A unique French recipe

I have learnt my lesson with old recipes – I come across something, maybe a hundred or more years ago, and think it sounds wonderful and I get carried away with the idea of it, and maybe lost in a nostalgic, fanciful world from my childhood. It probably never existed and is muddled with the aspiration I had when my own children were small of creating such an imagined place – a mixture of what I had read as a child about other children, the perfect childhood I wanted for my two, and my over ambitious over enthusiastic take on all sorts of things!

I came across a recipe for Mélange in the seventy year old book, Jams, Jellies and Preserves – how to make them, by Ethelind Fearon.


This is a unique French recipe and is not cooked.
The recipe is simple. In the middle of the summer take some ripe dry fruit and an equal weight of sugar and put them in a large crock. We always knew this kind of jar as a “cream pot”, doubtless in other places it has other names, but it is brown on the outside and pale inside, glazed and holds about two gallons.
Gather your fruit then, lay  it in a layer on the bottom, say, two pounds of strawberries, two of sugar, then two of raspberries and another two of sugar; two of stoned cherries, white or black, two more of sugar and then a bottle of cooking brandy over the whole thing. Without the brandy it will ferment. Use the pulp of oranges and bananas, the chopped inside of pineapple, ripe peaches, nectarines, blackberries, plums. The only rule is – use exactly as much sugar as fruit and let the top layer be of sugar.

It isn’t clear whether there are two different versions here, the strawberry, raspberry, cherry one, and then the other fruit in any combination  – but I rather think it is.

When it has mellowed a month or so you may begin to use it, to make a flan (with the juice thickened) to eat with bread and butter, to cook like jam in a tart, or in any way jam is used.
As the juice of the fruit combines with the sugar and brandy it will become too liquid, but from time to time half a pint or so of juice should be taken out to make a sauce or soak a sponge cake and lower the level again.
It is, in fact, a “fruit stock pot” and can be replenished at will. The longer it stands the better it grows. Dig down into the mixture to get a good blend.

It sounds wonderful in a bygone age sort of way, but remembering the various old recipes I have tried, especially salting green beans (nightmare) I can imagine mine would ferment despite the brandy (waste of brandy)  go mouldy, taste horrid, or we would just never use it as we rarely if ever have flans, cakes, tarts or jam. Times change,, and tastes change, so maybe I will just use the recipe in something I write – maybe my 1950’s story or my children’s story about Peggy.


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