I am making Citron Preserves today. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. Wm. Rittinger for the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. Several months ago I was given a citron melon from the Waterloo Region Museum. Fortunately this type of melon keeps well over the winter and can be processed when convenient rather than the day of harvest like most fruits and vegetables. Citrons are grown most years in the gardens at Doon Heritage Village. I was first introduced to this interesting fruit when I worked there many years ago. They look a bit like a round watermelon and grow on similar ground hugging vines.
I peeled the citron and cut the flesh into squares. I removed the seeds as I worked with the citron. I was a bit surprised to see that the seeds are red as I remember working with citron that had pale seeds that had a hint of red in some spots. The flesh of a citron is a pale yellow colour instead of the bright red of a traditional watermelon. They don’t taste sweet instead the flavour is a bit like a raw pea. Citrons are not eaten fresh but they are great for preserving since it will easily take on other flavours. It is often preserved with lemons or ginger. It also keeps its shape during cooking, simply becoming more translucent.
I weighed my citron squares and I had 2 1/2 pounds. I put the same weight of sugar into a sauce pan and added 1/2 a cup of water. I simmered it for 20 minutes until it became syrupy and then I added the citron pieces. I left it to boil for an hour. The citron pieces slowly shrank as their liquid went into the sugar syrup. The syrup of course became more liquid. Good thing as it was extremely thick. I think I should have had a lid on the syrup while it cooked and removed the lid once the citron was in the pan. Meanwhile I prepared the lemons by washing them and slicing thinly. I took out the seeds too.
After an hour the citron pieces were small, soft and starting to become a bit clear. I added the lemons and started the canning process. I’d already sterilized the jars so I just had to sterilize the lids and seals. I spooned the citron preserves into the jars, wiped the jar rim and popped on the seal and ring. Voila Citron Preserves. And a little dish for me to taste.
Mrs. William Rittinger was Catherine Caroline Doerr, mother of six daughters. IN THE 1901 census she’s listed as Kate and is 39 years old while William is 40. The girls are Nellie (17), Louise (15) Lottie (13) Emma (9 ) and Edna (3). The household includes a widowed lodger named Conrad Doerr who is 67. I suspect he is Catherine’s father so I wonder why he’s listed as a lodger rather than a father in law? According to the Waterloo Region Generations website, another daughter Lillian was born in 1903 but died when she was nine months old. A month later the oldest girl Nellie died. In 1911 all of the remaining girls are still living at home and this time Mr. Doerr is listed as father in law. I think they live at 193 Frederick street. Mr. Rittinger is an insurance agent for a life insurance company. Charlotte (Lottie) is a stenographer.
The citron preserves are not to my taste. There’s nothing wrong with them except that they taste mainly of sugar with a hint of lemon and some other vague flavour. The texture of the citron pieces is soft but with some bite. I liked that part. I’ve had (actually made) better citron preserves. I really like versions with ginger. So what do you do with citron preserves? This isn’t really something to put on toast. Instead it might accompany a piece of plain cake or even be served with meat.
If you would like to grow your own citrons, check out Seeds of Diversity for sources of this seed. http://www.seeds.ca/sl/csci/index.php?psp=Citron I’ve linked to the Canadian site but there is also a site for the US. And for anyone in the KW area, I’ve a dish of citron seeds if you want some to grow next year.
Mrs. Wm. Rittinger
Pare the citrons and cut them into squares about an inch thick, take out all the seeds with small knife, then weigh, to each pound of citron, put 1 pound sugar,make a syrup. To 10 pounds sugar put 1 pint water and simmer gently for 20 minutes then put in citron and boil an hour or until tender, before taking off the fire put in 2 lemons sliced thin, seeds taken out.