|California beach, ca. 1905. Wikimedia Commons.|
-- Godey's _Lady's Book_, August 1854.
|Summer pudding. Wikimedia Commons.|
These are all variations and predecessors of Jello-type desserts; isinglass is a 19th century gelatine-type product, and apples contain a lot of pectin, which is a natural vegetable thickener.
Summer pudding is another warm-weather dish that includes little cooking and no baking; if you use frozen berries instead of fresh ones, you can make it without even turning on the stove! You'll also need some dry, sliced bread or cake and some cream to serve it with. Ingredient amounts are governed by the size of the container you'll be using as a mold.
To make summer pudding: take a quantity of juicy, colorful fruit (traditionally, raspberries and currants, but you can use any kind of berry, cherries, plums or other stone fruit), remove any pits or large seeds, cut large fruits into chunks, and put the fruit in a bowl with enough sugar to coat each piece. Add a squeeze or two of lemon juice if you're using apricots or peaches, to help prevent browning. Let it sit overnight at room temperature to draw out the juices, then put in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes to soften the fruit and bring out even more juice (or, use frozen fruit and let it thaw, then stir in some sugar and let it come to room temperature). Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Take a glass or non-reactive metal or plastic container (a Pyrex glass bowl is good) that will hold at least 1 pint of liquid, and line it with food-safe plastic wrap (a single piece, if possible, to minimize juice leakage). Make sure to cut the plastic wrap long enough to overhang the edges of the bowl by several inches. Then, take the bread slices, cut off the crusts, and use the slices to line the container, overlapping the edges to cover all gaps and holes. Pour the fruit mixture and any juices into the bowl, filling it to the very top, reserving any extra that doesn't fit. Cover the top of the fruit with more sliced bread, again overlapping the edges. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the top of the bread on all sides, sealing everything inside the plastic-lined container. Press down on the bread and fruit with your hand to start the juices soaking into the bread. Place the bowl inside a larger bowl or pan with a rim to catch any juice overflow, then get a saucer or small plate that will just fit inside the rim of the bowl and place it on top of the bread and fruit to hold it down. Place a weight (like a couple 8 oz. cans of fruit or vegetables) on top of the saucer to press the bread and fruit down further, and put the whole thing into the refrigerator. Leave it overnight.
The next day, remove the pudding from the fridge, remove the weight and saucer from the bowl, and open the plastic wrap covering the pudding. Turn the pudding out onto a rimmed serving plate -- the plastic wrap should make it very easy to get the pudding out of the bowl -- and remove the plastic wrap. Serve the pudding with any extra fruit and juice that wasn't used in the pudding itself, as well as heavy cream poured over the top. Enjoy!