetency. I have noticed again and again that as soon as ever a cook acquires skill she loses her respect for quantities and prices. We will not do this in our cookery class, for we all look upon waste as sin.
Therefore let us resolve that nothing containing nourishment shall be thrown away until it has been well stewed. We will put on one side all the trimmings, skin, bone, and fat that we can collect, and as soon as we have an opportunity we will render down the fat for frying and will stew the rest for stock.
Sometimes economical cooks advise that a stock-pot should be kept by the side of the fire, and that trimmings, pieces, and scraps should be thrown into it from time to time as they come to hand ; that water should be added when necessary, and thus a constant supply of stock should be provided. This plan I do not recommend. In the first place it leads to the ingredients being unequally cooked. Scraps which are thrown into the pot when the cooking is half through are not so thoroughly stewed as those which were in at the beginning. In the second place over-long simmering will spoil the flavour of our stock and make it taste unpleasantly of the pan. Whatever we have to stew should be put on freshly into a clean pan every morning; when the simmering has been continued five hours the contents of the pan should be turned into an earthen vessel and carried into a cool larder and left uncovered till wanted.
We will suppose that we have a quantity of bones and trimming, say, for instance, the bones left from a cooked joint which weighed eight or ten pounds before it was cut. Perhaps also we should have the bones of poultry or game, and two or three bacon bones; if so, we should of course make use of them, although we should do very well without them. How should we proceed in making stock?
We should look carefully over our ingredients, and trim away anything that was unsuited to our purpose. If it should happen that there was anything not quite pure and sweet we should put that aside at once. "Cleanliness is the soul of cookery," and it is particularly called for in economical cookery. We wish to avoid waste, but we are not willing to use everything. Having satisfied ourselves on this point, however, we put the bones into a perfectly clean saucepan and pour over them cold water, in the proportion of a quart of water to a pound of bones. I daresay it will be remembered that when we were speaking of boiling meat we said that when we wanted to keep the goodness in the meat we placed it in boiling water; when we wished to draw the goodness out we put it in cold water. On this occasion we wish to draw the goodness out, we therefore use cold water.
We now put the saucepan on the fire, and bring the liquid slowly to a boil. In a little while it will begin to simmer, and then we throw in a small quantity of salt, not as much as will be needed to season the soup, but a little to help the scum to rise. It is well to leave the seasoning until the stock is made, because we intend to boil the liquid down to about half its quantity, and if we add as much salt as is wanted now we shall find that our stock is too salt by the time the boiling is over, for salt will not fly away in steam, though water may. But salt will help to make the scum rise, and we particularly wish to remove the scum as soon as it appears, before it has time to boil down into the stock again. Therefore we throw a little salt in, and for the same purpose we add a cupful of cold water two or three times after skimming, and after each addition heat again and skim once more.
When we have cleared away as much scum as possible, we draw the saucepan back, put on the lid, and let the liquor simmer very gently for five hours. If we wish to use it quickly, or if the weather is cold, we may at the end of three hours put in the flavouring ingredients, a carrot, a leek or an onion, a clove, a little celery, a bay leaf, a bunch of parsley, a sprig of thyme, six peppercorns, and half a blade of mace for each quart of liquid. We must remember, however, that if the weather is warm stock will keep better if vegetables have not been boiled in it, and that even if they are so boiled additional vegetables will have to be added when the stock is used in order to "revive the flavour;" otherwise our soup will not taste fresh.
Bone stock boiled without either vegetables or seasoning will not taste at all good when the five hours are over, and it is poured out, and carried into the larder. Nevertheless, it will contain goodness, and we can make excellent soup of it when the time arrives for us to do so.
Perhaps the bones do not appear to be sufficiently stewed after the liquor is strained from them. They ought to look quite clear and clean, and in such a condition that when dry we should have no objection to put them in our pockets If this be so, we may stew them again next day with a small quantity of fresh cold water, but we must on no account be persuaded to leave them in the saucepan all night.
When we want to make superior stock we take fresh meat. If we wanted three pints of stock we should need three pounds of meat – shin of beef for brown stock, knuckle of veal for white stock – and we must allow a point of water to a pound of meat and one pint of water over. The meat is to be cut into small pieces, the smaller the better, and covered with the cold water, then salted, boiled up, skimmed and simmered, exactly as recommended for bone soup. The vegetables, a carrot, half a turnip, a leek, a bunch of parsley, a sprig of thyme, a bay leaf, three or four sticks of celery, and twenty peppercorns, will be sufficient for three pints of stock.
In both these instances the liquor in which meat had been boiled, and especially the liquor in which "rabbit" or "chicken" or even rabbit bones or chicken bones had been stewed, would be much to be preferred to water if it could be had. If fresh meat were used any trimmings of meat or poultry that there might be should be thrown into the pan and stewed with the meat; they would make the stock stronger.
There is still another kind of stock which may be needed, and that is fish stock for fish soup. It may be made with the liquor in which fish has been boiled, and the bones and skin of the fish with an anchovy, an onion, and one or two cloves may be stewed in it afterwards. Fish soup should be very carefully skimmed, and it must be remembered that it will not keep as well as meat stock.
We now have our stock, which is the basis of soup, ready. The process of converting it into soup must be reserved for another lesson.