Let me first say that I know that it is nowhere near Christmas time. It is July, I know this. But summer is the time when you make the jam, and Christmas can be the time for eating this jam, if it actually lasts that long.
Let me also warn you that this post, it is of the bittersweet nature – there is sad in here along with this delicious jam.
In March of this year, my Aunt Linda died. Suddenly, in her sleep, while on vacation in Australia. I’m sure that I don’t need to go into the details of how shocking this was, and how confusing and sad on top of that. I love my entire family, and love them all completely and unconditionally, but I think we all know that there are sometimes favourites. And, my Aunt Linda, for a variety of reasons, was my favourite aunt (at least on my dad’s side – aunt Glenda if you’re reading this, you are obviously also the loveliest). I think this favouritism was at least partly due to the fact that she was the aunt I saw and interacted with the most – she was the one who usually drove down from Trenton to my dad’s in Chatham for visits, she was the one who we stayed with the last bunch of years when we would go there. She was the mother of my older cousin Amanda, who I followed around and admired like annoying 10-year-old cousins are wont to do. In less than two weeks, I will be going to Trenton for our annual summer visit with my dad’s side of the family, and it’s sort of like the shock and sadness is setting in because things will just be so different, you know?
Anyways, this post is about jam, not about grieving. Well, I suppose it is about both of those things. You see, my aunt Linda was a jam-master. She was the master of a lot of things food-wise, quite honestly, and preserves of all sorts were included in that. I only started making jam at the end of last summer – it’s this thing that is terribly intimidating when you’ve never done it, and then you do, and you’re like “That’s it?! But it’s so easy!“. When I started making jam, the first thing I did was ask Linda for her recipe for “Christmas Jam” which had been my definite favourite of her creations. I imagine that it’s called Christmas jam because of the presence of cranberries. I didn’t end up making it last year, partly because of the conundrum of the fruits – this jam uses both strawberries and cranberries – which are not at all in season at the same time. But then! I recently noticed that I could get cranberries frozen (Thank you again, President’s Choice brand). There’s something about frozen cranberries that seems less quality-compromising than frozen strawberries – probably because cranberries are already so hard and tart that the freezing doesn’t seem like it would damage them as much in my mind.
So today, after much hunting for fresh Ontario strawberries (are they out of season again already?!) I made this Christmas Jam. It is beautiful to look at, the colour is lovely and dark compared to the brightness of strawberry-only jams. I know that strawberry jams in particular don’t require store-bought pectin so much, but I’m just not there yet, and I always use pectin. I’ll grow away from it eventually. My aunt’s recipe was actually kind of confusing measurement wise, so I compared it to one I found on the internet.
Aunt Linda’s Christmas Jam:
2& ½ quarts strawberries
1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries
5 lbs white sugar
2 pouches Certo Liquid
1 qt. strawberries
2 c. cranberries, chopped
4 1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 of 6 oz. bottle of liquid pectin
The basic procedure for both of these is to bring the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice (if used) to a hard boil for one minute – this means a boil that won’t disappear when you stir it. Then turn off the heat, stir in the liquid pectin immediately, and then stir for 5 minutes to prevent the fruit from floating in the finished product. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, put hot, sterilized lids on top, and boil the jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Do not open for 12-24 hours.
Let me also mention that one recipe I found on the internet was also titled Christmas Jam and had been posted on Cooks.com by “Linda”. This was decidedly eerie, but also comforting. Now excuse me, I’m going to eat my feelings now (well, in 12-24 hours when this jam is done setting I will).
Oh, and p.s. – this is where I cook these days, and I feel pretty lucky to have such a great kitchen as a mere renter in Toronto: