Learn about Life in the 1920s



19. Before foods that require cooking are cooked or before foods that are to be eaten raw are served, they must be properly prepared, for their palatability and their value as food depend considerably on the way in which they are made ready for cooking or for eating. Of course, the way in which food should be prepared will depend on how it is to be served, but in any event all foods, for the sake of cleanliness, must first be washed with water or wiped with a clean, damp cloth.

20. The ways in which vegetables and fruits are made ready for cooking vary. Sometimes such foods are cooked with the skins on, and sometimes certain vegetables, such as new potatoes, young carrots and parsnips, vegetable oysters, etc., are made ready in an economical way by scraping off their skins with a knife. Vegetables are also peeled, and when this is done a very sharp knife with a thin blade should be used and as little of the food removed as possible. Still another way of removing the skins of such foods as tomatoes, nuts, and some fruits is by blanching. In this process, the skins are loosened so that they may be removed easily, either by immersing the foods in boiling water or by pouring boiling water over them and allowing them to stand in the water for a few minutes, but not long enough to soften them. Blanching used in this sense should not be confused with the same word when it means "to take color out" and has reference to a process of bleaching. Only when the word means "to remove the covering of" can it be applied to the peeling of tomatoes, fruits, and nuts. Vegetables and fruits may be cooked whole or they may be cut into chunks, or pieces, or into slices.

21. In order to get meats ready for cooking, it is necessary to wipe them clean and usually to trim off all unnecessary bone, fat, and skin. Meats may be cooked in large pieces or small pieces or they may be ground, depending on the cooking process to be used. Before cooking poultry and fish, they should be thoroughly cleaned and then trimmed and cut to suit the cooking process chosen. If desired, the bones may be removed from poultry or fish before cooking, and sometimes it is advantageous to do so. Cream and raw eggs may be whipped or beaten light before they are served or cooked, and after such foods as fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish have been cooked, they may be sliced, chopped, ground, mashed, or cut into dice, or small pieces.


22. PROCESSES INVOLVED IN MIXING.--In cookery, the mixing of ingredients is done for several purposes--to produce a certain texture, to give a smoothness or creaminess to a mixture, or to impart lightness. Various processes are involved in the mixing of ingredients, and the results that are accomplished depend entirely on the method that is selected. The most important of these processes with brief explanations of what they mean follow.

  • BEATING is a rapid motion that picks up material from the bottom and mixes it with that nearer the surface. It is done with a spoon, a fork, an egg whip, or, if the mixture is thin, with a rotary egg beater. Sometimes beating is done for the purpose of incorporating air and thus making the mixture light.
  • STIRRING is usually done with a spoon, and is accomplished by moving the spoon in circles, around and around, through ingredients contained in a pan or a bowl. This is the method that is generally applied to the simple mixing of ingredients.
  • FOLDING is a careful process whereby beaten egg or whipped cream is added to a mixture without destroying its lightness. It is accomplished by placing the egg or cream on top of a mixture in a bowl or a pan, and then passing a spoon down through both and bringing up a spoonful of the mixture and placing it on top. This motion is repeated until the two are well blended, but this result should be accomplished with as few strokes as possible.
  • RUBBING is done by pressing materials against the side of a bowl with the back of a spoon. This is the process that is applied when butter and other fats are to be mixed with such dry ingredients as sugar and flour.
  • CREAMING consists in continuing the rubbing process until the texture becomes soft and smooth and is of a creamy consistency.
  • CUTTING-IN is a method used to combine butter with flour when it is desired to have the butter remain hard or in small pieces. It is done by chopping the butter into the flour with a knife.
  • SIFTING is shaking or stirring material through a sifter having a fine wire mesh. It is done to remove foreign or coarse material, to impart lightness, or to mix dry ingredients together.
  • RICING is a process whereby certain cooked foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish, may be reduced to the form of a purée. This result is accomplished by forcing the cooked material through a ricer.

23. APPLICATION OF MIXING PROCESSES.--In applying the various mixing processes, it is well to bear in mind that good results depend considerably on the order of mixing, as well as on the deftness and thoroughness with which each process is performed. This fact is clearly demonstrated in a cake in which the butter and sugar have not been actually creamed, for such a cake will not have the same texture as one in which the creaming has been done properly. It is also shown in angel food or sunshine cake, for the success of such a cake depends largely on the skill employed in folding in the whites of eggs or in beating the yolks. On the other hand, the lightness of pastry and the tenderness of cookies depend on how each is rolled out, and the kneading of bread is a process that demonstrates that many things can be learned by actually doing them.

