Making Jam

When I was a child, the women in my family canned fruits and vegetables and made jam. I grew up on a farm. We always had a garden and what we didn’t grow ourselves, we bought from our neighbours. In August, my mom would buy bushels of peaches from Mr. and Mrs. Birch. Peaches were their specialty — and they always piled those bushels beyond full, because that’s just who they were.

Once hauled into the house, Mom and I would lay out the peaches on newspaper in the basement — a cool place for them to ripen. Dad and I were the peach testers — when the juice ran down our chins, they were ready for canning. Mom would soak the fruit in hot water to loosen the skins, peel each one and cut them in two. With the pit removed, she placed each peach half carefully in the large mason jars, covered them with simple syrup and turned the lids on tight. She boiled those jars until they were sealed and ready to store. In winter, jars of canned peaches brought the heat of summer back to our minds; sunny orange, syrup sweet.

My mom still cans peaches, actually. Now, she does it for my girls — which I appreciate a lot. And yet, the act of canning is something that as a mother myself, I can’t not do. There’s something about it, the saving of summer, that I can’t pass up, no matter what. It’s just in my bones, I think.

And so, because it takes a little less time than canning, I made peach jam one August evening. My dissertation proposal was staring at me — angrily — but the simple act of making jam cleared my mind and helped me to delight in the world. I should be saving the jars for winter, but admittedly, I opened one soon after the skimmings were devoured…and have enjoyed those jammy peaches on my toast each morning since. With each bite, I smile. Sweet, yummy, and a reminder of all that is lovely.

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