Saturday, July 30, 2011

We jammin'

I have a confession to make. The Wonderfully Patient Spouse and I have been living a Life of Crime in recent years. We are hardened jam thieves.

It feels good to share.

You see, whenever we bring in the mail and feed the cat at my brother- and sister-in-law's house, we blatantly help ourselves to their copious inventory of homemade freezer jam (strawberry and raspberry, thank you very much). We just can't help ourselves.

And I suppose I should add, since I've already tee'd up this sticky act of contrition, we're in a jam jar exchange program as well. When we return empty jam jars to my nephew and his wife, we get bright, shiny new ones back -- full of freezer jam!

It's a horrible addiction.

Which is why, last weekend, I decided to face my demons and make jam of my own. The Old School way.

There are different jam camps if you will. Freezer jam is easy and delicious. No cooking, no messing with sterile jars and boiling hot water, always a potentially disastrous combination in my kitchen.

But I had a hankerin' for the Old School cooked jam of my childhood -- the version The Mom Unit and Nana B used to churn out week after week starting around the beginning of July as they marched their way through the seasons of summer fruit. It's pretty dang easy, too:

1. Obtain fruit. If you are truly Old School, you will go out and pick your own fruit -- in this case, raspberries. But honestly, the summer has been so screwy around here, I knew there was no telling what I might find at the u-picks in the area. So, I did the next best (and equally enjoyable) thing -- I took myself down to the local farmer's market and bought two quarts of fresh raspberries lovingly grown by Mojave and Chelsea, a charming young couple from Northport, Wash.
I present you with Green Wave Gardens berries.

Note: The berries in the glass dish are from our own Back Forty -- and I did pick them!. 
Here's a close-up:

2. The mash-up: You've got to mash up your berries. This is not only enormously cathartic, but I also love the deep jewel tones crushed berries take on.

3. Now onto the stove: Add sugar (with maybe just a dash of lemon juice) and begin cooking. The sugar slowly dissolves and the kitchen becomes redolent with the floral perfume of fresh berries. It's like being 10-years-old again!

4. Break out the pectin: Once you've got a rolling boil going, in goes the pectin. That's the magic stuff that makes jam set up. It just needs to cook for a minute or so.

5. Remove from heat and skim off the foam: As I child, I always made myself available for this phase of production. Jam foam is delicious!
A little dividend for the chef!
6. And into the (clean, as in run through the dishwasher clean) jars the jam goes. For some reason, The Mom Unit and Nana B never did the hot-water seal thing with their jars. They used paraffin. Just melt a block and pour over the jam, swirl to seal. Two coats will do it. It's cool -- and works for jams and jellies. I mean I'm still here after 58 years -- botulism free!

I love the way the jam jars look with their frosty tops.

I am committed to leaving behind this life of crime. I'm tired of a life on the run, the sordid secrets, of living life one fateful step ahead of Johnny Law and his terrible swift justice. It's time to get -- and stay -- on The Straight and Narrow.

Why, I believe it's time to make more jam.

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