Yesterday’s story about preserving juice for use in Punch all the year round made me think of the other end of the olden-day preserving routine. Nowadays we squeeze oranges for juice and throw away the cup of rind. Throwing away something (a) expensive and (b) tasty would have been unthinkeable in the eighteenth century. In spite of no refrigeration and no canning, it seems that almost everything was preserved in some way, and nothing was wasted.
Meat (and fish) was salted or pickled or dried or smoked, or cooked in great thickly-coffined pies which – if not cracked or damp – would kept meat for frighteningly long periods of time. Vegetables were a bit of a problem – so the winter supply depended on growing enough of the sort with naturally long keeping qualities such as cabbages, potatoes and onions, and storing them well in dry rooms or cellars. Fruit such as apples and pears also have naturally good keeping qualities if they are handled and stored carefully – or they could be bottled in syrup or made into fruit pastes. Even eggs were kept by a variety of methods – which deserve a post of their own, perhaps very soon.
The skins of oranges or other citrus used for juicing for punch was made into chips – the same as the candied peel that we put in Christmas cakes. Most of us wouldn’t bother to make this now – it is cheap to buy, and anyway we are time-poor. Here is how we would have done it in the eighteenth century – when there were no candy thermometers, and cooks had a variety of tricks to tell them when their syrup was ready.
How to make
Take the fresh Skin of Seville Oranges, whose Juice has been used for Punch, and lay them in Salt and Water three Days; then boil them tender, shifting them as above, and take out all the Strings of the Insides; put them into an Earthen-pot, make a Syrup of common Lump-sugar, and boil it three Times a Week the first Fortnight; then let it stand a Month longer, and take the Skins out of the Syrup and wash them in clear Water, turn them into Chips, and according to Quantity, if three Pounds of Chips, two Pounds of Sugar, wet it with Water and boil it Candy-height; then put in your Chips and let them boil, dip a Slice into the Syrup and blow it through, if it flies like Snow, you must take them out and spread them on an Earthen-dish to cool, so keep them for Use.
Professed cookery: containing boiling, roasting, pastry, preserving, pickling, potting, made-wines, gellies, and part of confectionaries. Ann Cook. 1760?
Quotation for the Day …
A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk's leap toward immortality.