Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Blackberry Jam and Other Memories by Milou Koenings

My grandmother had apple trees.  And lots and lots of berries.  Gooseberries, blackberries, currants - red and black.   

Steph, cc-by-nc-nd-2.0.
 She would peer at us kids from the kitchen window whenever we sounded a bit too far away.  Because the farther from the kitchen we went, the more fruit there was to pluck off the bushes, to savor, crouching down behind the thickest cluster of leaves, keeping an eye for the twitch of the kitchen curtains while tell-tale juice ran down our chins and stained our dresses.

No matter how many berries our little hands picked though, it didn't seem to reduce the enormous amounts of buckets of fruit that filled the kitchen when it was time to make jam.  Grandma had this strange metal contraption that sat on the stove.  It hissed and it sputtered and it growled while we cowered at the far end of the room.  

When it was time to open the little tap near the bottom of the monstrous pot, we'd get kicked out of the kitchen altogether.  But my cousins and I would peer through the open doorway to watch the ruby and amethyst potions fill one glass jar after another.

Eventually, the jars would be added to those on the wall of shelves in the basement and one by one, show up at breakfast.

old cookbookI got Grandma's cookbook recently.  A five-volume set published in France in 1959 that my mother inherited from her.  My father found it and mailed it to me.  

It's mine now.  

The volumes have been taped together multiple times.  They've been rebound in contact paper.  A coffee table set, this isn't.   

It shows every sign of having been well-used.  

But I love turning the pages and coming upon little notes in Grandma's handwriting, and a few pages later, comments by my mother.   

Every once in a while, I come upon a bookmark; I've found permission slips meant for kids' teachers and store receipts from the 1970s.  And even flight information from January 29, 1964, when my mom and dad were working together running an airline in the Congo.   

note card from 1964

Not surprisingly, one of the five volumes is dedicated to jams and preserves.

So is it any wonder that I've got my characters hard at work making blackberry jam? 

Here's the recipe.  But remember, it starts with harvesting the berries yourself from the backyard!

Phil Long, cc-by-2.0

Blackberry Jam

3.5 kg (7.7 pounds) of blackberries
1 kg (2.2 pounds) of green apples
4 kg (8.8 pounds!) of sugar
1/2 liter (1 pint) of water

  1. Clean the blackberries and peel the apples.
  2. Cover the fruit with sugar and let them sit for several hours.
  3. Pour the mixture in a pot, add the water and cook, stirring.
Elsewhere, the cookbook recommends adding lemon juice to blackberry jam.  But you'll notice the recipe gives no indication as to how long this should cook. The book says it all depends on your stove and how high the flame is ... that's specific, isn't it? 

Have you ever made jam? I confess I never have!

Milou Koenings is a USA Today best-selling author. She writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.  

Her Green Pines sweet romances, Reclaiming Home and Sweet Blizzard are available on Amazon and Amazon.uk

You can find her on her website,www.miloukoenings.com, on TwitterFacebookPinterest, or Instagram.

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  1. I made it once, but didn't can it correctly. Good luck with yours!

  2. I make strawberry jam every year. Tried a few fancy versions, but we all found that 100% strawberry is best, so this is what we do each summer! This year, we've already made 9 jars - and they're all gone, so I might have to do a second batch soon! What a wonderful cookbook and memory, Milou!

  3. I've never made jam, but I used to watch my grandmother and mother make it.