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The Culinary Collection, University of Guelph
Welcome! Cookbooks Online Una Abrahamson Helen Gagen Edna Staebler Canadian Cookbook Collection

The Skilful Housewife, 1848Economical Cook Book, 1915Early Canadiana OnlineEarly English Books OnlineEighteenth Century Collections Online


Author: Anon.[Mrs. L.G. Abell]
Complete Title: Skilful housewife's manual: a book of domestic cookery, compiled from the best authors.
Imprint: Montreal - Armour & Ramsay; Quebec - P. Sinclair; Kingston - Ramsay, Armour and Co.; Toronto - Scobie and Balfour; Hamilton - Ramsay and McKendrick; Bytown - A. Bryson; London - T. Craig; Niagara - J. Simpson.
Date: 1848
Book Notes: height is 14 cm.; 132 pages.
Commentary: an abbreviated, important Canadian edition of an American work first published in 1846. This book provides many recipes and practical information on housekeeping, health, gardening, entertainment and etiquette; one of the few culinary titles printed in Canada prior to 1850.
Collection: Una Abrahamson Canadiana Cookbook Collection - UAs043b11



















CHAPTER I-CHOICE OF MEATS, &C,..................1

CHAPTER II-COOKING FISH, SOUPS, MEATS, &C.,..................................................7

CHAPTER III-VEGETABLES,............................49



THE POOR,........................................90

CHAPTER VII-DAIRY,..................................114








    Beef. When it is young, it will have a fine smooth open grain, be a good red, and feel tender. The fat should be white, rather than yellow; when that is of a deep colour, the meat is seldom good. When fed with oil cakes, it is usually so, and the flesh is flabby.

    Pork. If the rind is tough and thick, is old. A thin rind is always preferable. When fresh, the meat will be smooth and cool; if clammy, it is tainted.

    Mutton. Choose this by its fine grain, good colour, and white fat.

    Lamb. If it has a green or yellow cast, it is stale.

    Veal. The whitest is the most juicy, and therefore preferable.

    Bacon. If the rind is thin, the fat firm, and a red tinge, the lean of a good colour and adhering to the bone, it is good, and not old.

    Hams. Stick a sharp knife under the bone, if it comes out clean with a pleasant smell, it is good; but if the knife is daubed and has a bad scent, do not buy it.



    Turkeys. If young, the legs will be black and smooth, the eyes lively, and the feet pliable. If old, the eyes will be sunk and the feet dry.

    Geese. If young, the bill will be yellow, and the feet limber. If old, the bill and feet will be red and dry.

    Hens. If their comb and legs are rough, they are old; if smooth and limber, they are young.

    Wild and Tame Ducks. If young, they will be limber-footed; if old, hard and thick on the lower part of the body. A wild duck has red feet, and smaller than tame ones.

    Partridges. If young, will have a black bill and yellow legs; if old, the bill will be white and the legs blue. Old fowls, tame and wild, may be told by their hard, rough, or dry feet.

    Hares and Rabbits. If young, they will be white and stiff, the ears will tear like brown paper. If old, the flesh will be dark, the body limber, and the ears tough. A rabbit, if old, will be dark, the body limber, and the ears tough. A rabbit, if old, will be limber and flimsy; if young, white and stiff.


    Cod. The gills should be very red, the fish thick at the neck, the flesh white and firm, and the eyes fresh. When flabby, they are not good.

    Salmon. If new, the flesh is of a fine red, the gills particularly, the scales bright, and the whole fish stiff.


Shad, if good, are white and thick; gills red, and eyes bright, the fish stiff and firm. Season, May and June.

Mackerel. Their season is May, June, and July. Being very tender, they do not carry or keep as well as other fish unsalted.

    Striped Bass. If the eyes are sunken, and gills pale, they have been from the water too long. Their fineness depends upon being cooked immediately after they are killed.

Trout. These should be killed and dressed as soon as caught. When you buy them, see that the gills are red, and hard to open; the eyes bright, and the body stiff. The season, July, August, and September.

Flounders soon become flabby and bad; they should be thick and firm, the eyes bright.

Lobsters. If they have not been too long taken, the claws will have a strong motion if you press your finger on the eyes. The heaviest are the best. The male, though generally smaller has the highest flavour, the firmest flesh, and the deepest red. It may be known from the female by having a narrow tail.

    Crabs. Those of middling size are the sweetest. The heaviest are best. When in perfection, the joints of the legs are stiff and the body has an agreeable smell. The eyes look loose and dead when stale.

