Small glasses of Currant Jelly were on display at The Israel
Crane House during last month’s Essex County (NJ) Holiday
Historical Houses Tour. To make them, I followed a receipt
in Eliza Leslie’s book, Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes,
and Sweetmeats (1828). It was a good way to use up all
those currants that were leftover from the mincemeat pie
I’d previously made. And I had great fun preparing them!
BLACK CURRANT JELLY.
Pick the currants from the stalks,
wash and drain them. Mash them
soft with a spoon, put them in a bag,
and squeeze out the juice. To each
pint of juice, allow three quarters
of a pound of loaf-sugar. Put the
juice and sugar into a preserving
kettle, and boil them about ten
minutes, skimming them well. Take
it immediately out of the kettle.
Put it warm into your glasses. Tie
it up with brandy papers. The juice
of black currants is so very thick,
that it requires less sugar and
less boiling than any other jelly.
In fact, I SO enjoyed making those jellies that I made another
batch for my historic foods presentation the weekend following
the Essex Tour. Only this time, I made Apple Jelly, to accompany
the currant jellies.
Again, I used a receipt from Leslie’s Seventy-Five Receipts:
Take the best pippin, or bell-flower
apples. No others will make good
jelly. Pare, core, and quarter them.
Lay them on a brass or bell-metal
kettle, and put to them as much
water only, as will cover them, and
as much lemon-peel as you choose.
Boil them till they are soft, but not
till they break. Drain off the water
through a cullender, and mash the
apples with the back of a spoon.
Put them into a jelly bag, set a deep
dish or pan under it, and squeeze
out the juice. To every pint of juice,
allow a pound of loaf-sugar, broken
up, and the juice of two lemons. Put
the apple-juice, the sugar, and the
lemon-juice, into the preserving kettle.
Boil it a quarter of an hour, skimming
it well. Take it immediately from the
kettle, and pour it warm into your
glasses, but not so hot as to break
them. When cold, cover each glass
with white paper dipped in brandy,
and tie it down tight with another
paper. Keep them in a cool place.
The Currant Jelly was delicious, and it had what can best
be described as a tart, exotic taste. The Apple, on the other
hand, had a sharp, crisp taste. It was also quite, no VERY,
rich, and a small amount went a loonnnng way!*
I also made a few pieces of marzipan, which is simply made
of pounded almonds, which are first blanched and loosened
from their skins, and sugar and rosewater:
Sadly, the above photo is the only one I have of any finished
sweetmeats. And then below is one of the cochineal that
I used to color the little strawberry:
I also had some spinach juice for coloring the little peas, but
for some reason or other, it didn’t work. I tried brushing it on,
and then I even just plopped the whole piece into the juice,
but, alas, it refused to take. I’m not sure what the problem
was, if it was the juice or the marzipan (or me?!). Oh, well!
And lastly, I made a pine-apple tart. Now, I’d planned initially
to include it in the previous weekend’s spread, but for various
reasons it didn’t happen. Besides, there was certainly plenty
of food without it! In any event, the tart was put together
in accordance with a receipt from The Country Housewife
and Lady’s Director…Part II (1732), by Richard Bradley:
To Make a Tart of the Ananas, or
Pine-Apple. From Barbadoes.
Take Pine-Apple, and twist off its Crown:
then pare it free from the Knots, and cut
it in Slices about half an Inch thick; then
stew it with a little Canary Wine, or
Madera Wine, and some Sugar, till it
is thoroughly hot, and it will distribute
its Flavour to the Wine much better than
any thing we can add to it. When it is as
one would have it, take it from the Fire;
and when it is cool, put it in to a sweet
Paste, with its Liquor, and bake it gently,
a little while, and when it comes from
the Oven, pour Cream over it, (if you
have it) and serve either hot or cold.
And so into the bake kettle it went. Of course, as is usually
the case, the photo below is the last and only one I was able
to take of it. Between talking to all the visitors and offering
them a bit of jelly or some marzipan or a piece of tart, there
was just no time!
*NOTE (added 1/16/2013): for those who aren’t familiar with 18th
and early 19th century dishes, jellies were meant to be eaten…as is!
Yep. And with a spoon. They were not for use on bread or toast.