We who live in the rich countries of the world are told that we throw out one fifth of the food that we buy. By any standard, this is a disgraceful situation, and goes to a mindset that would have astonished our not-so-distant forbears.
That we must change our attitude to food waste I am sure we would all agree, but it is almost impossible to imagine us ever getting back to following the suggestions outlined in the Small Aids for the Thrifty Housewives given in today’s source - Left-overs made palatable. How to cook odds and ends of food into appetizing dishes; a manual of practical economy of money, time and labor in the preparation and use of food by Isabel Gordon Curtis (New York, 1902.)
Small Aids for the Thrifty Housewife
If the end of a beefsteak has been blackened during the broiling process, and you wish to convert it into a mince or stew, simply wash it by pouring boiling water over it.
If a recipe calls for a cup of left-over gravy, and there is not such a thing in the refrigerator, make a substitute by stirring into a cup of boiling water a teaspoon of beef extract.
When you want a spoonful of onion juice, cut the vegetable in two and press it in a lemon squeezer kept specially for this purpose. If you need only a few drops, cut a slice from the onion and scrape the surface three or four times with a sharp knife, holding it over the dish you wish to flavor. If you want a teaspoon of chopped onion, cut a slice from one end, then hold it in your left hand while with a vegetable knife you cut into it for a half inch, first one way, then the other. Slice off the onion that has been cut, it will be in very fine cubes.
Grow a box of parsley in the kitchen window all winter long and find a corner for it outdoors in the summer. A pinch of parsley in the cooking and a few sprigs of it as a garnish are the very finish of some tasty rechauffes.
When a dish that has a liberal garnishing of parsley is removed from the table, put each green sprig in ice water to revive if wilted and lay away wrapped in wet muslin, to be used again as a garnish or in cooking.
When you add dried macaroons, chopped nuts or dry brown bread crumbs to ice cream, allow one cup of the crumbs to one quart of cream.
Chop all meat for sandwiches, and if there is too little of one sort to be used, combine with any other left-over, provided it is of a flavor that makes a good combination. Chicken, veal, ham, sweetbreads and tender white pork may be used together. Meat used in slices, as in old-fashioned sandwiches, cannot be well seasoned. Minced, it can be mixed with mayonnaise, softened butter, cream or stock, and the seasoning may consist of anything, lemon, chopped pickles, celery or olives, a spoonful of mustard and lemon juice, a drop of tabasco or onion extract, grated horse-radish, vinegar, catsup, chives, parsley or grated cheese. The seasoning is limited only by taste and the ingredients on the pantry shelves. Nothing is too humble to be transformed into a delicious sandwich. Morsels of meat or fish can be chopped and rubbed to a paste, even one hard-boiled egg, with several tablespoons of meat, will make half a dozen excellent sandwiches. The secret lies in fine seasoning and dainty service.
When buttering pans, Dario molds, cake tins, or anything which requires greasing, use a small, flat bristle paint brush. It costs ten cents, and if kept clean will last for years.
Cold soda biscuits can be dipped quickly in water and heated through, or they may be sliced thinly, toasted crisply and served with coffee. Cold muffins are good split and toasted. Cold johnnycake, sliced thin, makes a sweet crisp toast for breakfast.
Do not throw away the salt left in the ice cream pail after freezing. Pour it into a colander, shake the water from it and leave it there till it dries, then return to the bag to be used again. You will be surprised to find nearly a pint of salt saved after the freezing of a couple of quarts of cream.
If you have no fat at hand in which to fry croquettes, roll them pyramid shaped, set them on their broad base in a baking pan, pour a tablespoon of melted butter over each one and bake in a hot oven till crisp and brown. It will take from ten to fifteen minutes to cook them.
Keep constantly in the refrigerator a wide-mouthed glass jar with mayonnaise or a boiled salad dressing. It can be made with some left-over yolks of eggs in an odd quarter of an hour while you wait for something to bake or stew, and the convenience of it can be realized only when the supply is out.
Wash eggs before using them, then save the shells for clearing coffee or soup. Four eggshells, to which something of the albumen clings, are enough to clear one pot of coffee. The crushed eggshells are capital for cleaning the insides of cruets or any bottle with a narrow neck.
One is often puzzled to think of ways of utilizing the whites or yolks of eggs when the other part has been used. If making boiled custard, salad dressing or anything which calls for only yolks, plan to make either a snow or white cake, meringues for puddings or pies, frosting, etc. Soft-boiled eggs may be boiled again till, hard, and the yolks mashed and seasoned and used in sandwiches, or served plain in meat and fish sauces, salads or soups ; the whites may be put into the stock kettle or used as a garnish for all sorts of dishes.
