Posted on July 31, 2014 at 6:00 am
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.
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.)
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.
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.