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Traditional methods of food preservation - How to Preserve Food at home

All food products, on exposure to air, undergo certain changes which unfit them for use as food. It was once thought that these changes were due to oxidation, but they are now known to be caused by minute living organisms present in the air, in the water, in the ground, and in the food itself.

To preserve food two things are necessary; first, to either kill or render harmless those organisms already present; and second, to exclude others from entering.

The first we usually accomplish by cooking, and the second by sealing.

Excerpt from the book: MOTHER'S'  REMEDIES / Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remedies from Mothers of the United States and Canada. By DR. T. J. RITTER / PUBLISHED BY G.H. FOOTE  PUB. CO. DETROIT MICH 1921

Traditional methods of food preservation


In order to live these organisms require three conditions;

  • first, a particular temperature;
  • second, a certain amount of moisture;
  • third, the right kind of food.

By taking away all or any one of these requirements we may stop the growth or, in other words, we may preserve the food.

For example: with the familiar method of cold storage the factor of temperature is removed; in the drying of the fruits and vegetables the factor of moisture is removed; by salting the factor of food is taken away.

The fruits and vegetables, commonly preserved in the home, are divided into five classes:




4.--Marmalades and Butters.


CANNING - food preservation - Canning Food at Home

Under this head there are four common methods:

1. Steaming

By this method the fruit is put into the sterilized jars, the jars filled with boiling water and the covers loosely set on. Then the jars are set on small blocks of wood in a pan of cold water. Cover this pan and let the water come to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and fill them with boiling water, if necessary. Seal tightly. Small berries, such as strawberries and raspberries, retain their color and are especially good done in this manner. Whole tomatoes done in this way are especially attractive for winter salads, and corn will keep indefinitely.

2. Boiling in Syrup

This is the common household method of preserving fruits, such as peaches and pears. A syrup is prepared of sugar and water, into this the fruit is dropped and cooked until soft; it is then put into sterile jars, sufficient syrup added to fill jar and the jar then sealed.

3. Preserving

This is the same as boiling in syrup, except that equal quantities of sugar and fruit are used. Small fruits such as berries are usually done in this way.

4. Cold Water Process

This is a simple and easy method to use and is especially desirable for vegetables such as rhubarb. Great care must be taken to use only perfect fruit, because in this method of canning bacteria are merely excluded, not destroyed, and if any are present in the food there is nothing to prevent it from spoiling. If fruit is over-ripe, or not perfectly fresh one of the other methods, such as boiling or steaming, is preferable.

To Can by the Cold Water Process

Pack the fruit in a sterilized jar; pour over it water that has been boiled and cooled, seal your jar and keep it in a cool place. Sometimes a solution of salt and water is used in place of pure water. When saltwater is used food will need to be freshened by being allowed to stand in cold water for some time before using. Vegetables, such as beans, put up in this way are very similar to the fresh product.


Among the utensils most necessary for use in preserving foods in the home are scales, measuring cups, porcelain or agate ware sauce pans; earthen or agate ware bowls; silver, agate or wooden spoons; an agate colander; small dipper and funnel; new rubbers and perfect covers for the jars.

How to Sterilize Jars

Wash the jars, fill with cold water, place them on rests, such as small blocks of wood on the bottom of the kettle or boiler and surround them with cold water. If blocks of wood are not obtainable the jars may be wrapped in brown paper to prevent them knocking against each other. Be sure the mouths of the jars are uncovered. Heat gradually until the water boils, boil 15 minutes or until ready to fill them. Sterilize the covers of the jars also, and dip the rubber bands in boiling water just before using.

Directions for Filling Jars

Remove the jars from the boiling water--the handle of a wooden spoon is good to use in removing them. Wring cloth out of hot water and place it on a plate, put the jar to be filled on the hot cloth, put a silver spoon in it,--silver being a good conductor of heat absorbs the heat from the fruit and lessens the danger of breakage. Fill the jar with fruit and then add enough syrup or boiling water, as the case may be, to fill the jar to overflowing. Run a silver knife or spoon down the sides of the jar to allow any enclosed air to escape; add more syrup or water, if necessary. Put on the sterilized rubber and seal tightly.

