Advice to House Servants

Miscellaneous Observations, Compiled for the use of House Servants

Many well-meaning servants are ignorant of the best means of managing, and thereby waste as much as would maintain a small family, besides causing the mistress of the house much chagrin by their irregularity: and many families, from a want of method, have the appearance of chance rather than of regular system. To avoid this, the following hints may be useful as well as economical:-- Every article should be kept in that place best suited to it, as much waste may thereby be avoided, viz. Vegetables will best keep on a stone floor; if the air be excluded.—Meat in a cold dry place.—Sugar and sweetmeats require a dry place; so does salt.—Candles cold, but not damp.—Dried meats, hams, &c. the same.—All sorts of seeds for puddings, saloop, rice, &c. should be close covered, to preserve from insects; but that will not prevent it, if long kept. Bread is so heavy and article of expense, that all waste should be guarded against; and having it cut in the room will tend much to prevent it. It should not be cut until a day old. Earthen pans and covers keep it best. Straw to lay apples on, should be quite dry, to prevent a musty taste. Large pears should be tied up by the stalk. Basil, savoury, or knotted marjoram, or thyme, to be used when herbs are ordered; but with discretion, as they are very pungent. The best means to preserve blankets from moths is to fold and lay them under the feather-beds that are in use; and they should be shaken occasionally. When soiled, they should be washed, not scoured. Soda, by softening water, saves a great deal of soap, It should be melted in a large jug of water, some of which pour into the tubs and boiler; and when the latter becomes weak, add more. The new improvement of soft soap is, if properly used, a saving of near half in quantity; and though sometimes dearer than the hard, reduces the price of washing considerably. Many good laundresses advise soaping linen in warm water the night previous to washing, as facilitating the operation with less friction. Soap should be cut with a wire or twine, in pieces that will make a long square when first brought in, and kept out of the air two or three weeks; for if it dry quick, it will crack, and when wet, break. Put it on a shelf, leaving a space between, and let it grow hard gradually. Thus, it will save a full third in consumption. Some of the lemons and oranges used for juice should be pared first, to preserve the peel dry; some should be halved, and when squeezed, the pulp cut out, and the outsides dried for grati8ng. If for boiling in any liquid, the first way is best. When these fruits are cheap, a proper quantity should be bought and prepared as above directed, especially by those who live in the country, where they cannot always be had; and they are perpetually wanted in cookery. When whites of eggs are used for jelly, or other purposed, contrive to have pudding, custard, &c, to employ the yolks also. Should you not want them for several hours, heat them up with a little water and put them in a cool place, or they will be hardened and useless. It was a mistake of old to think that the whites made cakes and puddings heavy; on the contrary, if beaten long and separately, they contribute a greatly to give lightness, are and advantage to paste, and make a pretty dish, beaten with fruit, to set in cream, &c. If copper utensils be used in the kitchen, the cook should be charged to be very careful not to let the tin be rubbed off, and to have them fresh done when the least defect appears, and never to put any soup, gravy, &c. in them, or any metal utensil: stone and earthen vessels should be provided for those purposes, as likewise plenty of common dishes, that the table-set may not be used to put by cold meat. Tin vessels, if kept damp, soon rust, which causes holes. Fenders, tin linings of flowerpots, &c. should be painted every year or two. Vegetables soon sour, and corrode metals and glazed red ware, by which a strong poison is produced. Some years ago, the death of several gentlemen was occasioned at Salt Hill (London) by the cook sending out a ragout to the table which she had kept from the preceding day in a copper vessel badly tinned. Vinegar, by its acidity, does the same, the glazing being of lead or arsenic. To cool liquors in hot weather, dip a cloth in cold water, and wrap it round the bottle two or three times, then place it in the sun: renew the process once or twice. The best way of scalding fruits, or boiling vinegar, is in a stone jar on a hot iron hearth; or by putting the vessel into a saucepan of water, called a water bath. If chocolate, coffee, jelly, gruel, bark, &c. be suffered to boil over, the strength is lost. The cook should be charged to take care of jelly-bags, tapes for the collared things, &c. which if not perfectly scalded, and kept dry, give an unpleasant flavor when next used. Cold water, when thrown on cast-iron, when hot, will cause it to crack. From The House Servant’s Directory or A Monitor for Private Families: comprising of hints on the arrangement and performance of servants’ work, with general rules for settings out tables and sideboards in first order; The art of waiting in all it’s branches, and likewise how to conduct large and small parties with order; with general directions for placing on table all kinds of joints, fish, fowl, &c. with Full instructions for cleaning Plate, Brass, Steel, Glass, Mahogany: and likewise all kinds of patent and common lamps: Observations on servants’ behaviour to their employers; and upwards of 100 various and useful receipts, chiefly compiled for the use of house servants, and identically made to suit the manners and customs of families in the United States By Robert Roberts. With Friendly advice to cooks and heads of families, and complete directions how to burn Lehigh coal. by Robert Roberts, Butler to The Honorable Christopher Gore, Governor of Massachusetts, 1809 Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at