Copper jelly moulds represent a field of collecting in their own right, related to but somehow separate from the general batterie. This one appeared on eBay and I was tempted by the low price. It has issues but is a beautiful 19th century example all the same.
VFC says: This guest post was written and photographed by Roger W.
Today jelly and blancmange tend to be associated with childhood but once represented the height of sophistication.
Before blocks of jelly/jello, leaf, and powdered gelatine were available, producing a jelly took hours of rather unpleasant work, skill, and a degree of luck. Calf feet were cleaned, boiled, and the liquor strained before being flavoured. The result might not be firm enough to hold its shape or could have the consistency of rubber. Junket demanded the cook extract the necessary rennet from a calf’s stomach, and a wide range of setting agents were used to make blancmange. It should not be forgotten that some of these dishes were savoury.
This mould came in neglected state and was a fine example of verdigris! It has been well used and has many dents and some solder repairs.
Jelly moulds are relatively thin and are particularly vulnerable to damage. There were little pinnacles, possibility star shaped, but now flattened.
There are no seams on the outside but, this being a ring mould, the centre has a brazed join and has been fitted after the shape was pressed. There is too much copper showing through the tin for me to use it; the acidic nature of fruit jelly and the long period of contact while it sets means that the liberties I might take with a worn saucepan lining would be foolish here. Moulds can be retinned but there is little point.
The mould has cleaned up pleasingly with a patina showing wear and damage consistent with commercial usage. It measures 11cm tall by 14cm diameter (4.3 by 5.5 inches).
It is stamped “N. 97 . 5½”. I think the 97 is a catalogue number for the shape, and 5½ is the approximate diameter in inches. Collectors give names to certain shapes but I have not been able to find another example the same.
On the other side of the number stamp is engraved “FORTT & SON”. The font appears to be be that used by Jones Bros, though too small to have the usual cross hatching. Fortt & Son were part of “Cater, Stoffel & Fortt Ltd” based in the English spa town of Bath. They were cooks, caterers, and merchants of wines & spirits to the carriage trade in this fashionable resort. William Fortt owned the then-secret recipe for “Bath Oliver biscuits” which are still produced bearing the Fortt name although now a recipe is now available online. They also produced Bath buns to the original recipe rather than the London variant Bath bun.
I can see no real advantage of copper rather than ceramics for such moulds except that they look seriously cool and maybe that was always the point. Fancy desserts are about conspicuous consumption and showing off!
VFC says: Roger, thank you so much for sharing this lovely piece with us! I have always been curious about copper molds. Some of the French chaudronneries I’ve studied for this site began as makers of moules, such as Trottier (which became Mora and Matfer).
These copper molds really are almost like small pieces of sculpture. Readers, do you have other molds you’d like to showcase? And have you tried making a jelly or blancmange?