Monday, July 16, 2012
Jars of Summer
Ah, look how cute they are, those six little half-pints, filled with cherries and blueberries, and just a hint of lemon.
After walking the boys on a wonderfully cool morning, I popped into the store for the missing pectin stuff, determined to make the jam today. Whilst I was there, I tried to find one of those cherry pitter tools, but no luck. Maybe they don't make them anymore? Driving home I tried to think what I could use instead--chopstick, cork screw, pointy end of a potato peeler?
I try them all. Nothing works. I have mangled cherries, and juice everywhere. Resigned, I give up and chop each cherry in half, then use my thumbnail to pull out the pit. Did you know that cherry juice stains anything it touches a lovely shade of deep red? It's true. I have the fingers to prove it. And the floor, and the kitchen towel, and the sink, and...oh, you get the picture.
After I have the pits out, I then have to cut the cherries into tiny little pieces, about the size of a pomegranate seed. Surprisingly, this takes a very long time. I have a moment where I wonder if maybe just mashing everything up with my immersion blender wouldn't be easier, faster, but I don't want to ruin the jam. And is easier and faster the point of making jam? Why am I trying to hurry this process? The recipe says chop fine, so I need to slow down, be mindful.
It was a good thing to do. As I sliced and diced, I thought about all the women who, over so many, many years, have done exactly what I was doing: preserving a season with fruits and berries to be shared, appreciated, savored, in a different time and season when such bounty isn't available.
I meandered off into my childhood, remembering perfectly that cherry pitting tool, and my sisters, crowding around the kitchen table, the three of us helping Mom make a cherry pie, arguing over who got to use the tool. I speculate for a few minutes on how many jars of jam and jelly my mother has made in her lifetime.
Next my grandmother came to mind, with all her incredible baking skills. I loved when she would visit...not just because she was my Gran, but also because at some point in her stay, we would wake up to the smell of her delicious cinnamon rolls--yeasty, cinnamon and sugary, gooey and lip-smacking. (I'm drooling right now. Seriously.) Her crescent rolls are legendary in the family. No Thanksgiving was complete without those rolls, and Mom's jam. My aunt (the third daughter of four) has Gran's recipe and makes these rolls often, but to me, they aren't...I don't know...exactly right. Maybe they have to be made with the kind of love only a grandmother can knead into her dough.
My musings got me through the laborious cherry chopping, and after mashing the blueberries, it was less than 20 minutes later that I had my six little pots of Summer goodness. As I stuck the labels on each jar, I couldn't help smiling. Some future morning, in the deep cold of Winter, I'm going to spread my jam on a piece of toast, remember this hot July afternoon, and cherish my connection to all the women who have come before me.