Amelia Simmons.

American Cookery The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables online

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By Amelia Simmons,





As this treatise is calculated for the improvement of the rising
generation of _Females_ in America, the Lady of fashion and fortune
will not be displeased, if many hints are suggested for the more
general and universal knowledge of those females in this country, who
by the loss of their parents, or other unfortunate circumstances, are
reduced to the necessity of going into families in the line of
domestics, or taking refuge with their friends or relations, and doing
those things which are really essential to the perfecting them as good
wives, and useful members of society. The orphan, tho' left to the
care of virtuous guardians, will find it essentially necessary to have
an opinion and determination of her own. The world, and the fashion
thereof, is so variable, that old people cannot accommodate themselves
to the various changes and fashions which daily occur; _they_ will
adhere to the fashion of _their_ day, and will not surrender their
attachments to the _good old way_ - while the young and the gay, bend
and conform readily to the taste of the times, and fancy of the hour.
By having an opinion and determination, I would not be understood to
mean an obstinate perseverance in trifles, which borders on
obstinacy - by no means, but only an adherence to those rules and
maxims which have flood the test of ages, and will forever establish
the _female character_, a virtuous character - altho' they conform to
the ruling taste of the age in cookery, dress, language, manners, &c.

It must ever remain a check upon the poor solitary orphan, that while
those females who have parents, or brothers, or riches, to defend
their indiscretions, that the orphan must depend solely upon
_character_. How immensely important, therefore, that every action,
every word, every thought, be regulated by the strictest purity, and
that every movement meet the approbation of the good and wise.

The candor of the American Ladies is solicitously intreated by the
Authoress, as she is circumscribed in her knowledge, this being an
original work in this country. Should any future editions appear, she
hopes to render it more valuable.


DIRECTIONS for CATERING, or the procuring the best VIANDS, FISH, &c.

_How to choose Flesh_.

BEEF. The large stall fed ox beef is the best, it has a coarse open
grain, and oily smoothness; dent it with your finger and it will
immediately rise again; if old, it will be rough and spungy, and the
dent remain.

Cow Beef is less boned, and generally more tender and juicy than the
ox, in America, which is used to labor.

Of almost every species of Animals, Birds and Fishes, the female is
the tenderest, the richest flavour'd, and among poultry the soonest

_Mutton_, grass-fed, is good two or three years old.

_Lamb_, if under six months is rich, and no danger of imposition; it
may be known by its size, in distinguishing either.

_Veal_, is soon lost - great care therefore is necessary in purchasing.
Veal bro't to market in panniers, or in carriages, is to be prefered
to that bro't in bags, and flouncing on a sweaty horse.

_Pork_, is known by its size, and whether properly fattened by its

_To make the best Bacon_.

To each ham put one ounce saltpetre, one pint bay salt, one pint
molasses, shake together 6 or 8 weeks, or when a large quantity is
together, bast them with the liquor every day; when taken out to dry,
smoke three weeks with cobs or malt fumes. To every ham may be added a
cheek, if you stow away a barrel and not alter the composition, some
add a shoulder. For transportation or exportation, double the period
of smoaking.

_Fish, how to choose the best in market_.

_Salmon_, the noblest and richest fish taken in fresh water - the
largest are the best. They are unlike almost every other fish, are
ameliorated by being 3 or 4 days out of water, if kept from heat and
the moon, which has much more injurious effect than the sun.

In all great fish-markets, great fish-mongers strictly examine the
gills - if the bright redness is exchanged for a low brown, they are
stale; but when live fish are bro't flouncing into market, you have
only to elect the kind most agreeable to your palate and the season.

_Shad_, contrary to the generally received opinion are not so much
richer flavored, as they are harder when first taken out of the water;
opinions vary respecting them. I have tasted Shad thirty or forty
miles from the place where caught, and really conceived that they had
a richness of flavor, which did not appertain to those taken fresh and
cooked immediately, and have proved both at the same table, and the
truth may rest here, that a Shad 36 or 48 hours out of water, may not
cook so hard and solid, and be esteemed so elegant, yet give a higher
relished flavor to the taste.

