Wednesday, July 30, 2008

16 cups

. . . or maybe 18. At any rate, enough for three full batches of blackberry jam. And the price? Free, well, except for the slashed hands from huge thorns and the whining perpetrated by children who don't love berry picking as much as their mother and aunt. We walked to the first patch.

I kept thinking, "A woman's reach should exceed her grasp, else what's a berry patch for?" and then realized I'd feel like an idiot if I fell face-first into a thorny bush on a fairly busy street.

It wasn't as full of berries as I'd hoped. So, after getting everything we could reach, we headed out to a soccer field we remembered as having lots of berries last year. This year? It was better. By standing on a metal trash can, my sister and I could reach the fat, thumb-sized berries. Talk, talk, talk, pick, pick, pick. We share enough brain to mean that when one of us says, "Now, Sal" to the reaching-for-a-berry-in-the-bowl child, the other one says, "Mother wants to can the berries for winter," and we dissolve in laughter while the child stalks off in high dudgeon.

Best quote of the day was when my sister said, "If we get stuck in the woods, we eat Thing 2 first," because she was whining so actively.

We may actually go back in a week for more. "Too much" and "blackberries" don't actually work together for me. Maybe this time we'll do it solo. It might be worth paying Miguel the Wonder Sitter for some peace and quiet. I wonder if he'll take jam as payment?

This is the jam hoard before the jars of blackberry. There's yellow plum, red plum, strawberry, and a couple of precious ollalieberry jars. Every once in a while, a child will insist that we have "enough" jam, and I stop to think. Am I being crazy about making jam? Every time I see a glut of fruit, I think, "Preserve it!" so there definitely is a bit of knee-jerking going on. But it's more than that. In these jars, I see a Christmas free of shopping either online or out in the world; I see ounces of summer sunshine vacuum-sealed under a two-piece lid; I see something done ourselves instead of shipping it out to a company "out there;" I hear me saying, "Go downstairs and pick a jar" to a child when we've scraped the last of the open jar onto some homemade toast.

Not infrequently at all, when I'm buying yet another dozen jars, someone will stop me and ask me if I'm making jam. "Why yes," I answer, and usually can't help myself, adding, "It's really easy and fun." Most times I get some variation on why the person can't, and how much they wish they could.

I feel like a member of a secret underground society -- those who read the recipes in the pectin boxes! And I get kind of sad. I know I tend to jump right into things, but come on, people, it's jam, not home appendectomy! There are even classes if you're into being taught things that people used to just do. [Wonder if they'd hire me to teach home bread baking -- strangers often act like I'm a Dark Arts practitioner when they hear I make bread.]

Generally, I'm a really optimistic person. And I don't know where the world as a whole is going right now, although it seems to be heading for some difficult times. I just have a pretty strong feeling that I'm not going to be as much of an outlier, jam-wise, in the coming years.

I just hope there's room on the soccer field for me then.


Spider said...

He would probably take honey

allisonmariecat said...

I've been meaning to jam for YEARS (we're jammin', we're jammin', hope you like jammin' too) and you have really talked me into it. I just put 'jars' and 'pectin' and 'fruit' on the list. For me, it seems like such a huge production. I'm afraid of the jar-sterilization and giving everyone food poisoning. And I don't have the free berry sources, either, so it's not free (though our market has big flats of berries right now for not too much...). And when I cook, I like to have the PERFECT recipe. Listen to those excuses! I'm really going to do it as soon as I can get to the store! Maybe peach and strawberry. Maybe I'll attempt the peach-pecan-amaretto flavor I had once and loved. The way you just knock off a bunch of jam really makes it seem less of a huge production to me.