Chap. I. – Comfits, pp.1-18.

[Comfits Contents]

   CLEANLINESS in this department cannot be too strongly recommended, the pans being usually made of brass, or copper; and sugar, according to chemists, containing a very great portion of oxalic acid, it must extract, when allowed to remain any length of time in a pan, part of the poisonous quality of the metal, which also imparts a yellow tinge to the sugar. Great care ought therefore to be taken to keep every utensil bright and clean, by scouring frequently with lemon juice, or vinegar and sand, then by thoroughly washing and drying them, both before and after using. The casting pan, in particular, should be always clean and bright; so that the sugar, which, in the course of making comfits, gathers round the bottom, may be safely used when scraped or washed off. In making caraways and other small comfits, the casting pan requires frequent washing in the course of a day; the water should be kept, and when it is pretty strong with the sugar washed off the pan, it should be thrown among the skimmings. In making the larger kinds, the pan should not be washed, but scraped, when the sugar grows thick and rough; line a sieve, or riddle, with sheets of paper and empty the comfits into it, set them before the stove. In scraping the pan, use a piece of flat sheet iron, about three inches broad, and rounded at the mouth, fixed in a wooden handle. The sugar thus scraped off is kept for making peppermint drops

   The washings of sugar from the pans, when every thing is kept clean, is a great saving, and is used in place of water for boiling up the skimmings of sugar, and when strained through a hair sieve, added to the next pan of sugar. After the first boiling of the skimmings, a second boiling, for about ten or fifteen minutes, takes place with more water, they are then set aside for twelve hours and strained, the refuse will then be tasteless, all the sugar being extracted. 

   The first thing to be learned in confectionary, is the proper method of clarifying sugar; for on this depends, in a great measure, the quality and whiteness of comfits. It makes it more easily wrought, and prevents that toughness so often complained of. This toughness and difficulty of clearing sugar, is occasioned by the difference of practice amongst sugar refiners; there are sugars which to appearance look well, but, when clarifying, require a greater quantity of water to make the skims coagulate on the top and separate; this kind is very difficult to work. Sugar, when properly refined, parts easily with the refuse, or scum, works free, and gives a clear white colour to the comfits. 

There are various methods in practice for clarifying sugar; for the grounding of caraways, balls, &c. some take for a pan of sugar of thirty pounds, only two eggs, yolks and whites, whisked up in a good quantity of water, and then poured over the sugar. But the saving of a few pence in the article of eggs, is more than counterbalanced by the bad colour of the syrup. 

To Clarify Sugar.

To a pan of thirty pounds of sugar, allow about as many pints (mutchkins) of water, and the whites of six or eight eggs, cast light, and mixed well with the sugar after it is half dissolved. Break the sugar small, and pour over it the water; or, the whites may be cast with a part of the water, in the pan, before the sugar is put into it. Observe that the sugar is all dissolved before it boils, and stir it often about. When it rises take it off the fire; let it settle a few minutes, put it on again; let it rise well, throw in a little cold water, and when it boils up again, take it off; let it settle, the scums will soon separate, which take off with the skimmer, and put in another pan. You may boil up the skimmings with as much water as covers them, and strain them amongst the syrup; or set them past for the next pan. After being skimmed, put the syrup on the fire for the last time, and when boiled up and carefully skimmed, it is ready for use. 

To prevent repetitions, I shall adopt the generally received terms, for the different degrees of boiling sugar; the first is that degree called 

Smooth.

Put what quantity of syrup you have occasion for, clarified as above directed, into a clean pan on the fire to boil. To prove when it is smooth, take a drop from the skimmer betwixt your finger and thumb; upon opening them you will see a thread extended between them, which breaks and remains as a drop on the finger or thumb, it is then a little smooth; after boiling it longer, and trying it again, it will draw to a longer thread, it is then smooth. Boil it still longer, and you will have that degree called 

Blown.

To know when it is at this degree, dip the skimmer into the syrup, shake it off as clean as you can, blow forcibly through the holes, and a great number of small globules will fly off. The next degree of boiling is the 

Feathered.

And will be known by dipping the skimmer into the sugar, and when shaken clean off, give it a quick shake behind you, and if it is at this degree it will fly off in feathers. 