Every species generally of _salt water Fish_, are best fresh from the
water, tho' the _Hannah Hill, Black Fish, Lobster, Oyster, Flounder,
Bass, Cod, Haddock_, and _Eel_, with many others, may be transported
by land many miles, find a good market, and retain a good relish; but
as generally, live ones are bought first, deceits are used to give
them a freshness of appearance, such as peppering the gills, wetting
the fins and tails, and even painting the gills, or wetting with
animal blood. Experience and attention will dictate the choice of the
best. Fresh gills, full bright eyes, moist fins and tails, are
denotements of their being fresh caught; if they are soft, its certain
they are stale, but if deceits are used, your smell must approve or
denounce them, and be your safest guide.

Of all fresh water fish, there are none that require, or so well
afford haste in cookery, as the _Salmon Trout_, they are best when
caught under a fall or cateract - from what philosophical circumstance
is yet unsettled, yet true it is, that at the foot of a fall the
waters are much colder than at the head; Trout choose those waters; if
taken from them and hurried into dress, they are genuinely good; and
take rank in point of superiority of flavor, of most other fish.

_Perch and Roach_, are noble pan fish, the deeper the water from
whence taken, the finer are their flavors; if taken from shallow
water, with muddy bottoms, they are impregnated therewith, and are

_Eels_, though taken from muddy bottoms, are best to jump in the pan.

Most white or soft fish are best bloated, which is done by salting,
peppering, and drying in the sun, and in a chimney; after 30 or 40
hours drying, are best broiled, and moistened with butter, &c.

_Poultry - how to choose_.

Having before stated that the female in almost every instance, is
preferable to the male, and peculiarly so in the _Peacock_, which,
tho' beautifully plumaged, is tough, hard, stringy, and untasted, and
even indelicious - while the _Pea Hen_ is exactly otherwise, and the
queen of all birds.

So also in a degree, _Turkey_.

_Hen Turkey_, is higher and richer flavor'd, easier fattened and
plumper - they are no odds in market.

_Dunghill Fowls_, are from their frequent use, a tolerable proof of
the former birds.

_Chickens_, of either kind are good, and the yellow leg'd the best,
and their taste the sweetest.

_Capons_, if young are good, are known by short spurs and smooth legs.

All birds are known, whether fresh killed or stale, by a tight vent in
the former, and a loose open vent if old or stale; their smell denotes
their goodness; speckled rough legs denote age, while smooth legs and
combs prove them young.

_A Goose_, if young, the bill will be yellow, and will have but few
hairs, the bones will crack easily; but if old, the contrary, the bill
will be red, and the pads still redder; the joints stiff and
difficultly disjointed; if young, otherwise; choose one not very
fleshy on the breast, but fat in the rump.

_Ducks_, are similar to geese.

_Wild Ducks_, have redder pads, and smaller than the tame ones,
otherwise are like the goose or tame duck, or to be chosen by the same

_Wood Cocks_, ought to be thick, fat and flesh firm, the nose dry, and
throat clear.

_Snipes_, if young and fat, have full veins under the wing, and are
small in the veins, otherwise like the Woodcock.

_Partridges_, if young, will have black bills, yellowish legs; if old,
the legs look bluish; if old or stale, it may be perceived by smelling
at their mouths.

_Pigeons_, young, have light red legs, and the flesh of a colour, and
prick easily - old have red legs, blackish in parts, more hairs,
plumper and loose vents - so also of grey or green Plover, Blade Birds,
Thrash, Lark, and wild Fowl in general.

_Hares_, are white flesh'd and flexible when new and fresh kill'd; if
stale, their flesh will have a blackish hue, like old pigeons, if the
cleft in her lip spread much, is wide and ragged, she is old; the
contrary when young.

_Leveret_, is like the Hare in every respect, that some are obliged to
search for the knob, or small bone on the fore leg or foot, to
distinguish them.

_Rabbits_, the wild are the best, either are good and tender; if old
there will be much yellowish fat about the kidneys, the claws long,
wool rough, and mixed with grey hairs; if young the reverse. As to
their being fresh, judge by the scent, they soon perish, if trap'd or
shot, and left in pelt or undressed; their taint is quicker than veal,
and the most sickish in nature; and will not, like beef or veal, be
purged by fire.

The cultivation of Rabbits would be profitable in America, if the best
methods were pursued - they are a very prolific and profitable
animal - they are easily cultivated if properly attended, but not
otherwise. - A Rabbit's borough, on which 3000 dollars may have been
expended, might be very profitable; but on the small scale they would
be well near market towns - easier bred, and more valuable.

