Lots of toast, lots of jam, lots of work

Did you think I was kidding about those mosquitoes? Trust me, we dress for that job as if our lives depended on it. And who knows, maybe it does.
By : 
Lydia Hanson
Too Hick to be Square

The worst kept secret in our house is that breakfast will be toast. That’s Mom’s morning menu option of choice 99 percent of the time. But for the Clan, eating toast is similar to the “if you give a moose a muffin” scenarios. If you give a Clanster toast, they’re going to want pounds of butter, peanut butter and jam to go with it.

Since we “make” our own peanut butter by throwing roasted, salted peanuts in the food processor, that’s not such a big deal, and we stock 15+ pounds of butter as a matter of course now. But jam is an entirely different proposition, and it’s a huge process for the Clan.

At the pace we go through jam, we have to put up quarts and quarts of it throughout the summer and fall as different fruits come in season. I’d hate to make a guess as to how much we actually put up every year, but it’s probably a couple hundred quarts.

This time of year is prime jam-making time as well, because all the berries are ripe. We’ve waded through our neglected strawberry patch several times, and more recently my siblings ventured out into the woods to battle mosquitoes over buckets of black raspberries. 

However, although this is the time of year when we make some of our favorite jams (black raspberry and strawberry rhubarb jam are fabulous, take my word for it), making those jams is also fraught with peril.

For one thing, Mom is pretty unscientific about making jam, and although she follows the directions on the box, there’s always a decent chance that the jam won’t actually gel and we’ll have quarts of sweetened fruit spread or syrup instead. Since it all eats about the same, we’re not too worried.

What we do worry about, however, is the extra protein we might be getting in our jam. We try to filter straw, leaves and adventurous bugs out of our ice cream pails when we’re out picking berries, but when you’ve been standing on your head in strawberries or slapping at mosquitoes for an hour, some things escape your notice.

Mom filters through the berries before putting them in the pot, of course, but there’s always the chance that a few slipped past her. We try not to think too hard about what’s crunching between our teeth when we take a bite of jam and toast. Maybe it’s just seeds. Maybe it’s not.

That’s one of those things we’d just rather not know.

It’s also not entirely impossible that our jam may come with undertones of blood, sweat or bug spray. Like I said, we work for our jam, and out in the woods the mosquitoes are fierce.

But that’s the price we pay for jam around here, and we’ve come to expect it. We’re not fond of the work that goes into it but we love the results, so the only thing you’ll hear us complaining about is when someone spreads “too much” jam on their toast. We know how much work went into making it, and we’d like a quart to stretch further than one breakfast.