Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In June every year when my daughters were school age, Ginny and I would go strawberry picking.  Ginny was my neighbor...the lady I would visit for a cup of coffee and a chat.  We would pick strawberries.....big flats of them, then take them home and make strawberry lemon jam.   The process of making jam is a ritual that connects me to generations of women that canned food, dried herbs, baked and cooked for their family. My father must have taken me to visit some of his relatives when I was small.  The ladies were in the kitchen.  The table was covered with newspaper.  They were peeling peaches to be "put up".  One lady said that by the time she cut out the bad parts, there was hardly any peach left.   I see them in house dresses and aprons.  That memory is fresh in my mind.
 I feel that connection as Ginny and I make strawberry jam.  The reward at the end of the task, is to take a piece of bread and clean the pot .  Eating warm strawberry jam on bread is a treasured memory.   What a mess We made!    There are sticky places all over the kitchen.  There is a bag of strawberry tops for the trash.  (Now I compost the tops.)  Surely some sugar gets spilled. 
Did We can the jam?  Or did We just put melted wax on top of the jar?   I don't remember that part.
Time and distance have separated Ginny and me.  We keep in touch a few times a year by email or Christmas card.  Sometimes one of us picks up the phone and We chat.  I have a reflex action when talking to Ginny to reach for a cup of coffee.
It is now over 30 years later.  I have a strawberry patch in my backyard.  This year is a bumper crop of berries.  I've given away handfuls of them to delighted visitors to my house. 
There is a new canning book on my cookbook shelf.  One of the recipes is for strawberry jam.   I make a small batch ....only four pints of jam.  Instead of canning , I put the jam in the freezer.  Then I pick up the phone and call Ginny.