Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Today I'm making a sort of hot pepper jelly. This isn't a pioneer recipe, but its pretty tasty. I got the recipe from my friend Kenzie, and I was surprised to see that there is no pectin in it. When she shared it with me previously, it had a definite jelly consistency. I couldn't figure out how that worked without pectin in the recipe. Maybe it was a typo.

But then I started thinking about the pioneers and their lack of pectin. So naturally I went to and discovered that apples contain their own natural pectin. In fact, apples are the source of pectin when you buy pectin in the grocery store. After apples are crushed for cider, they sell the pommace (mashed pieces) to the pectin makers.

Through the course of the research, I came across a couple of different fruit preserves, and as you know, right now is the season for making preserves. The most common Mormon preserve seems to have been peaches simmered in molasses. The recipes often said to leave the skins and stones in the pot while simmering. This contributed pectin to the mix. If you simmer them for several hours, eventually it resolves into a sort of peach-flavored goop, which was used like jam, or was also used to make a filling for a pastry-lined pudding.

Another preserve mentioned was pumpkin- or squash butter. This was used in the early years of settlement before fruits were commonly available. After fruit trees were established, I did run across one source for apple butter. I imagine that the squash butter was made in pretty much the same way as apple butter, but using squash instead of apples. So here's a recipe from Elizabeth Ellet's The Practical Housekeeper: A Cyclopedia of Domestic Economy, 1857:

Boil cider down one half; put in as many apples as the liquor will contain, stew them soft; then take them out and put in fresh apples. When they are cold boil them again in the cider til they are pulpy and thick. Add different kinds of spice, a little before it is done Keep in covered jars.

Well, I better go stir the peppers. Good luck with your preserves!


Cafe Johnsonia said...

Another great book is The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Child. I love that book and often think when I am reading it that the recipes in it were probably also used by the pioneers. I haven't really tried any of the recipes...I probably should, but it's a fun read. (Can't wait for your book!)

Brock said...

Is there an online version of American Frugal Housewife?

As for Mormons using it, as far as I can tell the Mormon cooks worked from rote memory and not from published cook books. However, they used the same recipes as those that are in the cook books. A lot of times I find a Mormon reference to a recipe, and then I find that it matches closely with something from the published works, but adapted for the conditions of the Mormon settlements.

Scarehaircare said...

Mmmm. I make a batch of apple butter and one of pumpkin butter every fall. I need to get busy. Just finished the plum-vanilla jams and raspberry jams last week.

Tawna said...

I can't wait to get to making preserves - in a couple of years... For now, I hit the books.