We don’t need to give a lot of thought to the problem of dealing with tainted meat these days. By ‘tainted’ I mean ‘fresh’ meat which is no longer ‘fresh’.
Think for a moment on what it must have been like in the not too distant past, before the days of refrigeration. Remember that a domestic refrigerator in every house did not happen until many decades after commercial refrigeration. When I grew up in a working-class family in post-war England, we did not have a fridge – nor did anyone else in the neighbourhood. At least the butchers did have refrigeration, so presumably the meat our mothers bought each day was fresh at the point of sale.
In the past, high-protein food was far too valuable to waste, but inevitably, especially in warm weather, meat would be past its best by the time the cooks got to it. What to do? Cookery books were full of advice on how to deal with tainted meat, and today I want to share a couple of methods with you –with the caveat of course that these would not be considered safe today.
Tainted meat may be restored by washing in cold water, afterwards in strong chamomile tea, after which it may be sprinkled with salt and used the following day, first washing it in cold water. Roughly pounded charcoal rubbed all over the meat also restores it when tainted. In Scotland meat is frequently kept a fortnight smothered in oatmeal, and carefully wiped every day; and if it should be a little tainted, it is soaked some hours before it is used, in oatmeal and water.
The cook's own book, and housekeeper's register, (1832) by Mrs. N. K. M. Lee, Eliza Lee
It has been successfully proved, by many experiments, that meat entirely fly-blown has been sufficiently purified to make good broth, and had not a disagreeable taste, by being previously put into a vessel containing a certain quantity of beer. The liquor will become tainted, and have a putrid smell.
The Kaleidoscope: or, Literary and scientific mirror (1824).
Cooked leftover meat could also not be wasted, and was commonly served at the next meal, perhaps doctored up a little. Here, from Mrs. Lee’s book, is one way of recycling leftover steak.
Beef, Cold Rump Steaks To Warm.
Lay them in a stew pan, with one large onion cut in quarters, six berries of allspice, the same of black pepper, cover the steaks with boiling water, let them stew gently one hour, thicken the liquor with flour and butter rubbed together on a plate; if a pint of gravy, about one ounce of flour, and the like weight of butter, will do; put it into the stewpan, shake it well over the fire for five minutes, and it is ready; lay the steaks and onions on a dish and pom- the gravy through a sieve over them.
Quotation for the Day.
Ever since Eve started it all by offering Adam the apple, woman's punishment has been to supply a man with food then suffer the consequences when it disagrees with him.