Strawberry Rocket Science


It was a lovely day for picking strawberries...Ellen and her husband, Jim, joined Mert and me at the strawberry patch.





We all gathered baskets and baskets full of plump, ripe berries...


The next day, once we'd washed and topped them all, it was time to make jam.

Ellen graciously agreed to shepherd Mert and me through making our first batch of jam. I made the mistake of telling the social workers at the nursing home that I was leaving early to go learn this new skill.

They looked at me with blank, disbelieving stares which I took to mean "What kind of dummy can't make jam?"  They're good ole country gals, so I mistakenly assumed they knew how to make jelly in their sleep. (Talk about stereotyping!)

"Well, I know," I said. "It's not rocket science but..."

"Oh no," one said, heading me off. "I can't do it. It's not as easy as you think."

"No it isn't," agreed the other. "I don't even try."

I left thinking, hmmm...really?  Making preserves is hard? I mean, don't you just add some stuff that makes it gel and do something with boiling water so you don't kill people? (Not killing people is the tricky part, I figured.)

Then I mulled over a few things Ellen had said to me the day before-

"Don't wash them til the day of," she'd said. "They'll get soft. We don't want them too soft."

"The jars and the lids need to be hot." Actually, she probably said just the lids but we did everything.

We sanitized the counter.  In fact, we removed everything from my kitchen counter just in case making jelly involved needing an area as large as a surgical suite and just as clean.

Ellen arrived, inspected everything and said, "Boil water."

Just like when you're birthin' babies.

"Not that much!" she said, when I pulled out a stock pot. "Just enough for the lids."

She felt the lids, seemed to confirm something to herself and then said, "Go on and boil it anyway."

We mashed berries until our arms were about to fall off only to have Ellen peer into the bowl with a troubled expression. "Hmm," she murmured. "I don't know about that juice. There sure is a lot of it." 

We measured exactly. We timed things. We scurried around like the anxious virgins we were, hurrying to do her bidding  and worrying about "the juice factor," until Ellen finally had to laugh at us and calm us down.

And then, suddenly, like magic, it was all over. 

Nine little jars sat on the counter, slowly "popping" as their little tops sucked in and sealed.



Last night's supper- biscuits, butter and strawberry preserves.


Thank you, Ellen!



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