Tomatoes Canned Whole by Steaming

Select medium sized, firm, ripe tomatoes. Wash and peel. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and they will peel easily. Pack in sterilized jars, fill with boiling water and put on the lid lightly. Set in cold water on rests and let boil about fifteen minutes. If necessary, fill the jar with boil¬ing water to overflowing. Put on the sterilized rubbers and seal tightly. These tomatoes are especially good for winter salads.

Canning Corn

Cut the corn from the cob while fresh, pack in sterilized jars, and fill with boiling water. Put the cover on lightly and set on a rest, such as small blocks of wood, pieces of thick paper or the corn husks, in a pan of cold water. Let boil from two to three hours. Remove the can, fill to overflowing with boiling water and seal tightly.

Canning String Beans

Select medium-sized beans and string. Pack in a sterilized jar, fill to overflowing with a brine and seal tightly. This brine may be made in two ways: First, by mixing cold water and salt; second, by mixing salt and boiling water and then letting it cool before pouring over the beans. This method is best as the salt dissolves more readily in boiling water than in cold water. One part salt to two parts water makes a strong brine. Keep in a cold place and freshen before using by letting the beans stand in cold water for an hour. In winter these beans make an acceptable substitute for fresh ones.

Canning Rhubarb

Select medium stalks, skin and cut either into one-inch pieces, or eight-inch lengths. Pack in sterilized jars, fill to overflowing with cold water and seal. Rhubarb put up in this way has been known to keep for over a year, and is especially good for pies and sauce.

Steamed Strawberries

Wash and hull the strawberries, and for every quart of strawberries use one cup of sugar. Pack the berries in a sterilized jar, cover with sugar and fill with boiling water. Cover the jar lightly, put in a pan of cold water, on a rest and let the water boil for about fifteen minutes. Remove, seal tightly, and keep in a cool place.

Canning Strawberries

Wash and hull the berries. Make a syrup of sugar and water, using one cup of sugar to every three of water. Boil 10 minutes. Drop the berries in the boiling syrup and cook until soft. This will require only several minutes. Fill the jars to over¬flowing with fruit and syrup, then seal.

Canning Cherries

Follow the method for strawberries. Cherries can be pitted or not, as desired. If pitted, add a few stones for flavor.

Canning Raspberries

Use the same method as for strawberries. The large number of seeds in raspberries are objectionable, and the berries are more often made into jam than canned.

Canned Pears

The pears should be ripe and of fine flavor. Wipe and pare the fruit. If the pears are large they may be cut in halves. Make a syrup of sugar and water, using one cup of sugar to one cup of water. Boil 10 minutes. Put in the pears, cook until soft. Fill sterilized jars and seal.

Canned Peaches

Follow the directions for pears. Peaches may be canned by the steaming method by cutting them in two and removing the stones.

Strawberry Preserves

Wash and hull the berries, then weigh. Make a syrup by boiling three-quarters of their weight in sugar with water, allowing one cup of water to each pound of sugar. Cook syrup 15 minutes, fill glass jars with the berries, add the syrup to overflow the jars. Let stand 15 minutes. By this time the fruit will have shrunk; add enough more fruit to fill the jar. Put on a cover; set on a rest in a pan of cold water, heat to the boiling point, and keep just below boiling for one hour. Raspberries may be done in the same way.

Raspberry and Currant Preserves.

3 lbs. Currants.

3 lbs. Sugar.

4 qts. Raspberries.

Pick over, wash and drain the currants. Put into a preserving kettle and mash. Cook one hour and strain through cheesecloth. Return to the kettle, add the sugar, heat to the boiling point, cook 20 minutes. Add the raspberries and cook until soft. Fill jars to over¬flowing and seal. If the seeds of the currants are not objectionable the mixture need not be strained.

