Day 219 Grape Jam and To Can Green Gooseberries in a Borrowed Kitchen

Today seemed like a great day to start using more of the produce I bought at the Kitchener Market on Saturday. The problem of course is that I don’t have a functioning stove. Fortunately I have great friends who made a trade.  Access to their stove in return for driving their teenage son around this weekend while they went on holiday. I am making Grape Jam using a recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book contributed by M. O. I suspect M. O. is Meta Oberlander. I’m also trying a recipe called To Can Green Gooseberries which belongs to Mrs. D. Gross, Jr.

I started with the gooseberry recipe. I washed the berries and topped and tailed them. This took far longer than I expected. Next I put them in a jar and poured boiling water over them and left it to sit on the counter.

While the gooseberries were scalding, I started making the grape jam. I began by washing  and stemming the grapes. Next I reluctantly began the task of squeezing each grape to separate the skin and pulp. The pulp went in a pot and the skins in a bowl nearby. I started heating the juicy pulp but it turns out these were seedless grapes so only a few small seeds floated to the top. Next I added the skins and measured. I had three cups of grape mash so I added three cups of sugar. I left it to simmer before turning back to the gooseberries.

I drained the water from the gooseberries and in a saucepan I made a syrup of two cups of sugar and one cup of water. It didn’t take long for the sugar to melt and become a syrup. I poured it into the jar of gooseberries and put on a sterilized sealer lid and ring. I’ll discuss canning methods a little more below. Once the ring was tightened I put the jar in a boiling water bath and left it to simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile the grape jam was coming along nicely. I let it bubble for 45 minutes before pouring it into jars using a canning funnel. I sealed the three jars but had a little left over to put in a dish for tasting.

Meda (Meta) Oberlander was the “spinster” sister of the “bachelor” minister for St. Peter’s Lutheran church in Berlin. Louisa and David Gross Jr. had one son named Mervin Carl. They live at 34 Waterloo Street according to the 1911 census. David is the assistant superintendent of a button factory while 14-year-old Carl is fortunate to still be at school.

I haven’t tasted the Canned Gooseberries yet. I’ll report back when I used the gooseberries in a few months. I think I should have used a thicker syrup (perhaps 3 cups of sugar to one cup of water) as the gooseberries are currently floating at the top of the jar. I also used a purple type of gooseberry rather than green as they were not available at the market. I’m hopeful the gooseberries will still keep but I’ll watch for signs of mold or a broken seal on the jar.

Reverend Oberlander must have enjoyed this jam. I like grape jam and this is a typical version. The grapes were quite tart so they balance the amount of sugar well. It is still a very sweet jam but that is typical in this era. Sugar is just one preservation method but they all work on the principle of inhibiting the growth of nasties. Lots of sugar stops them in their tracks just like salt, vinegar, cold, and removing the moisture by drying all prevent or slow it. Canning equipment in 1906 is not too different from that used by home canners today. A large pot for boiling jars and sterilizing equipment, some special jars that can be sealed and perhaps a metal funnel for helping the mixtures get in the jars instead of on the table.

The sealing system on the jars was different. In 1906 most homes would use a glass jar, a rubber ring that fit around the flat top, a glass lid that went on top of the rubber seal and a metal (usually zinc) ring that kept everything together until the seal was complete. The rubber rings should only be used once but I suspect they were used more often. Today’s canning jar is sealed with a one piece metal lid which had a ring of rubber like compound on it. A metal ring is used to keep the lid tight until the seal is complete. These lids can only be used once.

I’m not going to teach you how to can in this blog. Find a relative, friend, or take a course to teach you the basics so that you can safely make a variety of preserves and pickles. There really is nothing like the satisfaction that comes from knowing what your food contains and in making it yourself. I was fortunate to learn from my mother how to make jam and pickles. I expanded my knowledge through the 4H program and from my mentors at historic sites.

Heat your jars, fill them with berries and pour over them scalding water, let them stand until the berries begin to turn white, drain off all the water, fill up the jars with rich syrup and steam 20 minutes or 1/2 hours.


Select your grapes, have them perfectly clean, separate skin from pulp, keeping them in separate dishes. Boil pulp so as to free it from seeds, now add skins and use pint of sugar to pint of fruit, cook slowly 3/4 of hour.

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