Within a few years canned fruits have, in a great measure, superceded preserves. They are cheaper, more wholesome, and far less difficult to prepare. Attention to a few general rules will insure success to every housekeeper who sensibly prefers to put up her own season’s supply of these to purchasing those for double the cost, which are not nearly so good.
First, examine cans and elastics narrowly before you begin operations. See that the screw is in order, the can without crack or nick, the elastic firm and closely fitting.
Secondly, have the fruit boiling hot when sealed. Have upon the range or stove a pan in which each empty can is set to be filled after it is rolled in hot water. Lay elastic and top close to your hand, fill the can to overflowing, remembering that the fruit will shrink as it cools, and that a vacuum invites the air to enter; clap on the top without the loss of a second, screw as tightly as you can, and as the contents and the can cool, screw again and again to fit the contractions of metal and glass.
Thirdly, if you use glass cans (and they are cheapest in the end, for you can use them year after year, getting new elastics when you need them) keep them in a cool, dark place, and dry as well as cool. The light will cause them to ferment, and also change the color.
Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: We see here one of the earliest references to the great Food Preservation Revolution of the 19th century–the advent of home canning. Food had of course been “put up,” preserved by one technique or other to last the family through the seasons in which food could not be grown. Items in season were packed away in jars, bottles, jugs, kegs, demijohns, firkins and similar containers, but something else was always needed to keep away spoilage. One technique was moisture removal by methods like smoking or drying. Another was blocking the food from contact with air, which requiring sealing the containers with corks, tied-on animal skins such as bladders, wrapping in paper that had been coated with brandy or other liquids. Some foods could be preserved by packing in salt, others by being stored under layers of sand or dirt. Pickling battled spoilage with the acids of vinegar. Fruit was preserved with sugar, making jellies and marmalades.
Now at last came an entirely new method, made possible by technology which lowered the prices of wide-mouthed glass bottles, thin metal clamp- or screw-on lids, and semi-disposable rubber or elastic strips to unite the two. The technique Mrs. Harland describes above is today known as the hot-water-bath method of canning. Modern food scientists boo and hiss and would like to see the method outlawed in favor of pressure-cooker canning (since the higher heat does a better job of killing the germs which produce food poisoning) but given what was known and the tools she had to work with at the time, Mrs. Harland did a fine job here.