Crackled,

Is a higher degree of boiling, and is proved by dipping a small stick into the sugar, and plunging it in cold water; then, drawing off the sugar which adheres to the stick, if it is hard and will snap, it is enough. 

N.B. This is the height to which sugar is boiled for making Barley Sugar

Carmil,

Is the highest and last degree of boiling sugar; and is proved, as before, by trying it with a stick dipped first in the syrup and then immediately plunged into cold water. Observe, that when it is at this degree, it will snap like glass the moment it touches the water. Be sure the water is cold, else you may be deceived and lose the sugar, as immediately burns if not taken off the fire. 

After sugar has attained the degree called blown, it very rapidly goes on to the other degrees; much depends on the equal force of the fire, the higher it is boiled the fire should be slower. After sugar is boiled to the carmil degree, it soon assumes a dark brown colour, then changes to black; then, being taken off and reduced to a proper consistence, it is used for colouring brandies and other spirits. 

Description of the Casting Pan.

The casting pan, which is smooth and polished on the inside, is made of copper or brass, in shape like a tea saucer; with this difference, that the edge does not slope so much, but is brought in, like the sides of a bowl, and a strong iron ring forms the rim, over which the rim is turned; the bottom is flat till within a little of the turn. The size most generally in use is about 32 inches in diameter, 6 inches deep in the centre; the handle and eyes are made of iron, and fixed on the outside with strong nails and clenched. The pan is balanced, and the two eyes fixed exactly opposite each other; the handle is then placed betwixt them. Screw into a cross beam, or cieling of the apartment, a double hook; there are two pieces of strong rope cut in proper lengths, in one end of each is fixed an eye, to go over one of the hooks, in the other end is fixed a hook to go through the eye of the pan. When the pan is thus suspended it should be 6 inches above the stove, so that in casting it clears the edge of it. 

The Stove

Is made of good plate iron, and in shape is like a drum set on end, with three legs. The body is 12 inches in diameter, and 14 inches in depth, the rim is turned over and rounded; the door is cut out of the under part, and is about 6 inches long and 4 inches broad, and made to turn on hinges, with a keeper to shut it. The brander is placed immediately above the door, and rests on three or four pieces of iron, and made to fit and slip easily out and in; the bottom is then covered with plate iron to receive the ashes; the door also tempers the fire. Three legs of iron are then fixed on the body of the stove, at equal distances, and made to spread out so as to support the stove and weight of sugar placed on it to boil, and are kept together by a triangle of iron fixed near the middle. For the purpose of keeping the pan from shutting up the top of the stove when put on for boiling, a circular cran is made with three feet, to lift up the pan about 3 inches above the stove. When the fire is pretty low, the stove is then filled up with fresh cinders, and the sugar put on to be kept warm, or made to boil, as it works best when hot, unless in the larger kinds, which require both a cool and thin syrup, and a slow fire. Coal cinders only are burnt in this stove, as they have no smoke. English cinders are very pernicious to the health, owing to the great quantity of sulphur contained in them, Scotch cinders are entirely free of sulphur, and ought to be preferred. They are much easier kindled. 

Caraway Comfits,

Are the easiest made, and generally the first article a learner practises. Take one pound best Dutch caraway seed, or the longest seed you can procure, the beauty and shape depending on the length of the seed, free them of dust, have the syrup very hot, and the stove burning clear, but not too hot; as the pan, being placed at a small distance from the stove, unless kept in constant motion the bottom soon grows so hot as to melt the sugar and spoil the work. When the seed is thoroughly warmed, then proceed to put on the syrup. Observe, that if too much is put on at one time, they adhere so fast together when drying, that all the work you can give them with your hand, will hardly keep them free. On the other hand, if you are too sparing at first, they grow all cornered, and do not regain the proper shape until they are pretty large. Take as much sugar in the ladle as you think will wet them properly, having by a cast of the pan (which is done with the left hand) gathered them together; then pour in the syrup, casting them at the same time till you put the ladle out of your right hand; after which, with your hand spread out, continue rubbing them until they are thoroughly wet. They will require to be cast a few times oftener, and at the same time to be rubbed with the hand, and when beginning to dry particular attention must be paid to keep the right hand constantly in motion among them, the pan being in the mean time kept in motion with the left. When they are all free, continue to cast them until quite dry; then give them another wetting and rubbing as already directed, and so proceed. When the syrup grows too thick, or inclines to grain, put it on the fire just to boil, then add a little water. Caraways, balls, and corianders, require a quick stove and hot syrup. When they grow too heavy for casting, or when there are too many in the pan to be properly wrought, turn them out into a sieve, sift out all the particles of sugar, and divide them in two parts; let the one half remain spread before the stove to harden, while you go on with the other until they fill the pan, these are then turned out, and the other half made up equal to them. They are then divided into four equal parts, and made each a panful, which may weigh about 14 pounds; or, if required larger, they are divided into five or six equal parts. From 60 to 70 pounds of sugar, is put on a pound of seed. Skeleton or water caraways, take about 20 pounds; the sugar ought to be finer. 

