In life there are things that are hard and there are things that are free . And many times those go together. It seems like if you want quality in any form you either work for it yourself or you pay someone else to. If you needed a tree cut down, say, you could get a saw, some friends, and figure out how to keep it from falling on your house (maybe quality doesn't apply here). Or, you could write a check to your local arbor folk and say, "Hm, tree work is easy!" Well, this is the case most of the time. We can't do everything (though some on this farm certainly try). However, there are things we can work for that are cheap and completely worth the work. And, being on a farm full of fruit trees, jam making is one of them.
It was hard to believe the day when our boss told us our assignment was to pick cherries. Gladly. So after picking two baskets-full we headed inside his house for a jam canning demonstration. The pace with him is always on overdrive so within minutes we were washing the cherries and sending them through an antique pitter clamped to the table. Once that was done we were putting those 8 cups of cherries and a bit of calcium water into a large saucepan. Although the pot with the cherries was huge, it was dwarfed by the dinosaur pot next to it which was taking its sweet time coming to a boil. Once the cherries came to a boil we added a mixture of sugar and pectin bit by bit until it was completely dissolved and brought the whole thing back to a boil. By this time the T-Rex pot with the jars inside was boiling and we let them sit for a while. The lids were placed in a pan of recently boiling water with the burner off. Then we were ready for the real action. Six hands, three feet of counter top space, eight hot jars, and a lot of shuffling back and forth. While one person was pouring jam into the jars, another was wiping the edges and putting on the lids. The last person was taking the filled jars and putting them back in the hot water. Those boiled for 13 minutes and there we had it- eight jars of sour cherry jam. And a lot of dishes to wash- but hey, what are interns for?
Last night we decided to make some of our own. Just as frantic, though less organized (and sans pitter) we managed 4 half pint jars and 3 quarter-pint jars (there must be a conversion for that). And...a lot of dishes once again. We need our own interns. The jam is delicious though and quite stunningly red. Beautiful stuff that came from right down the hill.
Josh (I cut his hair)
So with a much effort but little cash we managed to make something that's maybe $4 a jar in the store. Not bad. Can't complain about another PB&J. Now we just need those peanut plants to start producing, then it's definitely Peanut Butter Jelly Time!
I apprenticed on a farm in southwest Virginia from April-October 2010. This blog contains all the anecdotes and observations from that adventure.
See more of my photos here