To make clear, good preserves requires: 1st. No economy of trouble; 2d. That the fruit be perfectly fresh, alive from the tree or bush, or, as a friend says, "tasting of the sun."
The French make the clearest, best preserves, because they spare no pains. They first prepare their sirup or clarified sugar; then, after neatly and carefully paring or dressing their fruit, cook a few pieces at a time, or only as many as they can oversee, carefully lifting each piece out of the sirup the moment it is done. How they preserve strawberries in bottle (each little bottle of which sells for seventy-five cents), retaining the full flavor and almost the firmness of the fresh straw-berries, is something for me to investigate.
I consider the peach marmalade the most valuable preserve, as it is useful in preparing desserts. It is a good sauce for almost any kind of pudding, especially corn-starch and rice puddings. Preserves are generally made too sweet. Before hermetically sealed cans or jars were in general use, it required a large quantity of sugar to keep the preserves from fermenting. Now, in using cans, one can suit the taste as to the sweetness of the preserve. I prefer tin cans to glass bottles, as sometimes the bottled jelly or preserves will ferment, requiring a second cooking. Tin cans have never failed me. Others prefer bottles, having no trouble, they say, in tightening them perfectly. The citron preserve, flavored with root ginger and lemon, is a success. It has the flavor of the ginger preserve from the West Indies, which is so fashionable, expensive, and serviceable as an accompaniment for ice-cream, etc.; it is also inexpensive.
Apples preserved with a flavor of lemon and ginger are particularly nice also; of course, they are not as firm as citron, and do not imitate so well the ginger preserve. The outside of the water-melon (skinned) makes a clear, pretty preserve, flavored in the same manner. The next in favor is the greengage preserve, which is as clear and beautiful as it is delicate in flavor. Peaches, unless made into marmalade, are better when canned with very little sugar than when preserved. Canned peaches, half-frozen when served, make a delicious dessert with cake.
First, then, for preserves the sirup must be made. I give the old rule; yet, as before remarked, if canned, they may be made less sweet. I generally use half a pound of sugar to a pound of fruit.
The citrons can be pared, cored, and sliced, or cut into fancy-shapes with cutters which are made for the purpose. To six pounds of the citron, use six pounds of sugar, four lemons, and a quarter of a pound of ginger-root.
Put the slices of lemon into a preserving-kettle, and boil them for half an hour, or until they look clear, in a little clear water; then drain them. Save the water, and put the slices into another dish with a little cold water; cover them, and let them stand overnight. In the morning wrap the root-ginger (bruised) in a thin muslin cloth; boil it in three pints of clear water until the water is highly flavored, when take out the bag of ginger. Having broken up the loaf-sugar, put it into the preserving-kettle with the ginger-water. When the sugar is all melted, set it over the fire; boil, and skim until no more scum rises. Then put in the pieces of citron and the juice of the lemons. Boil them in the sirup till all the slices are quite transparent. Do not allow them to break. When done, put them into the cans or jars, pouring the sirup carefully over them. If one desires to imitate the West Indies ginger preserve, the slices of lemon may not be added; yet they are a pretty addition.