The smoothness of confections depends upon the work given with the hand; when finishing them the syrup should be weaker and the stove slower, and well dried betwixt each wetting. In course of making, confections require to be frequently sifted, to take out all the small sugar which gathers, and if not taken out spoils their appearance, and prevents them working so pleasantly. All confections ought to be dried, either in a hot stove, or upon an oven head, spread out in sieves, before they are finished; except almonds, which, if too dry, break in the pan when finishing. 

N.B. In casting the pan endeavour to get into a regular and constant method; if you do it too quick you must soon be exhausted, and unable to continue

Musk Balls, or Plumbs.

Take one pound coriander seed; as it is often very much broke, the best way of cleaning it is to let them run gently off a sheet of stiff paper, and all the broke are left on the paper, take only a few at a time. Go on in the same manner as already directed for making caraways; as they grow larger they require more work with the hand, and a slower fire, and to be well dried betwixt each wetting. The more labour bestowed on them with the hand they are the smoother and whiter, and if made very large they require a weaker syrup; every 28 pounds of sugar you put on them, they should be put aside to dry and harden a few days, on the stove or oven head. 

Corianders,

Are begun in the same manner as the balls; one pound of seed cleaned, makes about 24 pounds or more, according to the size; when they are well covered with sugar, the syrup is put on them through a dropper, suspended above the pan on a small rope, which stretches from one end of the apartment to the other, passing through betwixt the ropes of the pan, at a proper height. The dropper is then filled with boiling hot syrup and made to drop very quick; the stove must likewise be hot, and all the time the syrup drops the pan must be kept casting gently, so as not to break the purling. When nearly of the size wanted, the dropper must be filled with syrup of refined sugar, which renders them very white; and after they are finished they are put in a hot stove, or oven head, to harden a few days. 

Description of the Dropper.

The dropper in general use is made with only one pipe. I had one made with two pipes, which I found far preferable, by which the purling was sooner finished, and much better done, than when I used the single dropper. If the dropper is made to run too fast the purling cannot be sufficiently raised; the double one, if made to drop quick, is more than equal to the single one made to run fast. 

The dropper is made of double tin, of an oval shape, 9 inches in width at the top, 7 inches deep, and 5 or 6 inches at the bottom, in which are fixed two pipes of 1½ inch in length, and tapering to one-half inch in diameter at the end. Across the top is soldered two flat pieces of tin, with a round hole in each, of the size to admit a long pin, which tapers to the point, and is made to fit the pipe at the bottom. Two pieces of tin, bent to act as a spring upon each of the wooden pins, are soldered upon the flat pieces of iron, and made to rise upwards, which keeps them from falling down into the pipes, and by these pins the dropping is tempered. This one will hold above three pounds of syrup at one time. It is suspended by a strong wire, fixed in each end of the dropper, and a hook in the middle to go over the small rope. 

Cardamoms,

Are a very fine stomachic, the seeds are contained in a husk; to free them, put them in an oven a few minutes to dry, then rub them and separate the seeds which adhere together. They are made in the same manner as balls, but require to be more dried betwixt each wetting. In London they are made round and smooth. I generally purled them like corianders. 

Cassia Buds,

After being cleaned and the stalks broken off, are made in the same way as the balls, and are finished very smooth. 

