Cassell's Vegetarian Cookery/preserved

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Vegetables and fruits are preserved in two ways. We can have them preserved both in bottles and tins, but the principle is exactly the same in both cases, the method of preservation being simply that of excluding the air. We will not enter into the subject of how to preserve fruit and vegetables, but will confine ourselves to discussing as briefly as possible the best method of using them when they are preserved.

Unfortunately there exists a very unreasonable prejudice on the part of many persons against all kinds of provisions that are preserved in tins. This prejudice is kept alive by stories that occasionally get into print about families being poisoned by using tinned goods. We hear stories also of poisoning resulting from using copper vessels. Housekeepers should endeavour to grasp the idea that the evil is the result of their own ignorance, and that no danger would accrue were they possessed of a little more elementary knowledge of chemistry. If a penny be dipped in vinegar and exposed to the air, and is then licked by a child, a certain amount of ill effect would undoubtedly ensue, but it does not follow that we should give up the use of copper money. So, too, if we use tinned goods, and owing to our own carelessness or ignorance find occasionally that evil results ensue, we should not give up the use of the goods in question, but endeavour to find out the cause why these evil results follow only occasionally.

All good cooks know, or ought to know, that if they leave the soup all night in a saucepan the soup is spoilt. Again, all housekeepers know that although they have a metal tank, they are bound to have a wooden lid on top, there being a law to this effect. The point they forget in using tinned goods is this, so long as the air is excluded from the interior of the tin no chemical action goes on whatever. When, therefore, they open the tin, if they turn out the contents at once no harm can ensue. Unfortunately, there are many thousands who will open a tin, take out what they want, and leave the remainder in the tin. Of course, they have only themselves to blame should evil result.

Preserved vegetables are so useful that they are inseparable from civilised cookery; for instance, what would a French cook do were he dependent for his mushrooms upon these fresh grown in the fields? The standard dish at vegetarian restaurants is mushroom pie, and, thanks to tinned mushrooms, we can obtain this dish all the year round. In most restaurants peas are on the bill of fare throughout the year. Were we dependent upon fresh grown ones, this popular dish would be confined almost to a few weeks.

In the case of preserved goods, tinned fruits are even more valuable than tinned vegetables. Ripe apricots and peaches picked fresh from the tree are expensive luxuries that in this country can only be indulged in by the rich, whereas, thanks to the art of preserving, we are enabled to enjoy them all the year round. We will run briefly through a few of the chief vegetables and fruits, and give a few hints how to best use them. First of all—

Asparagus, Tinned.—Place the tin in the saucepan with sufficient cold water to cover it. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for five minutes; take out the tin and cut it open round the edge, as near to the edge as possible, otherwise you will be apt to break the asparagus in turning it out. Drain off the liquor and serve the asparagus on freshly made hot toast. There is much less waste as a rule in tinned asparagus than in that freshly cut. As a rule, you can eat nearly the whole of it.

Peas, Tinned.—Put the tin before it is opened into cold water, bring the water to a boil, and let it boil five minutes, or longer if the tin is a large one. Cut open the tin at the top, pour out the liquor, and serve the peas with a few sprigs of fresh mint, if it can be obtained, that have been boiled for two or three minutes. Supposing the tin to contain a pint of peas, add while the peas are thoroughly hot a brimming saltspoonful of finely powdered sugar, and half a saltspoonful of salt. If the peas are to be eaten by themselves, as is generally the case with vegetarians, add a good-sized piece of butter.

French Beans, Tinned.—These can be treated in exactly similar manner to green peas, only, instead of adding mint, add a little chopped blanched parsley; the same quantity of sugar and salt should be added as in the case of peas. After the butter has melted, it is a great improvement, when the beans are eaten as a course by themselves, with bread, if the juice of half a lemon is added.

Flageolets, Tinned.—For this delicious vegetable, in England, we are dependent upon tinned goods, as we cannot recall an instance in which they can be bought freshly gathered. Warm up the beans in the tin by placing the tin in cold water, bringing the water to a boil, and letting it boil for five minutes. Drain off the liquor, add a saltspoonful of sugar, half a one of salt, and a lump of butter. Instead of butter, you can add to each pint two tablespoonfuls of pure olive oil. Many persons consider it a great improvement to rub the vegetable-dish with a bead of garlic. In this case the beans should be tossed about in the dish for a minute or two.

Brussels Sprouts, Tinned.—The tin should be made hot before it is opened, the liquor drained off, and the sprouts placed in a dish, with a little butter or oil, powdered sugar, salt, pepper, and a slight flavouring of nutmeg. In France, in some parts, a little cream is poured over them.

Spinach, Tinned.—Spinach is sold in tins fairly cheap, and, quoting from the list of a large retail establishment where prices correspond with those of the Civil Service Stores, a tin of spinach can be obtained for fivepence-halfpenny. The spinach should be made very hot in the tin, turned out on to a dish, and hard-boiled eggs, hot, cut in halves, added. Some people add also a little vinegar, but, unless persons’ tastes are known beforehand, that is best added on the plate.

