Summer in a Jar

Jam making is stressful. It’s chaotic. It’s a messy, tiring, and challenging process. But at the end of the day when I can sit down to a warm piece of buttered toast with preserves, I know that it’s worth it.

I love putting jam or jelly on everything and I’ve made all kinds of it- rhubarb compote on oatmeal, ollalieberry jam on cottage cheese, plum preserves on toast, strawberry jam in a popsicle, tomato jelly with cheese, raspberry jam on a PB & J, or crab apple jelly on grilled meat. This summer we processed twelve cases of strawberry jam with local berries and a few cases of rhubarb from the garden, and at the end of the day we still had 50 pounds of berries left that we froze. It was exhausting.

One of the reasons jamming is so tiring is because of the kitchen chaos. Your kitchen is full of pots of molten sugar, boiling water, and scalding hot glass jars. It’s summer time if the berries are fresh, so the whole room is extra hot, and everyone is bustling around, chopping fruit, pouring sugar, filling jars, tightening lids. Your younger brother appears looking for a snack and bumps in to everything possible on his way to the toaster. Every surface is being used, including parts of the floor.

A key to successful and productive canning is to get over perfectionism. Sure you should try to cook the fruit to as best you can, but often it is simply not feasible to get all the apples processed if you try to remove every stem and take out all the seeds from every one. Let it be rough- it’s all going to get mushed up anyway and spread on toast. Don’t attempt to cut every berry to the perfect size, just throw it through a food mill and you’re done.

Even if you make your jam in the most efficient way possible, standing, chopping, lifting, and stirring will really tire you out. You will be glad to see the last lids go on those jars. So why, you say, is it worth the effort?

Every time you put the lid onto a fresh jar, you are sealing a little memory. And when you open that jar later you will be able to come back to this sunny summer day when you had enough time to spend a whole afternoon making jam, when the weather was warm and the best fruit was in season. It’s a time capsule of summer in a jar.

Spread on toast and enjoy.

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One thought on “Summer in a Jar

  1. Homemade Jam is more than fruit and sugar and memory. Ok, it’s all of that, and… there is something else. Recently, one of my cherished students gave me a jar of strawberry jam. I was informed that it is in the French tradition, and as such it will freely travel over the nooks and cranies of whatever it is applied to. Homemade jam, to the receiver is a connection. It is how us humans build and retain our tribe. It is a smile and a story and a devilish pun and music. Homemade jam says thank you and your welcome, and I’m thinking of you, and this is as it should be. Thank you Criquet

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