_Butter_ - Tight, waxy, yellow Butter is better than white or crumbly,
which soon becomes rancid and frowy. Go into the centre of balls or
rolls to prove and judge it; if in ferkin, the middle is to be
preferred, as the sides are frequently distasted by the wood of the
firkin - altho' oak and used for years. New pine tubs are ruinous to
the butter. To have sweet butter in dog days, and thro' the vegetable
seasons, send stone pots to honest, neat, and trusty dairy people, and
procure it pack'd down in May, and let them be brought in in the
night, or cool rainy morning, covered with a clean cloth wet in cold
water, and partake of no heat from the horse, and set the pots in the
coldest part of your cellar, or in the ice house. - Some say that May
butter thus preserved, will go into the winter use, better than fall
made butter.

_Cheese_ - The red smooth moist coated, and tight pressed, square edged
Cheese, are better than white coat, hard rinded, or bilged; the inside
should be yellow, and flavored to your taste. Old shelves which have
only been wiped down for years, are preferable to scoured and washed
shelves. Deceits are used by salt-petering the out side, or colouring
with hemlock, cocumberries, or safron, infused into the milk; the
taste of either supercedes every possible evasion.

_Eggs_ - Clear, thin shell'd, longest oval and sharp ends are best; to
ascertain whether new or stale - hold to the light, if the white is
clear, the yolk regularly in the centre, they are good - but if
otherwise, they are stale. The best possible method of ascertaining,
is to put them into water, if they lye on their bilge, they are _good_
and _fresh_ - if they bob up an end they are stale, and if they rise
they are addled, proved, and of no use.

We proceed to ROOTS and VEGETABLES - _and the best cook cannot alter
the first quality, they must be good, or the cook will be

_Potatoes_, take rank for universal use, profit and easy acquirement.
The smooth skin, known by the name of How's Potato, is the most mealy
and richest flavor'd; the yellow rusticoat next best; the red, and red
rusticoat are tolerable; and the yellow Spanish have their
value - those cultivated from imported seed on sandy or dry loomy
lands, are best for table use; tho' the red or either will produce
more in rich, loomy, highly manured garden grounds; new lands and a
sandy soil, afford the richest flavor'd; and most mealy Potato much
depends on the ground on which they grow - more on the species of
Potatoes planted - and still more from foreign seeds - and each may be
known by attention to connoisseurs; for a good potato comes up in many
branches of cookery, as herein after prescribed. - All potatoes should
be dug before the rainy seasons in the fall, well dryed in the sun,
kept from frost and dampness during the winter, in the spring removed
from the cellar to a dry loft, and spread thin, and frequently stirred
and dryed, or they will grow and be thereby injured for cookery.

A roast Potato is brought on with roast Beef, a Steake, a Chop, or
Fricassee; good boiled with a boiled dish; make an excellent stuffing
for a turkey, water or wild fowl; make a good pie, and a good starch
for many uses. All potatoes run out, or depreciate in America; a fresh
importation of the Spanish might restore them to table use.

It would swell this treatise too much to say every thing that is
useful, to prepare a good table, but I may be pardoned by observing,
that the Irish have preserved a genuine mealy rich Potato, for a
century, which takes rank of any known in any other kingdom; and I
have heard that they renew their seed by planting and cultivating the
_Seed Ball_, which grows on the tine. The manner of their managing it
to keep up the excellency of that root, would better suit a treatise
on agriculture and gardening than this - and be inserted in a book
which would be read by the farmer, instead of his amiable daughter. If
no one treats on the subject, it may appear in the next edition.

_Onions_ - The Madeira white is best in market, esteemed softer
flavored, and not so fiery, but the high red, round hard onions are
the best; if you consult cheapness, the largest are best; if you
consult taste and softness, the very smallest are the most delicate,
and used at the first tables. Onions grow in the richest, highest
cultivated ground, and better and better year after year, on, the same

_Beets_, grow on any ground, but best on loom, or light gravel
grounds; the _red_ is the richest and best approved; the _white_ has a
sickish sweetness, which is disliked by many.

