Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On the jam factory

In my family we have always made our own jam. It is just something we do. It might have something to do with tradition – my mom’s mom used to do it, and my dad’s mom used to do it. Their mothers probably made jam too, if they had any sugar back then…

It might also have to do with dietary concerns – our jam is always made from the freshest of berries, and with as little sugar as possible and no conservatives. It is probably as healthy as jam gets.

Finally, I think it once was a matter of price. My family has always been big in the jam department, and my dad in particular. The man loves his jam, and he eats more of it than anyone else I have ever known. Making your own jam instead of buying expensive premade in the store makes sense, then, or at least it did back when store jam was expensive and berries were cheap. These days, though, the homemade kind cost at least twice as much as the store-bought, and that isn’t even counting the work put into it.

As a result of our jam traditions, a considerable part of what summer means to me is the making of the jam. The most important type is strawberry. Back when my sisters and I lived with our parents, our family consumed about 30 kilos of strawberries made into jam over the winter. With only my parents left in the house the production has been reduced slightly, but we’re still running a fairly impressive business (though the income is nothing to brag about).

Today we got the first batch of strawberries over with – about 12 liters of strawberry jam is now in the freezer, and about twice that amount, along with other types such as apple, blueberry and raspberry will join it by the end of the season.

Since we’re doing this every year, the production has become quite professional. First, one removes the leaves and wet patches and other undesirables. Then the berries are weighed, smashed and mixed together with the sugar and the thickener (we’ve tried without, but the “jam” only ends up as soup. We do avoid the ones with conservatives, though).

The second part of the process is all about storage. Since we use the freezer, the most convenient container is reused milk cartons that can be stacked. They are washed and dried, naturally, and then we cut them into the proper size (we have a template). Once the carton is filled it contains about half a liter of jam. Then they are sealed with tape, labeled with content and year, and we’re ready to fill the freezer.

It is hardly a super-fun activity, but spending the time with my family feels nice, and keeping up with traditions in another thing I like. Besides, the jam tastes much better than anything you find in the store.

And soon, blueberry season is upon us!


ViolaNut said...

And of course, one MUST draw a giraffe on the label. ;-) Which reminds me, my former cellist (currently residing in Tanzania) has popped back up and has at least one pic of giraffes, I'll have to find it for you... Meanwhile, I suppose with no preservatives transatlantic jam shipping is contraindicated? :-P

welcome to my world of poetry said...

This wonderful and interesting post brought back childhood memories wne my grandmother and mother made their own jam, I don't know exactly when they stopped but I recall this going on for many a year. Thanks for the memories.


Linn Carina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linn Carina said...

Oops, jeg ble nysgjerrige og måtte vite hva som skjer når man deleter en kommentar... Egentlig ganske skuffa over resultatet. Uansett, her er (sånn ca.) hva jeg skreiv

Hands down the best strawberry jam in Norway! I should know, I've eaten a few. (Sorry, that last line is a really bad re-write of a Monty Python quote)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

That does sound like a fun time, even if not a fun process.
My mom always made tomato jam when tomatoes were cheap, and no jam even comes close in taste.

Jemi Fraser said...

That's a lot of work - but it sounds like the results are worth it! :)

RosieC said...

I love making my own jam. And what a great idea to reuse milk cartons! When we have a bigger freezer, I'm definitely going to try that.

I'm glad you're having such a great time with your family!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Must be a lot of work. I know my wife tried it once and hasn't attempted jam or jelly again since that time.

Jennee said...

milk cartons are a really great idea. my mom always uses glass jars and they don't always stack the best. I might have to mention this to her!

Cruella Collett said...

Leanne - one must! And no, the shipping would have to be the other way - a transatlantic violanut could get to taste the jam here ;)

Yvonne - there is something about grandmothers and jam, isn't it? :)

Linn - hehe, hva hadde du egentlig forventet? "Oops, du slettet dessverre hele internett!"
(And thanks!)

Natasha - tomato? I have never even heard of that. Is it still sweet? I would love to try that!

Jemi - definitely worth it :)It tastes like childhood and summer!

Rosie - just make sure to wash them properly. Nothing ruins good jam like leftover milk...

Alex - we're getting pretty used to it, so I don't mind too much. But the dishes are a killer.

Jennee - as long as it is the kind you pop in the freezer, it should work as a charm. They don't seal well enough for room temperature storage, though (and at any rate, those either need some concervatives or a LOT more sugar or they will go bad pretty quick)

Hart Johnson said...

LOVE the giraffe jam! *snort*

And very clever of Leanne to try to HINT: PREservatives for food. It's okay though--we all know what you meant and I love when there is a minor sign that English is your second language, because they are so rare (conserve is more volume--not wasting, preserve is freshness--not wasting)

The milk cartons ARE a fabulous idea.

Oh... Tomato jam may be a Brit thing... remember the tomotoes on toast and stuff? We (not me personally, but Americans) STEW tomoatoes, which I suspect is similar in process, but we use them mostly in cooking (spaghetti sauce and stuff)

Cruella Collett said...

*snort* I should have read my comments properly, I guess ;) This is probably one of those words I would have looked up had I not been tired, since I know that sometimes English takes illogical turns away from the locigal Norwegian :P But yeah - thanks for the catch (won't edit it, though - as you said, I can afford a few errors me not is English and is speaking all ;)

M.J. Nicholls said...

Your family sound like awesome, jam-loving eccentrics. They are now my adopted family, should my own parents perish through lack of jam.

My father likes jam and ice cream. Is this common in the jam fraternity? I'm guessing no.

Amanda Sablan said...

LOVE jam! Nothing tastes better on toast, not even honey. Wish I could try some giraffe jam... though it sounds illegal. /:

I love to make my own foods too, but as you mentioned, store-bought foods are usually cheaper. :(

Cruella Collett said...

Mark - brother, where have you been? And mnyesnomaybe - we have been known to use jam with ice cream (and it is pretty neat), but it's not a recurring tradition (can traditions be non-recurring?). We do eat fresh strawberries with ice cream, though.

Amanda - *snort* I'm not even sure the giraffe jam would be all that tasty. All those spots...

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