Widgets Magazine

Aug 16, 2011

Little Jam Jars

 I’ve told you before that I grew up in small-town Utah. That meant everyone was pretty self-sufficient. Most people had farms or a few chickens (or turkeys) and almost everyone had at least a small garden to grow a few vegetables. My parents had both. We also had a few fruit trees and my grandparents had a gigantic pear tree. I can’t ever eat a fresh Bartlett pear without thinking of my grandpa. He would pull at least ten bushels from that tree every year and of course we couldn’t eat them all (even though we tried hard!), so from an early age, I learned to can fruit.

Before I could use a knife, it was my job to sort out the rings and the jars. Then as I got older, I got to help straighten the fruit when it flipped over. (Mom liked all her peaches and pears to lay with the scooped-out center down.) I guess that’s because my hands were smaller than Mom’s hands and I could reach all the way down into the jar.

We made jam too. Mom and Grandma liked the plum jam the best, but I thought it was a little sour. My favorites were apricot and strawberry (Mom only let my brother eat the strawberry jam, but that’s another story for another day). We didn’t own an apricot tree then, but my dad had a relative in a nearby town with a huge one. They called us every year to drive down and pick whatever we could use. The year my sweetie and I were engaged we spent an entire afternoon several weeks before our wedding picking fruit and then a few more days making apricot jam and nectar. Yeah, we had plenty of other things to do, but for us it was just what you did in the fall…store up what you could use in the winter. It was only natural that we would raise our own family to think the same way.

So not long after we moved into our current home, my sweetie brought home a scraggly looking apricot tree and planted it on the corner of the sand pile. I was not happy with this turn of events! I told him that the fruit would drop into the sand and make a horrible mess. He said that apricot trees wouldn’t grow in our part of the valley anyway so it wouldn’t be a problem…he was so wrong! Today we picked five 5-gallon buckets of apricots and made 12 batches of jam. You can’t even tell that any fruit is missing from the tree yet. I’ll bet there are at least a dozen more buckets.

We had lots of fun working together, slicing out the pits and then chopping the fruit and turning it into beautiful little bottles of jam. These first bottles are small and we will probably give them away to neighbors and friends (I wish you all lived on my street!). It’s just silly to use anything smaller than a quart jar for jam at my house. As you can see, the girls got rather creative during the stirring process, since it can get a little boring.

I’ve given you the recipe for apricot jam before, but I left out a few important things. First, don’t forget to invite everyone to help, regardless of age. The little boys helped pick the apricots (and eat them!) and my girls who weren’t working or in school helped cut and ultimately stir them. Second, add plenty of sugar and lots of love. And finally, don’t forget to pull out a little bread to scoop that little bit that is left in the pan. It’s warm and sticky sweet and so tasty! The kids went through half a loaf of bread that way.

You can’t duplicate the fuzzy feeling of accomplishment when you see all the jars lined up to cool. Tonight I’m tired and happy. By Wednesday night you can likely drive by my house and look for the sign announcing “Apricots! Pick all you can eat. Free! But you gotta mop my floor…and gather a couple dozen rotten apricots out of the sand pile.”

12 comments:

Missy said...

My brother's family of 7 did some canning a few years in a row. I joined them one year. It was fun!

Treasures Evermore said...

Always way better having extra help and making it a fun day. The jam looks wonderful.

Saimi said...

Nice work!! You should be proud of yourself because that is a lot of work but so worth it!!

I'm such a slacker, I haven't canned a thing this year.

Sara Bell said...

That's awesome! I've gone back and forth about canning for a while now and I finally decided I'll do it if I ever have a fruit tree or somehow have an overabundance of fruit, but otherwise I'll just stick to fresh fruit.
We'll see how that works out for me.

LeAnn said...

I haven't done any canning for a long while. I loved making jam and my favorite was the apricot jam.
I loved the accomplishment of looking at the jars and thinking what a feat it was for me to do it all. My children were very young at the time so I don't think they helped much.
Thanks for the memory and keep on enjoying those moments.

Marci said...

Man! I wish I lived on your street to get jam from you! I love homemade jam but with only two of us, and not going through jam very quickly it just isn't for us yet! Enjoy your jam!

Emmy said...

My mom grew lots of fruit and vegetables and canned things- sadly I don't do any :(

GrumpyJaxMomOf3 said...

We are hoping to plant some fruit trees (and a garden) next year, and then , my friend, I will be bugging you for that strawberry jam recipe ;) Enjoy your jam!

healthy lifestyle said...

a very good idea

Sarah said...

mmm... i love homemade jam... the lined up jam bottles look so cute!

Brandi said...

homemade jam sounds delicious!

anymommy said...

I am so very impressed. And also overwhelmed and exhausted on your behalf!!

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