Tonight, I make jam.
It will not be the first time that I take on this task and hopefully not the last. However, this jam has to be the most delicious of my attempts, because it’s going to be shared with others. Potentially many others! That to me indicates that this has to be the best jam I’ve ever made- period. (Ok, going to ease up on myself a bit….best rhubarb jam ever made. Period.)
There are a few instances where the making of jam stands out very clearly in my mind. The first is my Mother making jam in our kitchen while I was still very young. I remember accompanying her as she visited a friend, who lent us a very strange looking contraption for the making of our spread- jelly- to be specific in this situation. I can’t quite put all the pieces together in my mind, but it was a type of sieve, removing peel and seeds as the hot jelly oozed through the mesh. My mother had raided our chokecherry tree in hopes of making the tart little berries into something a bit more palatable. I remember wondering what Certo was and what wax had to do with the making of something to eat. I was close at hand while she made this jelly, watching as the fruit mixed with generous doses of sugar, boiling happily on the stove. I can clearly recall the beautiful, opaque color that filled the perfect row of jars that lined our fridge. I don’t remember the taste, but I’m sure it was a welcome relief to the always shocking taste of a raw chokecherry.
I also remember making jam with my Grandmother, strawberry this time. My grandparents could always be counted on for at least one annual pilgrimage to a local strawberry U-pick farm. Strawberries on ice cream. Strawberries in pie. Strawberries to be stirred over the stove endlessly, waiting for them to thicken. My grandmother had found tiny little jars to fill with jam to give to my brothers and I. My love for anything delicate and dainty, I treasured these little pots of preserves. I had no interest in eating it on crackers or toast, a small spoon directly from jar to mouth worked best. For many years, and to this day, strawberry jam has remained my favorite. I can’t help but attribute it to the fact that I got the real deal, made with love and aching stirring arms.
The third sticky memory that immediately comes to mind involves my two brothers and both of their girlfriends. A couple of summers ago we all found ourselves squeezed into an apartment kitchen, our eyes all trained on the boiling pot. The sweet scent of sugary pin-cherries filling the space and steaming up the windows. It amused me and warmed my heart to watch both of my brothers take their turns in stirring, clearly interested in the process. Extra hands helping carefully put jars into a boiling pot of water and take them out again, prepping for the final step. Again, the beautiful light color of pink, the perfect cherry blush. A group effort, a shared success.
Tonight I go it alone, unless my husband becomes curious about my culinary craftiness. Should you care to taste the sweet rewards of my fruity devotion, come down to the Brandon Global Market this week, where samples will be available. Warning: I may just hug you if you tell me it’s the best ever. Period.