Monday, June 3, 2013

The Jam Lady

It is half-past apricot time here at the homestead, and I am elated that our little tree finally produced a decent crop this year.  It's not the bumper, "Lord of the Harvest," crop that we had a few years back, but it's very respectable.  This year I prayed for the tree, and I talked to it when I backed out of the driveway every day.  I'm not kidding and am pretty sure that helped, especially when I encouraged the delicate, little white buds to hang on to their branches for dear life when the winds came sweeping through a couple months ago.

Hang on, they did, and now their sweet, fuzzy lil' faces are ready for the picking.

This year I decided I was going to be The Pioneer Woman, harvesting this juicy, sweet fruit and making them into some delicious preserves.  Most of the recipes I found have about a quart of sugar, which is just gross, but I found one that uses juice concentrate to sweeten it, so I set out to the store to get my supplies.  Did I mention I have never done canning or preserving of any kind before?  Never, folks.

Standing in the grocery isle with Jason, we looked at the jars and the canning sets with all sorts of clamps and magnets.  I had no idea what I was doing, but that wasn't going to stop my jam quest from happening.

Then the Jam Lady walked up and innocently inquired, "Are you going to make some jam?"

"I sure am," I replied to the kindly-looking, grandma-aged woman.

"Well, would you like some help?"

"Sure!  I've got some apricots and I want to make some preserves." I was not about to reject help of any sort.

She began telling me about how I might want to try pineapple juice instead of lemon juice, and how I would need to go and get some pectin unless I wanted to be stirring for a couple hours.  Yes, good... input.  I did not want my arm falling off from over stirring.  Yes, this experiment was going to be muy delicioso!

"So you have a tree?" questioned the Jam Lady, peering at me intently. "Where do you live?"

Before I even thought twice, I told the Jam Lady what neighborhood I lived in.  Then, I saw that glint in her eye.  It's the same sparkle that quilters get when they see new fabric, and knitters get when the hold a new skein of yarn.  Oh, no!!  I told her where I lived!  What, am I crazy or something?

The Jam Lady wished me luck and then gave me her official "Jam Lady" card and told me to call if I needed any help.  I thanked her, and we made our purchases.

As I drove out of the parking lot, I glanced in my rear view mirror, and there she was, with her husband, in the car right behind me.  Was she following me?  Yes, she was totally following me... my thoughts filled with paranoia!!  After discussing with Jason how stupid I was to tell a perfect stranger where my neighborhood was, and to never do what mommy did, I took the Jam Lady on a wild ride until her car finally turned the opposite direction.  Did I think she was following me to come get my fresh, sweet apricot stash?  Heck ya, I did!  A few years ago, I had some ladies come and take a hefty box of my fruit and promise, cross their heart, they would bring me back some jam, and did I ever get it?  No, I did not!!  I had to lose this Jam Lady.  I know exactly how they operate.

Jam Ladies be crazy, people!  
And I am now becoming one of them.

Mom and I prepped apricots this afternoon just like they did back in the day.  We talked and laughed and got those little orange buggers ready.  And dang, is it a process?!  I spent a good couple hours cutting and boiling and stirring and clamping and sealing... and wiping my brow.

And there were pots and pans and more pots and pans.  They were multiplying like rabbits.  The blender even got involved at one point, and thank goodness I didn't scald myself or blow up boiling liquid in my face, because the kitchen is a very dangerous place to be.  Those pioneer women were tough cookies.

All of this culinary drama to produce my seven little apricot jam babies.

Apparently, I have to babysit them for a while until they set or gel or become teenagers or something.

I am so proud.

Look what I have done,  Jam Lady!

Patrick said I did a good job.  He also asked if I was going to start wearing denim overalls.  No way, baby.  I will drive my sweet van for years to come, but I draw the line at denim overalls.  It just ain't gonna happen. 

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