Time for the August installment of our monthly series in which we post a recipe fromThe Virginia House-wife, a recipe book published in 1824 by Mary Randolph, kinswoman to Thomas Jefferson. Leni Sorensen, our African American Research Historian and a culinary historian of national repute, has once again made this month's dish and here we include her notes and pictures.

Mary Randolph, The Virginia House-Wife, 1824; facsimile of first edition, Historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess, University of South Carolina Press, 1984, p. 193.

Peach Marmalade
August 2011

The original recipe from Mary Randolph

Take the ripest soft peaches, (the yellow ones make the prettiest marmalade,) pare them and take out the stones; put them in the pan with one pound of dry light coloured brown sugar to two of peaches; when they are juicy they do not require water; with a silver or wooden spoon, chop them with the sugar, continue to do this, and let them boil gently till they are a transparent pulp that will be a jelly when cold.  Puffs made of this marmalade are very delicious. 

Leni's notes:

Randolph was very particular about the sugar she says is the best for preserves.  “The sugar should be the best double refined, but if the pure amber coloured sugar house syrup from the West Indies can be got, it is greatly superior; it never ferments . . . “  In MR’s time commercial traffic for all the best culinary ingredients was an international trade.  Sugar and salt came from the West Indies, dried macaroni (pasta) came from Italy, wines from Europe, tea from China, coffee from Brazil, all arriving in the ports of the Atlantic seaboard in hundreds of ships a year. 

As you can see I used very ripe peaches donated to me at the Meade Park Farmer’s Market. Because of their ripeness I peeled these peaches without blanching.

Light brown sugar is roughly equivalent to the sugar MR recommends and adds a beautiful caramel taste and color to the marmalade. I followed her 2 lb fruit to 1 lb sugar ratio

You don’t need to mash the fruit first just ‘chop them’ with your wooden spoon as it cooks so there are small chunks of peach

At a gentle boil it may take 45 minutes or so to get to a translucent color for the fruit and a shiny color for the syrup. Watch it and keep stirring as it can stick and/or scorch.

Since I plan on storing my Peach Marmalade in the fridge I didn’t water bath it, just put the marmalade in clean glass jars. It won’t last long!