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The Art of Cookery: Rules to be Observed in Roasting

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18th century model for a pastillage piece montee - sugar paste mobile

18th century model for a pastillage piece montee – sugar paste mobile

Below is Hannah Glasse’s instructions to cooks, the hows and whys of the kitchen in the technique of roasting.  It is a fascinating look into the 18th century cooking pot, as it were; not all homes had ovens, and in one recipe it is worded “send it to the oven… when it comes home” – this would imply that it was sent to the village bakery, and brought home to finish off once it had been sent away to be baked.  Because of that limitation, many recipes are for boiling; they seemed to boil the living daylights out of meat, vegetables, or anything else that they could put in a pot.  With a limited variety of spices, space, and kitchen utensils, it’s amazing that they managed to turn out concoctions that modern chefs only dream about (see photo; for more information, please go to


Rules to be observed in Roasting

In the first place, take great care the spit be very clean; and be sure to clean it with nothing but sand and water.  Wash it clean, and wipe it with a dry cloth; for oil, brick-dust, and such things will spoil your meat.


To roast a good piece of beef about ten pounds will take an hour and a half, at a good fire.  Twenty pounds weight will take three hours, if it be a thick piece; but if it be a thin piece of twenty pounds weight, two hours and a half will do it; and so on according to the weight of your meat, more or less.  Observe, in frosty weather your beef will take half an hour longer.



A leg of mutton of six pounds will take an hour at a quick fire; if frosty weather an hour and a quarter; nine pounds an hour and a half, a leg of twelve pounds will take two hours; if frosty two hours and a half; a large saddle of mutton will take three house, because of papering it; a small saddle will take an hour and a half, and so on, according to the size; a breast will take half an hour at a quick fire; a neck, if large, an hour; if very small, little better than half an hour; a shoulder much about the same time as a leg.


Pork must be well done.  To every pound allow a quarter of an hour:  for example, a joint of twelve pounds weight three hours, and so on; if it be a thick piece of that weight, two hours will roast it.

Directions concerning beef, mutton, and pork.

These three you may baste with fine nice dripping.  Be sure your fire be very good and brisk; but don’t lay your meat too near the fire, for fear of burning or scorching.


Veal takes much the same time roasting as pork; but be sure to paper the fat of a loin or fillet, and baste your veal with good butter.


If a large fore-quarter, an hour and a half; if a small one, an hour.  The outside must be papered, basted with good butter, and you must have a very quick fire.  If a leg, about three quarters of an hour; a neck, a breast or shoulder, three quarters of an hour; if very small, half an hour will do.


If just killed, an hour; if killed the day before, an hour and a quarter; if a very large one, an hour and a half.  But the best way to judge, is when the eyes drop out, and the skin is grown very hard; then you must rub it with a coarse cloth, with a good piece of butter rolled in it, till the crackling is crisp and of a fine light brown.


You must have a quick fire.  If it be a small hare, put three pints of milk and half a pound of fresh butter in the dripping-pan, which must be very clean and nice; if a large one, two quarts of milk and half a pound of fresh butter.  You must baste your hare well with this all the time it is roasting; and when the hare has soaked up all the butter and milk it will be enough.


A middling turky will take an hour; a very large one, an hour and a quarter; a small one, three quarters of an hour.  You must paper the breast till it is near done enough, then take the paper off and froth it up.  Your fire must be very good.


Observe the same rules.


A large fowl, three quarters of an hour; a middling one, half an hour; very small chickens, twenty minutes.  Your fire must be very quick and clear when you lay them down.


Observe the same rules.


Ten minutes at a very quick fire will do them; but if you love them well done, a quarter of an hour.


Observe the same rules.


They will take twenty minutes.


They will take fifteen minutes.

Directions concerning poultry.

If your fire is not very quick and clear when you lay your poultry down to roast, it will not eat near so sweet, or look so beautiful to the eye.

To keep meat hot.

The best way to keep meat hot, if it be done before your company is ready, is to set the dish over a pan of boiling water; cover the dish with a deep cover so as not to touch the meat, and throw a cloth over all.  Thus you may keep your meat hot a long time, and it is better than over-roasting and spoiling the meat.  The steam of the water keeps the meat hot, and don’t draw the gravy out, or dry it up; whereas if you set a dish of any meat any time over a chaffing-dish of coals, it will dry up all the gravy, and spoil the meat.

To dress Greens, Roots, &c.

Always be careful that your greens be nicely picked and washed.  You should lay them in a clean pan, for fear of sand or dust, which is apt to hand round the wooden vessels.  Boil all your greens in a copper sauce-pan by themselves, with a great quantity of water.  Boil no meat with them, for that discolours them.  Use no iron pans, &c. for they are not proper; but let them be copper, brass, or silver.

