I like making jam. And I’m good at it. Some of you are lucky enough to know. It’s my obsession, a stand-in for sourdough. A conduit for bread. Which I like a lot too.
I always laugh when someone asks if I sell my jam. The cost of making it without pectin and paying close attention to the details is insane. The international jam makers I admire charge a lot. And it’s still not enough. How do you account for the labour and knowledge?
At corporate grocery stores, jam is mass manufactured with natural flavourings and liquid sweeteners. It’s made quick with liquid pectin, so profits don’t evaporate. A knife can stand up in it. Capturing the fleeting taste of ripeness is left to the marketing department. It’s what billionaires spread on their price-fixed white bread. Think of it like a duck decoy from Home Hardware. Or a cottage country gas station lure. It’s not worms, and it doesn’t quack. And the sad thing is it establishes a value in people’s minds.
I make jam to give away. My best work is gifted.
I still like being an apprentice to something — jam or writing currently. My sole goal is to get better doing it. When it comes together just perfect — a few times a year — it makes me smile. That’s the feeling I’m chasing. The big deal.
It’s an adventure. A skill tester. The means to measure. Jam demands I pay attention to the season. Here’s what I learned about rhubarb in 2023:
Sometimes I rush the season and use forced rhubarb. The colour is gorgeous, like rosy peonies, a seasonal garden companion. But rhubarb grown outside produces a better texture — it sets to a soft gel that clings to translucent bits of fruit and it's glossy. The technical mastery of jam is achieving a nice texture (and a fruit forward flavour). Rhubarb from a local patch is superior in that regard. Maybe I’ll try to play with a ratio of the two next year to perfect the colour.
The method I use comes from the Alsatian queen of jam, Christine Ferber. During the summer Mes Confitures is often open on my kitchen table.
Cormac McCarthy will always be a master of dialogue to me. He created until the end as an artist and didn’t do it for accolades and awards. He left us with riches.
I had dinner last week with a woman I met in high school. Time fucking flies. One day we're sitting around a campfire at Point Farms Provincial Park, howling into the starry night sky, holding brown Crystal stubbies high on a summer Lake Huron holiday long weekend. Fast forward 45 years, and we’re in a Korean restaurant talking about our teenage home life and arthritis and remembering people — some long gone.
Steve Miller is for us, Linda. Glad to know you. And Edgar Winter bending gender in the 70s.
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