Chemistry For The Cook
( Originally Published 1904 )
ALTHOUGH a cook can hardly be expected to grasp the meaning of proteids, albumens, or phosphates, a little knowledge of which will guide the mistress in her choice of combinations of dishes, there is one branch of chemistry with which all cooks are well acquainted, whether they know science or not.
When milk turns sour, they know that acid is produced, and some are aware that soda is an alkali, while most people have some idea that alkalis and acids are at variance and always counteract each other's effects.
Decomposition always produces acid, whether in milk, beet, or wine. Beefsteaks and chops, just a little " gone," may be revived with soda and water rubbed in; the soda neutralizing the acids formed when beef " turns."
In like manner, a piece of soda thrown into the water in boiling a slightly questionable fowl or piece of meat will remove the suspicion. If the meat is " turned," there will be effervescence, caused by the meeting of acid and alkali, when the meat is put in the water, and when this ceases the meat will be pure again. Butter made badly, because the farmer's hand was too lazy to separate out all the milk which afterwards turned sour in the butter, may be made good enough for cooking, at any rate, by being worked over in water containing soda.
A salted cloth wrapped round this butter with a piece of charcoal in the outer fold will keel) the butter sweet.
A burn is treated by laying on dry soda, for, as well as excluding the air, the soda combines with the acid formed when skin and flesh are injured.
Formic acid causes the pain of the wasp or scorpion's sting. Ammonia is the recognized antidote; it is a strong alkali and destroys the irritant formic acid.
Griddle-cake batter turned sour, if taken in time and beaten with a little soda dissolved in boiling water, will lose its .pungent odor; and bread dough, slightly sour, if kneaded with the same solution will recover its freshness.
Baking-powder is a mixture of soda and tartaric acid filled in with arrowroot. As soon as it is wet the soda and acid-act on each other and-form carbonic-acid gas, which lightens the dough; the same gas is formed when yeast ferments and leavens bread.
This soda, or bicarbonate of soda as it is known in chemistry, is often used alone in-stead of baking-powder, and would seem to answer the same purpose, but that is not the case.
To get proper results there must be an acid of some kind to work with the soda, and great care must be taken not to be too generous with the soda, or yellow streaks will appear in the biscuits or cake. An even teaspoonful of soda is sufficient for the acid in 2 cupfuls of butter milk or clabber, liberating enough gas to lighten the dough without leaving any unwholesome excess of soda, or 2 heaped teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar will supply the proper acidity. Soda should never be used alone.
Charcoal is a great thing for removing odors and keeping things sweet,—the charcoal filter is a daily example. A bag of powdered charcoal sunk with a weight in the pork barrel will keep the brine pure and sweet without blackening the contents.
Water which is turbid can be cleansed by stirring alum into it, 1 tablespoonful to four gallons; a precipitate will be formed which is al-lowed to settle, and the clear water above can be drawn off and used even for drinking, as the alum is all combined with the impurities which caused turbidity.
Tough meat may be made tender by acid. Cover a beefsteak for some hours with vinegar or lemon or olive-oil; the fibres will be softened by the acid and further made supple by the oil; a little vinegar added to the water in which fowl or mutton is boiled will do the same. Vinegar, just a dash, added while fish is boiling, will re-move the strong oily taste.
Ammonia is a useful kitchen chemical. It cuts grease by acting on it chemically, and also gives lustre .to silver, but should -be used very sparingly for the latter purpose.
When making a salad dressing do not throw the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard together, but spend a little time in stirring and rubbing the ingredients; the chemical emulsion-thus made will be- a far smoother and more agreeable condiment.