Some time ago I wrote a little about the problem of dealing with tainted meat in the days before refrigeration. Many methods of dealing with this problem were suggested in cookery books of the past, because meat was far too valuable a food to be thrown away just because it smelled a bit (or a lot) ‘off’ (think ‘well-hung’.)Bear in mind however, that the bacteria that cause putrefaction in meat are not generally harmful to humans – the meat becomes offensive, but you are far more likely to come to harm from cooked dishes kept warm for too long – the dish then acting as a culture medium for the very different type of bacteria that contaminate such food.
Please also bear in mind that I am in no way suggesting that you actually try the methods of sweetening tainted meat, selected from a variety of old cookery books, which I give you today! They are for your historical interest only.
To Sweeten Meat, Fish, etc. that is tainted. When meat, fish, &c. from intense heat, or long keeping, are likely to pass into a state of corruption, a simple and pure mode of keeping them sound and healthful is by putting a few pieces of charcoal, each the size of an egg, into the pot or saucepan
wherein the meat or fish is to be boiled. Among others, an experiment of this kind was tried upon
a turbot, which appeared too far gone to be eatable; the cook, as advised, put four pieces of charcoal
under the strainer in the fish-kettle ; after boiling the proper time, the turbot came to the table perfectly sweet and clean.
The general receipt book: containing an extensive collection of valuable receipts, connected with domestic economy, (1853) by James W. Laughton.
Tainted meat cured by putting in pearlash and water some time; then in vinegar, and afterward salted.
The Western miscellany, Volume 1, (1848) by Benjamin Franklin Ells
To Sweeten Tainted Meat. Cover the meat with sweet milk, and let it stand an hour or two, and, unless the meat is very bad, it will make it perfectly sweet. Soaking in saleratus water is also good.
The Appledore Cookbook, by Maria Parloa (1881)
The Recipe for the Day is from Miss Parloa’s The Appledore Cookbook.
Take a piece of beef that is rather tough, or pieces of tough beefsteak; rub into it a handful of salt, some pepper and flour; lay in a kettle that you can cover tight, and that has a flat bottom. Cut up an onion, a potato, a small turnip, a carrot and a parsnip; lay these on the top of the meat and then sprinkle in half a teaspoonful of cinnamon, half of mace, one fourth of clove, and add cold water enough to cover it. Let it come to a boil, skim off all the scum, then cover tight and simmer five hours.
After it has been boiling four hours, mix half a cup of flour with cold water and add to it. You can then taste it and add more seasoning if necessary. The spice may be omitted if you choose. Serve the meat in a little of the gravy, and send the remainder of the gravy to the table in the gravy tureen. Serve plain boiled potatoes, boiled rice, and pickled beets.
Quotation for the Day.
To the old saying that man built the house but woman made of it a "home" might be added the modern supplement that woman accepted cooking as a chore but man has made of it a recreation. Emily Post