The arrangement of fresh fruits for the table affords play for the most cultivated taste and not a little real inventive genius. Melons,, oranges, and indeed all kind of fruits, are appropriate breakfast dishes; and a raised center-piece of mixed fruits furnishes a delicious-dessert, and is an indispensable ornament to an elegant dinner-table. Melons should be kept on ice, so as to be thoroughly chilled when served. Clip the ends of water-melons, cut them across in halves, set up on the clipped ends on a platter, and serve the pulp only, removing it with a spoon; or, cut across in slices, and serve with rind. Nutmeg melons should be set on the blossom end, and cut in several equal pieces from the stem downward, leaving each alternate-piece still attached; the others may then be loosened, and the seeds-removed, when the melon is ready to serve. Fruit should be carefully selected. Havana and Florida oranges are the best, but do not keep well, and on the whole, the Messina are preferable. A rough yellow skin covers the sweetest oranges, the smooth being more juicy and acid; a greenish tinge indicates that they were picked unripe. The Messina lemons, "November cut," are the best, and come into market in the spring. Freestone peaches with yellow meat are the handsomest, but not always the sweetest. California pears take the lead for flavor, the Bartlett being the best. The best winter pear is the "Winter Nellis." The "Pound" pear is the largest, but is good only for cooking. Fine-grained pears are best for eating. A pyramid of grapes made up of Malagas, Delawares, and Concords, makes a showy center-piece and a delicious dessert. The Malaga leads all foreign grapes, and comes packed in cork-dust, which is a non-conductor of heat and absorbent of moisture, and so is always in good condition. Of native grapes, the Delaware keeps longest. In pine-apples the "Strawberry" is best, while the "Sugar-Loaf" ranks next, but they are so perishable that to keep even for a few days they must be cooked. When served fresh they should be cut in small squares and sprinkled with sugar. Buy cocoa-nuts cautiously in summer, heat being likely to sour the milk. In almonds, the Princess is the best variety to buy in the shell; of the shelled, the "Jordan" is the finest, though the "Sicily" is good. For cake or confectionery, the shelled are most economical. In raisins, the " Seedless "rank first for puddings and fine cakes, but the "Valencia" are cheaper, and more commonly used; for table use, loose "Muscatels" and layer raisins (of which the "London Layer" is the choicest brand) take the preference. In melons, every section has its favorite varieties, any of which make a wholesome and luscious dessert dish. Sliced fruits or berries are more attractive and palatable sprinkled with sugar about an hour before serving, and then with pounded ice just before sending to the table. An apple-corer, a cheap tin tube, made by any tinner, is indispensable in preparing apples for cooking. They are made in two sizes, one for crab-apples and the other for larger varieties.
If the market is depended upon select the freshest berries; and sometimes it will be found that the largest are not the sweetest. If clean, and not gritty, do not wash them, but pick over carefully, place first a layer of berries then sprinkle sugar, and so on; set away in a cool place, and just before serving sprinkle with pounded ice. If they must be washed, take a dish of cold, soft water, pout a few in, and with the hand press them down a few times, until they look clean, then hull them. Repeat the process till all are hulled, sugar and prepare as above. Never drain in a colander. The French serve large fine strawberries without being hulled. Pulverized sugar is passed, the strawberry is taken by the hull with the thumb and finger, dipped into the sugar, and eaten. When berries are left, scald for a few minutes; too much cooking spoils the flavor. Some think many of the sour berries are improved by slightly cooking them with a little sugar before serving. If a part of the berries are badly bruised, gritty, etc. (but not sour or bitter), scald, and drain them through a fine sieve without pressing them. Sweeten the juice and serve as a dressing for puddings, short-cakes, etc., or can for winter use.