A Sparkling Vintage Life

bettina septI love September, don’t you? The bit of crispness in the air, the promise of bonfires and cozy sweaters and apple pie. As the weather cools, I feel more energized and ready to tackle things than I did in lazy, laid-back August.

I’ve never made jelly before, but this week will be my first attempt: plum jelly, thanks to my neighbor’s bumper crop. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Meanwhile, here’s a story from the darling 1917 (revised 1932) cookbook A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron. In it, the fictional Bettina cooks her way through her first year as a newlywed with her adoring husband, Bob. What it lacks in plot, it makes up for in charm.

This chapter is called “Bettina Makes Apple Jelly.” (Notice the little commercial for a new and unfamiliar product, artificial food coloring. Today we are warned of its dangers, at least of red food coloring. Makes me wonder if a food-coloring manufacturer subsidized the publication of this cookbook.)

“‘What have you been doing?’ asked Bob, as he and Bettina sat down to dinner.

‘Oh, Bob, I’ve had the nicest day! Mother ‘phoned* me this morning that Uncle John had brought her several big baskets of apples from the farm, and that if I cared to come over and help, we would put them up together, and I might have half. Well, we made apple jelly, plum and apple jelly, and raspberry and apple jelly. I had made all these before, and knew how good they were, but I learned something new from Mother that has made me feel happy ever since.’

‘And so you came home, and in your enthusiasm made this fine dandy peach cobber for dinner!’

‘Bob, that was the very way I look to express my joy!’

‘Well, what is this wonderful new apple concoction?’

‘Perhaps it isn’t new, but it was new to me! It is an apple and mint jelly, and I know it will be just the thing to serve with meat this winter.’

‘How did you make it? (I hope you are noticing how interested I’m becoming in all the cooking processes!)”

‘Well, I washed and cut into small pieces four pounds of greening apples. Then I washed and chopped fine one cup of fresh mint, and added it to the apples. I coveredthe mixture with water, and cooked it all till the apples were so tender that they were falling to pieces. I strained it then, and used three-fourths of a cup of sugar for each cup of juice. I cooked this till the mixture jellied, and then I added four teaspoons of lemon juice and enough green vegetable color paste to give it a delicate color.’

‘Isn’t that coloring matter injurious?’

‘Oh, no, Bob! It’s exactly as pure as any vegetable, and it gives things such a pretty color. Why, I use it very often, and I’m sure that more people would try it if they knew how successful it is. It is such fun to experiment with. Of course, I never use anything but the vegetable coloring.’

‘Well, go on with the jelly. What’s next?’

‘That’s all, I think. I just poured it into glasses, and there it is, waiting for you to help me carry it home from Mother’s. Now, Bob, won’t that be good next winter with cold roast beef or cold roast veal? I know it will be just the thing to use with a pork roast.’

‘Sounds fine.’

‘I’m to have all the apples I can use in the fall. Uncle John has promised them to me. Then Mother says we’ll make cider. Won’t that be fine?’

‘I should say it will! Cider and doughnuts and pumpkin pie! Makes me long for fall already. But then I like green corn and watermelon and peaches, so I suppose I can wait.'”

(* I’m tickled by the use of the apostrophe with “‘phoned,” reminding us that it’s a slang abbreviation of the correct verb, “telephoned.” The telephone was still a relatively new gadget in most homes when the original version of this cookbook was published in 1917. Today, of course, the noun “phone” and the verb “phoned” are standard English, evidence of how language evolves over time.)

Have you had success making jelly or jam? Any hints to share with the novice jelly-maker?