A Token of Friendship worth Savoring

If friendships were measured by gifts given or received then jars of jam would be considered the gold standard. Many friends who are given homemade preserves as a gift are friends thought of with high regard.
Harvesting fruits in the form of homemade jams and jellies is a way to savor the summer during the winter months but also awards one a feeling of accomplishment. The sight, sound and taste of homemade preserves when they’ve sealed properly always makes me giddy.
The practice of making jam is a time consuming, laborious commitment that some people may be oblivious to. The badge of jam-making includes the disappointment in ingredients or hot jam lost to spills, scaldings from hot jelly and boiling water, purple stained fingers, or permanently juice-tarnished kitchen towels; all of which are shrugged off at the thought of the bounty to be gained.
Making preserves for family or neighbors is satisfying but I love what a simple 8 oz. jar of jam can do for friendships. It can serve as an icebreaker to establish a friendship or bump an acquaintance up a notch. Making a tradition of giving homemade jams to one’s closest friends for special occasions validates best-of-friends status, although the pinnacle of friendship resides among those who make jam together. These are friends who are fully aware of the work involved and are still willing to help each other make jam.
The essentials of any homemade gift involves one’s time and hands. Making jam means dedicating anywhere from an afternoon to a whole day, starting with berry picking which can take several hours depending on one’s jam-making motivation. If picking the berries isn’t the time consuming part then the de-stemming, pitting, mashing, and straining the juice repeatedly, is.
Canning takes over one’s kitchen for several hours if not another entire day. The vanity of a neat and tidy kitchen progressively takes on a slovenly appearance. Countertops become concealed with sugar grit surrounding opened bags of sugar, boxes of pectin, buckets of berries, measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, pots, pans, and utensils. Stain-worthy juice slobber and sticky jelly goobers splatter counter and stovetop surfaces, sinks and floors. Before long, jam-covered spatulas, bowls and pans stack up around the stove and sink. Pots simmer constantly with either empty or jam-filled jars and more stand in ranks nearby waiting to be handled while lids and rings lie in wait.
The rise and fall from the sweetness of sugar taking on the aroma of berries while cooking, concentrates in the confines of the kitchen with each batch, and the heat and humidity from steaming pots suffocates the air. Once processed, the popping of lids sealing is heard and acknowledged with elation.
What’s produced from a disheveled laboratory-looking kitchen is glistening jars filled with colorful gem tones of preserves and the satisfaction over one’s achievements. Special friends are kept in mind when storing away the homemade preserves until a special occasion arises for giving them out.
Meager jars of jam given as gifts should not be taken lightly but rather considered as an honor that symbolizes affection, admiration and sincerity between friends. The sweetness in every dollop of jam flavored with friendship is well worth preserving.
column originally published September 13-19, 2009

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