The introduction of iron ware lined with porcelain has fortunately almost superseded the use of brass or bell-metal kettles for boiling sweetmeats; a practice by which the articles prepared in those pernicious utensils were always more or less imbued with the deleterious qualities of the verdigris that is produced in them by the action of acids.
Charcoal furnaces will be found very convenient for preserving; the kettles being set on the top. They can be used in the open air. Sweetmeats should be boiled rather quickly, that the watery particles may exhale at once, without being subjected to so long a process as to spoil the colour and diminish the flavour of the fruit. But on the other hand, if boiled too short a time they will not keep so well.
It you wish your sweetmeats to look bright and clear, use only the very best loaf-sugar. Fruit may be preserved for family use and for common purposes, in sugar of inferior quality, but it will never have a good appearance, and it is also more liable to spoil.
If too small a proportion of sugar is allowed to the fruit, it will certainly not keep well. "When this experiment is tried it is generally found to be false economy; as sweetmeats, when they begin to spoil, can only be recovered and made eatable by boiling them over again with additional sugar; and even then, they are never so good as if done properly at first. If jellies have not sufficient sugar, they do not congeal, but will remain liquid.
Jelly bags should be made of white flannel. It is well to have a wooden stand or frame like a towel horse, to which the bag can be tied while it is dripping. The bag should first be dipped in hot water, for if dry it will absorb too much of the juice. After the liquor is all in, close the top of the bag, that none of the flavour may evaporate.
In putting away sweetmeats, it is best to place them in small jars, as the more frequently they are exposed to the air by opening, the more danger there is of their spoiling. The best vessels for this purpose are white queen's-ware pots, or glass jars. For jellies, jams, and for small fruit, common glass tumblers are very convenient, and may be covered simply with double tissue-paper, cut exactly to fit the inside of the top of the glass, laid lightly on the sweetmeat, and pressed down all round with the finger. This covering, if closely and nicely fitted, will be found to keep them perfectly well, and as it adheres so closely as to form a complete coat over the top, it is better for jellies or jams than writing-paper dipped in brandy, which is always somewhat shrivelled by the liquor with which it has been saturated.
If you find that your sweetmeats have become dry and candied, you may liquefy them again by setting the jars in water and making it boil round them.
In preserving fruit whole, it is best to put it first in a thin syrup. If boiled in-a thick syrup at the beginning, the juice will be drawn out so as to shrink the fruit.
It is better to boil it but a short time at once, and then to take it out and let it get cold, afterwards returning it to the syrup, than to keep it boiling too long at a time, which will cause it to break and lose its shape.
Preserving kettles should be rather broad than deep, for the fruit cannot be done equally if it is too much heaped. They should all have covers belonging to them, to put on after the scum has done rising, that the flavour of the fruit may be kept in with the steam.
A perforated skimmer pierced all through with holes is a very necessary utensil in making sweetmeats.
The water used for melting the sugar should be very clear; spring or pump water is best. But if you are obliged to use river water, let it first be filtered. Any turbidness or impurity in the water will injure the clearness of the sweetmeats.
If sweetmeats ferment in the jars, boil them over again with additional sugar.