There are certain homemade foods that seem to bring out the proselytizers, those who insist “It’s so easy!” and the others who view that same food with wonder and awe. Yeast bread is one of those; pie is another; and so, finally, is jam.
Bread-making is a skill I inherited easily, almost unconsciously, from my mom, and I’ve baked so much bread with and for my family that the bread-making gene is solidly rooted in the next generation.
On the other hand, Mom’s steady pie making kept me scared of pie until I was in my thirties and my sister posted this recipe (now, I’ve been lucky to watch Cassoulet’s own pie lady, Lisa McNamara, bake apple pie in my kitchen, so I’ve picked up a couple new tips). Easy as pie? I believe it.
Homemade jam (and jelly, and marmalade, and chutney) was always part of my childhood, too, and everyone made it: Dad, Mom, my grandfather and grandmother. Everyone but me. It seemed complicated; it seemed like cooking the equipment (jars, rings, lids) was more important than the food. Even as an adult, and despite the assurances of our jam-making contributor Elizabeth Crane and others, I was scared of screwing it up and poisoning my family. Investing $6 for a jar of farmer’s market jam seemed like wise insurance against botulism.
Until finally, last Sunday, we went strawberry picking. We’ve gone with a group of families every spring for years, but somehow this year the combination of abundant plants and kids old enough to pick more than they eat resulted in more berries than we could reasonably eat on our week’s breakfast cereal, bake into pie, and churn into ice cream.
So I made jam.
I made this recipe, from Sunset Magazine. I didn’t stop to think about it too much, and I didn’t worry about sealing the jars; we’ll just eat it — on toast and spooned into yogurt and baked into muffins and tarts — before the month is out. But before then, I may need to make another batch, and can it properly, so that when winter comes and we’re cranky with the dark and rain, we can taste this perfect summer flavor again.
PS: that whole, quartered, lemon that you put in the jam cooks into the most delicious piece of strawberry-glazed lemon candy. That alone is worth the small effort of this recipe.