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Preserving Fruit and Vegetables

Preparing a Plot    Vegetable Crops    Planting Schedule    Vegetables in season

The nature of growing crops is that they tend to mature all at once and there will be too much to consume at the time. The best way to deal with this is to preserve the excess for later.
The following are paragraphs from the famous publication of the late nineteenth century, "Enquire Within Upon Everything" on the preserving of fruit and vegetables (The paragraph numbers are from the eighty-ninth edition, revised, published in 1894).
The details given below describe the traditional processes, but much of the produce can also be frozen. Most vegetables require blanching which entails a brief scalding in boiling water to retain colour. Most cook books have a section on freezing. Some fruit can be juiced, then frozen - empty plastic milk cartons make good containers.

1619. Preserving Fruit.
The grand secret of preserving is to deprive the fruit of its water of vegetation in the shortest time possible; for which purpose the fruit ought to be gathered just at the point of proper maturity. An ingenious French writer considers fruit of all kinds as having four distinct periods of maturity--the maturity of vegetation, of honeyfication, of expectation, and of coction.
1620. The First Period.
The first period he considers to be that when, having gone through the vegetable processes up to the ripening, it appears ready to drop spontaneously. This, however, is a period which arrives sooner in the warm climate of France than in the colder orchards of England; but its absolute presence may be ascertained by the general filling out of the rind, by the bloom, by the smell, and by the facility with which it may be plucked from the branch. But even in France, as generally practised in England, this period may be hastened, either by cutting circularly through the outer rind at the foot of the branch, so as to prevent the return of the sap, or by bending the branch to a horizontal position on an espalier, which answers the same purpose.
1621. The Second Period.
The second period, or that of Honeyfication, consists in the ripeness and flavour which fruits of all kinds acquire if plucked a few days before arriving at their first maturity, and preserved under a proper degree of temperature. Apples may acquire or arrive at this second degree of maturity upon the tree, but it too often happens that the flavour of the fruit is thus lost, for fruit over-ripe is always found to have parted with a portion of its flavour.
1622. The Third Stage.
The third stage, or of Expectation, as the theorist quaintly terms it, is that which is acquired by pulpy fruits, which, though sufficiently ripe to drop off the tree, are even then hard and sour. This is the case with several kinds both of apples and pears, not to mention other fruits, which always improve after keeping in the confectionery,--but with respect to the medlar and the quince, this maturity of expectation is absolutely necessary.
1623. The Fourth Degree.
The fourth degree of maturity, or of Coction, is completely artificial, and is nothing more nor less than the change produced upon fruit by the aid of culinary heat.
1624. Maturity of Vegetation.
We have already pointed out the first object necessary in the preservation of fruit, its maturity of vegetation, and we may apply the same principle to flowers or leaves which may be gathered for use.
1625. Flowers.
The flowers ought to be gathered a day or two before the petals are ready to drop off spontaneously on the setting of the fruit: and the leaves must be plucked before the season has begun to rob them of their vegetable juices. The degree of heat necessary for the purpose of drying must next be considered, as it differs considerably with respect to different substances.

1626. Degrees of Heat Required.
Flowers or aromatic plants require the smallest increase of heat beyond the temperature of the season, provided that season be genial: something more for rinds or roots, and a greater heat for fruits; but this heat must not be carried to excess.
1627. Proportions of Heat.
Philosophic confectioners may avail themselves of the thermometer; but practice forms the best guide in this case, and therefore we shall say, without speaking of degrees of Fahrenheit or Réaumur, that if the necessary heat for flowers is one, that for rinds and roots must be one and a quarter, that for fruits one and three quarters, or nearly double of what one may be above the freezing point.
1628. Hints about making Preserves.
It is not generally known that boiling fruit a long time, and _skimming it well, without sugar_, and _without a cover_ to the preserving pan, is a very economical and excellent way--economical, because the bulk of the scum rises from the _fruit_, and not from the _sugar_; but the latter should be good. Boiling it without a _cover_ allows the evaporation of all the watery particles therefrom, and renders the preserves firm and well flavoured. The proportions are, three quarters of a pound of sugar to a pound of fruit. Jam made in this way of currants, strawberries, raspberries, or gooseberries, is excellent. The sugar should be added after the skimming is completed.
1629. To make a Syrup.
Dissolve one pound of sugar in about a gill of water, boil for a few minutes, skimming it till quite clear. To every two pounds of sugar add the white of one egg well beaten. Boil very quickly, and skim carefully while boiling.
1630. Covering for Preserves.
White paper cut to a suitable size, dipped in brandy, and put over the preserves when cold, and then a double paper tied over the top. All preserves should stand a night before they are covered. Instead of brandy, the white of eggs may be used to glaze the paper covering, and the paper may be pasted round the edge of the pot instead of tied--it will exclude the air better.
1631. To Bottle Fruits.
Let the fruit to be preserved be quite dry, and without blemish. Take a bottle that is perfectly clean and dry within, and put in the fruit in layers, sprinkling sugar between each layer, put in the bung, and tie bladder over, setting the bottles, bung downwards, in a large stewpan of cold water, with hay between to prevent breaking. When the skin is just cracking, take them out. All preserves require exclusion from the air. Place a piece of paper dipped in sweet oil over the top of the fruit; prepare thin paper, immersed in gum-water, and while wet, press it over and around the top of the jar; as it dries, it will become quite firm and tight.
1632. Keeping Apples.
Apples for keeping should be laid out on a _dry_ floor for three weeks. They may then be packed away in layers, with dry straw between them. Each apple should be rubbed with a dry cloth as it is put away. They should be kept in a cool place, but should be sufficiently covered with straw to protect them from frost. They should be plucked on a dry day.
1633. Dried Apples.
Dried apples are produced by taking fine apples of good quality, and placing them in a very slow oven for several hours. Take them out occasionally, rub and press them flat. Continue until they are done. If they look dry, rub over them a little clarified sugar.
1634. Preserved Rhubarb.
Peel one pound of the finest rhubarb, and cut it into pieces of two inches in length; add three quarters of a pound of white sugar, and the rind and juice of one lemon--the rind to be cut into narrow strips. Put all into a preserving kettle, and simmer gently until the rhubarb is quite soft; take it out carefully with a silver spoon, and put it into jars; then boil the syrup a sufficient time to make it keep well,--say one hour,--and pour it over the fruit. When cold, put a paper soaked in brandy over it, and tie the jars down with a bladder to exclude the air. This preserve should be made in the spring.

