There is no room for doubt here, no matter how we may proceed afterwards. The first thing to be done is to clear away the fat, which will have settled in a cake on the top of the stock. If the stock is a jelly, we may take this off more easily if we use a metal spoon which has first been dipped into hot water, and after we have taken off as much fat as we can in this way, we must wipe the jelly and the basin with the corner of a napkin which has been wrung out in hot water.
It is said that people learned in cookery know of five hundred different kinds of soup. If this be true, it is probable that a large proportion of these soups are so much like each other that ordinary people could not discover the points of difference between them. It is also probable that a goodly number are made of clear soup. Besides, cooks who can make good clear soup can make all kinds of soup; and therefore we will begin our lesson now by describing the process of clarification.
Soup is sometimes made clear with white of egg, and sometimes with raw lean meat, beef, or veal, the medium in each case being the same – albumen.
I daresay you remember that when we were talking about boiling meat we said that we put meat which was to be eaten into boiling water for two or three minutes, in order that the albumen might harden on the outside and form a sort of shield to keep in the goodness of the meat. When we boil the raw meat in the stock the albumen hardens as before, but being mixed with the liquid it takes the impurities contained there with it, and all are collected in a mass together, and can be strained away.
We must not suppose, however, that it makes no difference whether we use white of eggs or lean meat in clarifying soup. Lean meat enriches soup, white of egg impoverishes it; and it is more profitable to clarify weak stock with lean meat than it is to clarify strong stock with white of egg.
As to the quantity of meat to be used for clarification, that must depend on the weight of meat employed in making the stock, not upon the measure of liquor which we have at our disposal. The proportion of meat needed for clarification is half a pound of lean meat for every two and a half pounds of meat used in making the stock, and the quantity of lean meat needed would be no less if in making the stock we had used half a pint only of water to the pound of meat. Indeed, if the liquid were very strong we should find it an advantage to mix about a teaspoonful of white of egg with the raw meat, because strong liquids are more difficult to clarify than thin ones.
We will, therefore, suppose that we have stock made with two pounds and a half of meat, and that we are going to clarify it with half a pound of lean meat freed entirely from fat and skin. How should we proceed?
We must first cut the meat into very small pieces (if we have such a thing we may pass it through the sausage machine instead), and put with it a carrot, a turnip, and the white part of a good-sized leek, or, wanting this, an onion, but a leek is much the more delicate in flavour of the two. Of course we must wash the vegetables, scrape the carrot, and cut the turnip and the leek into small pieces. We may add also a stick of celery, half a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme and parsley, and half a dozen peppercorns.
We now pour the stock, already freed from fat, very steadily into a perfectly clean saucepan, being careful always not to disturb and also to leave behind any sediment there may be at the bottom of the vessel. We put the saucepan on a quick fire, stir the chopped meat and the flavouring ingredients into it, and keep stirring until a froth begins to form on the liquor. We then stop stirring at once, wait until the liquor rises high, draw the pan back instantly, and let it stand at the side of the fire for a quarter of an hour or so.
If we now take a little of the liquid in a silver spoon we shall find that part of it is bright and clear, and we can see the silver through it; the other is a sort of curd, mixed with vegetables and meat. This curd is the albumen which has hardened and gathered the impurities which were in the soup with it, and this it is which must be removed by straining.
Whilst the liquor is standing by the side of the fire we may prepare the strainer. A jelly bag is not the best thing we can take, because we want to pour the liquid in gently, and it is awkward to do this with a deep jelly bag. Better to take the thick flannel of which the jelly bag would have been made, wring it out of boiling water, and tie it to the four legs of a chair which has been turned upside-down on a table. The vessel for the soup can be placed underneath the flannel, and the liquor can be poured on slowly and gently so as not to disturb the scum, which will serve as a filter for the soup. Now, if my directions have been followed exactly I am quite sure that a beautifully bright clear soup will be obtained, and one that will taste pleasantly also when it has been boiled up again with salt and a small piece of sugar.
Perhaps girls feel inclined to ask, Must the flavouring ingredients be put into stock which has already been flavoured when it was made? Yes, they must. The quantities here given are for flavoured stock. If the stock were not flavoured at all, a larger proportion of vegetables would be needed. One secret of having well-tasting soup is to let it be freshly flavoured. The vegetables are put in here to revive the flavour, and the flavour needs reviving after the stock has been all night I larder. Otherwise the soup will have a stale taste, which will be anything but agreeable.
I may say in passing that it is this necessity for reviving the flavours which makes the difficulty with tinned soups. People often say that tinned soups taste of the tin, or, in other words, the flavour is stale. If they would take the trouble to boil a few fresh flavourers with a small quantity of fresh stock, and add this either strained, or in the case of purees rubbed through a sieve to the soup which is in the tin, they would find that the tinned taste was scarcely perceptible.
One point must be carefully noted in clearing soup, and that is – the cook must stop whisking instantly when the scum begins to rise; also, the pan must be drawn back as soon as the liquor bubbles. If the liquor is whisked too long, or boiled too long, the scum may sink down again, and the soup will be spoiled.
Another point to be noted is that the soup must not be clarified the day before it is wanted, or it will become cloud with standing.
