Country Roots and Homemade Jam

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal 12 Comments

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-qdVBYyZUmqI/TiNDvMfR7_I/AAAAAAAAAaE/_o7qQgM5E5w/s1600/blog+003.JPGI went blackberry picking with my son and his family this afternoon. It’s a good berry year. We were picking wild blackberries over around the hay field so that my daughter-in-law can make jam. Since it’s late already tonight, I decided to go back in my archives and pull out an old post to rerun. So here’s what I wrote about making jam a few years ago.

A bubbling pot of sweet goodness. That’s what you’re seeing here. I was making jam out of a combination of blackberries and boysenberries with some raspberries (frozen earlier for just this purpose) mixed in to make the whole pot sweeter.

And that’s where the country roots come in. That’s how my grandmother made jam and my mother too. They passed down the recipe. Not that there’s any real recipe written down or anything. Just pound for pound berries and sugar and then cook until it’s right. There were other hints though. Some advised putting a marble in the pot to keep it from boiling over. I never tried that. Instead, I used the swipe of butter around the upper rim of the cooking pot. That worked today. I wasn’t sure it would since I had the pot pretty full.

Even the pot connects me to my past. This heavy duty pot has been in use canning and preserving and making jams and relishes since before I can remember. I don’t know if it was new with my mother, but I do know that it’s boiled a lot of pots of jam, not to mention cooking tomatoes and pears and green beans to get them ready to pack in canning jars. I’ve done all that too. Now I just do the occasional pot of jam or relish in the pan. I do can green beans but I pack them into the jars without boiling them first after a home extension agent convinced my aunt that was a safe canning method and my aunt convinced my mom.

I use some of these canning roots in my stories. I had Kate and Evie canning beans in my book, Angel Sister. In the Hollyhill books, the church people were sharing garden produce with Jocie’s dad all the time.  Jocie even had a “please, no more cabbage” prayer. By the way if you’d like to read Jocie’s story, the first Hollyhill book, Scent of Lilacs, is a free download right now.

Most everybody with a plot of land had a garden in the past and then canned and preserved. It was patriotic during the WW I and WW II when anybody with a backyard was encouraged to plant a “victory” garden. Gardening then wasn’t a hobby or for fun. It was survival and a way to have good food summer and winter. It’s not survival for me. The grocery stores have plenty of produce year round. But it seems wrong not to preserve and can.

Many years ago, I read an autobiography of Janice Holt Giles, a popular historical novel author who lived in Kentucky and wrote about Kentucky. She talked about using her mornings to can the produce Henry (her husband) insisted they had to raise. She sounded a little resentful when she wrote of having to spend time canning instead of writing as she wanted to do. Especially after her books were making money. But roots go deep for country folk. To Henry, canning that garden produce was as necessary as breathing and probably seemed more necessary than writing. Maybe it is for me too. A connection to my country roots. A connection with a bonus. It’s kept us well fed and has given me fodder for my stories.

How about you? Do you raise a garden? Have you ever canned or preserved things you’ve grown?

As always, thanks for reading.

Comments 12

  1. Rory Lynn Lemond

    My first experience was with my grandmother she had a lovely Garden in compost pile out in the country where she lived I always like to go out there and help her in the garden it was so much fun we used to can most of the vegetables and at Halloween we would go out there and we would pick our pumpkin out of the compost pile as old seeds thrown in there for good measure grew very nice and plump Halloween pumpkins for carving it is a great memory in my life that I will never forget and it made me love the country which I still love today I wish I could live in the country again but right now that is not feasible but I remember the times that I have lived in the country and they are such a wonderful group of memories that I will have for the rest of my life you have a great day and I hope you have fun canning and picking berries with your family.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Sounds like you had a great time visiting your grandmother. Somehow I can’t get my grandkids that interested in canning. Although the kids picked berries last night and even the 7 year old got enough for a cobbler. Country living is the best, Rory, and even if you can’t live in the country right now, at least you have all those great country memories.

