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Gram’s Cookbook – page 43 Preserves

Today is a busy day for the Gram’s Cookbook series – it’s preserve day!

Water Melon Preserves

Peel and cut up watermelon rind, soak several hours in salt water, pour off salt water.  Cook till tender in clean water.  Drain in colander til quite dry.  Make a syrup of two parts of sugar to one of diluted vinegar, add a little cloves and a stick of cinnamon to taste.   Cook syrup till quite thick and then put in rind.   Boil slowly till syrup is thick again and the rind is transparent.  Remove the spices or syrup will darken. 

Marian Recbud

Ripe Tomato Pickle

One peck of ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced, eight onions, sliced thin, one cupfull salt thrown on them.  let stand 24 hours.  Drain off liquor and add 1 quart vinegar, 1 pint water, 1 tablespoonful each of ground mustard, ginger, cloves and allspice.  Stew slowly 3 hours and when nearly done add 2 pounds of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white mustard seed.

Green Tomato Pickle

8 pounds green totatoes

1 pint vinegar

4 pounds brown sugar

1 t. of mace, cinnamon and cloves

Cut tomatoes in slices and add sugar.  Let them boil down three hours, then add vinegar and spice and cook the whole for 15 minutes.  Let cool – seal.

Spiced Peach Pickle

1 pk freestone peaches

7 pounds sugar

1 1/4 gallon cider vinegar

cloves, allspice and cinnamon to taste

Pear Pickle

6 cupfull sugar

Firm, ripe pears

sick cinnamon and cloves

1 quart vinegar

Peel and cut pears in strips.  Boil the sugar and vinegar for a few minutes and put in fruit.  Let it cook until tender, then remove fruit of juice.  Place in bottom of jars a layer of pear with a stick of cinnamon and a few cloves.  Repeat.  Pour syrup over fruit and stand over night.  Drain syrup and scald again.  Repeat two or three more times.  Seal hot.

1914 advertisement for a combo steam canner and roaster.

Preserves did just what the name implies – preserve food that is available NOW for a time when it’s not.  But my, how things have changed in the past century!

I grew up with my mom making our own pickles using  a pressure canner and glass quart canning jars.  She also canned lots of veggies and tomato sauce and our basement had shelves full of the bounty from her large garden.

But, what did they can in 100 years ago?  Before that?

The modern Mason jar wasn’t invented until 1858 and used screw on zinc lids.   Some earlier methods used a persnickity wax seal around the edge and was used up into the early 1900s…

They also used jars with hinged lids and rubber gaskets on them (now more commonly used for dry storage) but still used and sold today.

And, if you think that there’s nothing new in the canning technology land… think again!  There are now reusable canning lids!

Modern pickles also use store bought vinegar – but historically, before the advent of the fancy canning jars, food fermented to achieve preservation.  Think sauerkraut, kim chi and a zillion other fermented veggies out there.  In addition to the nutritive quality of the food being preserved, the bacteria causing the fermentation (generally various lactic acid bacteria) may introduce some B vitamins, too.  Plus, there is the health benefits of the bacteria themselves, these generally being the “good” type – and there are many reports of positive health responses to these raw foods.

There is LOTS of information out on the internet about fermenting foods – way more than I can even begin to talk about here.  But, if you’re interested, there is a recipe for Fermented Sour Pickles.  Now you can actually find a use for all of those old crocks that you found at your grandmother’s house!

(And, before you get all yucked out about eating bacteria, please remember that yogurt, wine, beer, bread… all use the little beasties…)

Now, the word “pickle” is a funny word.  Try saying over and over…. pickle, pickle, pickle, pickle… Who comes up with these words?  Well, depending on the website, it has a couple of different origins.  According to the wikipedia site, the origin of the word is from the Dutch word pekel meaning brine.  But, a site in the UK, The Phrase Finder, it pekel is a Dutch or Low German word meaning ‘something piquant’.

