Saturday, May 24, 2008

Jammin


It's late. Except for the soft hum of the refrigerator, the house is silent. Everyone else, even our grey tabby sprawled across the sofa, is asleep. I stand under the single CFL light above the range. My hand moves methodically, carving quickly disappearing circles in the molten mass of fruit and sugar. My brain meanders from the newsletter I need to write to the Laura Ingalls Wilder book I read last time I made jam and then to the pumpkin seedlings stretching across our sidewalk strip. Finally, it is blissfully blank, taking in only the hypnotic dance of strawberries roiling over a hot stove.

I dip in an ice cold spoon. The jam has set - a royal red gel. Cradling the hot jars with a towel, I slowly ladle in the sugared mixture. Occasionally, scarlet dribbles skip over the edge and down the jar. Once they are full and the lids on, I tuck the jars into the big black canning pot where they bubble merrily for ten minutes.

Sitting at the kitchen table, the house empty and smelling of sugar and summer, I lick the remaining jam off of my wooden spoon, carefully scraping the edges of the nearly empty saucepan. 12:30 is too late to be up, let alone eating jam. As I listen to the jars jostling each other and think of the day to come, though, it seems the right thing to be doing.

After they've had their bath, I pull the jars out, one by one, and inspect them. They glow deep red like polished jewels. I am not quite ready to go to bed, to let go of the stillness and silence of strawberries, sugar and a boiling pot. I sit back down at the table and stare into the dark night. Branches scratch across the window in a May gust. The ancient gleam of the moon seeps in past the shades. One by one, the lid on each jar pops reassuringly, promising May sunshine in January. Once the last pop echoes through the kitchen, I reluctantly fill the saucepan with water and turn off the stove light.

Unlike pickles or chutney, homemade jam can be enjoyed the next morning when boys wake up too early. When chores and worries encroach. When the peace of making jam is but a memory, I can still savor it, slathered across my toast.

11 comments:

Daphne said...

That brings back so many memories. I used to make strawberry and raspberry jam and grape jelly. I loved their jewel like colors all lined up in a row on their shelf. I don't eat them anymore (because of the sugar) so I no longer make them. I pulled the grape vines out last year and replanted them with blueberries.

eco 'burban mom said...

Ahhh, sounds delicious! And you know how I love a good slice of toast with jam... I need to go eat something now! :o)

Donna said...

Oh, yumm! What a great description! I can't wait til June when I get to do the same thing. Oregon's strawberries are getting ripe, but they will be sweeter in a couple weeks when the U-pick places open.

Abbie said...

I'm looking for a low-sugar or even sugar free recipe for strawberry jam or preserves (no aspartame... just berries). Any ideas? I've got about another month until the really good Connecticut berries are ready, but I want to be prepared! I've canned for the past 5 years, but it's just SO much sugar.

Heather @ SGF said...

I made blackberry jam today. Each time it's been with a girlfriend of mine (sometimes 2-3 others too) so not only are we making jam, but it's a whole social event. It's a lot of fun that we get to eat later!

badhuman said...

We haven't tried to make jam yet but once we move back to the east coast with the u-pick farms we want to try our hand at it

Green said...

As to the sugar, I know. There is SO much sugar in the jam. In PLENTY, the author made jam with honey. I've yet to try it but would love to hear from someone who has.

Heather, what fun to do it with friends! My mom and grandmother used to do it together when I was little and it was fun to watch.

We haven't gone to a U Pick yet this year but you all remind me that I should get looking for one now. I always seem to miss the berry picking season by a weekend or so.

Abbie said...

I've been wanting to pick up a copy of Plenty. I'd love to use some local honey instead of expensive organic sugar. Thanks for the tip!

ruralaspirations said...

Oh, how wonderful! I so want to can this year.

Going Crunchy said...

Wow, I so need to learn how to do this! I'm quite jealous. Shan

kimberly said...

Such an evocative post. I know well that meditative late-night stirring, and the quiet broken only by the ploink of lids sealing. It's not yet time for jam making in Washington, but soon...

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