This is the final article in May of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on May 26, 1907, and is the first of two talk on the art of canning fruits and vegetables.
Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.
A Revival of the Art of Preserving
IF THE agitation and alarm excited by “food scandals” with the details of which the newspapers have reeked lately have no other permanent result, they have revived the custom of domestic preserving in thousand of households.
Canning is hardly fifty years old. It made its way but slowly for time. We paid fifty cents apiece for cans of fresh tomatoes, and $1 for a quart of canned peaches. Then factories of “canned goods” started up like mushrooms after a summer shower all over the country; prices came down on the run under the weight of competition, old-fashioned preserves went out of favor. They were expensive; they took time and thought that might better be bestowed upon worthier objects, and they were less wholesome than fresh, ripe fruits which retained, when canned, the flavor of the “real thing.” Here and there a housewife who learned her trade in the late forties and early fifties was stubborn in the belief that preserves, properly made, hurt nobody, and that the canned fruits were insipid caricatures of the ripe originals.
By degrees thoughtful women with more advanced ideas upon most subjects have swung around to her standpoint. with regard to conserves of fruit. We have learned that much sugar and long cooking prevent the generation of mischievous germs, and that where there is a modicum of sugar, and that little, when combined with acid fruits, is not cooked long, other agencies must be called in to secure sterilization. Hence—by a natural process of reasoning—the lavish use of “chemicals” in canning factories. This admitted, much become clear to the housemotherly perceptions that had puzzled her heretofore. We knew that canned fruits needed the addition of sugar and cream to make them presentable to our palates as desserts. We were aware, even after they were thus qualified and dressed for the table of a slightly bitter flavor in the “chemical blondes” and a certain roughness left upon the tongue.
Thanks to scientific sleuths we know now the full (and the fell) meaning of these peculiar features of the cheap and convenient substitutes for our grandmothers’ preserves, and we have resolved—thousands of us—to do our canning and other kinds of preserving fruits and vegetables. The health of our children is of more value than our time—precious as that may be.
In the practical directions for putting up fruits which will follow will be found some for canning. During the winter, which is now, we fondly hope, “over and gone,” at last, have had so much solid comfort in the store of fruits put up last summer under my own eyes that I am in good heart for the recommendation to fellow-housewives to do likewise. The “canned things” of unrighteous commerce have long been proscribed from our bills of fare. Home-made jellies, marmalades, and preserves are more delicious and indubitably more wholesome.
The “system” of which we spoke last week is eminently desirable in this branch of cookery. Have everything that will be required in the work laid to your hand before you begin.
In dutiful and affectionate imitation of my own grandmother’s and my mother’s methods, I do the bulk of my preserving in the early morning. Every utensil is set in order on kitchen table; if jellying be the business in hand, the fruit, preserved last night, was put into a covered crock and set in a pot of hot water at bedtime, the fire being kept low all night. By the time I (and the sun) am ready for work, the currants, quinces, or crab apples are cooked soft in their own juice and ready for straining. By 9 o’clock the jelly is in glasses, and the cooking utensils washed. Preserving at high noon is what our English sisters call “beastly work.”
Choose fine, firm berries for preserving. The smaller and less sweet may be made into marmalade. It is well, on this account, to make marmalade on the same day. Cap the berries, handling lightly, not to bruise them. Allow a of fruit to one of sugar. Use the best grade of sugar in preserving.
Wash and drain the berries, not shaking the colander, yet letting all the water drip that will come away. Put a layer of fruit into the kettle; cover thickly with sugar, and fill the kettle in this order. Cover and set at the side of the range, where it will heat slowly for the first hour. Quicken the boil and cook steadily half an hour. Take out the berries, a few at a time, not to crush them, with a broad, perforated skimmer. Spread upon large platters and set in the sun you boil the syrup left in the kettle fast and hard. It should be quite thick in half an hour unless the berries were too watery. Return the berries to the syrup, and let all boil up once. Fill small glass jars with the hot preserves. Have them full, as the contents will shrink in cooling. Seal while hot.
The large yellow and red varieties are best for preserving, although the smaller kinds and wild “black caps” make good marmalade. Cook exactly as directed in the recipe for preserving strawberries.
German Preserved Strawberries.
By this name are known to sellers and buyers the singularly delicious strawberries put up in narrow, tall jars.
Prepare the berries as for preserving in the usual way, and put them with an equal number of pounds of sugar in the kettle. Bring to a gentle boil, keep this up for one minute, and transfer the fruit with a broad, perforated skimmer to several large platters. Cover with panes of glass and set in the full heat of the sun. Leave them there all day; take in sunset and put out again on the morrow. Meanwhile, boil down the syrup until rich and clear, set away and on the third day put it back on the fire. When hot add thee berries, boil for five minutes and seal in small jars.
For each pound of capped and weighted berries allow three-quarters of a pound of white sugar. Put the berries into the kettle and to a steady boil. Keep up for half an hour, then dip out all the juice that will come away without squeezing the fruit and add the sugar to the berries left in the kettle. Do not be afraid of getting the marmalade too dry. The sugar will make syrup enough. Cook for half an hour after the contents of the kettle begin to boil again and turn, boiling hot, into tumblers or jars, sealing at once.
Make jelly of the surplus juice you have dipped out.
Both manufactures may be carried on at the same time.
Get large tart cherries. Extract the stones, saving the juice that escapes in the operation. Put the sugar into the kettle with the juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Then add the fruit, cook for half an hour, take the cherries out with a skimmer and spread on broad platters in the sun. Boil the juice thick, skimming as the scum rises. In an hour’s time return the cherries to the syrup, cook slowly for fifteen minutes after the boll begins, anew, and turn hot into jars.
Take the skin from twelves large oranges. Before the skins have time to harden into dryness, remove the thick white lining and shred the outer yellow peel with sharp scissors into thin strips an inch long. Leave these in cold while you slice the pulp of the fruit thin, removing the tougher membrane and all seed. While you are about the work an assistant should prepare two large grape fruit and one lemon in like manner. Leave the skins in water—which must be very cold—until the prepared pulp is ready. Put pulp and peel together, draining the peel free of water, and set in a cold place all night.
In the morning measure the juice, straining the pulp through a colander, and mix with the liquid a pound of sugar for every pint. Return the juice to skins and pulp. Put them over the fire and bring to a slow boil. Simmer quietly until the peel is clear and tender. Then add the sugar and cook steadily for forty-five minutes longer. The peel should be translucent and the marmalade a clear golden jelly.
This is a truly exquisite conserve if properly made. Not even the famous Dundee marmalades surpasses it.
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