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Friday, September 4, 2009

Marge and Jam

I've really been missing my grandparents recently. I was an "oh woops!" baby and born when my parents and thus my grandparents were fairly young. I guess I just thought they'd be around a long time, till I was old, or at least older. It makes me so sad and then so mad. And cry and all of that and still nothing gets me five more minutes with them to say all I should have or ask what it was like when... My favorite grandmother, my Mimi, suddenly and unexpectedly passed on last summer, just 3 days after we came home from VN. It hit me hard. Still does. I miss her. So much. Maybe later I be able to share how awesome she was.

With all the strawberries in season (hang on with me, this will come full circle eventually...) I'm reminded of my other grandmother, my Nana. Nana's name was Marge. Actually it was Margaret which is a great name with so many wonderful nick-names like Meg, or Margo, or Maggie. But Nana was the quintessential Marge. Served up and waited on Grandpa everyday for lunch with a tv tray of food and a high ball of something. Nana's living room had a blue davenport and a 6' mounted sailfish on the wall. Nana and I cooked together a lot. She was a southern woman at heart and fried most everything. At family gatherings, she never sat down, but hustled to and from the kitchen, while the "men folk" barked what they needed more of. I don't think I ever really saw her sit down and eat. Sit down and drink, yes. Sit down and eat, no. Marge was that kind of woman.
And every Christmas Nana and I made tons of candy. Fudge, brittle, caramels, taffy, divinity, and white, milk and dark covered chocolate everything... Nana also canned everything. She had a huge garden and put up black eyed peas, okra, green beans, and most of Grandpa's salmon from his annual fishing trips and lots more! She had a bedroom turned atomic-bomb-stock-room, full of canned everything. So... back to the strawberries... I find myself so sad that I never learned the science of canning with her. I asked so many friends for help learning how, but was amazed at how many replied, "Oh my grandma used to do that, but she died. I should have watched her more carefully." So sad.

I think Nana would appreciate an ingenuitive and independent woman, so I perused All Recipes and utube, went shopping, bought my first canning pot and rack, and decided to wing it! The final result... drum roll please... strawberry jalapeno jam! I think Nana would have been proud. It's yummy! It's not spicy, and the strawberries and the peppers make a wonderful pair. Makes a fabulous PB&J! Or poured over cream cheese is an easy impressive appetizer with crackers! Or swell hostess gift! And the gift giving season is right around the corner! The kiddos ate it this morn on top of pancakes. You know it's not hot if T&J ate it! But could easily be made spicy if you wanted.
So here it goes. Livy staring in the role of hand model.

The link to the recipe I followed is at the bottom.
Started from the beginning with jars of course!
and a spankin' new pot! That's Papa's Coke. I don't drink that stuff.

And a new rack that fits perfectly in the pot. The pot and the rack came together at Walmart. See how shiny it all is? That's the look of newness to prove that I REALLY have never done this before! Where am I gonna store that huge thing?!
Aren't jalapenos pretty!

And of course LOTS of ripe delicious strawberries!

According to directions... I steralized the jars. LATER read that I should keep them in the water to keep them hot before filling. Ooops! Still learning!
Oh Yea! Almost forgot this stuff... pectin. Never even knew it existed. Yet I still felt compeled to buy the "value pack!" Some is good, more is better... right?

Cleaning the jalapenos. Note to self, wear gloves even if only cleaning 12 of them. Livy's not forgiven me yet!

If you want it spicey, leave some of the seeds and veins. Extra spicey, leave them all and just chop 'em up whole. I knew that I would probably give many away as gifts so I cleaned them completely, removing all seeds and veins. That's where most of the heat comes from. That part's missing from the recipe for some reason.

Then Livy mashes up the strawberries, leaving some chunks for the jam.

Hang on a minute... emergency situation unfolding... take a break to help Jujube get out of the flip flops that he has gotten himself tangled into. He is quite disturbed by this and needs immediate attention. The way 2 year olds do.

Crisis diverted, back to the jam...
Cooking up the jam. Mmmmmm
Add sugar. Add more sugar. Add more sugar. It's jam!
Skimming off the scum. Sounds oogy! Really isn't. Just jam scum.
Ended up with 10 full jars. Pretty hu?
Then to "can" them all. Listened to the cans "pop" as they cooled. Tied a pretty bow on top, and they're ready to give away! Takers? I'm pretty impressed with myself!

Thank you, Nana. Thanks for teaching me all you did before turning me loose on my own. And thank you for teaching me how to give it all away. I hope I done you proud... even though I didn't fry anything!
What did your grandmother pass on to you?


  1. I'll be a taker! One of my dearest friends moved away to the east cost a few years back, and every year she would stock me up with homemade strawberry jam. The kids and I miss it so much-and her too! I love how simple pleasures in life bring back such fond memories of the people we love and hold close in our hearts.

  2. berry season came and went here and we were so wishing we'd learned how to can from our grandmas! I am so impressed you were able to teach yourself. and inspired. :)


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