Whenever we take the kids to visit their grandmother (my mom) we’re hit by the wonderful smell of strawberry jam being made (I suspect she knows we’re coming). It immediately takes me back to my childhood, and it turns out that’s why she makes it, too: it takes her back to her youth in Ireland when she and her mother used to make strawberry and gooseberry jam nearly every weekend. Today, my mom still makes strawberry jam the same way: washing, hulling and slicing about six cups of strawberries before adding several cups of sugar and boiling it in two, five-minute stints, the latter with lemon juice added. She then pours it into jars to cool down before wax-sealing it.
There are only two differences from those days in Ireland, my mom says. First, she doesn’t boil the berries as long as her mother did (“She’s Irish, so she naturally boiled everything in sight for far too long!”). And second, they didn’t have the means to keep berries fresh for very long. "We didn’t have refrigeration, so we’d begin making jam the moment we got home from picking on Saturdays," says mom. "But now I can wait until Sunday without the berries losing any freshness."
Mom’s secret weapon today? Rubbermaid’s Produce Saver. She can store the berries after washing (but before hulling and slicing) to keep them fresh, without getting soggy in their own moisture, until she’s ready to begin the first boiling stage.
The jam really does taste just as I remember from my school days. And now my son certainly inhales the stuff. Maybe we should smear it on broccoli to get him to eat his greens–or perhaps I’ll hand that project over to his grandmother, since she seems to know about everything (like exactly when we’re dropping by for a visit).