Providing For “Pinch Time”

This is the third article in February of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Feb 19, 1905, and is an article on fruits and winter fare.

School for Housewives – Providing For “Pinch Time”

The Period between Seasons When There Is Little in the Market for Any but the Wealthy

The term was as well known in Old Virginia as the name of any other season. It signified the weeks separating the dead of winter from the first advance of spring. Housekeepers looked forward to it with dread born of experience. Hardy vegetables which “kept over” from autumn to spring were losing their freshness. Potatoes had a bilious tinge and a rank “tang” to the palate; turnips were pithy; beets were hard; apples began to wither, toughen and rot.

To cap the climax of discontent, appetite were jaded by the monotony of winter fare and cried out for tempting variety.

Like conditions prevail to this day although in a mitigated degree, in families where forced fruits and vegetables are not to be had for money, or where money cannot be hard for the purchase of them. Growing children crave sweets, and account that meal a failure where these do not follow beats, bread and butter and the invariable potato. The longing is a law of nature. The saccharine which, the child says, “takes the greasy taste out of his mouth,” changes in the stomach to a digestive acid, acting beneficently upon said fatty matter. It is when these work upon an empty and tried stomach that they are injuries. With young people and mature sweet-lovers in my eye, I shall, today, talk of certain inexpensive methods of preparing dried fruits for the table that may cheat pinch time of its severity and lessen the grip upon the housewife’s purse that adds bitterness to the season.

By selecting dried fruits, pass by barrels and kegs of apples cured in the evil old way, to wit, in the open air, exposed to dust and bacteria and mold, to bees, ants and wasps. Took often, as our disgusted memories will testify, the hurdles of drying fruit set in the hottest sunshine temped the ease-loving cat to a siesta and chickens to picking and stealing. Our mothers, mindful of these things, washed dried fruits in several waters before putting them to soak. One housekeeper, a notable member of what in the blunt speech of the day was known as “the nasty-particular school,” used to wash her “cured” apples, peaches and pears with soap, trusting to many rinsings to remove the taste left by the process.

We have changed all that. The least “particular” of country housekeepers dries her fruit under mosquito netting raised a foot or so above the hurdle, to allow a free passage of air. All the same, unless you have put up your own fruit, buy the evaporated, desiccated in kilns and so quickly that flavor and juices have not time to escape.

APPLE PREPARATIONS

A compote of dried applies will find instant favor with the youngsters as a sequel to a bread-and-butter and milk supper.

Wash a cup of evaporated apples, drain and soak for three hours in clean water enough to cover them. Stew tender at the end of that time in the water in which they were soaked. When cooked soft they should have absorbed all the liquid. Turn out; sweeten well and run through a colander or vegetable press. Set away until cold. A stick of cinnamon, cooked with the fruit, flavors it pleasantly.

A conserve of dried apples. The fruit is washed and soaked as in the preceding recipe. Drain dry, then put the liquid thus strained over the fire; bring to a boil and add a cupful of sugar to a pint of the juice, also a handful of sultana raisins, washed to two waters. Cook gently for an hour; let the syrup get almost cold; put in the apples and simmer half an hour, or until a straw will pierce them easily. Be careful not to let them break. Take out with a perforated spoon and put into a bowl. Boil the syrup hard one minute and pour over the fruit. Eat cold.

Dried apple and raisin pudding. Wash and soak the fruit as directed; cook tender as for the compote; lavishly sweeten; mash smooth and for each cupful allow half a cupful of seeded and halved raisins. Flavor with mace and cinnamon, and let the mixture get cold before adding a cupful of breadcrumbs soaked in one of milk, and two eggs beaten light. Lastly, stir in a half-teaspoonful of soda wet in a little boiling water. Beat all together very hard, and bake in a buttered dish. Send to table in the bake dish. Eat with hard sauce.

This pudding is nice boiled in a covered mold and turned out upon a hot platter.

OTHER DRIED FRUITS

A dried peach pudding is made in the same way, but the raisins are omitted.

A compote of dried pears and rice. Wash and soak the pears for four hours. Cook tender in the water in which they were soaked. Take out with a split spoon and lay in a bread platter. For each pint of the liquid left in the saucepan allow a cupful of sugar, and boil until it begins to thicken. Pour now over the pears; cover and let all stand together until lukewarm. Return to the fire and simmer for half an hour.

Having ready in a heated deep dish a mound of rice boiled so that each grain is separate from the rest; pour he hot fruit and syrup over it and send to table.

A charlotte of dried figs. Separate the figs from one another; wash them in three waters, rubbing each to make it pliant and lump. Soak for three hours in enough water to cover them well; stew in the same water until tender; add a cupful of sugar for each pound of figs and simmer slowly for half an hour. Turn out; cover closely, and when cool set on the ice or in a very cold place. When ready to serve them, put into a glass dish and heap high with whipped cream. They will be found delicious.

A prune charlotte. Sew a dozen and a half large prunes; when cold, remove the stones and chop fine. Whip a pint of cream very stiff with three tablespoonfuls of sugar, then whip the minced prunes into this. Line a glass dish with lady fingers, or thin slices of sponge cake, and fill the centre with the prune cream. Set in the ice box until time to serve.

A prune soufflé. Stone and chop eighteen stewed prunes. Beat the yolks of four eggs light with two tablespoonfuls of sugar. Cook together in a saucepan one tablespoonful of butter and two of flour, and when they are blended pour upon them a scant gill of hot milk. Cook, stirring, to a thick white sauce; beat this gradually into the yolks and sugar, and add the minced prunes. Beat hard for five minutes and set aside to cool. When cold add the stiffened whites of the four eggs, beat for a minute and turn into a buttered pudding dish. Bake in a hot oven for half an hour.

A FINE SAUCE

The sauce to be eaten with this pudding is made by heating the prune liquor, adding to it sugar and, when this is dissolved, a dash of lemon juice.

An Italian charlotte. Shell and boil Spanish chestnuts, remove the skins and rub the nuts through a colander. Sweeten to taste and neat to a soft paste with a little cream. Form the mixture into a pyramid in the centre of a chilled platter and heap sweetened whipped cream around it.

Marion Harland

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