Sunday, July 3, 2016

Strawberry Preserves

Strawberry Preserves


The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).

To Preserve Strawberries
To a lb. of strawberries, take a lb. of sugar ground & sift it & throw it lightly over the Strawberries until it become moistened by the juice, then put them together in your kettle, as many as it will contain and add to about 8 lbs of Strawberries a teacup full of Spring water, set the kettle over good coals & let it simmer until the sugar is quite dissolved, then boil them very fast for 30 minutes—& to this quantity, pound a piece of alum, half the size of a nutmeg and mix with the sugar.

Strawberry Preserves: Modern Recipe Adaptation
Yield: 2 Cups

Ingredients:
  • 16 Ounces Strawberries, Washed and Stems Removed
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Alum Powder*
Directions:
1.  Place the strawberries in a large preserving pan, or any large cooking pot with a thick bottom (to prevent burning).
2. Add the sugar and the alum and stir. Then, using a potato masher, press the strawberries to extract some of the juice. Do not crush the berries completely, make sure to leave large chunks.

(Top) Strawberries Coated in Sugar;
(Bottom) Crushed Strawberries 


3. Place over high heat, stir, and bring to a boil. Boil for about one minute over high heat while stirring. Then, reduce the heat to medium high and continue cooking and stirring for another 15-20 minutes or more, if needed. 
4. The mixture is ready to remove the heat when the liquid falls off a spoon in a sheet, rather than in drops.
5. Cool completely and then refrigerate.
6.  Serve as a topping on sponge cakes, cheesecake, or ice cream or use in a trifle, or as a filling for a layer cake. 

Notes on This Recipe: 
  • This recipe adaptation is for just a small amount; it yields just about 2 cups of strawberry preserves. You could double this recipe, but I do not recommend multiplying it to make a batch any larger than that.
  • Most recipes for preserves today advise using twice the weight of the sugar in berries. Therefore, for every pound of fruit, you need half a pound of sugar. However, many historic recipes call for equal weights of berries to sugar. The reason for this could be that today's recipes often have added commercial pectin which helps bring the mixture to its gel point. Without commercial pectin, additional sugar may be needed to reach the proper point whereby the liquid starts to solidify into a gel.
  • *Alum: This recipe Contains alum, also known as potassium alum, which is an astringent mineral salt, often used in tanning and as a mordant or fixative in the process of dyeing fibers; alum was also used to fix the color and crispness of fruits and vegetables, particularly cucumber pickles. It is not absolutely essential to the recipe, so you can leave it out.
References:
  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • http://chemistry.about.com/od/foodchemistryfaqs/f/Is-Alum-Safe.htm

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