JELLIES - How to make homemade Jelly

Fruits to be used in making jelly should be under¬ripe, rather than over-ripe. Green fruit contains two substances, called "pectase" and "pectose" and, by the action of the sun in ripening, these substances change into pectin which makes fruit jelly.

If the fruit is over-ripe the pectin breaks down into pectosic acid which has not the power of jellying; and as a result the fruit does not jell. If the fruit is a little under-ripe pectin is formed through cooking, and it is often advisable to add some green fruit to the ripe fruit in making jelly. Nearly all failures in jelly making are due either to over-ripe fruit or to the use of too much heat, because in both cases the pectin is lost.

How to Prepare Glasses for Jelly

Wash the glasses, put in a kettle of cold water, heat the water gradually to the boiling point, and boil for fifteen minutes. Remove the glasses and drain; place, while filling, on a cloth wrung out of hot water. If the glasses are wrapped in brown paper with the mouths uncovered they will not break.

How to Cover Jelly Glasses

First: with paraffin. Melt the paraffin over hot water and pour over the jelly when cold about one-fourth inch thick. Be sure to use hot water in melting the paraffin, as it is apt to explode if heated to too high a degree.

Second.--Cut two pieces of white paper, one just the size of the glass and the other larger; dip the first cover in brandy or alcohol and press down tightly over the jelly. White of egg or water may be used, but it is not so good. Then cover with the second paper, sealing edges with white of egg. A tin cover could be used in place of the last paper.

How To Make a Jelly Bag

Take a piece of flannel about three quarters of a yard long, fold the opposite corners together and sew in the shape of a cornucopia, rounding at the end; if the seam is felled it will be more secure. Bind the top with tape and finish with two or three heavy loops by which it may be hung.

Good Fruits for Making Jelly

Crab apples, snow apples, early summer apples, grapes, currants, blackberries, raspberries, quinces, barberries are the fruits most commonly used for making jellies.

General Directions for Making Jelly

Wash the fruit, remove the stems and imperfections. Cut large fruit into pieces. With fruit such as apples or quinces add enough water to cover them, but with watery fruits, such as grapes and currants, omit any water. Cook the fruit, until the juice flows, keeping it just below the boiling point. Remove from the fire and strain through a pointed bag, hung at some height. Allow all the juice possible to drip through before squeezing the bag and keep this juice by itself. Then squeeze the bag and use the juice thus obtained for second grade jelly, which, while it is not as clear as the first lot, can be used for jelly cakes, etc. Measure the juice, bring to the boiling point, boil slowly two or three minutes, then add an equal quantity of heated sugar. Boil until the jelly thickens when dropped upon a cold plate. Pour slowly into sterilized jelly glasses and set away to harden. The jelly bags should be sterilized before using.

How to Make Apple Jelly

Wipe the apples, remove the stem and blossom ends and cut into quarters. Put into granite or, porcelain lined preserving kettle and add enough cold water to come nearly to the top of the apples. Cook slowly until the apples are soft. Mash and strain through a coarse sieve. Allow the juice to drip through a jelly bag. Boil slowly for about 20 minutes, add an equal quantity of heated sugar, cook for about five minutes or until the jelly will harden when dropped on a cold saucer. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses and seal when cold. If the apples are pared a very light colored jelly is obtained.

How to Make Crab Apple Jelly

Follow the recipe for apple jelly and use red cheeked crab apples, if possible.

How to Make Quince Jelly

Follow the recipe for apple jelly, substituting quinces for apples. Remove the seeds from the fruit. Sometimes apples and quinces are used in combination and make an excellent jelly.