1635. Dry Apricots.
Gather before ripe, scald in a jar put into boiling water, pare and stone them; put into a syrup of half their weight of sugar, in the proportion of half a pint of water to two pounds of sugar; scald, and then boil until they are clear. Stand for two days in the syrup, then put into a thin candy, and scald them in it. Keep two days longer in the candy, heating them each day, and then lay them on glasses to dry.
1636. Preserved Peaches.
Wipe and pick the fruit, and have ready a quarter of the weight of fine sugar in powder. Put the fruit into an ice-pot that shuts very close; throw the sugar over it, and then cover the fruit with brandy. Between the top and cover of the pot put a double piece of grey paper. Set the pot in a saucepan of water till the brandy is as hot as you can bear to put your finger into, but do not let it boil. Put the fruit into a jar, and pour on the brandy. Cover in same manner as preserves.
1637. Brandy Peaches.
Drop them into a weak boiling lye, until the skin can be wiped off. Make a thin syrup to cover them, boil until they are soft to the finger-nail; make a rich syrup, and add, after they come from the fire, and while hot, the same quantity of brandy as syrup. The fruit must be covered.
1638. Preserved Plums (1).
Cut your plums in half (they must not be quite ripe), and take out the stones. Weigh the plums, and allow a pound of loaf sugar to a pound of fruit. Crack the stones, take out the kernels, and break them in pieces. Boil the plurns and kernels very slowly for about fifteen minutes, in as little water as possible. Then spread them on a large dish to cool, and strain the liquor. Next day add your syrup, and boil for fifteen minutes. Put into jars, pour the juice over when warm, and tie up with bladder when cold, with paper dipped in brandy over the preserve.
1639. Preserved Plums (2).
Another Way.--Plums for common use are very good done in treacle. Put your plums into an earthen vessel that holds a gallon, having first slit each plum with a knife. To three quarts of plums put a pint of treacle. Cover them over, and set them on hot coals in the chimney corner. Let them stew for twelve hours or more, occasionally stirring, and next day put them up in jars. Done in this manner, they will keep till the next spring.
1640. To Preserve Lemons, Whole, for Dessert.
Take six fine, fresh, well-shaped lemons, cut a hole just round the stalk, and with a marrow-spoon scoop out the pips, and press out the juice, but leave the pulp in the lemons. Put them into a bowl with two or three quarts of spring water, to steep out the bitterness. Leave them three days, changing the water each day; or only two days if you wish them to be very bitter. Strain the juice as soon as squeezed out, boil it with one pound of loaf sugar (setting the jar into which it was strained in a pan of boiling water fifteen or twenty minutes); tie it up, _quite hot_, with bladder, and set by till wanted. Taste the water the lemons are lying in at the end of the third day; if not bitter, lift the lemons out into a china-lined pan, pour the water through a strainer upon them, boil gently one or two hours; set by in a pan. Boil again next day, until so tender that the head of a large needle will easily pierce the rind. Put in one pound of loaf sugar, make it just boil, and leave to cool. Next day boil the syrup, and pour it on the lemons; add one pound of sugar, and hot water to supply what was boiled away. Lift out the lemons, and boil the syrup and pour on them again every day for a fortnight, then every three or four days, adding gradually three pounds of sugar. When the lemons look clear and bright, boil the syrup pretty hard, add the lemon juice which had been set by, just boil, skim; put the lemons into jars, pour the syrup upon them, and tie up the jars _instantly_ with bladder.
1641. Preserved Ginger.
Scald the young roots till they become tender, peel them, and place in cold water, frequently changing the water: then put into a thin syrup, and, in a few days, put into jars, and pour a rich syrup over them.

Preparing a Plot    Vegetable Crops    Planting Schedule    Vegetables in season

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