Yesterday Ol’ Myrt put up 32 pints of raspberry jam made from scratch. Last year my step-mother was well enough to help. This year it didn’t take as long, because I didn’t have to work around Blanche’s wheelchair in tight quarters. However, everyone in our family would agree working around her wheelchair would be a happy alternative considering that Blanche passed away on Christmas Day 2006.
I learned to make raspberry jam in the late 1950s from my paternal Gramma Myrtle Eliza (Weiser) Player Severinson, pictured at right circa 1955. She lived in a small white bungalow on 2nd in Puyallup, Washington with her second husband Harold Severinson. Her first husband, grampa Shirl Player died before I was born.
Her kitchen had a smart “new” Kelvinator refrigerator, the type with the condenser on top; and one of those big old-fashioned porcelain sinks that mounts on the wall below the faucets, with metal legs supporting the front side. I don’t recall if Gramma made a skirt for the sink out of calico or gingham fabric, like her aprons. I do remember her white kitchen cabinets had faceted clear glass knobs and the upper cabinets had framed multi-paned glass doors. The front edges of her shelves were neatly covered with scalloped shelf paper trim.
Whenever she was in the kitchen, which was most of the time, Gramma Myrtle wore a full apron that was more like a sleeveless shift. The closest I could come to finding a picture of an apron like Gramma’s was this one offered for sale at NebraskaAntiques.com
Grandma Myrtle didn’t actually let me help make the jam, as it is a pretty hot, dangerous process to boil the crushed, sugared berries adding Certo-brand pectin at just the right moment, stirring constantly to avoid scorching; and getting everything into the sterilized glass with lids screwed on tight. I don’t recall if she used an egg timer or the second hand sweep on her watch to time the jars processing in the water bath canner. But the result was worth the effort – glistening jars of deep ruby red raspberry jam to enjoy throughout the rest of the year.
Gramma would let me watch this mysterious process from my perch in the little kitchen alcove by the window with the built-in table and benches. She’d have me play checkers or “give away” with my brother Mike once in a while, but more often, it would be a game of Solitaire (with a real deck of cards!) that would keep me out from under foot at critical raspberry jam making times.
She also put up whole raspberries in water, to enjoy over oatmeal or ice cream during off season.
I’ve made raspberry jam whenever I could get good berries in quantity. While it is true that you can buy jam for less at the discount grocer, nothing can compare to the taste of homemade. In times past, I’ve made jam between infant feedings, changing baby diapers, putting in a load of laundry and picking kids up from school. This time it was quiet, as my elderly father, who has outlasted predictions by his hospice nurse, often nods off while watching TV after dinner in his den.
So, yes, Ol’ Myrt put up 32 pints of raspberry jam yesterday, but she also took a long, happy trip down memory lane.