How to Make Grape Jelly

Pick over the grapes, wash and remove stems. Heat to the boiling point, mash and boil 30 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag, return the juice to the kettle and boil slowly for about five min¬utes. Add an equal quantity of heated sugar. Boil three minutes or until it hardens on a cold plate. Skim if necessary. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses; seal when cold. Be very sure the grapes are not over-ripe. It is very desirable to add a few green grapes. Wild grapes make excellent jelly to serve with game.

How to Make Barberry Jelly

This is considered quite a delicacy, and is made the same as grape jelly, except that a very little water,--about one cup to one peck of berries--is sometimes added.

How to Make Currant Jelly

Pick over the currants but do not remove the stems, wash and drain. Put into a preserving kettle and mash. Cook slowly for about 20 to 30 minutes. Strain through a coarse strainer and then through a jelly bag. Follow directions for grape jelly.

A combination of currants and raspberries makes a good jelly.

How to Make Raspberry Jelly

Follow the directions for grape jelly. Raspberry jelly is hard to make and should not be tried if the fruit is not perfectly fresh or if it is at all over-ripe.


The pulp, seeds and skins are all retained in jams; often material that is left from jellies, and so on, can be used in this way by adding spices and nuts to give flavor. Sterilization and the exclusion of air are not quite so important in this class of preserving on account of the large amount of sugar used which takes away food from the bacteria. Equal amounts of sugar and fruits are used in making jams.

How to Make Raspberry Jam

Pick over the raspberries, mash in a preserving kettle with a wooden masher. Heat slowly to the boiling point, and add an equal quantity of heated sugar. Cook slowly for about 45 minutes. Put into sterilized jars.

How to Make Strawberry Jam

Wash and hull the berries. Add the sugar gradually so that the juice of the berries will dissolve it. Boil about 20 minutes, or until it will harden when dropped on a cold plate. Pour into sterilized glasses.

How to Make Grape Jam

  • 8 Cups of Grapes
  • 4 Cups of Sugar.

Wash the grapes, remove the stems and squeeze the pulp from the skins into a preserving kettle. Put the skins on a granite plate and save them. Boil the pulp until the seeds separate easily, stirring constantly. Strain through a sieve, add the skins to the strained mixture, measure, return to the kettle, and add an equal amount of sugar. Boil gently for 15 minutes or until the jam is very thick. Pour into sterilized glasses and seal when cold. The mixture needs careful watching and stirring, as it will burn easily, especially after the sugar is added.

Rhubarb Conserve

  • 2 lbs. rhubarb.    
  • 2 oranges.
  • 3 lbs. sugar.    
  • 1 lb. shelled nuts.
  • Juice of 3 Lemons.

Remove the leaves and pieces of root from the rhubarb and wash the stalks in cold water. Cut into one-inch pieces. Do not remove the skin unless it is fibrous. If the skin is removed do this before cutting in pieces. Wash the oranges and either grate the rind or cut the yel¬low into strips thin enough to be seen through. Wash the lemons and use only the juice. A little rind may be used, if desired, but it will take away from the orange flavor. The nuts need not be blanched, but should be broken into pieces of medium size. Any nut may be used, but walnuts are especially good. Mix all the materials, except the nuts, with the sugar. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick,--about three-quarters of an hour. After the first half hour's cooking, add the nuts. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses and seal when cold.


Marmalades and butters are really strained jams and the same rules hold true as for jams.

How To Make Apple Marmalade

Pare and core the apples. Cook until tender with just enough water to keep from burning. Force through a fine sieve, return to the fire with a scant pound of sugar and the juice and rind of one lemon for each pound of pulp. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the marmalade is thick when dropped on a cold saucer. Pour into sterilized glasses.

How To Make Peach Marmalade

Follow the recipe for apple marmalade, adding spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

How To Make Crab Apple Marmalade

When making crab apple jelly, core the apples and after straining, use the pulp that is left to make marmalade. Various seasonings can he added. Among the best are cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, grated rind and juice of oranges and lemons. When seasoned according to taste, add sugar to the pulp, and cook until of the desired consistency. Seal in sterilized jars.