_Parsnips_, are a valuable root, cultivated best in rich old grounds,
and doubly deep plowed, _late sown_, they grow thrifty, and are not so
prongy; they may be kept any where and any how, so that they do not
grow with heat, or are nipped with frost; if frosted, let them thaw in
earth; they are richer flavored when plowed out of the ground in
April, having stood out during the winter, tho' they will not last
long after, and commonly more sticky and hard in the centre.

_Carrots_, are managed as it respects plowing and rich ground,
similarly to Parsnips. The yellow are better than the orange or red;
middling fiz'd, that is, a foot long and two inches thick at the top
end, are better than over grown ones; they are cultivated best with
onions, sowed very thin, and mixed with other seeds, while young or
six weeks after sown, especially if with onions on true onion ground.
They are good with veal cookery, rich in soups, excellent with hash,
in May and June.

_Garlicks_, tho' used by the French, are better adapted to the uses of
medicine than cookery.

_Asparagus_ - The mode of cultivation belongs to gardening; your
business is only to cut and dress, the largest is best, the growth of
a day sufficient, six inches long, and cut just above the ground; many
cut below the surface, under an idea of getting tender shoots, and
preserving the bed; but it enfeebles the root: dig round it and it
will be wet with the juices - but if cut above ground, and just as the
dew is going off, the sun will either reduce the juice, or send it
back to nourish the root - its an excellent vegetable.

_Parsley_, of the three kinds, the thickest and branchiest is the
best, is sown among onions, or in a bed by itself, may be dryed for
winter use; tho' a method which I have experienced, is much better - In
September I dig my roots, procure an old thin stave dry cask, bore
holes an inch diameter in every stave, 6 inches asunder round the
cask, and up to the top - take first a half bushel of rich garden mold
and put into the cask, then run the roots through the staves, leaving
the branches outside, press the earth tight about the root within, and
thus continue on thro' the respective stories, till the cask is full;
it being filled, run an iron bar thro' the center of the dirt in the
cask and fill with water, let stand on the south and east side of a
building till frosty night, then remove it, (by slinging a rope round
the cask) into the cellar; where, during the winter, I clip with my
scissars the fresh parsley, which my neighbors or myself have occasion
for; and in the spring transplant the roots in the bed in the garden,
or in any unused corner - or let stand upon the wharf, or the wash
shed. Its an useful mode of cultivation, and a pleasurably tasted
herb, and much used in garnishing viands.

_Raddish_, _Salmon_ coloured is the best, _purple_ next
best - _white_ - _turnip_ - each are produced from southern seeds,
annually. They grow thriftiest sown among onions. The turnip Raddish
will last well through the winter.

_Artichokes_ - The Jerusalem is best, are cultivated like potatoes,
(tho' their stocks grow 7 feet high) and may be preserved like the
turnip raddish, or pickled - -they like.

_Horse Raddish_, once in the garden, can scarcely ever be totally
eradicated; plowing or digging them up with that view, seems at times
rather to increase and spread them.

_Cucumbers_, are of many kinds; the prickly is best for pickles, but
generally bitter; the white is difficult to raise and tender; choose
the bright green, smooth and proper sized.

_Melons_ - The Water Melons is cultivated on sandy soils only, above
latitude 41 1/2, if a stratum of land be dug from a well, it will
bring the first year good Water Melons; the red cored are highest
flavored; a hard rine proves them ripe.

_Muskmelons_, are various, the rough skinned is best to eat; the
short, round, fair skinn'd, is best for Mangoes.

_Lettuce_, is of various kinds; the purple spotted leaf is generally
the tenderest, and free from bitter - Your taste must guide your

_Cabbage_, requires a page, they are so multifarious. Note, all
Cabbages have a higher relish that grow on _new unmatured grounds_; if
grown in an old town and on old gardens, they have a rankness, which
at times, may be perceived by a fresh air traveller. This observation
has been experienced for years - that Cabbages require new ground, more
than Turnips.

_The Low Dutch_, only will do in old gardens.

The _Early Yorkshire_, must have rich soils, they will not answer for
winter, they are easily cultivated, and frequently bro't to market in
the fall, but will not last the winter.

The _Green Savoy_, with the richest crinkles, is fine and tender; and
altho' they do not head like the Dutch or Yorkshire, yet the
tenderness of the out leaves is a counterpoise, it will last thro' the
winter, and are high flavored.

