PRUNES.—Use only the best selected prunes. Clean by putting them into warm water; let them stand a few minutes, rubbing them gently between the hands to make sure that all dust and dirt is removed; rinse, and if rather dry and hard, put them into three parts of water to one of prunes; cover closely, and let them simmer for several hours. If the prunes are quite easily cooked, less water may be used. They will be tender, with a thick juice. The sweet varieties need no sugar whatever. Many persons who cannot eat fruit cooked with sugar, can safely partake of sweet prunes cooked in this way. A slice of lemon added just before the prunes are done, is thought an improvement.
PRUNE MARMALADE.—Cook sweet California prunes as directed above. When well done, rub through a colander to remove the skins and stones. No sugar is necessary. If the pulp is too thin when cold, it may be covered in an earthen pudding dish and stewed down by placing in a pan of hot water in a moderate oven.
THE PRESERVATION OF FRUIT.
Fresh fruit is so desirable, while at the same time the season during which most varieties can be obtained is so transient, that various methods are resorted to for preserving it in as nearly a natural state as possible. The old-fashioned plans of pickling in salt, alcohol, or vinegar, or preserving in equal quantities of sugar, are eminently unhygienic. Quite as much to be condemned is the more modern process of keeping fruit by adding to it some preserving agent, like salicylic acid or other chemicals. Salicylic acid is an antiseptic, and like many other substances, such as carbolic acid, creosote, etc., has the power of preventing the decay of organic substances. Salicylic acid holds the preference over other drugs of this class, because it imparts no unpleasant flavor to the fruit. It is nevertheless a powerful and irritating drug, and when taken, even in small doses, produces intense burning in the stomach, and occasions serious disturbances of the heart and other organs. Its habitual use produces grave diseases.
What is sold as antifermentive is simply the well-known antiseptic, salicylate of soda. It should be self-evident to one at all acquainted with the philosophy of animal existence, that an agent which will prevent fermentation and decay must be sufficiently powerful in its influence to prevent digestion also.
The fermentation and decay of fruits as well as that of all other organic substances, is occasioned by the action of those minute living organisms which scientists call germs, and which are everywhere present. These germs are very much less active in a dry, cold atmosphere, and fruit may be preserved for quite a long period by refrigeration, an arrangement whereby the external air is excluded, and the surrounding atmosphere kept at an equal temperature of about 40 deg. F. The most efficient and wholesome method of preserving fruit, however, is destruction of the germs and entire exclusion from the air. The germs are destroyed at a boiling temperature; hence, if fruit be heated to boiling, and when in this condition sealed in air-tight receptacles, it will keep for an unlimited period.