In a Jelly

Lemon Jelly, recipe from 1748

This is just a quick extra post, following up on my promise for the In a Jam challenge to provide the recipe for Lemon Jelly which I made. I had a surplus of lemons and as I was researching marmalade recipes for the challenge a couple of weeks ago I came across several rather intriguing recipes for Lemon Jelly.

It’s a jelly in the American sense of the word, as in a spreadable preserve rather than a semi-solid, wobbly dessert. In preserving terms, the use of jelly instead of jam means that it is made from the juice of the fruit, rather than the pulp which makes jellies much smoother but less efficient than jams. Typically in a jelly the fruit is cooked to release the juices, then strained through muslin for several hours to separate the juice from the pulp. The juice is then re-cooked with sugar until it reaches the setting point before being poured into hot jars.

These recipes are quite unusual, however, because two of them contain egg-whites.[1] Beacause of the difficulty in interpreting the recipe which I used, and because I would like to try the other recipes first, I have not given a redaction, but if you would like to try making the jelly it should be easy enough to follow my steps with the quantities given.

The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book and Compleat Family Cook (4th ed. 1748 available as a PDF here) by Mrs. Sarah Harrison of Devonshire offers three recipes for Lemon Jelly (like the marmalade it is served in glasses as part of the dessert course).


The first recipe:

“TAKE five large Lemons and squeeze out the Juice, and beat the Whites of six Eggs very well; put to it twenty Spoonfuls of Spring Water, and ten Ounces of double-refin’d Sugar beat and sifted; mix all together, and strain it through a Jelly Bag, and set it over a gentle Fire, with a bit of Lemon-peel in it; stir it all the while, and skim it very clean; when it is as hot as you can bear your Finger in it, take it off, and take out the Peel, and pour your Jelly into Glasses.”[2]


The second recipe:

“TAKE three large Lemons, or four small ones, cut them in half, and take out all the Meat, and put it into a silver Pot; put as much Water as the Skin of your Lemons will hold into them, and let them stand three quarters of an Hour; then take the Whites of four Eggs, beat them very well, and let them stand till the Froth is fallen, strain your Lemons upon a Pound of double-refin’d refin’d[sic] Sugar broke into Lumps, let it stand till it is quite melted, then put in your Eggs well skimm’d being first strain’d through a thin Cotton Cloth; stir it till it will jelly, and take out your Peel before you put it in the Dish. You must see that your Lemons be free from Spots, or else your Jelly will not be white.”[3]


The third recipe:

“TAKE the best Lemons without Seeds, peel off the Rinds, and put the Meat in Quarters, having a Care of breaking the Skins; then take their Weight in double-refin’d Sugar, put your Sugar into a silver Bason [sic], and put it upon the Fire with as much Water as will wet it, and stir it till it comes to a clear Syrup; in the mean Time you must have your Lemon Quarters in another silver Dish upon the Fire, with as much Water as will keep them wet, and let them boil till they are tender; then put them into the Bason [sic] of Syrup, and set them on a soft Fire to heat, but not boil; as soon as ever they begin to simmer the least that can be, take them off, and shake them, and let them not be on the Fire again till they are pretty cold (for if they boyl they are spoil’d); and so continue setting them on and off till the Syrup will jelly; and then either put up the Jelly by itself in Glasses, and put the Quarters on a glass Sheet to dry, or on a Slieve [sic] in the Sun, or glass the Quarters and the Jelly all together, for they will do well both Ways.”[4]

Lemon Jelly, recipe from 1748

My Process

I used the second recipe which calls for three large or four small, spotless lemons. I cut them in half and spooned out all the pulp that I could. I placed the pulp into a saucepan, filled each half lemon with water and poured the water into the saucepan. I then left this to stand for 45 mins.


Whilst waiting for the pulp to be ready, I beat the whites of four eggs. This for me was the main problem with the recipe, it sounds like you beat the eggs to peaks and then allow them to drop, but does that even work? Or do you just beat it until slightly foamy? I beat it until I had foamy, very soft peaks on top, but after standing for a while there was also liquid underneath. On reflection I think it would be better to whisk it until it was a bubbly liquid, but maybe it is possible to allow it to drop by leaving more time.


Having beaten my eggs I strained the lemon pulp through muslin onto 450g of sugar with a piece of lemon peel (this is mentioned later in the recipe to be removed so I think it’s just missing the instruction to add it in). After gently stirring the mixture over a low heat until the sugar was dissolved I then added the egg whites by straining them through muslin into the saucepan. This is where it quickly became apparent that they were too well whipped. The liquid was easily incorporated into the jelly, as was some of the froth but most was not and had to be skimmed off the top of the jelly. I then cooked it until it reached setting point, removed the piece of lemon peel and poured it into dessert glasses.


Given what seemed to be an awful mistake, the jelly turned out remarkably well. It was one of the most delicious preserves I’ve ever eaten with a flavour similar to lemon-sorbet and the most delightful, effervescent texture. It felt light and bubbly on the tongue, an effect which I think must be because of the egg whites. It really was like Spring for the palate!

Lemon Jelly, recipe from 1748


Harrison, Sarah. The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book; And Compleat Family Cook. 4th ed. London: Printed for R. Ware, at the Bible and Sun on Ludgate-Hill, 1748.


[1] Warning: If you are in an ‘at risk’ group (babies, toddlers, pregnant women, elderly people or the immune-compromised) for raw egg please don’t try the recipes containing raw egg.

[2] Sarah Harrison, The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book; And Compleat Family Cook, 4th ed. (London: Printed for R. Ware, at the Bible and Sun on Ludgate-Hill, 1748), 148.

[3] Ibid., 148–149.

[4] Ibid., 149.

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