Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Making and Marketing Sun-Preserved Preserves

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

Wednesday, August 6, 1913: That’s all.

Strawberries

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

Yesterday, I shared an article about “new’ gadgets a hundred years ago that can be used to making canning easier. Since Grandma didn’t write much in this diary entry, I’m going to dig deeper into one statement in that article. It said:

Canning is a great improvement over the old-fashioned way of preserving fruits pound for pound, and if canned properly fruits will retain their fresh and natural flavor.

Ladies Home Journal (May, 1913)

I wondered what that meant and then came across another article about Sun-preserved Preserves. That article contained a letter from a reader explaining how to make and market sun-preserved preserves.

Sun-preserved Preserves

The thing I knew I could do better than most people was to make preserves. My specialties were sun-cooked strawberry and cherry preserves.

I chose only the finest, most perfect fruit, seeding the cherries carefully by hand. I weighed the fruit and made a syrup of an equal amount of the best granulated sugar, using just enough water to melt the sugar and prevent burning. When the sugar was melted I dropped the fruit in carefully and let it boil, about five minutes in the case of the strawberries and ten minutes for the cherries.

I then removed the preserves to a large platter and placed them out in the sunshine, covering closely with large pieces of glass. It may be necessary to use mosquito netting also. About two days of direct sunshine usually cooks the preserves sufficiently. I tried to put them in glass jars while still hot from the sun’s rays. This is not necessary, but they are nicer if canned before the juice sets.

The next problem was to find a market for my wares, which were strictly first class, and, beautiful in shape and color. For these I must ask a good price.

I lived about a hundred miles from a large city, in a village where there was no market for my goods at any price, so I took to scanning the society columns of the city papers and thus listed the names and addresses of the people I wanted to reach. To these I wrote personal letters describing my preserves and setting my price. To a few prominent ladies I sent small samples. The responses were numerous enough to give me several very busy summers.

Ladies Home Journal (July, 1913)

Sometimes when I read old recipes like this one I just roll my eyes and throw up my hands.  These directions don’t sound like they would produce a safe, sanitary food—yet Sun-preserved  Preserves apparently were considered a gourmet food a hundred years ago. So I googled “Sun Preserves” and found a New York Times article that explains how to make them  using modern processes and procedures.

11 Responses

  1. Are you going to try the new processes? I have some homemade Apricot preserves that a friend made that are really good. I don’t think she placed them out in the sunshine though.

  2. Sounds delicious but one would need to be very confident of the power of the sunshine.

  3. Another “short” entry by Grandma. She needs a little excitement in her summer!

  4. Helena sure is making you *work* here! The reader’s letter from 1913 is very practical and charming not only for the preserving, but for her targeted marketing efforts!

  5. You’re going to have to report back with your results if you try this. ;)

  6. I wonder about safe foods in the sense that; have we become so sanitized that we no longer challenge and boost our immune systems? For instance, my mom would cook a stew or spaghgetti sauce and if there were leftovers she just left it sitting in the pot on the stove and heated it again the next day. If we become too sterile and then run into some virus or bacteria, does it just knock us for a loop these days? Ok so, I’m also the gal who drank from the garden hose, ate potatoe salad when it had been out all day, etc…

  7. Yum… these sound very delish and worth giving a try, I reckon.
    Home made sun dried tomatoes are very popular, here in South Australia. Years back my eldest boy enjoying making copious amounts of them and sharing with family and friends… ;-)

  8. interesting story! never heard of of sun dried preserved that way. Smart business woman btw, advertising her items like that while she was so far away from a market!

  9. Canning, including jams and jellies was such a big part of the life of the grandmother who raised me. I always feel closer to her when I read your posts!

  10. […] few days ago I shared tips in the magazine for making and selling Sun-Preserved Preserves.  Here is another […]

  11. I’m impressed with the writer’s efforts to sell her preserves. Sun preserves, those ladies weren’t afraid to try something new.

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