Home Sweet Home

Posted on July 31, 2014 at 6:00 am

By Kim Harshberger

I would like to take a minute to talk to you about jam. My love affair with jam is long lived. Jam was one of the many things my grandmother canned. I remember her pulling a quilted jar from her basement stash, bringing it upstairs, and pulling off the layer of wax to reveal the gleaming sweetness beneath. Those were the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the world; made with Jif and her jam on top of slices of Wonder Bread.

I decided to take after my grandmother and make my own jam. I first experimented with freezer jam several years ago with strawberries picked at Greenbluff. While tasty, it wasn’t quite the experience I was looking for. The texture was not the same, and dangit I wanted to open my pantry and see those sparkling jars lined up on my shelf. So I decided to take the leap into the world of water bath canning. (I now even have her water bath canner and her faded orange handled jar lifter.)

So for the past two years, I have made canned jam, following the directions right on the label of the pectin container. We have picked our strawberries from Carver Farms. While they do not have official organic status, they do not spray their crops with pesticides or herbicides, which is good enough for me.

Home Sweet Home | My love affair with jam.

Beautiful berries lay across the field at Carver Farms. Ripe and ready to eat.

Home Sweet Home | My love affair with jam.

One of two flats picked and turned into jam.

Home Sweet Home | My love affair with jam.

I admit that making my own jam is partly about recreating the memories of my youth, but as an adult it is also fitting nicely into my quest to feed my family local, and organic, while cutting out conventionally processed foods. Jam just fits the bill. And let me tell you, cutting out wheat did not stop our consumption of jam. We put jam on a lot of things. We put it on our yogurt, eat it with cream cheese and crackers, stir it into our oatmeal, and even top ice cream with it. It’s become an essential condiment in our house.

Last year, the husband and I turned oodles of strawberries into jars of jam. We even made a batch in beautifully decorative half pint jars for giving away to friends and family. But after the first taste the husband claimed all jars as ours and we ate every single one (except the pint that I dropped out camping and I swear there were tears shed over that jar.)

Home Sweet Home | My love affair with jam.

This year, we got real and admitted there was no way we were sharing our ruby goodness with others. We took 11 pounds of strawberries and turned it into 15 pints of jam. Can I just tell you how much joy it brings me to open up the pantry door and see the jars lined up on the shelf? So much so, that I get a little weird about opening them up. My family immediately wanted to have some (we had been out for several months) and I had to resist the urge to yell “NO!” and throw myself in front of the door. I just wanted to relish a couple weeks of having a fully stocked supply of jam. But I didn’t. I let them open the jar and watched my family’s faces as they tasted it, noted their nods of approval, and listened to their exclamations of how much better it tastes than store bought.

And I realized that the value here was not in eating local, or organic, or seeing jars lined up on the shelf. The value is in the memories that were being made. Memories that only really good food, consumed with appreciation, can create. That’s why I “put up” produce. That’s why I am cooking from scratch. That’s why we frequent local farms for fresh produce. That’s why we have a garden. I want for my kids to look fondly back on their childhood and remember the food we shared. To remember eating berries warm from the sun. To appreciate the simplicity of a salad made with garden fresh tomatoes, basil, and cucumber.

Home Sweet Home | My love affair with jam.

Eating warm strawberries while standing in the middle of the field is the quintessential summer activity.

I want them to be away at college and exclaim with delight when they open up my care packages and see a jar of my jam. I want my food to bring them home, even if they are far away.

Kim Harshberger

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  • http://www.scld.org/ Gwendolyn Haley

    Ok, that last line made me tear up a little. What a beautiful legacy to create with your children.

    • http://www.scld.org/ Kim Harshberger

      You get it! Thanks for reading Gwendolyn.

  • Bart Brinkmann

    Completely agree. The last ling brings it full-circle for me. We picked, we got some nice outside activity, and you and I sat there and talked to each other while we prepared the strawberries instead of tuning each other out over TV, or sitting across from each other glued to our phones. I’d like to think that we preserve a whole lot more than some fruit when we do activities like this together :)

    • http://www.scld.org/ Kim Harshberger

      Well said husband! I love having you in the kitchen with me. (Oh and thanks for chiseling the burnt apricot jam out of the pot yesterday.)

  • Laura Baird

    I loved your post, Kim. I’m an avid jam maker too from way back when. My daughter who has children of her own made strawberry jam yesterday! So it definitely makes memories throughout the generations. Have you tried jelly making yet? If not, I highly recommend elderberry. Best flavor in the world IMHO!

    • http://www.scld.org/ Kim Harshberger

      Hi Laura! I have not made jelly yet. Funny that you should mention elderberry. I planted two elderberry bushes in my yard last year that have completely gone nuts!! They have more than quadrupled in size and are bursting with clusters of unripe berries. I have been researching what I want to do with them this fall and considered a medicinal syrup, but jelly might be in the cards as well. Thanks for sharing!

  • Phyllis Arbogast

    Hi Kim
    Gosh talk about that warm fuzzy memories!
    I have been canning, making jams & jellies for years.
    My momma had fields of blackberries that she had to find ways to use them, so she did wonders with it from jam to cobblers freezing everything for the long winters.
    I raise strawberries, raspberries, cherries etc and really take advantage of fresh (non sprayed) fruit and veggies.
    We live right next to the library, we have a licensed commercial kitchen and enjoy all the people who love making recipes from their family.
    Good luck and keep those warm feeling.

    Phyllis

    • http://www.scld.org/ Kim Harshberger

      Thanks for your reply Phyllis! I had no idea how many warm fuzzy memories writing that post was going to bring up, so I am glad for having written it. Sounds like you have an amazing array of fresh fruit you’re growing. Lucky! I look forward to having a larger property in the future to raise similar fruits myself.