Dropped eggs, bits of omelet and other cooked eggs may be used in egg sauce, soup, stuffing, or in made-over fish or meat dishes.
Sometimes yolks of eggs are left over when making a dish which calls for only whites; drop them gently in a bowl of cold water if you do not need them immediately. They will not spoil if they stand for several days. Handle them carefully so they will not break.
A cold fried egg chopped and seasoned makes a good sandwich. Children like an oyster sandwich made by putting cold stewed oysters between buttered crackers.
When you serve a baked bean salad, accompany it with olive or anchovy sandwiches.
Before making a chicken salad, let the pieces before being cut stand in some chicken or white stock for a few hours. It will make it deliciously moist and tender. Roast or boiled chicken, or even a bit of canned chicken, can be treated in this way and improved.
A pint of new potatoes, too small to serve in presentable fashion, may be boiled, skinned and covered with a white sauce or allowed to cool and served whole as a potato salad with a few shredded chives sprinkled over them.
If the liquor about olives gets emptied accidentally, make a fresh brine of salt and water and replace the olives in their bottle.
A pinch of ground cloves in a warmed-up meat dish is often a pleasing addition. Nutmeg is the spice to use with poultry.
In making hash, never stir with a spoon, it makes the mixture disagreeably pasty. Toss lightly with a fork.
Save the skins of particularly fine oranges and lemons, they may be very easily candied at home and save buying an expensive item in cooking. Use the skins in two halves as when you cut them to extract the juice on a lemon squeezer. When you have a dozen or so on hand, drop them in boiling water and cook for half an hour, changing the water three times before they are done. When ready you can pierce them with a straw. Make a sirup of equal parts of sugar and water. Cook the skins in it till they grow transparent and you have a thick sirup. Drain the skins on a plate, then roll in pulverized sugar and set in a cool oven to dry. Save the sugar into which the sirup changes to flavor and sweeten sauces for puddings or fritters. Keep the lemon and orange peel packed in a fruit can with a close lid. When using peel, cut it in fine strips with a scissors. You will find it much easier to use than a knife.
Save the oil from good sardines ; a tablespoonf ul of it gives an agreeable flavor to a brown sauce for heating sardines and it economizes on butter.
A slight flavor of onion is almost a must-have in hot dishes prepared from cold meat. Rubbing the inside of the salad bowl or fork with a cut clove of garlic or onion will give all the flavor desirable where the least flavor possible is desired.
If you cannot allow soup stock time enough to cool and the fat to harden, remove fat with absorbent cotton. Roll it in a tiny pad, dip it deftly across the top of the soup and the fat will be absorbed. If there is much fat, several bits of cotton may be necessary to clear it.
When you begin to grow tired of a watermelon that refuses to be eaten up, chop it coarsely, add a cup of sugar and a few tablespoons of sherry and transform it into one of the most luscious of sherbets.
Before you fry cold potatoes, dust them with flour. They will taste better and brown better.
One of the most successful transformations of a plain omelet into a delicious dish is the pouring over it when cooked a cup of hot white sauce containing a cup of green peas.
A cup or two of blanc mange enriched with eggs and well flavored may be made into a delicious
pudding. Reheat it in the double boiler and press into a half-pound buttered baking powder can. When required cut in inch thick slices, roll till dry in flour, egg- crumb and fry in smoking hot fat. Serve with a wine sauce.
Save the blanched, crisp feathery tops of celery. They make the most sightly of garnishes.
Hands up those of you who save – or now intend to save – the oil from the can of sardines.
Take one can of sardines put up in oil, mix well with fork adding enough catsup to make bright red. Mix thoroughly and spread on thin buttered slices of bread. The mixture provides enough for one loaf of bread.
Lawrence Journal World August 16, 1907
I have a 1950's "leftovers" booklet from a cooking school in Chicago...although there are some rather nasty-sounding dishes in it, many of them appear perfectly acceptable.
The problem in this house, unfortunately, is that we rarely have leftovers.
We rarely have accidental leftovers - we cook one or two portions extra to be used for lunch the next day. I don't think we really ever waste anything that can be eaten by us, the cats or the chickens [little cannibals that they are!] We even feed the eggshells back to them as a calcium supplement. I guess it comes from mothers that grew up on farms in the Depression [one in Iowa and one in Missouri]!
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