To dress spinach.

Pick it very clean, and wash it in five or six waters; put it in a sauce-pan that will just hold it, throw a little salt over it, and cover the pan close.  Don’t put any water in, but shake the pan often.  You must put your sauce-pan on a clear quick fire.  As soon as you find the greens are shrunk and fallen to the bottom, and that the liquor which comes out of them boils up, they are enough.  Throw them into a clean sieve to drain, and just give them a little squeeze.  Lay them in a plate, but never put any butter on it, but put it in a cup.

To dress cabbages, &c.

Cabbage, and all sorts of young sprouts, must be boiled in a great deal of water.  When the stalks are tender, or fall to the bottom, they are enough; then take them off, before they lose their colour.  Always throw salt in your water before you put your greens in.  Young sprouts you send to table just as they are, but cabbage is best chopped and put into a sauce-pan with a good piece of butter, stirring it for about five or six minutes, till the butter is all melted, and then send it to table.

To dress carrots.

Let them be scraped very clean, and when they are enough rub them in a clean cloth, then slice them into a plate, and pour some melted butter over them.  If they are young spring carrots, half an hour will boil them; if large, an hour; but old Sandwich carrots will take two hours.

To dress turnips.

They eat best boiled in the pot, and when enough take them out and put them in a pan and mash them with butter and a little salt, and send them to table.  But you may do them thus:  pare your turnips, and cut them into dice, as big as the top of one’s finger; put them into a clean saucepan, and just cover them with water.  When enough, throw them into a sieve to drain, and put them into a saucepan with a good piece of butter; stir them over the fire for five or six minutes, and send them to table.

To dress parsnips.

They should be boiled in a great deal of water, and when you find they are soft (which you will know by running a fork into them) take them up, and carefully scrape all the dirt off them, and then with a knife scrape them all fine, throwing away all the sticky parts; then put them into a saucepan with some milk, and stir them over the fire till they are thick.  Take great care they don’t burn, and add a good piece of butter and a little salt, and when the butter is melted send them to table.

To dress brockala (broccoli).

Strip all the little branches off till you come to the top one, then with a knife peel off all the hard outside skin, which is on the stalks and little branches, and throw them into water.  Have a stew-pan of water with some salt in it:  when it boils put in the brockala, and when the stalks are tender it is enough, then send it to table with butter in a cup.  The French eat oil and vinegar with it.

To dress potatoes.

You must boil them in as little water as you can, without burning the sauce-pan.  Cover the saucepan close, and when the skin begins to crack they are enough.  Drain all the water out, and let them stand covered for a minute or two; then peel them, lay them in your plate, and pour some melted butter over them.  The best ways to do them is, when they are peeled to lay them on a gridiron till they are of a fine brown, and send them to table.  Another way is to put them into a saucepan with some good beef dripping, cover them close, and shake the saucepan often for fear of burning to the bottom.  When they are of a fine brown and crisp, take them up in a plate, then put them into another for fear of the fat, and put butter in a cup.

To dress cauliflowers.

Take your flowers, cut off all the green part, and then cut the flowers into four, and lay them into water for an hour:  then have some milk and water boiling, put in the cauliflowers, and be sure to skim the sauce-pan well.  When the stalks are tender, take them carefully up, and put them into a cullender to drain:  then put a spoonful of water into a clean stew-pan with a little dust of flour, about a quarter of a pound of butter, and shake it round till it is all finely melted, with a little pepper and salt; then take half the cauliflower and cut it as you would for pickling, lay it into the stew-pan, turn it, and shake the pan round.  Ten minutes will do it.  Lay the stewed in the middle of your plate, and the boiled round it.  Pour the butter you did it in over it, and send it to table.

To dress French beans.

First string them, then cut them in two, and afterwards across:  but if you would do them nice, cut the bean into four, and then across, which is eight pieces.  Lay them into water and salt, and when your pan boils put in some salt and the beans:  when they are tender they are enough; they will be soon done.  Take care they do not lose their fine green.  Lay them in a plate, and have butter in a cup.

To dress artichokes.

Wring off the stalks, and put them into the water cold, with the tops downwards, so that all the dust and sand may boil out.  When the water boils, an hour and a half will do them.

To dress asparagus.

Scrape all the stalks very carefully till they look white, then cut all the stalks even alike, throw them into water, and have ready a stew-pan boiling.  Put in some salt, and tie the asparagus in little bundles.  Let the water keep boiling, and when they are a little tender take them up.  If you boil them too much you lose both colour and taste.  Cut the round of a small loaf about half an inch thick, toast it brown on both sides, dip it in the asparagus liquor, and lay it in your dish:  pour a little butter over the toast, then lay your asparagus on the toast all round the dish, with the white tops outward.  Don’t pour butter over the asparagus, for that makes them greasy to the fingers, but have your butter in a bason, and send it to table.

