Preserves - The Victorian Way
From 'The Dictionary of Daily Wants' - 1859
PRESERVES, DIRECTIONS FOR PREPARING. - In performing this process it is
desirable to have three or four wooden spoons, or spatulas, a fine hair sieve, or two
large squares of common muslin, and strainer of closer texture. A pan, as seen
in the engraving, is the one ordinarily used for boiling the fruit in.
Brass pans, scoured till they are brightly clean, are still much
used for making preserves; but a vessel of double block tin, or of iron very thickly
tinned, or, better, enamelled, if kept for jellies and sweet things, answers very well,
and is safer, particularly for the coarser preserves, which, being generally made with
a coarse allowance of sugar, require long boiling.
Damp is a great enemy to preserves, and they should therefore be kept in
a dry cool place. When the slightest fermentation is perceptible in the syrup,
it should be immediately boiled for some moments, and well skimmed; the fruit taken from
it should then be thrown in, and well scalded also; and the whole, when done, should be
turned into a very clean dry jar.
The following are a few general rules and directions for preserving.
Let everything ased for the purpose be delica+ely clean and dry, bottles especially so.
Never place a preserving pan flat upon the fire, as this will render the preserve liable
to burn to, as it is called; that is to say, to adhere closely to the metal, and then to
burn; it should rest always on a trivet, or on the lowered bars of a kitchen range,
when there is no regular preserving stove in the house. After the sugar is added to them,
stir the preserves gently at first, and more quickly towards the end, without quitting
them until they are done; this precaution will always preheat the chance of their being
spoiled. All preserves should be carefully cleared of the scum as it rises.
Fruit which is preserved in syrup must first be blanched or boiled gently,
until it sufficiently softens to absorb the sugar; and a thin syrup must be poured on it
at first, or it will shrivel instead of remaining plump and becoming clear. Thus, if its
weight of sugar is to be allowed, and boiled to a syrup with a pint of water to the pound,
only half the weight must be taken at first, and this must not be boiled with the water
more than fifteen or twenty minutes at the commencement of the process; a part of the
remaining sugar must be added every time the syrup is reboiled, unless it should be
otherwise directed in the receipt. To preserve both the true flavour and the colour of
the fruit in jams and jellies, boil them rapidly until they are well reduced, before
the sugar is added, and quickly afterwards; but do not allow them to become so much
thickened that the sugar will not dissolve in them easily and throw up the scum.
In some seasons the juice is so much richer than in others, that this
effect takes place suddenly; but the drop which adheres to the skimmer when it is held
up, will show the state it has reached. Never use tin, iron, or pewter spoons or
skimmers for preserves, as they will convert the colour of red fruit into a dingy purple,
and impart besides a very unpleasant flavour. When cheap jams or jellies are required,
make them with Lisbon sugar, but use that which is well refined always for preserves in
Let fruits for preserving be always gathered in perfectly dry weather, and
be free both from the morning and evening dew, and, as much as possible, from dust. Never
squeeze fruit too much: take merely the juice that flows freely, and use what remains
for made wine or plain jams. Unless preserves are bright, and of a fine colour,
they will lose half their value; and this they will never be if the fruit is squeezed
till the skins and seeds are broken. Let sieves be dipped in and jelly-bags be wrung
out of hot water before using them, or they will absorb a great quantity of the jelly.
For tying down preserves, shape papers the size of the pots or jars, but
leaving them an inch and a half longer, that they may tie and overlap the edges; brush
these papers inside, till thoroughly saturated, with beaten white of egg; tie on while
moist. They will dry and collapse like bladder. Nothing, however, can more thoroughly
exclude the air than bladder over corks, or double bladder. For preserving raw fresh
fruits that are merely scalded, good corks dipped in resin are effectual; and for
preserved stone-fruit, melted suet in a thick layer is sometimes poured upon the paper.