Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Storing apples in Federal America

The father/daughter authors William Cobbett (1763-1835) and Anne Cobbett (1795-1877) each wrote about how Americans stored and transported apples.

William Cobbett was a British politician, writer and farmer who lived with his family in America twice.  Anne Cobbett was born in Philadelphia in 1795 during their first stay in Wilmington, Philadelphia and New York from 1792 to 1800.  Their second stay was from 1817 to 1819 on Long Island, NY.

Anne (Reid) Cobbett (1774-1848) married William in 1792 and had seven children, Anne the eldest.  "Nancy" wrote “Instructions for Using Meal and Flour of Indian Corn” which was contained in later editions of one of her husband’s books - Cottage Economy - edited by their daughter Anne.

Anne Cobbett's 1835 book --
"When we were in America, [1817-1819] we were surprised to find that our neighbours took so little care to preserve their apples, during the three months of unremitting hard frost, which occur in their winter season. They merely laid their apples on the floor of a spare room, sometimes of the barn, or of an outhouse, each sort by itself, and then covered them with a linen sheet. The people told us that their apples never became frozen, and attributed this to the dryness of the atmosphere.

A store-room of this description is not adapted for keeping fruit; it would be too warm, besides that the fruit might prove injurious to other stores, from the smell which it occasions. There are various methods of keeping apples through the winter; but scarcely any other will be found to succeed so well as that of making layers of fruit, and layers of perfectly fresh and dry straw, in hampers, boxes, or the corner of a dry room. The apples should be examined every now and then, the specked ones taken away for use, the others wiped, and covered up again. In hard frosts, windows that have no shutters could be covered with rugs, old carpet, or mats, and something of the same kind spread over the apples.

Apples and pears may also be preserved in the following way. Gather them on a dry day: wipe, and roll them, singly, in very soft paper, then pack them in jars, each containing about a gallon. Put a cover on the jar, and cement it closely, so as to keep out the air; and place the jar in a dry cellar. When a jar is opened, the fruit will eat the better for being taken out of the paper, and exposed to the air of a warm room for two or three days.

Large baking pears may be suspended by their stalks on lines, placed across near the ceiling of a room. There are many ways of preserving grapes; but the best way is, to gather them with about five or six inches of the branch to each bunch, to seal the end with common sealing wax, and hang them to lines in a dry room. Examine them frequently, and cut out the mouldy berries."

Cobbett, Anne.  The English Housekeeper.   London:  1835   1851 ed has more illustrations

William Cobbett's  1821 book --
"To preserve apples, in their whole state, observe this, that frost does not much injure them, provided they be kept in total darkness during the frost and until they be used, and provided they be perfectly dry when put away. If put together in large parcels, and kept from the frost, they heat, and then they rot; and, those of them that happen not to rot, lose their flavour, become vapid, and are, indeed, good for little This is the case with the Newtown Pippins that are sent to England, which are half lost by rot, while the remainder are poor tasteless stuff, very little better than the English apples, the far greater part of which are either sour or mawkish. 

The apples, thus sent, have every possible disadvantage. They are gathered carelessly; tossed into baskets and tumbled into barrels at once, and without any packing stuff between them; the barrels are flung into and out of waggons; they are rolled along upon pavements; they are put in the hold, or between the decks, of the ship; and, is it any wonder, that a barrel of pomace, instead of apples, arrive at Liverpool or London? 

If, instead of this careless work, the apples were gathered (a week before ripe); not bruized at all in the gathering; laid in the sun, on boards or cloths, three days, to let the watery particles evaporate a little; put into barrels with fine-cut straw-chaff, in such a way as that no apple touched another; carefully carried to the ship and put on board, and as carefully landed; if this were the mode, one barrel, though it would contain only half the quantity, would sell for as much as, upon an average, taking in loss by total, destruction, twenty barrels sell for now. On the deck is the best part of the ship for apples; but, if managed as I have directed, between decks, would do very well.—In the keeping of apples for market, or for home-use, the same precautions ought to be observed as to gathering and laying out to dry and, perhaps, to pack in the same way also is the best mode that can be discovered. 

Dried Apples is an article of great, and general use. Every body knows, that the apples are peeled, cut into about eight pieces, the core taken out, and the pieces put in the sun till they become dry and tough. They are then put by in bags, or boxes, in a dry place. But, the flesh of the apple does not change its nature in the drying; and, therefore, the finest, and not the coarsest, apples should have all this trouble bestowed upon them."

Cobbett, William. The American Farmer.  1821
Cobbett, William. Cottage Economy. 1822.
Cobbett, William.  A Year's Residence in the United States of America. London, 1828 (Long Island farm 1817-1819) 

Cobbett, Anne,  An Account of the Family in William Cobbett Society, 1999
Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825-1949, edited by Elizabeth Drive. Section about wife Anne (Reid) Cobbett HERE

Apple picture 1837 

©2019 Patricia Bixler Reber
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