A Bottle Jack

This item was used, probably in a well to do home, to assist with roasting a joint in front of a fire. Poorer families, if they ever had a roast joint of meat, used children to keep the joint turning.

Bottle jack used for roasting meat in front of a fire - an item at Market Lavington Museum

At Market Lavington Museum, we have the jack in front of our kitchen range.

The device is clockwork. The winding handle, which we have fastened at the top, was inserted into the slot behind the movable maker’s label to wind the mechanism up. The joint of meat was hung on the hook at the bottom although there may have been a flywheel to make the meat turn more evenly. A goodly fire was needed. The mechanism made the meat turn slowly so that it got evenly cooked right through.

Let’s quote from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management to learn more.

THE BOTTLE-JACK, of which we here give an illustration, with the wheel and hook, and showing the precise manner of using it, is now commonly used in many kitchens.

Mrs Beeton's diagram of a bottle jack in use

This consists of a spring inclosed in a brass cylinder, and requires winding up before it is used, and sometimes, also, during the operation of roasting. The joint is fixed to an iron hook, which is suspended by a chain connected with a wheel, and which, in its turn, is connected with the bottle-jack. Beneath it stands the dripping-pan, which we have also engraved, together with the basting-ladle, the use of which latter should not be spared; as there can be no good roast without good basting. “Spare the rod, and spoil the child,” might easily be paraphrased into “Spare the basting, and spoil the meat.” If the joint is small and light, and so turns unsteadily, this may be remedied by fixing to the wheel one of the kitchen weights. Sometimes this jack is fixed inside a screen; but there is this objection to this apparatus, — that the meat cooked in it resembles the flavour of baked meat. This is derived from its being so completely surrounded with the tin, that no sufficient current of air gets to it. It will be found preferable to make use of a common meat-screen, such as is shown in the woodcut. This contains shelves for warming plates and dishes; and with this, the reflection not being so powerful, and more air being admitted to the joint, the roast may be very excellently cooked.

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