Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton, 1861 - Sauces, Pickles, Gravies, and Forcemeats - Chapter 9

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    354. AN ANECDOTE IS TOLD of the prince de Soubise, who, intending to give an entertainment, asked for the bill of fare. His chef came, presenting a list adorned with vignettes, and the first article of which, that met the prince's eye, was "fifty hams." "Bertrand," said the prince, "I think you must be extravagant; Fifty hams! do you intend to feast my whole regiment?" "No, Prince, there will be but one on the table, and the surplus I need for my Espagnole, blondes, garnitures, &c." "Bertrand, you are robbing me: this item will not do." "Monseigneur," said the artiste, "you do not appreciate me. Give me the order, and I will put those fifty hams in a crystal flask no longer than my thumb." The prince smiled, and the hams were passed. This was all very well for the prince de Soubise; but as we do not write for princes and nobles alone, but that our British sisters may make the best dishes out of the least expensive ingredients, we will also pass the hams, and give a few general directions concerning Sauces, &c.
    355. THE PREPARATION AND APPEARANCE OF SAUCES AND GRAVIES are of the highest consequence, and in nothing does the talent and taste of the cook more display itself. Their special adaptability to the various viands they are to accompany cannot be too much studied, in order that they may harmonize and blend with them as perfectly, so to speak, as does a pianoforte accompaniment with the voice of the singer.
    356. THE GENERAL BASIS OF MOST GRAVIES and some sauces is the same stock as that used for soups (See Nos. 104, 105, 106, and 107); and, by the employment of these, with, perhaps, an additional slice of ham, a little spice, a few herbs, and a slight flavouring from some cold sauce or ketchup, very nice gravies may be made for a very small expenditure. A milt (either of a bullock or sheep), the shank-end of mutton that has already been dressed, and the necks and feet of poultry, may all be advantageously used for gravy, where much is not required. It may, then, be established as a rule, that there exists no necessity for good gravies to be expensive, and that there is no occasion, as many would have the world believe, to buy ever so many pounds of fresh meat, in order to furnish an ever so little quantity of gravy.
    357. BROWN SAUCES, generally speaking, should scarcely be so thick as white sauces; and it is well to bear in mind, that all those which are intended to mask the various dishes of poultry or meat, should be of a sufficient consistency to slightly adhere to the fowls or joints over which they are poured. For browning and thickening sauces, &c., browned flour may be properly employed.
    358. SAUCES SHOULD POSSESS A DECIDED CHARACTER; and whether sharp or sweet, savoury or plain, they should carry out their names in a distinct manner, although, of course, not so much flavoured as to make them too piquant on the one hand, or too mawkish on the other.
    359. GRAVIES AND SAUCES SHOULD BE SENT TO TABLE VERY HOT; and there is all the more necessity for the cook to see to this point, as, from their being usually served in small quantities, they are more liable to cool quickly than if they were in a larger body. Those sauces, of which cream or eggs form a component part, should be well stirred, as soon as these ingredients are added to them, and must never be allowed to boil; as, in that case, they would instantly curdle.
    360. ALTHOUGH PICKLES MAY BE PURCHASED at shops at as low a rate as they can usually be made for at home, or perhaps even for less, yet we would advise all housewives, who have sufficient time and convenience, to prepare their own. The only general rules, perhaps, worth stating here,--as in the recipes all necessary details will be explained, are, that the vegetables and fruits used should be sound, and not over ripe, and that the very best vinegar should be employed.
    361. FOR FORCEMEATS, SPECIAL ATTENTION IS NECESSARY. The points which cooks should, in this branch of cookery, more particularly observe, are the thorough chopping of the suet, the complete mincing of the herbs, the careful grating of the bread-crumbs, and the perfect mixing of the whole. These are the three principal ingredients of forcemeats, and they can scarcely be cut too small, as nothing like a lump or fibre should be anywhere perceptible. To conclude, the flavour of no one spice or herb should be permitted to predominate.