Friday, September 7, 2012

6th New Thing ~ Jam Session

As a young girl, I spent some hot Yakima afternoons watching my grandmother pickle, preserve, can, jam and "apple butter." (Is that a verb?) 

I should probably clarify. When I say "watching," I mean......

  • playing Barbie Dolls under the kitchen table, 
  • exploring the depleted chemistry set in Pat's old room, 
  • setting up a board game without all its pieces in Mike's old room, 
  • playing 'store' in the living room pretending that the little drawer under the coffee table was my cash register. The mismatched playing cards, my currency.
In other words, I was somewhere on the same property playing something, while she worked in the hot kitchen. So, for as much 'watching' as I've done, I've never actually pickled, preserved, canned, jammed or 'apple buttered.'

In my defense, I do remember frequently helping....

  • Stemming strawberries 
  • Peeling apples 
  • Snapping beans 

But then she would ratchet it up to Big Girl Cooking. 

Cooking that included:
  • Shiny, clinky gold metal rings
  • Mason jars, worth their weight in real GOLD, 
  • Industrial strength tongs, 
  • Wooden spoons taller than I was
  • Huge, speckled blue enamel pots of rolling, steaming, boiling water 
And that was my cue to wander off in search of flowers to pick, chestnuts to stomp open or a creek to wade in while Grandma was distracted with whether or not the lids all popped.

When I started listing things I'd never done, making jam was one of them. The original scribble read, "Make Freezer Jam."

Jam, by way of the freezer, felt less intimidating, less hot and less boiling water. Less sterilization and less strict rules regarding strictness. I had never made any jam, so making freezer jam felt like enough of a New Thing. Yet part of me knew I'd be taking the easy way. The lesser experience, for my purposes.

A couple of seriously supportive friends offered to help in the area of jamming. Excellent! Team Players. It was somewhere on the horizon but we set no firm date. Late summer into early fall felt like the season. I'd get to it eventually. No hurry. Something to look forward to.

But then just when I was having a particularly bad day, a friend who enjoys some canning expertise, who saw me struggling and who knew jam was on my list, sent me an email...

"I was thinking about the jam thing....I'd like to come out to your place...this Saturday..I'm happy to bring the supplies...some jars...I have some plums." 

It was exactly what I needed, and quite rare in my life...someone to say, "Okay, here's what we're going to do." 

It was so relaxing and reassuring. Someone else making, taking and owning a decision.

So the date was set and my good friend drove from Colorado to help me make jam. Okay. Not really. She was actually already most of the way here from Colorado but I'm hanging onto the 'traveled here for Barbie' story anyway.

My friendship with Lisa has grown to a new and unexpected level over the last few months. We found common energy, goals and faith just when we needed each other most. The universe and her perfect timing.

She drove out to my place the very next Saturday. A bright and calm morning. We walked down to the water. Stood at the rail. Together, we looked out on the shiny horizon and spoke of healing and hearts and blue herons.

Then after a bit, we got down to business. Big Girl Cooking. No freezer jam for us.

Lisa unpacked her contributions: 
  • Plums and blackberries 
  • Pots, jars, lids
  • A wooden spoon you could hit a home-run with 
  • Sugar and pectin.

Then I cracked open my contributions: 
  • Champagne 
  • Orange & pineapple juice
  • Django Reinhardt
(That's even-steven, isn't it?)

Together we walked our way down the jam path. My house smelled AMAZING and soon we had beautiful, gem-like jars of deep, ruby-red jam. 

Plum Blackberry.

I know that some people pickle, preserve, can, jam or 'apple butter' as a soothing, healing, re-energizing process. 

Like some people garden. 
Or bake. 
Or play guitar. 
It nourishes their spirit. Centers them. 

It was a wonderful day and a wonderful New Thing, making jam. Under Lisa's supervision, my hands walking through this process, foreign to me but one that my grandmother knew so well. And I'm grateful for the jars of beautiful plum blackberry jam that I now have to give away as gifts. But what helped to calm and inspire me most this day was the company. The absolute acceptance of exactly where I was, where I am at any given moment. 
Lisa gently reminding me, "It's okay, Barbie." 

Blackberries and plums. Fruit Harmony

Isn't this the most beautiful red? 

The finished product....

And a week later, the first jam recipients? The Grandboys....

Nothing like a couple of small boys with 'Jam Hands'....

I see you, Connor! 


  1. Pretty. Very pretty. Its fun to see you doing new stuff. Makes the world seem better. Atleast to me. While having done this stuff in a past life, I know it is a great sense of accomplishment to turn something into a nice treat. Boys and jam hands seem to be a perfect fit. Even if one hides behind his jar.

  2. That looks delicious. I love canning and I am so happy you experienced it with a special friend. That is exactly how canning for the first time should be. Good for you.