I 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.