|My moment of Zen: Pear Vanilla Jam|
In these very busy times, people often ask me how I possibly have time to preserve food and the answer is simple…I make time to do it. I have a 50+ hour week job and a husband and kids, but I take the time to preserve food every year. Why? First of all, canning provides me the opportunity to slow down and spend some time with family and friends. There is no “hurrying up” the process; the time it takes is what it takes. No shortcuts, except that many hands make the work light. To borrow the old phrase about “making hay while the sun shines”, Mother Nature waits for no one. When the strawberries are ripe, you’ve got a short window to make jam. No putting it off for a few weeks. I can remember coming home from a long work week and spending a stormy Friday night with my friend Ellen putting up peaches and drinking wine. Best happy hour ever!
Preserving food grown locally requires me to make a connection with a farmer. I have my favorite farmer’s phone numbers programmed into my phone so a quick text is all that’s required to know whether there’s a bushel of tomatoes waiting for me to make into salsa. The foods I preserve must be better (and often cheaper!) than what I can buy in the grocery store. A jar of my homemade salsa is way more delicious, and costs about half, of anything you can get on the shelf. But the most important reason why I preserve food is that when I open that jar months later, I have the memory of making it. Currently, the jar of pear vanilla jam shown above is sitting on my desk at work, getting ready to be added to some yogurt and granola for my lunch. But just seeing it reminds me of last fall, when I was deep in the process of making that pear vanilla jam.
At first, I was going to pick some pears from my friend Liz’s tree, but by the time I got there, they were gone. As usual, Mother Nature had no time to wait for me. Then, in late fall, I drove out to the west side of the state to meet up with some friends and on the way back, I stopped at a farm stand in Michigan’s “Fruit Belt” to see what was left on the shelves. Nothing but pumpkins and apples, but then I spied a bag of pears in the back! YES! I got back and the pears languished in the fridge a few days. I carved out some time to make the jam, adding some vanilla bean scrapings for good measure because I thought it sounded good. The pear jam (along with other items from the canning pantry like red currant jelly and wild grape jam) were gifted to family and friends all through the holidays. My daughter and her boyfriend came home from college for spring and had some for breakfast….they thought the label said “Pearl Jam”, which made them laugh. They loved it so I sent them back to school with a jar. And now a jar sits here with me in May in my office, reminding me to take some time to enjoy it, and plan what I am going to put up this summer.
Here’s to the future!