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Havest Jellies: Hartshorn, Cranberry and Orange

It was a very agreeable visit. There was everything to make it so — kindness, conversation, variety, without care or cost… we sat quietly working and talking till 10, when… we adjourned to the dressing-room to eat our tart and jelly.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Sunday, June 26, 1808

Making Jelly (not jam, but a molded gelatin) was a complicated task during the Regency. Two types of natural gelatin used were Hartshorn (from the horn of a buck) and Isinglass- a pure gelatin prepared from the air bladder of the sturgeon and certain other fishes. These may be difficult to find now, but clear gelatin is readily available. These recipes use fruits most often available in the Autumn.

Hartshorn Jelly
4 China Oranges
2 lemons
½ pound sugar
6 eggs

Simmer eight ounces of hartshorn shavings with two quarts of water to one; strain it, and boil it with the rinds of four China oranges and two lemons pared thin; when cool, add the juice of both, half a pound of sugar, and the whites of six eggs beaten to a froth; let the jelly have three or four boils without stirring, and strain it through a jelly-bag.

Cranberry Jelly
Isinglass jelly
Cranberry juice

Make a very strong isinglass jelly. When cold, mix it with a double quantity of cranberry juice pressed … and boil it up; then strain it into a shape. The sugar must be good loaf, or the jelly will not be clear.

Orange Jelly
3 Seville Oranges
3 China Oranges
Isinglass Grate the rind of two Seville and two China Oranges, and two lemons; squeeze the juice of three of each, and strain, and add the juice to a quarter of a pint of water, and boil till it almost candies. Have ready a quart of isinglass-jelly made with two ounces; put to it the syrup, and boil it once up; strain off the jelly, and let it stand to settle, before it is put into the mould.
From The Olde Cookery Book

Orange Jelly Recipe (Modern)
1 tablespoonful of granulated gelatine
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cold water
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1/2 cup of boiling water

Let the gelatine stand in the cold water fifteen minutes or longer (until all the water is absorbed); add the boiling water and sugar and stir until the gelatine and sugar are dissolved; let cool a little, add the orange juice and turn into cups. Set aside to become cold and firm. Serve with cream or boiled custard. Preserved peaches or pears, cooked prunes or figs, or nut meats, also sections of orange, from which the membrane has been removed, or slices of banana, may be moulded in the jelly. A tablespoonful of gelatine is needed to each scant pint of liquid.

Cranberry Jelly Recipe
Cook one quart of cranberries and one cup of water in a covered dish five or six minutes. Then with a pestle press them through a fine sieve. Stir in two cups of sugar; and, without reheating, turn the mixture into a mould. Do not return to the fire after the sugar is added or the mixture will not jelly. The strong acid of the cranberry in connection with high heat “splits” the sugar and interferes with the jellying process.

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Pickling Plums and Other Indigestibles

My cloak is come home. I like it very much, and can now exclaim with delight, like J. Bond at hay-harvest, “This is what I have been looking for these three years.” I saw some gauzes in a shop in Bath Street yesterday at only 4d. a yard, but they were not so good or so pretty as mine. Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or greengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops. My aunt has told me of a very cheap one, near Walcot Church, to which I shall go in guest of something for you. I have never seen an old woman at the pump-room.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 2, 1799

In his work on period fruits, Mark Harris provides the following information:

“Plums (Prunus domestica) originated around Armenia in Asia Minor and are only botanically distinguished from cherries by their size. Plums were first cultivated in western China. Wild plums, the Bullace (Prunus instititia), Cherry Plums (Prunus cerasifera) and the Sloe (Prunus spinosa) now grow wild throughout Europe and have hybridized extensively. Cultivated plums arose as a cross between the sloe and the cherry plum in the Caucasus region. Damsons are a variety of bullace plum well known in Roman times, and imported from Damascus in Syria, hence its name. At the time of Cato, Romans were familiar with prunes but not the plum tree itself. Besides the Damson, Pliney described 12 varieties of plums growing in Italy in the 1st century A.D. Plums have been cultivated in Europe since the 8th century and are recorded in England from the 13th century. Chaucer described a garden with “ploumes and bulaces” in 1369; “Damaske or damassons” (damson) plums are mentioned in the 1526 Grete Herball of Peter Treveris.

Blue Pérrigon or the Précoce de Tours was both a blue-black prune and dessert plum grown in Italy and France near the Basse Alps. It was first imported to England in 1582.

Another French bullace was the Reine Claude (103), dating in France from the reign of Francis I (1494-1547). It came from Italy, where it was called Verdocchia (104); it came to Italy from Armenia via Greece. This plum is better known by its English name of Greengage.”

To preserve this delicious summer fruit, one could either dry them, creating prunes, or pickle them, as the following recipe from Martha Lloyd’s Household book records:

To Pickle Dutch Plum or White Damsons and Orleans Plum
(also melons and cucumbers)
To a gallon of white wine vinegar put 3 pints of mustard and heads of garlick, a good handful of shallots, a good handful of horse radish, when it is sliced, three races [roots] of ginger sliced, half and oz of Jamaica pepper, and what salt you think fit. The plums must be gathered before they are quite ripe, when they are turning yellow. They must be cut a little on one side to let in the liquor. Put them in a row. Your mustard must be made as to eat. You may do melons or cucumbers the same way, only take ou the inside and rub them with salt.

Pickled Damsons or Plums
2 lb Damsons or Plums
1 lb Granulated sugar
½ pint Malt Vinegar
½ Lemon, zest only
2 Cloves
1 Small Piece Root Ginger, peeled and bruised

Place all the ingredients except the fruit in a saucepan.

Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, strain.

Return the vinegar to the saucepan and bring to the boil.

Prick the fruit, place into a deep bowl, pour over the vinegar.

Cover and leave in a cool place for 5 days.

Strain the liquid into a saucepan, bring to the boil.

Pour over the fruit.

Cover and leave in a cool place for 5 days.

Strain the liquid into a saucepan, bring to the boil.

Place the fruit into jars, pour over the boiling liquid.

Immediately seal with airtight lids.

Leave for 6 weeks to mature before using. Serve as a side to cold meats.

Recipe reprinted with Permission from The Foody.

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