Barberries,

Are rather difficult to make, but are an excellent comfit, which is by some called the matrimonial comfit. They require to be very softly handled at first, and should have a weak syrup until they begin to take it on, and a slow stove; when well covered and smooth, let them harden a few days; then finish them smooth. They should also be well dried before they are confected. 

Almonds.

Take four or six pounds of Jordan almonds to make the finest kind; or Valentia almonds, if too broad shaped cut them long ways. If for the common kind, take Faro almonds; pick out all the broken ones and free them from dust; dissolve 3 oz. gum arabic with a pint (mutchkin) water, to which add 3 pints (mutchkins) good syrup; put this on them first, throw them out; scrape the pan clean and wash it, then go on with the syrup, which should not be too strong. When they are near the size you want them, they should be set aside to dry a few days; do not dry them too hastily, as they are apt to break when put into the pan to finish. Whenever the bottom of the pan grows rough with sugar, which will often happen in the course of a day, they should be turned out and the pan thoroughly scraped. When the bottom of the pan is rough, it will be impossible to make them smooth; they require a great deal of work with the hand and but little casting; a slow stove, and as they increase in size a weaker syrup. They are the most difficult of any comfit to finish, and are finished with best refined sugar, made into a weak syrup; your hand must always be amongst them, and in giving them the few last syrups, or wettings, it will be better to draw the stove from under the pan, or cover it up with an iron plate, and have the syrup in a bason quite cold, into which dip your hand once or twice as you see occasion, so as just wet them. When nearly dry, and when there is a kind of toughness among them, wash your hand in clean water, shake the water off, and keep rubbing them round and round the pan till quite dry, when they will appear very white and smooth. In this manner are all the larger kinds of confections finished; for, in the whiteness and smoothness of confections their beauty consists. Lay the scrapings carefully past to make bottoms for peppermint drops

Diavollini

Are made thus. Pound some good lump sugar and put it through a hair sieve, take what passes through and sift it through a lawn sieve; what does not go through you put into the confection pan, and begin, gently at first, to give small wettings, until they are able to bear a good syrup. When at the size wanted, put them out and lay past for use; take any quantity you presently need, and to each pound add one tea spoonful oil of peppermint, or cinnamon, mix them upon a sheet of paper and lay them before the stove to dry; or it may be added when giving them the last wetting with the syrup. When dry bottle them up. 

Steel and Tin Comfits.

These are much used as a medicine, for worms, &c. – Steel Comfits. Get iron filings, free from any dust, or brass, which is very ready to be mixed with it. To prevent any danger, a little time would clean them by lifting them from one plate to another with a magnet; then wash and dry them in the pan over the fire. The easiest way I found to confect them was, when making balls, or corianders, after they were covered with sugar, to throw in the steel filings, and they wrought as pleasantly as could be. When large enough, lift them from amongst the corianders. 

To prepare tin for confecting, melt what quantity you need; provide an earthen can with a broad bottom, into which pour the tin after skimming it. Then, with a stick, continue to stir and bruise the tin until it turn to powder. Put it through a sieve, and what remains melt again, and proceed until you have enough. 

Nonpareils,

Are used for decorating cakes and biscuits, &c. and are made the same way as directed for diavollini, only they are much smaller. For colouring them, any small pan will serve, which must be suspended above the stove. Prepare the colours thus; pound the colour in a marble mortar, with a little water, then add as much syrup as will wet the quantity you want of each colour twice, which pour into as many cups, or jelly pots, as you have colours, such as gamboge, rosepink, vermilion, lake, or carmine, indigo, &c. For green, indigo and gamboge mixed will produce any shade you please. Black and red produce a purple; red and yellow an orange, &c. When all ready, put the nonpareils into the pan, and when warm give them a wetting; rub them with your hand till dry, and if not high enough coloured give them another; turn them out, and so proceed. 

Bandstrings.

To prepare the cinnamon, pick out the thinnest pieces of the cassia, and those that are free from knots, and lay them in water all night to soften. Take a piece, and laying it flat upon a board, with a sharp knife, cut it into very narrow stripes, about two inches long, spread it thus cut before the fire to dry. Have the confection pan quite clean, and begin them with a slow fire, and little wettings, until well covered; they do not require any rubbing, only to be strinkled with the hand so softly as not to break them; indeed the greatest care should be taken to keep them from breaking, as their beauty is in the length and high purling. When they are well covered, boil up the syrup; fill the dropper, and let it drop very slowly. Then proceed as directed in making corianders; keep turning them softly with your hand, not to break them, until they are well covered, and when the purling is high turn them out. 

