I did it.
I made my first batch of jam ever.
Fifteen beautiful jars of strawberry jam are sitting on my counter, despite a fearsome cold, two small kids, and three different friends each telling me a different method…
I did it.
Last night we bought 7 kilos of strawberries (about 15 pounds), and right after we bought them, I realized I was coming down with Ben’s cold. Great. I went to bed early, but was up half the night not being able to breathe and dealing with Will, who also came down with the cold last night and couldn’t sleep. This morning I did not want to get out of bed—especially not to attempt jam-making, which has stared me in the face since moving here. Everyone does it, it’s supposed to be easy—but nothing is easy if you’ve never done it before, right?
My friend who sold me the strawberries (Mikosh) told me in great detail the best method for making jam, and I understood every word and fully intended to follow her advice. When my helper arrived this morning, it wasn’t Vinyera (who’s made strawberry jam before and offered to help me), it was Zoya, who doesn’t make strawberry jam. “Vinyera’s sick,” she said, and she looked pretty dubious when I said we were making jam today. “Amal yok,” I said (there’s no option), “I’ve got the strawberries so we have to make it or they’ll go bad.” (15 pounds of strawberries in my veggie drawer!)
In we dove, Zoya plucking stems while I tried for a whole hour to get Ben down for his morning nap… then I dashed out to buy 6 kilograms (!) of sugar and a huge “djahm” (basin) to make the jam in, because according to Zoya the easiest way is to just boil the whole mess up in one big container. A djahm for jam. Yikes.
After I got back, while I was attending to Ben (who still wasn’t sleeping), Zoya went ahead and dumped all the sugar on top of the mound of strawberries, not what Mikosh said to do… she said to mush them up with your hands first and then bring them to a boil and add the sugar slowly, so there wouldn’t be too much juice. Amal yok. Just as we’re staring at the sugar-covered mountain, guess who shows up? Mikosh. She took one look and said, mildly accusingly, “You didn’t understand me.” I did! I wanted to shout… Zoya went ahead without me!
“That’s ok,” says Mikosh, “just mush them up now and it will be ok.” So, I mushed. It was fun, actually—a huge vat of strawberries and sugar, and two bare hands (well washed) smooshing and squashing and spurting… I thought about inviting Will to help… and then thought better of it.
It took almost an hour to bring the strawberry vat to a boil (it covered my entire stovetop), and then Zoya made lunch, cleaned up, had a shower (she doesn’t have a shower at her house), and left. The boys and I had a nap (thank God), and then I rolled up my sleeves and started in.
Simmer strawberries for half an hour, skim off foam. Pot of boiling water to scald jars and lids; no tongs, so I used a big fork to heft out one hot jar at a time, holding it with an oven mitt, filled it with jam, wiped the mouth, fished out a hot lid and screwed it on. 15 jars, 45 minutes, 2 miraculously well-behaved little boys (Will had Ben chuckling, it was amazing!)… and I did it! Someone must have been praying.
Wish you could see my pictures…
Rustic wooden crate full of gorgeous red jewels…
Huge djahm of jam boiling away on the stove…
The collection of empty jars…
The empty djahm, ringed with pink, and fifteen beautifully full jars standing peacefully on my countertop.
I’m writing this in the kitchen, and every now and then there’s a contented “pop” as another seal clicks down. ::Sigh:: What a wonderful feeling. Stuffy nose, scratchy throat, aching back, neighbours, kids and all—I did it. Thank you Jesus!
James’ comment when he tasted it: “Wow, love, that’s perfect jam! Just like Mum used to make it!” The highest of compliments.