May 27, 1852

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Stoneware or “earthen” jar 

1852 Thursday May 27th  We have cleaned the buttery

to day and we have had a hard job of it.

I have scalded my preserves have several 

lbs of citron & some quince & peach and

this afternoon have given my chamber a

thorough sweeping and washed the paint where

needed.  Have set out some plants from the

house.  Mr Ames went to Canton

The buttery or pantry area off the cook room got cleaned today, and the cleaning wasn’t easy. The women surely had to contend with hardened spills, grease residue and hidden dust pockets. They also would have had to move every bottle, jar, bowl, plate and pan out of the way in order to properly clean the shelves.

In the midst of this domestic upheaval, the women inspected the store of preserves and found that “several lbs of citron & some quince & peach” hadn’t kept well. They were beginning to ferment. To be saved, they needed to be scalded.

Lydia Maria Child, a multi-talented and rather opinionated author, wrote about “Preserves &c” in her classic household guide, The American Frugal Housewife.*  To begin with, she disapproved of preserves, noting that “[e]conomical people will seldom use” them.  “Let those who love to be invalids drink strong green tea, eat pickles, preserves and rich pastry,” she scolded.

But while preserves (and jam and jelly) were expensive and unhealthy, Mrs. Child knew that housewives would persevere in making and serving them.  Preserving fruit with sugar was a practical way to extend the life of a favorite fruit after the crop had ended and to do it in a way that gratified the common human sweet tooth. Resigned to popular preference, she included instructions for dealing with preserves that were going bad:

“When you put preserves in jars, lay a white paper, thoroughly wet with brandy, flat upon the surface of the preserves, and cover them carefully from the air.  If they begin to mould, scald them by setting them in the oven till boiling hot.  Glass is much better than earthen for preserves; they are not half as apt to ferment.”* Evelina evidently disagreed with Mrs. Child about the value of preserves, but no doubt she followed a proper procedure for bringing the preserves back from the bad side of the pantry.

 

*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1829, p. 59

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