Carrots, Tinned.—Young carrots can be obtained in tins, and, as only young carrots are nice when served as a course by themselves, these will be found a valuable addition to the vegetarian store-cupboard. Make the carrots hot in the tin, and let the water boil, for quite ten minutes after it comes to the boiling point. Drain off the liquor, and serve them with some kind of white sauce exactly as if they were freshly boiled young carrots.

Turnips, Tinned.—Proceed exactly the same as in the case of carrots.

Fond d’Artichoke.—These consist of the bottom part only of French artichokes. They should be made hot in the tin, and served up with some good butter sauce, and cut lemon separate, as many prefer the artichokes plain.

Macedoines.—This, as the word implies, is a mixture of various vegetables, the chief of which are generally chopped-up carrot and turnip with young green peas. A very nice dish which can be served at a very short notice, if you have curry sauce in bottles, is a dish of vegetable curry. The macedoines should be made hot in the tin, the liquor drained off, and the curry sauce, made hot, should be poured into a well made in the centre of the macedoines in the dish. Macedoines are also very useful, as they can be served as a vegetable salad at a moment’s notice, as the vegetables are sufficiently cooked without being made hot.

Tinned Fruits.—Tinned fruits are ready for eating directly the tin is opened. All we have to bear in mind is to turn them all out of the tin on to a dish immediately. Do not leave any in the tin to be used at another time. Most tinned fruits can be served just as they are, in a glass dish, but a great improvement can be made in their appearance at a very small cost and with a very little extra trouble if we always have in the house a little preserved angelica and a few dried cherries. As these cost about a shilling or one and fourpence per pound, and even a quarter of a pound is sufficient to ornament two or three dozen dishes, the extra expense is almost nil.

Apricots, Tinned.—Pile the apricots up, with the convex side uppermost, in a glass dish, reserving one cup apricot to go on the top, with the concave side uppermost. Take a few preserved cherries, and cut them in halves, and stick half a cherry in all the little holes or spaces where the apricots meet. Cut four little green leaves out of the angelica about the size of the thumb-nail, only a little longer; the size of a filbert would perhaps describe the size better. Put a whole cherry in the apricot cup at the top, and four green leaves of angelica round it. Take the white kernel of the apricot—one or two will always be found in every tin—and cut four white slices out of the middle, place these round the red cherry, touching the cherry, and resting between the four green leaves of angelica; the top of this dish has now the appearance of a very pretty flower.

Peaches, Tinned.—These can be treated in exactly a similar way to the apricots.

Peaches and Apricots, with Cream.—Place the fruit in a glass dish, with the concave side uppermost; pour the syrup round the fruit, and with a teaspoon remove any syrup that may have settled in the little cups, for such the half-peaches or apricots may be called. Get a small jar of Devonshire clotted cream; take about half a teaspoonful of cream, and place it in the middle of each cup, and place a single preserved cherry on the top of the cream. This dish can be made still prettier by chopping up a little green angelica, like parsley, and sprinkling a few of these little green specks on the white cream.

Pine-apple, Tinned.—Pine-apples are preserved in tins whole, and are very superior in flavour to those which are sold cheap on barrows, which are more rotten than ripe. They require very little ornamenting, but the top is greatly improved by placing a red cherry in the centre, and cutting eight strips of green angelica like spikes, reaching from the cherry to the edge of the pine-apple. They should be cut in exact lengths, so as not to overlap. The top of the pine-apple looks like a green star with a red centre.

Pears, Tinned.—Tinned pears are exceedingly nice in flavour, but the drawback to them is their appearance. They look like pale and rather dirty wax, while the syrup with which they are surrounded resembles the water in which potatoes have been over-boiled. The prettiest way of sending them to table is as follows:—Take, say a teacupful of rice, wash it very carefully, boil it, and let it get dry and cold. Take the syrup from the pears and taste it, and if not sweet enough add some powdered sugar. Put the rice in a glass dish, and make a very small well in the centre, and pour all the syrup into this, so that it soaks into the rice at the bottom of the dish without affecting the appearance of the surface. In the meantime, place the pears themselves on a dish, and let the syrup drain off them, and if you can let them stand for an hour or two to let them dry all the better. Now, with an ordinary brush, paint these waxy-looking pears a bright red with a little cochineal, and place these half-pears on the white rice, slanting, with the thick part downwards and the stalk end uppermost. Cut a few sticks of green angelica about an inch and a half long and of the thickness of the ordinary stalk of a pear, and stick one of these into the stalk end of each pear. The red pear, with the green stalk resting on the snow-white bed of rice, looks very pretty. A little chopped angelica can be sprinkled over the white rice, like chopped parsley.

Fruits, Bottled.—When apricots and peaches are preserved in bottles, they can be treated exactly in a similar manner to those preserved in tins. It will be found advisable, however, to taste the syrup in the bottle, as it will be often found that it requires the addition of a little more sugar. Ordinary bottled fruits, such as gooseberries, currants, raspberries, rhubarb, damsons, cranberries, etc., can be used for making fruit pies, or they can be sent to table simply as stewed fruit. In this case some whipped cream on the top is a very great improvement. Another very nice way of sending these bottled fruits to table is to fill a border made with rice, as described in Chapter III.