At suppertime, Betty Jane would sometimes pause, and ponder in heart, a tender thankfulness to the good Lord, as she watched her family fill their tummies and enjoy the meal that He provided and she prepared. It was in those Holy moments of nurturing her family, that she felt the true joy of her calling, to be a maker of a happy home. The most significant, excellent, and fulfilling calling indeed.
Betty Jane would often join her dear friend Helen Mayfield, and together, they would put up foods not only for providing for their families, but to give away to less fortunate folks, as well as, gifts for friends, old and new, throughout the year. A sparkling jar of Hot Pepper Jelly always made a delightful “Welcome To The Neighborhood” presentation, and a jar of homemade Chicken broth always brought comfort to the bedside of an ill friend. At Christmastime, why, everyone who knew Betty Jane and Helen hoped and prayed they were on the list of lucky people who would receive their coveted prize-winning jars of sparkling ruby-red Plum Jam. They would make several batches during the summer and have to hide them until the Holiday season rolled around (Helen’s husband Otis, always had a hankerin’ for something sweet in the middle of the night, and would slurp spoonfuls….spoonfuls mind you….of her Plum jam all by itself. He could finish off several jars in one week! That’s how good it was!) While others hustled and bustled in the frigid snow and rain to find “just the right gift”, Betty Jane and Helen sat warming their toes by the crackling fire, next to a sparkling, bejeweled Christmas tree, sipping Hot Cocoa, as they adorned their jars of Summer’s goodness, with red-plaid fabric jar- toppers, and fancy white scalloped labels. A little bit of effort during the summer afforded these gals more time to enjoy family and friends, and the comforts of home, during the wonderful festivities of Christmas.
Back in Betty Jane and Helen’s day, they only had one small market in town, where the produce was slim-pickins’ during the winter. A lot of folks had their own gardens, if not a farm, so canning was a necessity. For most of the folks who grew their own food, their grocery needs were only for the basics, salt, baking soda, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla extract, spices, meat, cornmeal, beans, and milk and eggs, (if they didn’t own a cow or chickens). Of course now-a-days we have an abundance of fresh produce year round with several grocery stores to choose from and mega-markets for bulk buying. Although I prefer fresh roasted vegetables to canned ones, I do think it’s a good idea for today’s homemaker to learn how to Can. In troubled times it sure could come in handy!
When I was growing up, my family and I spent many summer vacations in Northern California (near Santa Cruz) at the home of my dear, Uncle Al (so wise and tenderhearted!), adorably domestic Aunt Jen (she is known far and wide for her warm hospitality, amazing meals and melt-in-your-mouth Italian cookies and cakes! To sit around her table, and enjoy her home-cooked meals in the midst of lively conversation and laughter is a memory I will always cherish), and cute-as-a-button cousins Marlene, Jimmy, Fran and Gracie, who were so much fun to be with. I remember all of us piling in two cars for a jaunt to the local orchard to pick ripe plums. We brought bushels of the plump juicy fruit home for Aunt Jen and my mom to turn them into succulent, sweet jars of jam. Besides the fruity aroma rising from steaming kettles, and eating the finished product slathered on toast, my cousins and I loved to put our hands in the hot melted wax (used to seal the jam) and marvel at the warm stiff gloves that instantly appeared. When we bent our fingers the wax crumbled away and our hands felt as smooth as Chocolate Silk Pie. Eating homemade Plum jam takes me back to the good ole’ summertime, so I decided to stock a few jars of this heaven-sent goodness in my own pantry!
It’s always much more fun to cook with a gal-pal, (girls just wanna have fun you know!) this is my sister-in-law Linda, (I’m married to her cute brother!) we’ve been buddies for over 30 years! We’ve got our “happy cooking atmosphere” going….a tidy kitchen….a candle burning…aprons on…refreshments (we had fresh strawberries with a marshmallow and cream cheese dip) icy water to drink….and the sassy sounds of Doris Day crooning a perky song in the background. Linda knitted me these fabulous kitchen wash cloths! So thick and absorbent!
One of the most important ingredients to having a successful and cheerful canning day, is to set out everything you will need. That way you aren’t rummaging through your drawers looking for utensils while you should be stirring! (trust me on this, been there, done that!) Here is the list:
- Canning Kettle (for hot water bath to sterilize )
- Clean glass jars with new lids
- Large, deep 6-8 quart sauce pan
- jar lifter
- lid lifter
- sugar (7 1/2 cups, have it pre-measured and ready to go)
- 1/2 cup water (pre-measured)
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups of pitted and chopped plums (leave skin on)
- 1 packet of liquid pectin (I used the Ball brand..found at Wallmart)
- 1/2 teaspoon butter to added to cooking plums to reduce foaming
Having everything pre-measured and ready to dump into the pot makes jam making easy as pie (sorry I couldn’t resist the pun!)
You can order a canning kit from Amazon.com with all of the proper tools, and usually Wallmart or Target will have canning supplies.
And the taste is even more divine!
Linda says “it’s almost as good as pie!”
Looks like jars of liquid rubies!
Truly, it’s the best jam ever!
And now, I would like to present not one……
But three awards to the following
ADORABLE, INSPIRATIONAL, CREATIVE GALS!
(please scroll down to the bottom of the following post to read the rules.)
- Catiena from The Vintage Housewife
- Carol from Raised In Cotton
- Christine from My Bella Colle
- Karen from Karen Eileen
- Jen from The Cottage Nest
Gals, you inspire me!!!
I am off again to California, to meet and greet all the fabulous Blog-Girls