Preserving Jams and Jellies a Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, July 9, 1911: Went to Sunday school this morning. Was over to see my friend this evening. Besse and Curt were here when I came home.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Based on previous diary entries this Sunday sounds like a very typical Sunday at the Muffly’s. Grandma went to Sunday School, her married sister and brother-in-law came to visit, and she visited with a friend.

Since Grandma didn’t write much today, I’d like to tell you a little more about how jellies and jams were made a hundred years ago.

Several days ago I had an entry about making currant jelly using both modern and hundred-year-old recipes. My daughter and I filled miscellaneous jelly jars that I found in my cabinets, and then took a photo to illustrate the posting. The jars in the photo didn’t match—and at first I thought that I should have been more careful to use matching jars for both the modern and traditional recipes when I filled them so that I would have ended up with a better photo.

Some of the jars we filled with current jelly.

But then I realized that my photo probably was more typical of what they would have actually done in 1911—the family would have re-used whatever jars they had and there probably would have been several different types and styles.

A hundred years ago, people generally saved “real” canning jars and lids for canning; and instead often just re-used jars and lids that purchased foods had come in for jellies, jams, and preserves.

The description of filling and sealing jelly jars in the 1907 Lowney’s Cook Book  is below:

Have jelly glasses standing in hot water; pour jelly into them; let stand until hard and cover first with paper or melted paraffin, and the tin cover, or paste white paper over the glass. Keep all jellies in cool, dry, dark place.

Hmm, I can’t quite picture sealing a jar with paper—though I can remember pouring melted paraffin on top of jelly to seal it when I was younger and think that some people still use that method.

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