I got in the mood to make a strawberry jam recipe the other night. Well, I had been thinking about making jam and it had been a long day and I felt pretty darn unsuccessful as a parent. I was frustrated with my strong-willed tot and with myself and I didn’t like feeling that way.
So I started making jam. I found and washed the jars in hot water, then turned them over to dry. I pulled out strawberries and began to slice them in silence. Just a stream of water from the tap, the blade cutting the berries, and me alone with my thoughts. Finally, alone.
I thought about how much I love strawberries, but they don’t last, not more than a week anyways. Unless they are changed into something else: jam.
Jam is perfect for the not so perfect berries. The bruised ones. The ones that have been knocked around and don’t have much left to offer. They are a little ugly on the outside… and the inside. But there is new hope for those bruised berries in this jam, a chance to be something beautiful.
There are also “past their prime” strawberries. I roll around an overripe berry in my hand, then slice off the top. I mean that is what we fear the most, right? Having our best, most beautiful days in the past. We hate the thought. That’s why they tell us 40 is the new 30 and so is 50 and 60. They can’t all be, can they?
What if like the berries we can find a transformation? A rebirth for the bruised and old ones. Even those of us who only feel old in our souls, like me. I feel old today, the overwhelming process of raising another human has drained me. I need to be washed and all the bad parts cut out and smooshed around till I don’t resemble myself anymore.
I can’t change myself. I need Someone else to help. Someone who will infuse the process with sweetness and grace and new purpose.
I take a breath; and blow it out slowly. As I heat, pour, stir, and ladle my jam into jars, I settle. Tomorrow is a fresh day, a rebirth for my soul, a reset.
- 2 pints strawberries, diced
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon pectin
- 4 cups sugar
- ¼ cup fresh basil, plus 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ¾ cup water
- Hull and dice strawberries. Use a potato masher or pastry cutter to moosh. Add sugar and basil and stir. Combine water and pectin and heat to boiling while stirring. Once boiling continue to stir and let it boil for one minute. Immediately combine pectin with jam and stir 3 minutes, until sugar is fully dissolved. Ladle into half-pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Top with lids and leave overnight to set up. Freeze for long term storage (up to a year) or refrigerate for immediate use.
I scrape the edges of my bowl and take a bite of my jam. It’s perfect: sweet, with just a hint of darkness from the basil. It’s almost like this jam has been someplace and has a story to tell.