Please, help me welcome author Shaunda Kennedy Wenger as my guest blogger! Today she is sharing with us all her jam making adventures in “Jam: what is and what is not”. So grab a cup of tea/cup and enjoy!
Jam. What It Is and What It Isn’t
Jam has got to be one of the most highly under-rated and overlooked, yet truly delectable foods on the planet. Or maybe I should reel in my grandiose opinion and simply talk about the under-appreciations and misconceptions that I’d like to debate on its behalf from my kitchen. For as much as I like jam, I don’t really think all that much about it throughout the year until the time comes for jamming season. Then, you can bet that without a doubt, I am singing its praises…. but not for the reasons you may think.
Sure, I’ll pull a jar of homemade jam out of the fridge and add a dollop to my toast or best store-bought, yeasty-baked biscuit, as quick as anyone who’s feeling a little hungry. If I’m feeling extravagant, I may even plop a heated jam puddle on top of my favorite bowl of ice cream (#gourmet, I know).
But the real reason jam and I have a hard-wired connection can be most definitively traced to those “How to Make Jam” Instructions that are tucked inside those Sure-Jell packages….
I hate those trim, yellow packages. Their instructions drive me crazy. Primarily because I am not the sort of person who really likes to follow instructions. Or more specifically, I am not the sort of person who likes to follow instructions that tell me I NEED TO FOLLOW the instructions EXACTLY as written or my jam will fail. #gasp!
#yah, right. By whose standards? Perhaps that is the important question.
Because we’re talking jam, here. Just jam. Fruit. Sugar. Pectin. And these things were born to tango.
Instructions like Sure-Hell’s bring out the worst in me; and you can be sure that every year I’ll find a reason as to why I SHOULDN’T do EXACTLY what the instructions say.
First and foremost, although I love sugar, I don’t see a need to go overboard on it. More often than not, those darned recipes call for nearly five pounds of the white tasty stuff. (Good grief! That’s the whole bag!) And secondly, how do I know what kind of berries SURE*JELL used to test their recipe with? Where their berries like mine? Fresh from the vine, extra sweet, and not too needy in the sugar-boost department? Or were they more like those from my farthest neighborhood grocery store? Kind of bland and on the dry side?
These are important considerations.
It’s these sorts of considerations that get me into trouble (or not, depending on how you look at it). Because once I start considering, I start hedging. And once I start hedging, all the “shoulda and coulda and Must-Dos” get thrown out the window….
Which brings us back to making jam….
The great thing about jam–or MY JAM–is that it knows me. It knows that I’m not going to just be spreading it on toast every day. It knows that some days I might want to go gourmet. It knows that some days I might be inching toward boosting a smoothie with a pre-made blend of sugary-fruit confection. It knows that other days I might be wanting to perk up some pancakes with berry syrup, or infuse some cupcakes, or inspire a cheesecake…. The list goes on and on. And when those hunkerings arise, there is nothing better than my homemade jam–and all my variations of it–which I’ve made by NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS.
Because in the end, as it turns out, Not Following Directions gets you some jars that are thickened just right, and other jars that are screaming for a higher calling (like syrup, for instance.) And I for one, am more than happy to oblige; especially since my haphazard jam is ducking from SURE*HELL’s expectations of what the perfect jar of jam should be.
That’s why I love jam, or MY JAM. For everything that it is, and maybe even more so, for everything those PACKAGES try to tell me that it ISN’T. As far as I’m concerned, it turns out that a jar of jam can be turned into whatever it needs to be.
***Shaunda Kennedy Wenger is author of books such as The Ghost in Me, Reality Bites, and The Book Lover’s Cookbook. She blogs at www.shaundawenger.blogspot.com