All fish should be well dressed and clean as nothing is more unpalatable than fresh fish not thoroughly cooked.


Fresh Fish, when boiled, should be placed in cold, and shell-fish in boiling water.

    Fish should be garnished with parsley, or hard boiled eggs cut in rings, and laid around the dish.

To keep Oysters.

After washing them, lay them in a tub, with the deep part of the shell undermost, sprinkle them with salt and Indian meal, or flour, and fill the tub with cold water, and set it in a cool place. Change the water daily, and they will keep fresh a fortnight.


Rules and Suggestions.

If meat or fish has acquired a slightly unpleasant flavor, or does not smell perfectly fresh, when prepared to boil, add a tea-spoonful of saleratus, and, unless it is bad, it will remove every thing unpleasant in taste and smell. If the brine of meat or fish begins to have an unpleasant smell, scald and skim it, adding to it a spoonful or two of saleratus, pepper and cinnamon, or throw it away and make new with the above ingredients.

Baking meats is easily done, and is a nice way of dressing a dinner, but a lean thin piece should never be used in this manner, it will all shrivel.

The most economical way of cooking fresh meat, is to boil it, if the liquid is used, as it always may be, for soups or broths.

It takes fat meat longer than lean to bake. All


fresh meat should be kept awhile to make it tender.

    In baking any kind of meats or puddings, if a stove is used, they will bear more fire at first than when they are nearly done.

     In cooking by a fire-place, cooks impose on themselves discomfort, and incur a great waste in fuel, by making too much fire. Often, in summer, a fire is made like a small furnace to boil a pot. Three small sticks of wood, or two, with chips, are sufficient at a time, if the pot or kettle is hung low, and but little inconvenience is felt from the fire. If you use a tin baker, the upper part or lid is sufficient to bake meats of almost any kind, if bright. Mutton, veal, pork, beef, &c. have been well cooked in this simple way. Set the dripping pan on a few coals, with a small quantity of water, with merely the cover over it, and it will be done in the same time with less fire, less trouble, and no drawing out of smoke. Puddings may be done in the same way, and also custards.

When a pig is baked, a nice crisp may be given by rubbing it over well with butter. It is better than oil, on account of the salt.




The first caution is, that whatever is used for boiling must be perfectly dean. The second, keep it constantly boiling. Salt meat may be put into cold, and fresh into hot water. If a scum rises upon the surface, it must skimmed off, or it will


discolour the meat. Never crowd the pot with meat, but leave room for plenty of water. Allow a quarter of an hour for every pound of meat. An old fowl will need boiling three or four hours. A grown one an hour and a half. A pullet an hour. A chicken about half an hour.


Beef. A large roasting piece will bake in four hours, a smaller one in three or three and a half.

Mutton. A leg, or saddle, will require two hours and a half each. A shoulder, loin, neck, and heart, will each need an hour and a half or three quarters.

Veal. A fillet, which is the thick part of the hind quarter, will require four or five hours. A loin, or shoulder, from three to three and a half. A neck, or breast, nearly two hours.

Lamb. A hind-quarter of lamb, is generally cooked whole, and requires nearly two hours. A fore-quarter, two hours. A leg nearly an hour and a half. A shoulder and breast, one hour.

Pork. A leg will require nearly three hours, A thick spare-rib, two hours or more; a thin one, an hour and a quarter or half. A loin will bake in two hours or more. A pig, three or four weeks old, will require but about an hour and a half.

Venison. A large haunch, will require four and a half; a smaller one, about three hours.


Turkey. The largest size will require three a smaller one, two hours; the least size, one hour and a half,


Goose. A full grown goose will require nearly two hours; but a young one will roast in an hour.

Duck. The largest will bake in less than an hour; the smaller ones in half an hour. Pricking with a fork will determine you, whether done or not. Fowls should be well done through, and all meats but beef; this is generally preferred rare done.






Whiskey Vinegar.

    Take five gallons of soft clean water; two quarts of whiskey; two quarts of molasses, and half a pint of good fresh yeast. Lay a sheet of white paper at the bottom of the keg, and put in the mixture. Place it in the warm sun, and in six weeks it will be fit for use. If made in winter, it should be kept where there is a fire.


Cider Vinegar.

This may be made of poor cider, or that which is good, weakened a little with water. It should be partly drawn off, after the cider is well worked, leaving the casks about two thirds full. A piece of wire gauze, or a linen cloth, let in a little, should be nailed over for a cover to keep out flies, and also for a strainer. When the vinegar is good, which will be sometimes in six months by frequent shaking, it may be increased by adding occasionally the juice of fruit, the rinsings of sweetmeat jars, cold tea, &c.

