Just call me Grandma Walton; I made jam
By Lisa Smartt
Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 8:01 pm
Today is a proud day. My boys now have something noble to write on my tombstone. If I accomplish nothing else on this side of heaven, they will at least be able to write the following: “Lisa Smartt ... Born in 1963 ... Oh, and she once made jam.” Yep! I made homemade blackberry jam this week. No, not freezer jam. No, not the easy recipe. I’m talkin’ ’bout your grandma’s “boil the jars and seal the lids and make a huge mess” kind of jam. Yeah. Just call me Grandma Walton. Next thing you know I’m gonna get a milk cow and start saving coins in a flour jar for the boys’ education.
There’s just somethin’ about cookin’ up a big ol’ recipe of blackberry jam that makes me feel all warm and happy inside. A friend called today and asked what I was doing. “I’m washin’ Ball jars and makin’ a big batch of homemade jam.” Yeah. It felt good to be able to say that out loud. Almost like today’s jam project made up for the days I’ve spent sittin’ in my recliner wearin’ an orange housecoat and playin’ Scrabble™ on the computer.
If you’ve never made jam, prepare yourself. The experience will make you think you can churn butter or kill a hog or wring a chicken’s neck. Actually, nothing has ever made me think I could wring a chicken’s neck. But I did start darning socks, weaving fabric and making beeswax candles the minute I finished the jam project. OK. Not really.
The men in my family harvested the blackberries at great personal risk. Snake-infested weeds, chiggers and thorny bushes were no match for their pioneer determination. They knew the reward. They persevered. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that when it comes to jam making, it doesn’t really matter what fruit is used. The women in my family always said, “If you add enough sugar and Sure-Jell™ you can make jelly out of anything.” I can testify to the truth of that. I have some prickly pear jelly in the refrigerator that was made from cactus extract by a woman who probably does know how to darn socks and weave fabric. Even though you could make jelly from that leftover cantaloupe rind or a pile of dandelions, I think you’re better off forging through the snake-infested weeds for something better.
Every jam or jelly maker wants to know the project has been a success. Success is marked by the fact that all the jars manage to remain sealed during the cooling process. Only one of my jars popped up indicating a breech in security. Failure? No. It was a sign from above. It gave me a perfect excuse to open the jar and perform an informal taste test. Delicious! My only regret? I had to put the jam on white bread toast rather than a hot biscuit. And, of course, everyone knows there’s something morally wrong about that.
I wrote my first novel this year about a woman from a small southern town. I’m in the process of trying to get it published. It’s definitely a long shot. But that’s OK. Even if it never gets published, I’ll sleep well tonight. I did something most people will never do. I made jam.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 7.13.11