  2. Karen G.

    I used to do some canning with my mother when I was living at room. After I got married I used to make Bread and Butter pickles and Raspberry Jam. Now, I freeze everything. Strawberry Jam with less sugar, raspberry jam with less sugar, corn on the cob and corn kernels. Raspberry jam didn’t gel enough but they are still in the freezer to use as topping for ice cream and french toast. Waiting for the farm stand to get their corn so I can start freezing. I put the whole corn on the husk in vacuum sealed freezer bags last year but won’t be doing it again because the corn was soggy when thawed. I’ll vacuum seal the kernels and freeze it like I always do. Amish Paste tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green and red peppers are in the garden. New this year is candy onions. Hope the onions grow okay because I planted them exactly the way I got them. Found out I have 25 plants when I thought I bought 8.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      I may try making some more pickles this year, Karen. I have these super sweet pickles that are the nearest a pickle can be to candy I like to make. They are a lot of trouble, but extra yummy. I’ve never made Bread and butter pickles but I’ve eaten them. They’re good. I’ve never done the freezer jam either, but I know a lot of people like it better. And strawberry jam is a great ice cream topper so I’m sure raspberry jam is too. Those candy onions sound good. Hope they turn out well for you.

  3. Melissa

    I have never canned anything. But, my oldest sister and my parents always canned vegetables and fruit. I can remember seeing all the mason jars lined up on the counter. Thank you for the post today. This brings back very special memories and the reminder of wonderful scents.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Those jars lined up on the counter always look good, Melissa. Glad I brought back some good memories for you. And jam making or pickle making does fill the house air with some enticing odors.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      I’m surprised that you’ve never done any canning, Roberta. Too busy working and writing, I suppose. I used to regret losing a lot of writing time canning all the stuff in my garden, but we had some shelves of food stored for later. Now the garden is mostly for the kids and I let them do the picking and canning. I do admit that I’m also pretty good at eating those cobblers and spreading some jam on toast.

  4. Paula

    We canned a lot when we were a poor country preacher’s family in Wisconsin years ago. We learned some of it from the wonderful Church families. I remember the first bean canning when we went to Ruth’s house…. All picked , all shared jars, all snapped, and all shared the bounty. We made a day of it and had lunch, too!
    Then my husband’s mom gave us one of her canners and shared recipes. That tradition goes way back in our family. I remember my aunt from Pennsylvania sending canned items home with us to Illinois when we had our yearly visit .
    The last thing I remember canning on a large scale was just before we left Springfield , MO— 70 quarts of tomatoes, twenty years ago when my husband finished his Masters Degree. Theycame in handy in St. Louis to get his PH.D.,when we were once again, struggling students.
    We have been retired one year and received some produce from our pastor in exchange for watering the garden while they were on a trip. We canned pickles!
    It is wonderful to be able to preserve God’s bounty and to be less dependent on commercialism. It may come in handy when you least suspect it and it is a tradition that we should preserve as well. Think of the memories and life lessons that you are passing down to your children and grandchildren !
    It seems that it is also a way to be good stewards of what God has given us.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Fun canning memories, Paula. The old time way of doing that canning as a family or shared event made the job so much better. When I first started canning, Mom was afraid for me to use the pressure canner. She thought I might get distracted and let it blow up. So I would do my canning at her house which wasn’t so bad. I had help with my babies and breaking the beans. Plus, I always loved visiting Mom and Dad. I used to put up many jars of produce from the garden and it did indeed help on the grocery bill plus supply good food year around.
      It is a blessing to be able to garden and preserve your own vegetables.

  5. Melanie Backus

    It has been many years since I have canned but I am glad to know that I am capable of doing it if I so choose. I remember feeling a sense of pride in myself when I opened that beautiful jar of jelly and it tasted good too!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      It is good to know how to do some of those type of things, Melanie. To have the ability to be self-sufficient. Plus you’re right about that feeling of accomplishment. I always liked seeing the freshly processed jars lined up on the counter or those jars of jam and pickles. I may get to make pickles again this year.

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