The phrase, “in a pickle” is (or maybe was) a common phrase… and means to be as disorientated or mixed up as the vegetables that make up a pickle.  In my understanding, it would mean to be in a bit of trouble but nothing so serious that you can’t find your way out of it…

And, on a side note related to sauerkraut, I LOVED it as a kid.  I mean, one of my favorite things.  As a mom to a 3 year old, I’ve never served it to my daughter, but I apparently got it a lot at that age.  So much so that I had my very own version of the word for it – “sour crap.”  🙂


Gram’s Cookbook – Page 22 Fruit Salad

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Fruit salad.  Honestly, not my favorite thing for some reason.  Still, it’s a popular dish and appears to have been made for a long time.  This is what is on page 22 of Gram’s Cookbook.

Fruit Salad

1 lb marshmallows

1 lb English walnuts

1/2 lb white grapes

1 small can pineapple

Quarter the marshmallows with scissors.   Half and seed the grapes.  Cut pineapple in small pieces and mix together.

Heat 1/2 cup sweet milk.  Add the beaten yolks of 4 eggs, 1/4 tsp ground mustard and cook until thick.  When cool add 1 pint of whipped cream and the beaten whites of 4 eggs.  Pour the mixture over the fruit and let stand 12 hours.


Did you know that there are different species of walnuts?  English Walnuts – Juglans regia and is native to the  mountains of  central Asia, including parts of China, Tibet, Nepal, India and Pakistan.  The word “walnut” in English means “foreign nut” – it was introduced into western and northern Europe probably before the Roman era and to the United States (by English colonists) in the 1600s.

These are different than Julans nigra, or Black Walnut, which is native to the midwest and east central United States.  The Black Walnut was introduced into Europe in 1629 and is cultivated there and in North America as a forest tree for its high quality wood.   Apparently, the Black Walnut has a stronger taste than the English Walnut, which may be why the English was specified in the recipe.

It states on the wikipedia site that the shell of the black walnut is used as an abrasive and in cosmetics…  And no doubt, this is true.  Gram used to use the black hull of the black walnut as a natural hair dye back in the day – though I have no idea how she went about preparing and using it for this purpose.

As for the grapes – can you imagine having to take the seeds out of all of those?  Yet, I remember when I was little that Gram would buy the very expensive (because they had just come out onto the market) seedless grapes for me when I visited.  I LOVED them.  These days, you hardly think twice about grapes not having seeds, but really, it is rather odd that any exist that DON’T.  That is possible due to mutations that cause seeds not to form in the fruit and that grapes can be asexually propagated through grafting.  So basically, they’re clones.

Know of any other seedless fruit like that?  A few are common ingredients in modern fruit salads, though not listed in this recipe.   Bananas, watermelon and oranges!  See, you learn something new every day on this blog.  🙂

As for the marshmallows… now days, it’s easy enough to buy a bag of corn syrupy campfire fun at the store.  100 years ago?  Nope, not a chance.  Marshmallow is actually a plant,  Althaea officinalis, and was originally used to treat sore throats.   Marshmallows as a treat first came about as a candy in France in the 1800s using the sap of the marshmallow plant  and adding sugar and a lot of work.  In the late 1800s, the French came up with a slightly easier way to make them using gelatin and egg whites (but notice the lack of an electric mixer – so all of the beating and whipping of all of it was by HAND)….  The modern, extruded round marshmallows that we find in plastic bags at the grocery store weren’t invented until 1948 and didn’t have a company to make them like this until 1961.   (And, they usually don’t ever contain any marshmallow extract anymore…)

Picture by Nina Hale, wikipedia

Picture by Nina Hale, wikipedia

So, Gram most certainly would have either had to buy hand made marshmallows (possible) or make them herself… And you can make your own at home, too!  OK, so I haven’t done that yet… as we’re in like the worst drought in a million years here in Texas, it’s just a given that there will never be a campfire allowed again.  BUT, if you are interested in giving it a go, there’s a great recipe over at the blog, Smitten Kitchen.

So, as you might guess, I didn’t try this recipe.  I know, it looks easy, but I really don’t like milk much and especially not on fruit and… and the sauce looks icky.  I’m sorry, it’s true.  Milk and egg yolks and whipped cream?  I know that the mustard sounds like a really strange ingredient, but it is commonly used as an emulsifier – or something that keeps things like oil and vinegar from separating… so that was probably its purpose in this recipe, too.  Sooo…. if YOU try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think about it!

Have a great week…