In point of general usefulness, apples hold the first place among fruits. Oranges also serve a great number of purposes, and, like apples, can be depended on nearly the whole year. Peaches and apricots, although of short season, can be so successfully preserved that they, as well as berries, render important service in cooking. All of these fruits are excellent prepared as compotes, with pastry, with corn-starch, or with gelatine, making a variety of dishes without number. In the index will be found a list of dishes under each of these heads. In the fruit season one is sometimes at a loss to know how to utilize the abundance there may be at command. Usually the fresh fruit is most acceptable at that time, but the little trouble and slight expense of canning should make one provident enough to secure a year's store to supply the various purposes which cooked fruit serve.
Fresh fruits are always wholesome, beautiful, and inviting, and should always have a place on every table. The practice of leaving fruit on the sideboard in a warm room from one meal to another is a mistake, for fruit should be fresh, firm, and cold to be in its best condition. An exception to this rule may be made for fruits fresh from the garden with the heat of the sun upon them. The small fruits are much more delicious when tasting of the sunshine, but fruits obtained from markets are better for being chilled. Much taste may be shown in arranging fruits for decorating the table. They may be combined in large dishes, giving effect of abundance, or a quantity of one kind massed together for color-effects, or a few choice specimens of a kind placed on separate compo-tiers. All the ways are good and, if the fruit is fresh and fair, will be most attractive. Green leaves should be combined with fruits; grape-leaves under small groups of peaches, plums, grapes, etc., are much used by the French, who excel in the beautiful arrangements of fruit. White grapes, shading from those with pink tints to white below, give pleasing effects on white dinner-tables.
Apples should be washed and rubbed until well polished. Fine apples so treated make an attractive centerpiece dish.
A few ways of preparing oranges are given in illustrations.
The grape-fruit is served at breakfast, or as a first course at luncheon. The pulp must be separated from the thin bitter skin which separates the sections, with a silver knife. A little sugar is added, and sometimes a teaspoonful of sherry, to each portion. The pulp and juice is eaten with a spoon from the peel, one half the shaddock being served to each person, or it may be served in small glasses. The peels prepared as fancy baskets can be kept fresh for several days in water.
DIFFERENT WAYS OF PREPARING ORANGES.
GRAPE FRUIT SERVED IN THE HALF PEEL.
GRAPE FRUIT SERVED IN A BASKET MADE OF THE PEEL AND A BRANCH OF HOLLY TIED TO THE HANDLE. (SEE PAGE 530).
GRAPE FRUIT SERVED IN A BASKET MADE OF THE PEEL - GERANIUM LEAVES TIED TO THE HANDLE.
Peaches should have the down taken off lightly with a soft brush before being served. A fruit doily should be given at the time they are passed, as peaches stain the table linen.
Large fine strawberries are served with the hulls on and piled in a pyramid. Sugar is passed with them, or they may be served on individual plates around a small mound of sugar, made by pressing the sugar in a wineglass and then unmolding it in the center of the plate.
No berries should be washed. If strawberries are sandy, cold water must be poured over them and drained off at once, but the berries will no longer be at their best. Sugar should always be passed, and not put over the berries before serving them, as it extracts their juice and destroys their firmness. They should also be served in small dishes, as they crush with their own weight. Where a large quantity is being served, several dishes should be used.
A mixture of red and of white currants makes an attractive breakfast fruit. They may be served on the stems if fine and large clusters.
Bananas sliced and covered with whipped cream make a good light dessert for luncheon. They may be moistened with orange-juice or with sherry before the cream is added, if desired. Bananas may be cut in two lengthwise, sauted in a little butter, and served as a vegetable or as an entree; or they may be cut in two, the ends cut square, so they will resemble croquettes, then rolled in flour, and fried in hot fat to a light color, and served as a dessert with currant jelly sauce. To make the sauce, dilute the jelly with boiling water; add a few chopped blanched almonds and shredded candied orange-peel. The unripe and not fully developed banana is devoid of sweetness and when roasted resembles a baked potato. In hot climates the natives live mostly on bananas, and a nation is said to be cursed where they grow, because the ease with which they get their living makes them lazy.
Soak dried figs in cold water for several hours, then stew them slowly until plump. Drain and pile them on a dish, and serve with whipped cream slightly sweetened and flavored with vanilla, sherry, maraschino, or with essence of almond. Arrange the cream in a circle around the figs.
Mix together lightly an equal proportion of orange-pulp, bananas cut into half-inch dice, and grapes cut in two and the seeds removed. Add sugar if necessary, and a little sherry or liqueur if desired; serve in glasses or in half-orange skins. Grape-fruit may be used in the same way; it may also be combined with the orange salpicon. There should be a good quantity of juice with the mixture.
SALPICON OF FRUITS IN GLASS.
Melons are in perfection in hot dry weather. They absorb water readily and should not be gathered after a heavy rain storm. Small melons are cut in two, the seeds removed, a piece of ice placed in each piece, and a half melon served to each person. Large melons are cut in broad sections and a generous piece served as a portion. Melons may be served at the beginning or the end of any meal. They are usually most acceptable as a first course. They should be thoroughly cold.
Any of the fruits can be partly frozen and served as an ice. Cut them into pieces, sweeten with sugar syrup, and pack in ice and salt for an hour, but do not leave them long enough to become stiff. Berries are of course left whole.
Pare and core quinces the same as apples. Put them in a shallow earthen dish, with enough water to fill the dish a quarter inch deep. Place them in a moderate oven and bake until tender, basting them often. Serve them hot with butter and sugar as a luncheon dish.
Nuts with hard shells are cracked, the meats removed and placed in bonbon dishes, or are piled on lace papers in small compotiers. Almonds with paper shells are served whole. Almonds are also served blanched. Peanuts with the shells and skins removed, and served in bonbon dishes, are much liked and seldom recognized as the much-despised nut. Peanuts may be salted the same as almonds.
Blanch the almonds by putting them in boiling water for a few minutes; the skins can then be easily rubbed off. Put the blanched nuts into a pan with a small piece of butter, and place them in a moderate oven. Stir them frequently so they will brown on all sides. Sprinkle them freely with salt as soon as they are taken from the oven.
Blanch the almonds, and when they are thoroughly dry pour a tablespoonful of oil on every cupful of nuts. Let them stand in the oil for an hour, then add a tablespoonful of fine salt to each cupful. Stir them and place in a shallow pan in the oven until they are colored a light brown. Stir them occasionally while in the oven, so they will be evenly colored. Turn them onto a paper to dry, and shake off the loose salt before serving.
Brown them in the oven with a little butter the same as almonds. Filberts are blanched, but walnuts do not have the skin removed.
A mixture of salted almonds, walnuts, and filberts makes a good combination.
Salted nuts are served at luncheon or dinner, and are eaten at any and all times during those meals.