"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Love in a Jar

Friday, August 08, 2008

Love in a Jar

This summer I am teaching our kids how to make jam the old-fashioned way, with no added pectin, just fruit and sugar and a whole lot of stirring. We use observation (does it gel on a cold saucer?) instead of a thermometer to judge its doneness.

We skim the foam, ladle the bubbling jam into hot jars, cap them tightly and invert them, then after a few minutes, turn them right side up and listen for the ping, pong, ping of the successful seals.

Our son uses his best penmanship, if not spelling, on the labels ("apricot vannila" is one Finnish-like result). He and his sister carefully align the jars on the windowsill to admire.

Their delight in the process is surpassed only by their delight in the product, spread on buttered toast, glopped onto ice cream, or eaten straight off the spoon. They've invented an "Italian soda" using sparkling water and jam foam (too sweet for grown-ups).

How fortunate we are. Within an hour, we have wiped up the counters and turned to other activities.

While typing up a beloved aunt's memoirs recently, I realized that I come from a long line of women who worked from sun up to sun down, and often beyond, growing, harvesting, and preparing food for their families, in addition to all of the other chores of tending to family and farm. Preserving food for the winter was a necessity, a stay against hunger. It was certainly not recreational.

If they didn't plan ahead and ran out of sugar or jars (as I'm wont to do), the fruit could go bad before the next trip to town. If they felt like blogging instead of making dinner, ordering pizza was not an option. Planning was essential. How little time they had just to themselves!

This summer as I practice that ancient kitchen alchemy, I thank my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and all the women before them in a long chain of caring and lore. They bequeathed many skills to me that are no longer necessary for survival (or even for canning, e.g. paraffin). But their legacy of love is preserved. Generation after generation. Spoonful after spoonful.


  1. That is a beautiful picture and an even more beautiful story. Too often we dont realize how times have changed, or what life is/was really like for someone else.

    Ive wanted to can, but have never taken "all that time." Thanks for reminding me that that really is all we have.

    Im really ready to move forward with my life and focus on where it needs to be, where it can go; instead of so much time on where its been. I think Im understanding your comments from awhile back about your heart no longer being in the blog discussions, but elsewhere :) Or if thats my paraphrased misperception, I apologize. Lately, life just feels to short and blessed to spend so much of it looking back, trying to figure out the past, when Christ has promised me the future, forever in Him.

  2. Amen!
    But I still feel the need to check in now and again. Maybe to remind myself, thankfully, how far I have come.
    The jam looks splendiferous!

  3. Thank you for the kind words. My attention may be usually elsewhere but I still treasure this little community we've created. Thank you for keeping it going. I especially enjoy reading about your personal experiences.

  4. Hi, just curious... does jam without pectin use more or less sugar than with it? As far as the ratio of
    fruit to sugar? Do you just boil it until it's thick? Does it work for jelly too?

  5. Making jam without added pectin (the fruit has natural pectin) means using less sugar, but cooking and stirring longer. I think the results taste better, but it can mean a long time over a hot stove, and some fruits are better than others at setting.

    I got my pectin-free come-uppance last week when I was gifted a big box of overripe, super-juicy peaches. After ridding them of skin and pits, I added brown sugar and rum, then stirred the pot for what seemed hours before it reached syrup stage, and was still stirring when it was time to leave for a dinner out. Our friend who met us at the restaurant remarked on my glowing complexion. I told her it was a "hot rum peach facial" and she was quite impressed.

    There are several ways to test whether boiling jam or jelly has reached syrup stage. Get the scoop here at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

  6. Thanks...:)

    Think I'll pass on the facial though!

  7. Years and years ago, when I was full of energy, I ordered some stuff, which I believe was apple pectin, and made jams with only a little sugar. It was like eating fresh fruit. Delicious! I think I used about one-half cup of sugar to four cups of berries, maybe a bit more. It took a short time to cook, nothing lengthy like Free is talking about. I remember eating the fruit right out of the jar. SISU

  8. Yum! My favorite jam is wild blackberry, perfectly ripe and still on the tart side. We have a favorite spot on the shores of Lake Washington that can only be reached by boat (a yellow rubber raft is our preferred vehicle). One year we lost an oar that was doubling as a pier, stuck upright in the mud, when we wandered too far from the boat and the tide came in and washed it away. Our "Lost Oar" jam became a family legend, seconded only by our "Black Spider" jam from the end of that season. Funny how things taste better when you know their source, and a bit of drama is involved.

  9. My all-time favorite is thimbleberry jam - nothing beats the tartness. But this microwaved jam recipe (from one of Rosso and Lukins' cookbooks) cuts a close second:
    1c ea blackberries and strawberries
    1/2 c ea blueberries and cranberries (I cut them in half) - these supply the pectin
    2 c sugar
    Microwave 15-20 mins. until thick.
    I have tried this with different proportions as I think it's too sweet: 16 oz Trader Joe's frozen berry medley + 1 c crans and 1 1/2 c organic sugar. That worked well.

    Here's another GREAT recipe (I give as gifts occas.):
    4 lg kiwis, peeled and mashed
    1 large lime, zest + 2T juice
    3/4 c sugar. Nuke for 8-11 mins.