Confected Peppermint Drops.

Take to four pounds of the scrapings which comes off the bottom of the pan when making almonds, and put it into a bason; mix it with water to the consistence of a thin paste. Then add three tea spoonfuls of oil peppermint, and when well mixed together, set it aside for 24 hours, when it will be ready to work. Have some sugar pounded and sifted fine, which use to keep it free from the table, and keep the top also well covered with the sugar, as it prevents them sticking together. Then take a piece of the dough, and roll it out to the thickness of one-eighth of an inch, and cut them out with the tin shape, which is usually round; but they are often made of various shapes, according to fancy. The cutter is made of tin, and is about four inches in length, and one inch and a half in diameter at the mouth. The small end is 3 or 4 eighths of an inch, and may be formed into diamonds, hearts, clubs, stars, &c. The cutter, when it is full, is emptied, and the drops scattered upon a sieve to dry. When dry, the broken ones are carefully picked out and freed from all the loose sugar. Have the confection pan clean, the syrup hot, and about a pound of sugar pounded, beside the syrup pan; give them a wetting, and when about half dry, dust them with a handful of the pounded sugar, and go on giving them a handful of the dry sugar at each wetting, until they are well filled up and quite flat. It also prevents them sticking together; throw them out, sift them, and scrape and clean the pan; then proceed with the syrup only, like the almonds. The pan also requires to be scraped when it grows rough. When nearly the size required, give them a little oil of peppermint now and then, and finish them in the same manner as directed for almonds. The size usually made, is thirty to weigh one ounce. 

N.B. In making the larger kinds of confections, the pan should not be washed, as it imparts a yellow tinge, but clean scraped

Dragee, Bergamot Shells, and Shapes.

It requires great labour to make the paste of these. Take one ounce of gum dragon, very white, (if there is any black piece it discolours the paste,) put it into a jelly pot with two gills of water; let it steep until soft, then strain it through a French soup strainer, or temmy cloth. Have treble refined sugar pounded and put through a lawn sieve; then, taking as much of the sugar and gum dragon as will make it the consistence of thin paste, put them into a clean mortar, and work it with the pestle until very white; then add sugar by degrees, and keep working it well, the more it is wrought it grows whiter and more tough, and, consequently, makes better work. When mixed up to a proper consistence for moulding into any form, take it out, and work a little at a time with some starch powder. It may be flavoured with any essence agreeable to taste, such as bergamot, lemon, mareschal, jessamine, lavender, musk, ambergris, orris, cinnamon, peppermint, &c.; or with powders, such as cloves, ginger, cinnamon, orange, lemon, coffee, &c. The shells are formed on a piece of wood, cut on purpose, or with a roller, like a crimping board. When it has taken the impression it is turned up with the hand in shape of a shell, or ears of grain, or formed with the hand in shapes, as raddishes, &c. and when dry painted to imitate nature. The smaller they are made the better, which practice only can perfect. 

Common Comfits.

These are a kind of comfits made to sell cheap, with flour. Take caraway, or coriander seeds, or almonds, and make a syrup of very coarse sugar, and, if for balls, or caraways, raw sugar, and begin with putting on a syrup of the raw, or coarse sugar, and when half dry take a handful of flour (which should be sifted to free it from knots, &c.) and throw amongst them; then, with your hand, make it go quickly through the whole to make them equal; only take care not to put in more flour than they will dry up. As they increase in size they will require a greater handful of flour, and continue thus till you have got them the size you want. Throw them out, put them in a hot stove, or oven head, in sieves, to harden, and finish them with good syrup; they are also coloured red, green, yellow, blue, &c. and the corianders are purled after the flour is put on. One pound of caraway, or coriander seed, will take on from ten to twenty pounds of flour, they are even whiter than if made altogether of sugar, if they are properly dried and finished; they are only for pleasing children, and if coloured are certainly pernicious, from the colouring matter made use of. 

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