‘Receipts’ for Preserving Fruit in the 18th Century

Original page for these recipes Norfolk Record Office

Original page for these recipes
Held by Norfolk Record Office

Taken from Katherine Wyndham’s Book of Preserving c. 1718

In the absence of refrigeration or freezing, most fruit eaten during the winter months had to be preserved by other means. Although some grand houses possessed an Ice House – in which river or lake ice could be kept frozen for long periods – it seemed to take a long time for people to realise that cold could be used to stop food rotting. Even when the penny finally dropped, it was typically applied only to meat or game.

Salting or smoking food was well understood, but neither could be used for preserving fruit. That required a different approach; one that was not so different from today’s ways of drying or preserving fruit in jars.

Here are some ‘receipts’ for preserving, taken from Katherine Windham‘s book, lovingly transcribed by my friends Bonnie Lovelock and Roger Sykes.

To dry Figgs
Take yr figgs when ye are through ripe, thrust a Knife thro ym yt ye surup [syrup] may enter, to a pound of figgs take a po & a qu of suger, & a pint of water, melt ye suger, wipe ye figgs & put ym in, boyle ym as fast as you can still scuming ym [skimming them], till they are very tender, ye will aske near an hower [hour] boyling, yn put ym in a Galy pot[1], with ye surup & set ym in yr stove, when you se the surup begins to candy on ye top, take ym on Glasses dry ym in ye stove, turn ym as ye dry

To dry Green Figgs
Take yr figgs, cut ye skin a litle about ye stalkes, & cut ym a crosse at ye head, pricke ym with a pin, & put ym in water as you doe ym, pour yr water from ym, & put on ym scalding hot water, & cover ym close, set ym on, & off ye fire, till ye are green, yn boyle ym till ye are tender, yn take twise their weight in suger, to every pound of suger, better yn 1⁄2 a pint of water, clarife it with whites of eggs, drain ye figgs well, & put in yr surup, give ym a boyle, yn heat ym 10 dayes together, dry ym as you use ym, those you keep in yr surup, scald once a fortnight
note white figs does best

To preserve Goosberys
Take 1 pound & 1⁄2 of ye largest Goosberys, cut of ye stalkes, & tops, & stone ym into water, stamp & strain other Goosberys, & let ye juice stand to setle, take a pint & qu of this juice, or a litle more & a qu of a pint of water, & 2 pound of yr finest suger, put in yr Goosberys, being well drained, boyle ym all together on a quicke [hot] fire, till they are enough
scuming [skimming] ym all ye time, yn Glasse ym [put them in glass pots]

To dry Goosberys
Picke & stone yr Goosberys, to a pound take a po[und] & qu[arter] of suger, & 1⁄2 a pint of water, boyle ym quicke when they are clear, & tender, put ym in a Baason, coverd close with paper, next day heat ym again, & next day lay ym out on plates or Glasses to dry in Sun or Stove

Goosbery past [paste]
Take yr Goosberys at full growth, scald ym in no more water yn will cover ym, let ym have one boyle over ye fire, yn strain ym thro a canvas strainer, till you have get ye best of ye pulp out, but no more, if you strain it to much it will looke blacke, yn set it over ye fire to scald & scum [take off the scum, i.e. skim] it, to every pound of pulp put 1 po & qu of yr finest sifted suger set it over ye fire to melt, not boyle, or simper [simmer], yn Glasse it, & stove, turn ym as they dry


  1. An iron pot that hung from the galley bauk – the cross-beam in a chimney.  ↩

About William Savage

Independent researcher and author of mystery stories set in Georgian Norfolk.
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One Response to ‘Receipts’ for Preserving Fruit in the 18th Century

  1. noelleg44 says:

    There is an art here! My grandmother, who had an really old fashioned refrigerator with the coils on top, canned all sorts of things from veggies to fruit. Her shelves groaned from the weight of all the glass jars!

    Like

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