Sugar Vinegar.

To each gallon of water, add two pounds of brown sugar and a little yeast; expose it to the sun for six months, in a vessel slightly stopped.

Honey Vinegar.

Mix one pound of honey with a gallon of cider, and expose it to the sun, or keep it where it is warm, and in a few months it will be so strong that water will be necessary to dilute it,



White Spruce Beer.

Three pounds of loaf sugar; five gallons of water; with enough of essence of spruce to give it a flavour; a cup of good yeast; a little lemon peel, if you choose; and when fermented, bottle it up close. It is a delightful beverage in warm weather.


Ginger Beer.

One cup of ginger; one pint of molasses; one pail and a half of water, and a cup of lively yeast. In warm weather it may be made cold, but in cold weather, scald the ginger with two quarts of hot water, and the rest cold. Add the yeast when slightly warm. It should be put in jars or bottles, and securely corked. It is a pleasant and lively beverage, and will keep several weeks.

Common Small Beer.

A handful of hops to a pailful of water; a pint of bran, and half a pint of molasses; a cup of yeast and a spoonful of ginger.

Root Beer.

Take a pint of bran; a handful of hops; some twigs of spruce, hemlock or cedar; a little sassafrasfras, or not, as you have it; roots of various kinds, plantains, burdocks, dock, dandelions, &c.; boil and strain, add a spoonful of ginger molasses to make it pleasant, and a cup of yeast. When you want it soon, let one bottle stand where it is warm, and the rest will work cold. This for a gallon.

Molasses Beer.

Six quarts of water; two quarts of molasses; half a pint of yeast; two spoonsful of cream tartar. Stir all together. Add the grated peel of a lemon; and the juice may be substituted for the cream tartar. Bottle, after standing ten or twelve hours, with a raisin in each.



Harvest Drink.

Mix with five gallons of water, half a gallon of molasses, one quart of vinegar, and two ounces of powdered ginger. This will make not only a very pleasant beverage, but one highly invigorating and healthful.

To Restore Acid Beer.

Stir in a small quantity of saleratus with a spoonful of sugar, and it is even richer and better than at first. To be prepared as you use it.


Take good lemons, roll them, then cut and squeeze them into a pitcher. Add loaf sugar and cold water, till it makes a pleasant drink. It should be sweet; it is sometimes too acid to be agreeable. Send round in small glasses with' handles, or in tumblers a little more than half full. It is a favourite beverage for evening parties.


This is made in the same manner as lemonade.

[CHAPTER 8 - PAGE 123]



To clean Calico Furniture, when taken down for the summer.

     Shake off the loose dust, then lightly brush with a small long-haired furniture-brush; after which wipe it closely, with clean flannels, and rub it with dry bread. If properly done, the curtains will look nearly as well as at first; and, if the colour be not light, they will not require washing for years.

     Fold in large parcels, and put carefully by.

     While the furniture remains up, it should be preserved from the sun and air as much as possible, which injure delicate colours; and the dust may be blown off with bellows.

     By the above mode, curtains may be kept clean, even to use with the linings newly dipped.

To clean Plate.

     Boil an ounce of prepared hartshorn-powder in a quart of water: while on the fire, put into it as much plate as the vessel will hold let it boil a little, then take it out, drain it over the saucepan, and dry it before the fire. Put in more, and serve the same, till you have done. Then put into the water some clean linen rags, till all be soaked up. When dry, they will serve to clean the plate, and are the very best things to clean the brass locks and finger-plates of doors. When the plate is quite dry, it must be rubbed bright with leather. This is a very nice mode. In mans- plate-powders

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there is a mixture of quicksilver, which is very injurious; and, among other disadvantages, it makes silver so brittle, that from a fall it will break.

To clean Looking-Glasses.

Remove the fly-stains and other soil by a damp rag; then polish with woollen cloth and powder blue.

To preserve Gilding, and clean it.

It is not possible to prevent flies from staining the gilding without covering it; before which blow off the light dust, and pass a feather or clean brush over it: then with strips of paper cover the frames of your glasses, and not remove till the flies are gone.

    Linen takes off the gilding, and deadens its brightness; it should therefore never be used for wiping it.

     Some means should be used to destroy the flies, as they injure furniture of every kind, and the paper likewise. Bottles hung about with sugar and vinegar, or beer, will attract them; or fly-water, put into little shells placed about the room, but out of the reach of children.