It is astonishing what a number of soups may be made of this clear soup. Sago, rice, macaroni, vermicelli nouilles, pearl barley, tapioca, and semolina may all be boiled separately, then dropped into it, and the soup will then be called after the name of the distinctive ingredient. When spring vegetables, young turnips, carrots, or leeks are put into clear soup, it becomes printaniere, or spring soup. When these same vegetables are softly stewed in butter and cut into shreds it is julienne. When savoury custard (cut into diamonds or stars) is put into it, it is soup royale. If Brussels sprouts are introduced it is a Flemish soup; if crusts of bread, it is croute a pot; if homely vegetables, it is soup a la paysanne; if poached eggs, it is Colbert's soup. And so we might go on, jardinière, brunoise, chiffonnade, macedoine, nivernaise, and others are all clear soup, with very slight differences.
If there are any girls belonging to this class who try to follow my instructions and make some clear soup in the way I have described, I know quite well what the result will be. The soup will be excellent, bright, clear, and good, but they will feel that it has been a great trouble to make I should not be surprised if their state of mind were similar to that of the charity-boy mentioned in "Pickwick," who, when he got to the end of the alphabet, said, "Whether it is worth while going through it so much to learn so little is a matter of taste. I think it isn't." After all, important as cookery may be, there are other things to be done in the world, and though we might be willing to make the best clear soup for high days and holidays, it is more than probable that few would be able to give the time to it very often. Therefore, it will be an advantage to learn an easier and cheaper way of preparing it, so as to achieve very nearly, though not quite, as satisfactory a result.
The easier method is to use stock made of Liebig's Extract of Meat, instead of stock from fresh meat. A small quantity of this extract dissolved in a little boiling water will supply a clear straw-coloured liquor, which tastes quite sufficiently of meat, and which may easily be converted into excellent soup. Of course the difficulty here is the flavouring. We must so flavour this extract of eat stock that no one shall know what it was, but shall, if they think anything at all about the matter, regard it as a matter of course that the stock for the soup was made in the usual way, "with trouble and charges," to use an expression of Izaak Walton's.
Whatever vegetables are used in flavouring this soup must be cleansed thoroughly and boiled separately. A little soaked gelatine may be boiled in the liquid, which must be skimmed thoroughly; and as soon as it tastes pleasantly, and before the vegetables are soft, the liquid must be strained off for use.
As to what flavourers we are to use in making the stock, the question must be answered by another – What flavourers can we get at the time? We need not always make our soup exactly alike. When we once get the idea we can vary the flavour according to the ingredients at our command. Supposing we want a small quantity of soup for a small family, let us flavour a pint of water pleasantly and rather strongly by boiling in it the white part of a leek, six or eight fresh pepper-corns, and a stick of celery, or a small pinch of celery seed tied in muslin; a turnip, a small carrot, and a little parsley can be added, if liked, or an onion with one or two cloves may be used instead of the leek.
We must cleanse and prepare the vegetables before using. Also we must remove the scum from the liquid as it rises, and boil in it about a teaspoonful of good gelatine which has been soaked in water for a while; then we dissolve a small quantity of extract of meat in fresh boiling water (I cannot say exactly how much, because extract of meat varies in quality – about a teaspoonful), strain the stock in which the vegetables were boiled, mix the two together, and add salt until the liquid is coloured sufficiently and tastes well. It should not be over-brown, and it should not taste specially of the dissolved extract, but rather of a combination of meat and vegetables. When wanted make it hot, and the soup is ready. When they are to be had, a handful of green peas or a little carrot and turnip finely shred and boiled separately are a great addition to this soup. A tablespoonful of crushed tapioca may be simmered in it till clear to make a change, or it may be thickened with arrowroot. Perhaps girls feel inclined to say, "What a small quantity you have made; there will not be enough!" Quite enough for a small family – that is, for four or five people. One reason why English people do not like soup is, that when they make it at all they make it in such large quantities that they get tired of it before it is finished. They have an idea that if they make soup at all they must make a gallon. A gallon of soup! Why, it would be enough for twenty people. If four persons were compelled to drink it day after day until it was finished, they would ever afterwards say they do not like soup. Let me advise girls to make a quart of soup to begin with, and if it is liked they can make a quart of another kind another day.
Fresh herbs are excellent for flavouring soup; tarragon leaves especially impart a delicious and quite unique flavour, although it is with tarragon as with celery seed – a very little goes a long way. Shallots and leeks are always to be preferred to onions when they can be obtained; they are more delicate in flavour. A ham bone is a perfect treasure for flavouring, but if we use it we must clarify the soup with a little lean meat or a teaspoonful of white of egg. Mushroom ketchup and prepared sauces, too, are valuable helps for flavouring soups when used very sparingly, but a soup ought not to taste of mushroom ketchup above everything. There is still another way of making clear soup, and that is by boiling broth to a glaze, adding water, and simmering gently. I fear, however, that space will not allow me to describe this now, besides which it is a little difficult for amateurs. I must, therefore, advise girls to try the plans we have been speaking of. In our next lesson we will try to make thick soups and purees.