Although I am anything but a domestic goddess--I detest most household tasks--I adore making jam. Last summer I found a recipe for basic jam that was not too intimidating and that did not require me to buy strange things like pectin. Faced with a rainy afternoon, a bored 10-year-old and an excess of fresh strawberries, I decided to give it a try. I was hooked immediately: something about those pretty little jars filled with fresh fruity, sugary goodness gave me a ridiculous sense of accomplishment. As the summer wore on, I worked my way through all the berries with which my corner of the world is blessed: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and marionberries. We finished the last jar this week, just as masses of fresh strawberries were appearing at the farmers' market and at road stands. On another rainy, cool June day, I made strawberry jam.
First the fruit is washed, hulled, and macerated with sugar and lemon juice:
While the sugar and juice work their magic, I sterilize the jars in the oven. There is something about the steps and the ritual of the whole process that I enjoy immensely.
The jam must boil for about 30 minutes. If the foam that forms during this process is not skimmed off the jam will be cloudy. The only thing worse than cloudy jam is cloudy iced tea ::shudder::
When the jam is ready to be put in the jars, I get to use the jar tongs, canning funnel, and magnetic lid grabber I bought at the farm store. I adore activities that have accessories.
The filled jars have to be be bathed in a pot of boiling water. It was during the simplest part of the entire process--boiling water in the canning pot--that disaster struck. I had turned on the wrong eye (I hate electric stoves) and had destroyed the tea kettle before I realized my mistake.
The delicious scent of strawberries was replaced with the disgusting smell of melted plastic. R.I.P. , little kettle. You did good service for may years. A moment of silence, please.
I do love carefully lowering the jars into their bath and hearing the metallic "pop" as the lids seal. It's like something out of science class, only it's fun and doesn't set off the fire alarms.
After a process of several hours that only required about 20 minutes of actual work, I had eight lovely jars of jam to put in the cupboard. We'll enjoy it on toast and scones--as soon as I get a new tea kettle.