As progress is made with these cookery lessons, therefore, the application of the mixing processes should not be overlooked. Beginners in cookery, owing possibly to the fact that at first they cannot handle soft material skilfully, are liable to make the mistake of getting the ingredients too stiff. Yet no beginner need feel the least bit discouraged, for ability in this direction comes with experience; indeed, just as skill in sewing, embroidering, and other processes comes about by practice and persistent effort, so will come skill in cooking.


24. Uniform results in cookery depend on accurate measurement. Of course, there are some cooks--and good ones, too--who claim that they do not measure, but as a matter of fact they have, through long experience, developed a judgment, or "sense," of measurement, which amounts to the same thing as if they actually did measure. Still, even these cooks cannot be absolutely sure of securing as satisfactory results time after time as are likely to follow the employment of a more accurate method. Therefore, to secure the best results, every kitchen should be supplied with the proper measuring utensils, which are scales, a measuring cup, and a set of measuring spoons, or a standard tablespoon and a standard teaspoon.

Illustration: Fig. 7 Food Scales

25. SCALES.--In Fig. 7 is shown the type of scales generally included in the kitchen equipment. The material to be weighed is placed on the platform at the top, and the weight of it is indicated on the dial by a pointer, or hand. Sometimes these scales are provided with a scoop in which loose materials may be placed in weighing. Such scales furnish a correct means not only of measuring materials, but of verifying the weights of foods from the market, the butcher shop, or the grocery. To use them properly, the housewife should learn to balance them exactly, and when she is weighing articles she should always allow for the weight of the container or receptacle, even if it is only the paper that holds the food.

Illustration: Fig. 8 Measuring Cup

26. MEASURING CUPS.--Weighing the articles called for in a recipe is often a less convenient method than measuring; therefore, in the preparation of foods, measuring is more often resorted to than weighing. As accuracy in measurement is productive of the best results, it is necessary that all measures be as accurate and definite as possible. For measuring the ingredients called for in recipes, use is generally made of a measuring cup like that shown in Fig. 8. Such a cup is designed to hold 2 gills, or 1/2 pint, and it is marked to indicate thirds and quarters, so that it may be used for recipes of all kinds. If a liquid is to be measured with such a cup, it should be filled to the brim, but if dry material is to be measured with it, the material should be heaped up in the cup with a spoon and then scraped level with a knife, in the manner shown in Fig. 9. In case fractions or parts of a cup are to be measured, the cup should be placed level and stationary and then filled evenly to the mark indicated on the cup itself.

27. Many times it will be found more convenient to measure dry materials with a spoon. This can be done with accuracy if it is remembered that 16 tablespoonfuls make 1 cup, or 1/2 pint; 12 tablespoonfuls, 3/4 cup; 8 tablespoonfuls, 1/2 cup; and 4 tablespoonfuls, 1/4 cup. If no measuring cup like the one just described is at hand, one that will hold 16 level tablespoonfuls of dry material may be selected from the kitchen supply of dishes. Such a cup, however, cannot be used successfully in measuring a half, thirds, or fourths; for such measurements it will be better to use a spoon.

Illustration: Fig. 9 Using Measuring Cup

As a rule, it will be found very convenient to have two measuring cups of standard size, one for measuring dry ingredients and the other for measuring moist or wet ones. If it is impossible to have more than one, the dry materials should be measured first in working out a recipe, and the fats and liquids afterwards. Whatever plan of measuring is followed, however, it should always be remembered that recipes are written for the definite quantities indicated and mean standard, not approximate, cupfuls, tablespoonfuls, and teaspoonfuls.

28. MEASURING SPOONS.--In addition to a measuring cup or two, a set of measuring spoons will be found extremely convenient in a kitchen. However, if it is impossible to obtain such a set, a teaspoon and a tablespoon of standard size will answer for measuring purposes. Three level teaspoonfuls are equal to 1 tablespoonful. When a spoon is used, it is heaped with the dry material and then leveled with a knife, in the manner shown in Fig. 10 (a). If 1/2 spoonful is desired, it is leveled first, as indicated in (a), and then marked through the center with a knife and half of its contents pushed off, as shown in (b). Fourths and eighths are measured in the same way, as is indicated in Fig. 11 (a), but thirds are measured across the bowl of the spoon, as in (b).

Illustration: Fig. 10 Leveling Teaspoon

Illustration: Fig. 11 Teaspoon Measures 29. Precautions to Observe in Measuring.--In measuring some of the materials used in the preparation of foods, certain points concerning them should receive attention. For instance, all powdered materials, such as flour, must first be sifted, as the amount increases upon sifting, it being definitely known that a cupful of unsifted flour will measure about 1-1/4 cupfuls after it is sifted. Lumps, such as those which form in salt and sugar, should be thoroughly crushed before measuring; if this is not done, accurate measurements cannot be secured, because lumps of such ingredients are more compact than the loose material. Butter and other fats should be tightly packed into the measure, and if the fat is to be melted in order to carry out a recipe, it should be melted before it is measured. Anything measured in a cup should be poured into the cup; that is, the cup should not be filled by dipping it into the material nor by drawing it through the material.

