Layer of bread dough large enough to cover baking pan
Spices as desired, optional
Take any juicy, sour apples; wash and wipe them very clean, and cut them up without paring or taking out the cores. Put them into an earthen jar or baking pan with a very little water, and cover it with a paste of bread dough, rolled thin; (this keeps in the steam more effectually than a plate or lid). Put it in the oven after the bread is baked, and let it remain several hours. Then pour the whole into a linen bag, suspended in such a manner that it can be left to drip for some time. Put a pound of sugar to a pint of syrup; add any thing which is preferred, to flavor it. Boil ten minutes.
From The Young Housekeeper’s Friend by Mrs. [M. H.] Cornelius, 1863
Comment: The use of dough as a substitute lid has a surprisingly long history, even unto the present day. As it is not intended to be eaten it need not be anything more elaborate than a basic flour and shortening paste, with just enough water to allow it to roll out and stick together. We see here how 19th century cooks used the fluctuations of temperature in a wood or coal fired stove to their advantage. Roasting would be done when the first was first built up and was at its hottest. As it died down more delicate work like baking could be done. After that the coals would continue to emit ever-lessening amounts of heat for hours yet, but to make no use of that heat would be wasteful, so it was a perfect opportunity to simmer even more delicate substances like fruit.
Experienced jelly-makers will note that there is no call for jelling agents such as renin or isinglass in this recipe. The secret here is that apples are naturally rich in the jelling agent known as pectin. Note that Mrs. Cornelius says to cook “without paring”? That’s because the pectin is in the apple’s peel.