Not pressing the grapes was standard advice back then.
a grape juice recipe from a book dated 1908 that tells you not to press the straining grapes. Here’s the same instruction in the August 10, 1921 edition of The Herald and Presbyter, a religious publication in Cincinnati. And here’s similar advice from the September 7, 1961 edition of the Ottawa Citizen.
Nowdays, you’ll find recipes that tell you to squeeze and recipes that tell you not to squeeze. And it’s all about pectin, and what you think jelly ought to look like.
Pectin is a long-chain polysaccharide found in the flesh of fruits. It’s the ingredient that, in the presence of enough sugar and a little bit of acid, causes jelly to thicken. Too little pectin and your jelly will be runny; too much pectin and your jelly will be cloudy. Squeezing the bag that you’re using to filter your grape mash will squeeze out more pectin than your jelly needs and turn it cloudy.
And much like the hokey pokey, that’s what this bag-squeezing advice is all about. The preference in the early 20th century was for jellies that were softer and translucent, something you’d expect in a refined setting. Modern jelly-producers sometimes prefer the rustic, more country feel of an opaque, butter-like jelly, and for that, you want more pectin, and for more pectin, you squeeze the bag.
So sometimes there are cooking instructions that are urgent to follow. This is not one of those times. This is purely a matter of your preference.
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|From the notebook of J.L. from Avon Lake, Ohio. Dated 1915.|
Wash the pears; pare them and cut them into halves and remove cores. Put them in cold water and then cook in thin syrup.
Remove stems; wash, drain, and put grapes in preserving kettle. Crush with wooden masher and cook until seeds separate from pulp. Strain juice through cheesecloth bag but do not press it.
Measure juice and add equal amount of sugar to it. Boil mixture about 25 minutes. Put jelly into sterile tumblers. Let stand overnight and cover them.