    Isn't food great? I'd rather talk about that than the war in Georgia, or Laestadianism, for that matter! Maybe I should join a foodie blog! Many Trails Home

  10. Thanks MTH -- you've opened up a new avenue for exploration. Never thought about making jam in the microblaster before. How about we keeping posting about food until this becomes an ex-Laestadian foodie blog. Can't be many of those out there!

    Have you tried cloudberry jam? The stuff from Ikea leaves a little to be desired . . .

  11. MY all-time favorite jam is raspberry-thimbleberry jam, equal portions. I made it years ago when I could pick my own berries, then prepared it using very little sugar so the tartness was evident. Now THAT was ambrosia! SISU

  12. Oh, please don't microwave the poor berries and fruits, they'll die. Really, the nutritional value of food suffers a lot when the food is microwaved. Almost any other way of preparing food is better than microwaving. The molecules are blown apart and the food is no longer tha same as it was when it was put in the microwave although it may look approximately the same and even taste sort of ok. If you absolutely need to use a microwave use it when you are heating up something that's junk food anyway, something that doesn't have much nutritional value. Berries and fruits are too valuable to be wasted like that.


  13. Well, actually, Hibernatus, I use the nuker primarily to rewarm my coffee. I take issue with your statement that the molecules are "blown apart." Do you have some scientific evidence for this? If they were, they would not be recognizable as berries. And part of the reason I like nuked jam is that the fruit is LESS cooked to smithereens and tastes more fresh, like the fruit it is. Don't knock it unless you try it - unless you have some "emotional horror" around microwaves. I'm not tooo crazy about it myself, incidentally. But then I don't even like A/C current! I think D/C may be "kinder." MTH (Gosh, I almost had a lapse and signed my given name)

  14. MTH, I have never taken time to find out about any actual studies about the damage done to food by microwaves, I've just relied on what others have told me. I wouldn't use a microwave oven even if I was convinced it doesn't do any damage because I don't like the taste and texture of microwaved food. If I really liked microwave oven I probably would have taken the effort to make some more research but the way it is I haven't bothered. I googled on the internet and found the following explanation about how a microwave oven works and what happens to the food when it is microwaved. It's pretty much the same as what I've heard. Heating up coffee in a microwave oven is probably not too dangerous because there are no nutrients to destroy in it. However, I'm a bit skeptical about that too. I recently asked an alternative medicine practitioner if it would be ok to microwave water to make it clean of any possible parasites, and she said it probably would kill the parasites but it might also change the water in some way.

    "Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic energy, like light waves or radio waves. In our modern technological age, microwaves are used to relay long distance telephone calls, TV programs, and computer information across the globe or to an orbiting satellite in space. Microwaves are good for transmitting information from one place to another because microwave energy can penetrate haze, light rain and snow, clouds, and smoke. But the microwave is most familiar to us as an energy source for cooking food.

    Every microwave oven contains a device called a magnetron, a tube in which electrons are affected by magnetic and electric fields in such a way as to produce micro wavelength radiation at about 2450 Mega Hertz (MHz) or 2.45 Giga Hertz (GHz). This microwave radiation interacts with the molecules in the food.

    All wave energy changes polarity from positive to negative with each cycle of the wave. In microwaves, these polarity changes happen billions of times every second. Food molecules - especially water molecules - have a positive and negative end, in the same way a magnet has both a north and a south polarity.

    In microwave ovens, as these microwaves generated by the magnetron bombard the food, they cause the polar molecules to rotate at the same frequency, millions of times per second. The molecules within the food - especially the polar water molecules, but also amino acids, lipids and proteins - are forced to align themselves with the rapidly changing alternating electrical field. They oscillate around their axis in response to a reversal of the electric field which occurs billions of times per second. This oscillation creates considerable intermolecular friction which results in the generation of heat.

    All this agitation creates "molecular friction", which heats up the food. This unusual type of heating also causes substantial damage to the surrounding molecules, often forcefully deforming them or tearing them apart.It is this friction and heat which can destroy the fragile structure of vitamins and enzymes in the food.

    Microwaves from the sun are based on pulsed direct current (DC) which don't create frictional heat, while microwave ovens use alternating current (AC) creating frictional heat.

    A microwave oven produces a spiked wavelength of energy with all of the power going into only one narrow frequency of the energy spectrum. Energy from the sun operates in a wide frequency spectrum.

    The microwave oven issue: not as clear-cut as most of us assume
    Microwaves can seriously deplete the nutrients in food. It's not surprising that microwave heating of food results in losses of nutrients because all heating methods have a similar effect. However, microwave heating appears to produce the greatest losses."


  15. So, Hibernatus, are you going to join the "Raw Food" revolution? That's the only way to avoid destroying the structure of food. I can see not wanting to destroy vitamins: the only way to do that is to eat raw food. But as for enzymes, we manufacture our own. What enzymes in food are used by the human body? None, I'm guessing. Lots of the mythology surrounding food is purely invented by folks who have a personal or vested interest but little understanding. I will agree that simpler and more basic and less "processed" is generally better - but I am not inclined to eat raw meat or even raw cruciferous vegetables. Grains are not particularly edible raw. And some foods such as beans have "toxins" that are destroyed in the cooking process. The only foods that are created by nature specifically to be eaten by animals including humans are fruit and milk. So if you are really inclined to be a purist, you should be a "fruitarian."
    One last comment: You may have noticed that your article is not particularly favorable toward A/C.
    So, that's my take. MTH