Directions concerning garden things.

Most people spoil garden things by over-boiling them.  All things that are green should have a little crispness, for if they are over-boiled they neither have any sweetness or beauty.

To dress beans and bacon.

When you dress beans and bacon, boil the bacon by itself, and the beans by themselves, for the bacon will spoil the colour of the beans.  Always throw some salt into the water, and some parsley nicely picked.  When the beans are enough (which you will know by their being tender) throw them into a cullender to drain.  Take up the bacon and skin it; throw some raspings of bread over the top, and if you have an iron make it red-hot and hold over it, to brown the top of the bacon:  if you have not one, set it before the fire to brown.  Lay the beans in the dish, and the bacon in the middle of the top, and send them to table with butter in a bason.

To make gravy for a turkey, or any sort of fowls.

Take a pound of the lean part of the beef, hack it with a knife, flour it well, have ready a stew-pan with a piece of fresh butter.  When the butter is melted put in the beef, fry it till it is brown, and then pour in a little boiling water.  Stir it altogether, and put in two or three blades of mace, four or five cloves, some whole pepper, an onion, a bundle of sweet herbs, a little crust of bread baked brown, and a little piece of carrot.  Cover it close, and let it stew till it is as good as you would have it.  This will make a pint of rich gravy.

To draw mutton, beef, or veal gravy.

Take a pound of meat, cut it very thin, lay a piece of bacon about two inches long, at the bottom of the stew-pan or sauce-pan, and lay the meat on it.  Lay in some carrot, and cover it close for two or three minutes, then pour in a quart of boiling water, some spice, onion, sweet herbs, and a little crust of bread toasted.  Let it do over a slow fire, and thicken it with a little piece of butter rolled in flour.  When the gravy is as good as you would have it, season it with salt, and then strain it off.  You may omit the bacon, if you dislike it.

To burn butter for thickening of sauce.

Set your butter on the fire, and let it boil till it is brown, then shake in some flour, and stir it all the time it is on the fire till it is thick.  Put it by, and keep it for use.  A little piece is what the cooks use to thicken and brown their sauce:  but there are few stomachs it agrees with, therefore seldom make use of it.

To make gravy.

If you live in the country, where you cannot always have gravy-meat, when your meat comes from the butcher’s take a piece of beef, a piece of veal, and a piece of mutton:  cut them into as small pieces as you can, and take a large deep sauce-pan with a cover, lay your beef at bottom, then your mutton, then a very little piece of bacon, a slice or two of carrot, some mace, cloves, whole pepper black and white, a large onions cut in slices, a bundle of sweet herbs, and then lay in your veal.  Cover it close over a slow fire for six or seven minutes, shaking the sauce-pan now and then; then shake some flour in, and have ready some boiling water; pour it in till you cover the meat and something more.  Cover it close, and let it stew till it is quite rich and good; then season it to your taste with salt, and then strain it off.  This will do for most things.

To make gravy for soups, &c.

Take a leg of beef, cut and hack it, put it into a large earthen pan; put to it a bundle of sweet herbs, two onions stuck with a few cloves, a blade or two of mace, a piece of carrot, a spoonful of whole pepper black and white, and a quart of stale beer.  Cover it with water, tie the pot down close with a brown paper rubbed with butter, send it to the oven, and let it be well baked.  When it comes home, strain it through a course sieve; lay the meat into a clean dish as you strain it, and keep it for use.  It is a fine thing in a house, and will serve for gravy, thickened with a piece of butter, red wine, catchup, or whatever you have a mind to put in, and is always ready for soups of most sorts.  If you have peas ready boiled, your soup will soon be made:  or take some of the broth and some vermicelli, boil it together, fry a French roll and put in the middle, and you have a good soup.  You may add a few truffles and morels, or celery stewed tender, and then you are always ready.

To bake a leg of beef.

Do it just in the same manner as before directed in the making gravy for soups, &c. and when it is baked, strain it through a coarse sieve.  Pick out all the sinews and fat, and put them into a sauce-pan with a few spoonfuls of the gravy, a little red wine, a little piece of butter rolled in flour, and some mustard, shake your sauce-pan often, and when the sauce is hot and thick, dish it up, and send it to table.  It is a pretty dish.

To bake an ox’s head.

Do just the same manner as the leg of beef is directed to be done in making the gravy for soups, &c. and it does full as well for the same uses.  If it should be too strong for any thing you want it for, it is only putting some hot water to it.  Cold water will spoil it.

To boil pickled pork.

Be sure you put it in when the water boils.  If a middling piece, an hour will boil it; if a very large piece, an hour and a half, or two hours.  If you boil pickled pork too long, it will go to a jelly.

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