30. TABLES OF WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.--As foods are sold by weight and by measure, and as recipes always call for certain weights and measures, it is absolutely necessary that every person engaged in the purchase and preparation of foods should be familiar with the tables of weights and measures in common use for such purposes in the United States and practically all other English-speaking countries. In addition, it will be well to have a knowledge of relative weights and measures, so as to be in a position to use these tables to the best advantage.

31. The table used ordinarily for weighing foods is the table of AVOIRDUPOIS WEIGHT. Another table of weights, called the table of Troy weight, is used by goldsmiths and jewelers for weighing precious metals. It should not be confused with avoirdupois weight, however, because its pound contains only 12 ounces, whereas the avoirdupois pound contains 16 ounces. The table of avoirdupois weight, together with the abbreviations of the terms used in it, is as follows:

437-1/2 grains (gr.)= 1 ounceoz.
16 ounces= 1 poundlb.
100 pounds= 1 hundredweightcwt.
20 hundredweight= 1 tonT.
2,000 pounds

Although 2,000 pounds make 1 ton, it is well to note that 2,240 pounds make 1 long ton (L.T.). The long ton is used by coal dealers in some localities, but the ton, sometimes called the short ton, is in more general use and is the one meant unless long ton is specified.

32. The table of LIQUID MEASURE is used for measuring all liquids, and is extremely useful to the housewife. This table, together with the abbreviations of its terms, is as follows:

4 gills (gi.)= 1 pintpt.
2 pints= 1 quartqt.
4 quarts= 1 gallongal.
31-1/2 gallons= 1 barrelbbl.
2 barrels= 1 hogsheadhhd.
63 gallons

33. The table of DRY MEASURE is used for measuring dry foods, such as potatoes, dried peas and beans, etc. The table of dry measure, with its abbreviations, follows:

2 pints (pt.)= 1 quartqt.
8 quarts= 1 peckpk.
4 pecks= 1 bushelbu.

34. Tables of RELATIVE WEIGHTS AND MEASURES are of value to the housewife in that they will assist her greatly in coming to an understanding of the relation that some of the different weights and measures bear to one another. For example, as dry foods are sold by the pound in some localities, it will be well for her to know the approximate equivalent in pounds of a definite quantity of another measure, say a quart or a bushel of a certain food. Likewise, she ought to know that when a recipe calls for a cupful it means 1/2 pint, as has been explained. Every one is familiar with the old saying, "A pint's a pound the world around," which, like many old sayings, is not strictly true, for while 1 pint is equal to 1 pound of some things, it is not of others. The following tables give approximately the relative weights and measures of most of the common foods:

Beans, dried2 CUPFULS
Coffee, whole4 CUPFULS
Corn meal3 CUPFULS
Molasses1-1/2 CUPFULS
Meat, chopped, finely packed2 CUPFULS
Nuts, shelled3 CUPFULS
Oats, rolled4 CUPFULS
Olive oil2-1/2 CUPFULS
Peas, split2 CUPFULS
Raisins3 CUPFULS
Sugar, brown2-2/3 CUPFULS
Sugar, granulated2 CUPFULS
Sugar, powdered2-3/4 CUPFULS

Butter1/2 OUNCE
Corn starch3/8 OUNCE
Flour1/4 OUNCE
Milk1/2 OUNCE
Sugar1/2 OUNCE

Butter8 OUNCES
Corn meal5 OUNCES
Corn starch6 OUNCES
Molasses10 OUNCES
Nuts, shelled4 OUNCES
Raisins5 OUNCES

In measuring, you will find the following relative proportions of great assistance:

3 tsp. = 1 Tb.
16 Tb. = 1 c.

35. ABBREVIATIONS OF MEASURES.--In order to simplify directions and recipes in books relating to cookery, it is customary to use the abbreviations of some weights and measures. Those which occur most frequently in cook books are the following:

tsp. for teaspoonful
pt. for pint
Tb. for tablespoonful
qt. for quart
c. for cupful
oz. for ounce
lb. for pound

Source: Woman's Institute Library of Cookery 1924

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Other Chapters: The Problem of Food | Selection of Food | Food Substances | Food Value | Digestion and Absorption of Food | Preparation of Food | Methods of Cooking | Heat for Cooking | Utensils for Cooking | Preparing Foods for Cooking | Order of Work | Cooking Time Table | Care of Food | Menus and Recipes | Terms Used in Cookery