My friend Kevin asked: When and why did I start to make my own jam? The easy answer is years ago. Why did no one know? Without social media, it was never publicized. It’s like the cookies I make at Christmas. Every year at Christmas (for the past 30 years) I bake cookies and share with close friends and family, and when my children were in school, their teachers. If you received a bag of cookies, you knew I baked cookies. With the advent of social media, my kids keep telling me I need to share these traditions, so many people now know I make jams and cookies. Back to the jams.
Making jam was something I learned from my great grandmother, and my grandmothers as a child. My great grandparents Zula (1894-1986) and Christopher (1889-1976) were farmers, and trust me when I say, farmers waste no crop. It was preserved, stored, smoked, or otherwise saved for consumption later in the year. Berries, apples, fruit of any form (well, not watermelon), is great to snack on, eat as a pie or other desert, but what do you do with the rest of it. Ever wonder why we have fried apples, apple dumplings, apple pie, applesauce and apple butter?
When my daughters were little, picking fresh fruit was a way to work on their fine motor skills. A two year old frequently bruises the apple or squishes the raspberry when pulling it off the plant, and lets not talk about the mess made by harvesting blueberries! As children grow and their fine motor skills develop, then can easily pick many small fruits without the mangling. For years I made blueberry, raspberry, strawberry jams, as well as apple butter. When my daughters got older, the time to make the jams slipped away, so jam production ceased.
Why return to making jams after the hiatus? When was the last time you looked at the nutrition information on a jam or jelly at the store? I did a few years back and figured out we were purchasing flavored colored sugar. Some of the jellies and jams did not even include the fruit as the first ingredient. What!
I know the ingredients of my jams: fruit and sugar to taste. The riper the fruit, picked at the height of the season, the more flavorful the fruit, the higher its own natural sugar content, less sugar added. Apple butter is a little different, as it includes the apple core, cinnamon and nutmeg. And no, I did not forget to list pectin, I do not use it (a topic in and of itself).
Jams made at home last approximately 18 months in the jar giving you plenty of time to consume these tasty treats, especially on toast or in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and have some left over to share with family and friends.