Jam. A simple word, only three letters, yet it conveys a sense of endless bottles of curds, spreads, jellies and confits glistening in the light and imparting a multitude of textures and flavours when spread over warm, buttered toast. Growing up on the farm, we made our own jam. When my grandparents first settled in a remote part of Zimbabwe they had the wisdom to plant a variety of fruit trees. Such actions were necessitated by being 70km from the nearest trading post and a further 100km from the closest town. My grandmother was an adept at jam manufacture, a skill she passed onto my parents. Memories of a pot of chunky marmalade simmering on the stove, filling the atmosphere with sticky citrus, while she prepared the bottles that would hold the precious substance, still invoke tears. We would spend endless, innocent hours foraging through the berry patch, after which, with the evidence of stolen morsels still smeared over our lips, our treasure would be turned into the king of all preserves-strawberry jam.
Somewhere along the way we lost the innocence and traded flavour for the convenience of bulk-manufactured, shop-brought jam, although in Zimbabwe this is currently a rare commodity. It was therefore, with great trepidation mingled with equal quantities of excitement that last night I embarked on the mission to create my own. Memories of boyhood flooded back as I gently stirred the mix of fruit (gooseberries are in season and relatively cheap), marvelling at how such a simple recipe can produce such amazing results.
Buying a bottle from the store is easier and saves much time that can be well spent elsewhere, and I am very pro the idea of ‘buying time’ (e.g. I have a maid to do my housework). Once in while though, its worth doing things the old way, even if for a mouthful of flavour-filled memories.
PS The basic jam recipe is mix equal quantities of fruit and sugar in a pot. Simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally and removing any scum from the top. When tacky remove from heat and place in sterilised jars. Some fruit may require a little added pectin to help thicken ( a tablespoon of lemon juice will suffice).