To clean Paint.

Never use a cloth, but take off the dust with a little long-haired brush, after blowing off the loose parts with the bellows. With care, paint will look well for a length of time. When soiled, dip a sponge or a bit of flannel into soda and water, wash it off quickly, and dry immediately, or the strength of the soda will eat off the colour.

[CHAPTER 8 - PAGE 125]

    When wainscot requires scouring, it should be done from the top downwards, and the soda be prevented from running on the unclean part as much as possible, or marks will be made which will appear after the whole is finished. One person should dry with old linen, as fast as the other has scoured off the dirt and washed the soda off.

To clean Paper-Hangings.

First blow off the dust with the bellows. Divide a white loaf of eight days old into eight parts. Take the crust into your hand, and, beginning at the top of the paper, wipe it downwards in the lightest manner with the crumb. Do not cross, nor go upwards. The dirt of the paper and the crumbs will fall together. Observe, you must not wipe above half a yard at a stroke, and, after doing all the upper part, go round again, beginning a little above where you left off. If you do not do it extremely lightly, you will make the dirt adhere to the paper. It will look like new if properly done.

To give a Gloss to Fine Oak-Wainscot.

If greasy, it must be washed with warm beer; then boil two quarts of strong beer, a bit of bees'wax as large as a walnut, and a large spoonful of sugar: wet it all over with a large brush, and, when dry, rub it till bright.

To give a Fine Colour to Mahogany.

Let the tables be washed perfectly clean with vinegar, having first taken out any ink-stains there

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may be with spirit of salt; but it must be used with the greatest care, and only touch the part affected, and be instanly washed off. Use the following liquid: - Into a pint of cold-drawn linseed-oil, put four-pennyworth of alkanet-root and two-pennyworth of rose-pink, in an earthen vessel; let it remain all night; then stirring well, rub some of it all over the tables with a linen rag; when it has lain some time, rub it bright with linen cloths.

    Eating-tables should be covered with mat, oilcloth, or baize, to prevent staining, and be instantly rubbed when the dishes are taken off, while still warm.

To take Ink out of Mahogany.

    Dilute half a tea-spoonful of oil of vitriol with a large spoonful of water, and touch the part with a feather; watch it, for if it stays too long it will leave a white mark. It is therefore better to rub it quick, and repeat if not quite removed.


Should be chosen that are painted on a fine cloth, which is well covered with colour, and the flowers on which do not rise much above the ground, as they wear out first. The durability of the cloth will depend much on these two particulars, but more especially on the time it has been painted, and the goodness of the colours. If they have not been allowed sufficient space for becoming thoroughly hardened, a very little use will injure

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them; and, as they are very expensive articles, care in preserving them is necessary. It answers to keep them some time before they are used, either hung up in a dry barn where they will have air, or laid down in a spare room.

When taken up for the winter, they should be rolled round a carpet-roller, and observe not to crack the paint by turning the edges in too suddenly.

Old carpets answer extremely well, painted and seasoned some months before laid down. If for passages, the width must be directed when they are sent to the manufactory, as they are cut before painting.

To clean Floor-Cloths.

Sweep, then wipe them with a flannel; and when all dust and spots are removed, rub with a waxed flannel, and then with a dry plain one; but use little wax, and rub only enough with the latter to give a little smoothness, or it may endanger falling.

Washing now and then with milk, after the above sweeping and dry-rubbing them, gives as beautiful a look, and they are less slippery.

To dust Carpets and Floors.

    Sprinkle tea-leaves on them, then sweep carefully.
     The former should not be swept frequently with a whisk-brush, as it wears them fast; only once a week, and the other times with the leaves and a hair-brush.

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To clean Carpets.

    Take up the carpet, let it be Well beaten, then laid down, and brush on both sides With a hand-brush; turn it the right side upwards, and scour it with ox-gall and soap and water very clean, and dry it with linen cloths. They lay it on grass, or' hang it up to dry.

To give to Boards a beautiful appearance.

    After washing them very nicely clean with soda and warm water and a brush, wash them with a very large sponge and clean water. Both times observe to leave no spot untouched; and clean straight up and down, not crossing from board to board; then dry with clean cloths, rubbed hard, up and down in the same way.

     The floors should not be often wetted, but very thoroughly when done; and once a-week dry-rubbed with hot sand and a heavy brush, the right way of the boards.

     The sides of stairs or passages on which are car-pets or floor-cloth, should be washed with sponge instead of linen or flannel, and the edges will not be soiled. Different sponges should be kept for the above two uses; and those and the brushes should be well washed when done with.

