Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jam and a revelation

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My dad, a total extrovert who knew everybody and had friends in every corner of the universe, a local hangout in a dozen different cities, would now and then come mysteriously into possession of a huge basket of peaches, or somehow a giant tray of strawberries, somebody somewhere would gift him with their garden windfall, and he’d then spend an entire Saturday making jam and canning it.  It steamed up the kitchen and made the wallpaper bubbly, got every single pan and spoon dirty, and afterwards, the pantry was bulging with jars that glowed like jewels.  And so I continued to do, myself, once I had my own kitchen and pantry and canner—a bushel of bruised fruit, sold at half price at the end of the market day found its way into my hands and then into jars.  The steam rose up the walls and up the stairs, making clothes and pillows soggy.  The walls dripped with damp.  And there were fifty pints of peach jam at the end of it all.  Which is great, and they still glowed, still gave that huge sense of satisfaction, that cozy feeling of hard work in preparation for the long winter, of stashing one’s metaphorical nuts like squirrels in the woods--except there was no room for it all in the cupboards.  We ate jam every morning, spread on toast.  We paired it with peanut butter.  Everybody got jam for Christmas, and still there was more peach jam, until everybody was just completely sick of it.  We are still working on this apparently endless supply of peach jam, and I tell you, I’m over it.  A little variety would be nice.

Er, how about smaller batches?  Hello.  I feel kind of dumb for thinking it wasn’t worth the bother of canning unless it took forty pounds of fruit and six bags of sugar and an entire weekend.  Then this book came along, and I totally saw the light, and one cantaloupe and a vanilla bean became this:

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It made six jars.  There’s not even enough to share.