_The Yellow Savoy_, takes next rank, but will not last so long; all
Cabbages will mix, and participate of other species, like Indian Corn;
they are culled, best in plants; and a true gardener will, in the
plant describe those which will head, and which will not. This is new,
but a fact.

The gradations in the Savoy Cabbage are discerned by the leaf; the
richest and most scollup'd, and crinkled, and thickest Green Savoy,
falls little short of a _Colliflour_.

The red and redest small tight heads, are best for _slaw_, it will not
boil well, comes out black or blue, and tinges, other things with
which it is boiled.


_The Clabboard Bean_, is easiest cultivated and collected, are good
for string beans, will shell - must be poled.

_The Windsor Bean_, is an earlier, good string, or shell Bean.

_Crambury Bean_, is rich, but not universally approved equal to the
other two.

_Frost Bean_, is good only to shell.

_Six Weeks Bean_, is a yellowish Bean, and early bro't forward, and

_Lazy Bean_, is tough, and needs no pole.

_English Bean_, what _they_ denominate the _Horse Bean_, is mealy when
young, is profitable, easily cultivated, and may be grown on worn out
grounds; as they may be raised by boys, I cannot but recommend the
more extensive cultivation of them.

_The small White Bean_, is best for winter use, and excellent.

_Calivanse_, are run out, a yellow small bush, a black speck or eye,
are tough and tasteless, and little worth in cookery, and scarcely
bear exportation.

_Peas_ - _Green Peas._

_The Crown Imperial_, takes rank in point of flavor, they blossom,
purple and white on the top of the vines, will run, from three to five
feet high, should be set in light sandy soil only, or they run too
much to vines.

_The Crown Pea_, is second in richness of flavor.

_The Rondeheval_, is large and bitterish.

_Early Carlton_, is produced first in the season - good.

_Marrow Fats_, green, yellow, and is large, easily cultivated, not
equal to others.

_Sugar Pea_, needs no bush, the pods are tender and good to eat,
easily cultivated.

_Spanish Manratto_, is a rich Pea, requires a strong high bush.

All Peas should be picked _carefully_ from the vines as soon as dew is
off, shelled and cleaned without water, and boiled immediately; they
are thus the richest flavored.

_Herbs, useful in Cookery._

_Thyme_, is good in soups and stuffings.

_Sweet Marjoram_, is used in Turkeys.

_Summer Savory_, ditto, and in Sausages and salted Beef, and legs of

_Sage_, is used in Cheese and Pork, but not generally approved.

_Parsley_, good in _soups_, and to _garnish roast Beef_, excellent
with bread and butter in the spring.

_Penny Royal_, is a high aromatic, altho' a spontaneous herb in old
ploughed fields, yet might be more generally cultivated in gardens,
and used in cookery and medicines.

_Sweet Thyme_, is most useful and best approved in cookery.


_Pears_, There are many different kinds; but the large Bell Pear,
sometimes called the Pound Pear, the yellowest is the best, and in the
same town they differ essentially.

_Hard Winter Pear_, are innumerable in their qualities, are good in
sauces, and baked.

_Harvest_ and _Summer Pear_ are a tolerable desert, are much improved
in this country, as all other fruits are by grafting and innoculation.

_Apples_, are still more various, yet rigidly retain their own
species, and are highly useful in families, and ought to be more
universally cultivated, excepting in the compactest cities. There is
not a single family but might set a tree in some otherwise useless
spot, which might serve the two fold use of shade and fruit; on which
12 or 14 kinds of fruit trees might easily be engrafted, and
essentially preserve the orchard from the intrusions of boys, &c.
which is too common in America. If the boy who thus planted a tree,
and guarded and protected it in a useless corner, and carefully
engrafted different fruits, was to be indulged free access into
orchards, whilst the neglectful boy was prohibited - how many millions
of fruit trees would spring into growth - and what a saving to the
union. The net saving would in time extinguish the public debt, and
enrich our cookery.

_Currants_, are easily grown from shoots trimmed off from old bunches,
and set carelessly in the ground; they flourish on all soils, and make
good jellies - their cultivation ought to be encouraged.

_Black Currants_, may be cultivated - but until they can be dryed, and
until sugars are propagated, they are in a degree unprofitable.

_Grapes_, are natural to the climate; grow spontaneously in every
state in the union, and ten degrees north of the line of the union.

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