Embarrassing anecdote: I used to hide as a child in my grandmother’s pantry and eat jars of her preserves with my fingers. The house would fall quiet around 2 pm every day and to occupy myself, I would open fresh jars of jam and taste them… then hide the sampled jars in the back of the pantry and pretend like it never happened.
Mind you that these weren’t jars of Smuckers or Albertson’s brand (she loved Albertson’s – still couldn’t tell you why). My grandmother made her own strawberry preserves and man were they delicious.
Saturday afternoon we drove all the way out to Framingham in search of the perfect strawberry. Hanson’s Farm is quaint and small and, frankly, in the middle of nowhere.
Deb asked if I had any plans for these berries and I said, “Oh, I’ll make jam with them.” I said it super casually, like I was a casual jam maker in all the free time I casually have to make casual jars of homemade jam.
Truth is, I’ve never made jam before. I mean, I grew up watching my grandmother and my mother make jam but I soon learned that the knowledge jam-making requires isn’t really an osmosis sort of thing… So that’s how I ended up with a ginormous pot of jam over-boiling on the stove on a rainy Sunday. Apparently there are multiple things you have to consider, including but not limited to: the amount of pectin you add, the amount of pectin in the fruit, the amount of acidity in the fruit and the amount of acidity you add in the form of lemon juice, and the heat that you bring the mixture to that joins all of them together in a perfect harmony. And the size of the pot. If you do it perfectly, you get perfect jam.
I ended up with thirteen jars of jam. Some of them are more like strawberry sauce, sadly, and others firmed up into near perfection. Either way, they taste great – probably thanks to my taste-testing work as a child and the fact that sugar, strawberries, and lemon juice happen to taste really good together – and so I don’t consider it such a shabby first attempt. However, turns out canning is a science. Just one I haven’t mastered yet. Like all of the other sciences.
Though my first attempt at canning didn’t turn out perfectly, I felt a kinship with my mother and grandmother and greatgrandmother before me… women who have tenderly hulled strawberries and boiled them into toppings for toast and ice cream and snacks for those they love. And really, what says, I love you! like a couple of hours spent sweating over a pot of boiling strawberry lava?