Raspberry Preserves – Historical Context
Raspberry preserves prior to canning
Jams/Jellies are some of the most commonly found items in modern pantries around the globe- however, an almost universal love of the combination of fruit and sugar is nothing new.
Fruit has been preserved in that manner at least as far back as the 16th century when European soldiers brought the product and the process back from the Middle East after the Crusades. From then until the early 19th century, which brought us jam as we know it today, sugar was considered a spice and a costly one- only the richest could afford to pay the astounding prices associated with the precious commodity.
Mary Randolph’s directions for reducing raspberries
The 19th century saw an alarming rise in the number of people, predominantly Africans, enslaved on sugar plantations in the West Indies and other areas of the Caribbean. This spike in the slave population caused a similar spike in sugar production-which allowed sugar to cross the boundary from luxury item to a staple of daily life.
The dramatic reduction in the cost of sugar allowed jam to be introduced to the majority of the population who had previously not experienced it. It was not long before members of the working class were actually given jam on bread provided to them by their employers- an extravagance that would have been unheard of even a few decades prior to the publication of The Virginia Housewife.