We hurried home in the late afternoon on Friday, hoping to get our raspberries picked before the dark clouds above us opened up. On either side of the row, we plucked the red jewels and dropped them in our ice cream pails. “Does this remind you of berry picking when you were a kid?” I asked my hubby. “Yes…” he answered as he lifted a heavy branch to reveal a trove of hidden gems. We continue picking in silence, and I remember those simple summer days. I grew up out in the country, so when school got out, it was just my siblings to play with, maybe a cousin or two now and then, that is until berry season. My brother and I would wait at the end of our long driveway for the berry bus to pick us up and out to the fields we went. The bus driver was usually a school teacher, one summer it was our school principal (who we greatly admired), I guess they didn’t get enough of us during the school year. In the berry fields we met up with school friends who caught the bus in town, it was quite a social event. I still picture the farmer showing me the proper way to pick and inspect the berry, “Pick the berry and roll it in your hand to make sure it’s perfect, then put it in your box.” Okay… I’d pick my flat full, turn it for a punch on my berry card and keep picking, but mostly I talked. And laughed. And enjoyed the company of my friends. I made a little money for school clothes, though looking back I certainly could have made a lot more, (20/20 hindsight) but we sure had fun!
Between the two of us we picked enough for a batch of jam. I washed, crushed and measured our bounty into my big Revere Ware pan, stirred in the pectin (MCP because that’s what grandma used) and brought the crimson liquid to a ‘rolling boil that can’t be stirred down’. As I pour in the sugar, it melts into the hot berries, and the color deepens to a rich, ruby red. I make swirling figure eights with my long spoon, keeping it moving as it boils for four full minutes. I love the combination of ingredients and the science of jam. I love the smell as the jam cooks. Alex Rowat wrote, “Happiness is like jam. You can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself.” I most certainly agree! I might take it a little farther and state, “Jam is Happiness!”
I am never alone in my kitchen. I am shoulder to shoulder with my teachers and their lesson are mine to pass along. My grandmas, my sister; the hum and the bustle of the process is calming to me. Zen. I ladle the boiling liquid into hot jars, wipe the rims and adjust the lids. Just think, jam, spread on toasted homemade bread on a snowy December morning…
Peace. Love. Amen.