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Making Preserves

( Originally Published 1904 )

Home made preserves are both a convenience and a luxury. When well and carefully made it is not only superior to that which is usually offered for sale, but very much more economical also, and no store-closet can be said to be well filled which does not boast a goodly show of neatly labelled jars of preserves. In making jam, the first thing to be looked after is the fruit. As a general rule, this should be fully ripe, fresh, sound, scrupulously clean and dry. It should be gathered in the morning of a sunny day, as it will then possess its finest flavor. The best sugar-is the cheapest; indeed, there is no economy in stinting the sugar, either as to quality or necessary quantity, for inferior -sugar is wasted in scum, and the jam will not keep unless a sufficient proportion of sugar is boiled with the fruit. At the same time too large a proportion of sugar will destroy the natural flavor of the fruit, and in all probability make the jam candy. The sugar should be dried and broken up into small pieces before it is mixed with the fruit.

If it is left in large lumps it will. be a long time in dissolving, and if it is crushed to powder it will make the jam look thick instead of clear and bright. The quantity to be used must depend in every instance on the nature of the fruit, and will be found in the several recipes throughout this work. Fruit is generally boiled in a brass or copper pan, uncovered, and this should be kept perfectly bright and clean. Great care should be taken not to place the pan flat upon the fire, as this will be likely to make the jam burn to the bottom of the pan. If it cannot be placed upon a stove-plate, it should be hung a little distance above the fire. Glass jars are much the best for jam, as through them the condition of the fruit can be observed. Whatever jars are used, however, the jam should be examined every three weeks for the first two months, and if there are any signs of either mould or fermentation, it should be boiled over again. The best way to cover jam is to lay a piece of paper the size of the jar upon the jam, to stretch over the top a piece of writing-paper or tissue paper which has been dipped in white of egg, and to press the sides closely down. When dry, this paper will be stiff and tight like a drum. The strict economist may use gum dissolved in water instead of white of egg. The object aimed at is to exclude the air entirely. Jam should be stored in a cool, dry place, but not in one into which fresh air never, enters. Damp has a tendency to make the fruit go mouldy, and heat to make it ferment. Some cooks cover the jam as soon as possible after it is poured out, but the generally approved plan is to let the fruit grow cold before covering it. In making jam, continual watchfulness is required, as the result of five minutes' inattention may. be loss and disappointment. There are other ways of pre-serving fruit besides making it into jam, such as drying, bottling, and candying.

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