To extract Oil from Boards or Stone.

    Make a strong ley of pearl-ashes and soft water, and add as much unslaked lime as it will take up; stir it together, and then let it settle a few minutes; bottle it, and stop close; have ready

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some water to lower it as used, and scour the part with it. If the liquor should lie long on the boards, it will draw out the colour of them: therefore do it with care and expedition.


To clean Stone Stairs and Halls.

Boil a pound of pipe-maker's clay with a quart of water, a quart of small beer, and put in a bit of stone-blue. Wash with this mixture, and, when dry, rub the stones with flannel and a brush.


To blacken the fronts of Stone Chimney-Pieces.

    Mix oil-varnish with lamp-black, and a little spirit of turpentine to thin it to the consistence of paint. Wash the stone with soap and water very clean; then sponge it with clear water; and when perfectly dry, brush it over twice with this colour, letting it dry between the times. It looks extremely well, The lamp-black must be sifted first.

To take Stains out of Marble.

    Mix unslaked lime in finest powder with the stronger soap-Icy, pretty thick, and instantly, with a painter's brush, lay it on the whole of the marble. In two months' time, wash it off perfectly clean; then have ready a fine thick lather of soft soap, boiled in soft water; dip a brush in it, and scour the marble with powder, not as common cleaning. This will, by very good rubbing, give a beautiful polish. Clear off the soap, and finish with a smooth hard brush till the end be effected.

[CHAPTER 8 - PAGE 130]

To take Iron-Stains out of Marble.

    An equal quantity of fresh spirit of vitriol and lemon-juice being mixed in a bottle, shake it well; wet the spots, and in a few minutes rub with soft linen till they disappear.

To preserve Irons from Rust.

    Melt fresh mutton-suet, smear over the iron with it while hot; then dust it well with unslaked lime, pounded and tied up in a muslin. Irons so prepared will keep many months. Use no oil for them at any time, except seal oil, there being water in all other.

    Fire-irons should be kept wrapped in baize, in a dry place, when not used.

Another way.

    Beat into three pounds of unsalted hog's-lard two drachms of camphor, sliced thin, till it is dissolved; then take as much black-lead as will make it of the colour of broken steel. Dip a rag into it, and rub it thick on the stove, &c., and the steel will never rust, even if wet. When it is to be used, the grease must be washed off with hot water, and the steel be dried before polishing.

To take Rust out of Steel.

    Cover time steel with sweet oil well rubbed on it, and, in forty-eight hours, use unslaked lime finely powdered, to rub until all the rust disappears.

To clean the Back of the Grate, the In
ner Hearth,and the Fronts of Cast-Iron Stoves.

    Boil about a quarter of a pound of the best

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black-lead with a pint of small beer and a bit of soap the size of a walnut. When that is melted, dip a painter's brush, and wet the grate, having first brushed off all the soot and dust; then take a hard brush and rub it till of a beautiful brightness.

Another way to clean Cast-Iron and Black Hearths.

    Mix black-lead and whites of eggs well beaten together: dip a painter's brush, and wet all over; then rub it bright with a hard brush.

To take theBlack of the bright bars of Polished Stoves in a few minute.

    Rub them well with some of the following mixture on a bit of broad-cloth: when the dirt is removed, wipe them clean, and polish glass (not sand) paper.

    The Mixture.-Boil slowly one pound of soft soap in two quarts of water to one. Of this jelly take three or four spoonsful, and mix to a consistence with emery.

To clean Tin Coversand Patent Pewter Porter-Pots.

 Get the finest whiting, which is only sold in large cakes, the small being mixed with sand; mix a little of it powdered with the least drop of sweet oil, and rub well, and wipe clean; then dust some dry whitening in a muslin bag over, and rub bright with dry leather. The last is to prevent rust, which the cook must be careful to

[CHAPTER 8 - PAGE 132]

guard against by wiping dry, and putting by the fire when they come from the parlour; for if but once hung up without, the steam will rust the inside.

To prevent the Creaking of a Door.

    Rub a bit of soap on the hinges.

A strong Paste for Paper.

    To two large spoonsful of fine flour, put as much pounded rosin as will lie on a shilling; mix with as much strong beer as will make it of a due consistence, and boil half an hour. Let it be cold before it is used.

Fine Blacking for Shoes.

    Take four ounces of ivory-black, three ounces of the coarsest sugar, a table-spoonful of sweet oil, and a pint of small beer; mix them gradually, cold.