Friday Nov 7th Mr Bartlett left in the stage this morning
and George & Mrs Witherell went to Boston I have made
13 lbs Quince preserve 4 lbs jelly and a lot of marmalade
and painted my leaf for the table and it has
kept me busy all day. Jane went to Mansfield
yesterday with Mrs H & Ames. Bridget is here yet
was taken with a bad pain in her stomach this
evening & sent for her husband & Dr Wales
Mr. Bartlett of Maine departed the house this morning, and Sarah Ames Witherell rode into Boston with her fourteen-year old son, George Oliver Witherell. Her guests, too, had departed, and she was free to go into town.
Without assistance from servants Jane McHanna, who was away, or Bridget O’Neil, who was sick, Evelina stood over her stove today turning at least a peck of quinces into preserves, jelly and marmalade. The store of fruit would be an important addition to the Ames’s dinner table over the winter. A period recipe for making quince preserves, from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort reminds us of the challenges 19th century cooks faced when preserving food:
“Weigh a pound of best sugar for a pound of fruit, pared and cored. Boil the fruit in water until it becomes so soft that care is necessary in taking it out. Drain the pieces a little as you take them from the water, and lay them into a jar […] Stone jars will do very well, but if glass is used, it is easy to see whether fermentation commences, without opening them. Quinces done in this way are very elegant, about the color of oranges, and probably will not need scalding to keep them as long as you wish. If any tendency to fermentation appears, as may be the case by the following May or June, set the jar (if it is in stone) into the oven after bread has been baked, and the quince will become a beautiful light red, and will keep almost any length of time.” *
Quince is a fruit that we Americans don’t see much of in the 21st century, but it was commonly used in the 19th. A poor eating fruit, too sour to consume raw, it was high in pectin and kept well, once cooked. In fact, quince was one of the earliest fruits to be made into marmalade; the word marmalade derives from marmelo, the Portuguese word for quince.**
* Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort, New York, 1845.
** “Quince,” Wikipedia, November 5, 2014