How To Make Rhubarb Marmalade

  • 2 lbs. rhubarb.
  • 3 lbs. sugar.
  • Rind and pulp of 6 oranges.

Boil the ingredients together until thick. The rind of the orange may be grated and cooked by itself until tender before adding to the rest of the materials. Pour into sterilized glasses and seal.


Pare and remove the eyes from pineapple, then grate. Weigh the pulp and heat two-thirds of its weight in sugar. Cook the pineapple in an uncovered dish for some time. Then add the juice of one lemon for each pound of fruit. Then add the sugar and boil until thick,--about five minutes. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses.



Under this heading are classified pickles and relishes, such as chili sauce, chow chows and catsups. Pickling is preserving in salt or acid liquor. Pickles do not contain much nutritive value, but add much to a meal in making it attractive. Cucumber pickles should never look as green when pickled as the fruit on the vine; if they do it is almost certain that some preservative has been used.

Sweet Pickled Pears or Peaches.

  • 1 peck peaches.    
  • 4 lbs. brown sugar.
  • 1 quart vinegar.    
  • 2 ozs. stick cinnamon.
  • Cloves.

Boil sugar, vinegar and cinnamon for 20 minutes. Dip peaches quickly in hot water and rub off fur with a towel. Stick each peach with three or four cloves, put into syrup and cook until soft. Cook only enough fruit at a time to fill one jar. Seal in sterilized jars. Pears may be prepared in the same way.

How to make Chili Sauce

  • 25 ripe tomatoes (medium sized).    
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar.
  • 4 large white onions.    
  • 6 peppers. (chopped fine)
  • 4 teaspoons of ginger.    
  • 4 teaspoons of allspice
  • 1 teaspoons of cloves.    
  • 2 tablespoons of salt.
  • 1 qt. vinegar.

Mix these materials and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. The consistency should be quite thick and more than an hour's cooking may be necessary. Strain or not as desired, but if strained put back in the kettle and bring to the boiling point before scaling. Use tall wide necked bottles and fill to overflowing, using the same precautions as you would in canning fruit. The chili sauce is quite "hot," but this can be remedied by altering the number of peppers and onions. In preparing, the tomatoes should be washed; scalded and peeled. The peppers should be washed in cold water, the stems removed and the peppers chopped finely. Chop the onions finely in the same bowl as the peppers.

How to make Olive Oil Pickles.

  • 8 qts. sliced cucumbers.    
  • 1 teaspoon cloves.
  • 1 cup olive oil.    
  • 1 teaspoon allspice.
  • 1 cup sugar.    
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed.
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed.    
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon.
  • One dozen onions.

Slice the cucumbers thin and let stand over night in a weak brine. In the morning drain, add the onions sliced thin. Mix the ingredients given. Put the cucumbers and onions in a crock, pour over the mixture and add enough vinegar to cover. Mix well. 

How to make Sweet Cucumber Pickles

Select small cucumbers. Wash well but do not peel. Put into a crock one cup of salt and 4 quarts of cucumbers. Cover with boiling water and let stand over night. In the morning remove from the brine, put in a granite kettle, cover with vinegar to which has been added mustard seeds, whole cloves, stick cinnamon, two cups of sugar and other desired seasonings. Let it come to the boiling point, but not boil. Seal while hot.

How to make Green Tomato Pickles

Remove a thin slice from each end of the green tomatoes. Slice and sprinkle one peck of tomatoes with one cup of salt and let stand over night. Drain, boil 15 minutes in two quarts of boiling water and one quart of vinegar. Drain again. Cook for 10 minutes the following: one gallon of vinegar, 2 pounds or less of sugar, 1 red pepper, 10 teaspoon mustard seed, 3/4 cup cinnamon bark, and any other seasonings desired. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally. The spices should be removed; this is easily accomplished if they are tied in a muslin bag. Pack in sterilized jars.


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