We did. We used strawberry jam to jam our satellites.
I headed out of town last Friday evening. I pointed the car south and drove the boy and myself down to my in-laws to provide comfort to Ernesto, whose dog died last Tuesday. He needed people. People to harass, cars to wash, women to boss, and projects to manage.
For him, I am that person. I provide the child, the dirty car, laundry to complete, myself to boss, and jam making to manage. He did it and he did it well.
Friday evening I found myself in my hometown, in my ex-husband's childhood home, starting the first of 3 days worth of laundry, drinking the first of many glasses of wine, and boiling off the first of 6 artichokes. I sat with, and they are really my people, eating, laughing, and planning to pick the first seasons worth of berries in the morning.
Before we embarked on our road trip of sorts, Ernesto went after fresh bagels for us; returning to collect his women to boss and drive us to Davenport. Out of love, and I have to believe this because he drives me insane, he managed us in his loud, slightly overbearing sort of way; we, the women, the jam makers, regardless of the fact that I manage for a living. It made him happy and that's what I went to his house to do, provide comfort and make him happy.
Two hours and 60 lbs of strawberries later, we headed home.
During this whole time, I didn't answer my phone, didn't check it much, didn't worry hardly at all. That is until I couldn't find my grandma. She's the strawberry cleaner - washes and slices - while the rest of us gather the jars, the pectin, the sugar, the prosseco, and the gumption to make jam. At this point, worried sick, I called every 20 minutes for 3 hours. Finally, I sent Ernesto and the boy over to check on her. Goodness, for an 86 year old woman she has quite the active social life. At an event all day, she wasn't home to answer her phone. "Didn't you read the email I sent you?", she said to me once I heard from her. How delightfully 21st century of her.
She called late in the day and I immediately dispatched those headed to the store to pick her up. GG Mary came for dinner, drank a bit of wine, enjoyed strawberries and whipped cream and all was right in our world again. I noticed, though, she didn't offer to clean a single berry. Darling woman felt too, too tired to even try; calling later the next day to say she'd slept until 1pm.
By the time GG arrived, we'd cleaned 1 1/2 flats of strawberries and created 4 double batches of jam. We'd run out of sugar, pectin, and jars and still needed to finish 2 full flats of berries. 60 lbs is too many berries for mere rookie jam makers, but with Nana Chris, myself, and the boy's Auntie we did our best.
In the end, we made 74-pints of strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb jam. 47-1/2 pints of strawberry, strawberry-basil, strawberry-rhubarb jam. All in all, we figured out that doing double batches was the fastest way to complete the task and none of us want to make strawberry jam again for a while. Lots of laughing, licking our fingers, washing our hands, no one ate very many strawberry's, and the kitchen felt full of life and merriment for 2 full days. I believe Ernesto feels better, after all I think he set up a stand in his front yard and is selling organic home-made strawberry jam. Just ask him.
Who doesn't want a jam sandwich?
Math is required. Do this before starting any part of this process - even before picking the berries.
Once the math is done, buy everything that is needed. Jars, pectin, sugar, funnels, the magnetic lid grabber, and the hot water jar lifter. Seriously - they're wonderful.
Take Advil before starting if working out or physical activity isn't the norm. Hips, backs of thighs, and lower back take a beating.
It may feel windy and cold when first starting to pick, brave it and deal. The body warms up fast when picking berries.
No one picks the strawberries at the very end of the field. Go there first - the yield is better.
Fruit goes bad fast. Clean and process as much as possible day one.
To avoid foam, cook the pectin, fruit, and butter mixture for a few more minutes than recommended once it's boiling while you're stirring.
After adding the sugar, cook it like there is all the time in the world. Don't rush the jam.
Laugh lots and know that memories stick like the jam does to the floor. The boy loves this time of year.