Minnesotans love their summers- and how could they not? It might warm up or get a bit muggy now and then, but there are always forgiving days in the 70's to offset the heat. Plus you really come to appreciate new blooms and even yard work as the seasons change and you only have a few months to enjoy the green outdoors.
We love living where there are four seasons, but Matt especially takes advantage of these summer months. He has grown a beautiful vegetable and herb garden, researching all winter long to find the best seeds and varieties to grow in Minnesota. And this year, he ordered raspberries.
They've really taken to their new home, and it's no wonder- we've started noticing wild raspberries growing on our outings with the dogs too. Still, it's their first year, so we can't expect much of a crop. But next year, these berries are destined for some homemade raspberry jam. I'm already dreaming about it.
When I was little, my grandma used to keep blackberries and raspberries growing in her yard and we'd pick and eat what we found. To this day, raspberry jam reminds me of her house, especially when it's smothered on hot, homemade bread.
I learned to make homemade jam from my Dad's mom- my Nana. She lived a few hours away when we were in college, and so I made a point of learning the art of jam making from her on one of our many a weekend visits. Her signature jams were apricot or plum, and she always had homemade jam to serve her guests. Always. She also loved to give her jam away with the promise that if you brought back the empty jar, she'd send you home with more.
Nana passed away a couple of years ago, and I treasure every little trip we took to be with her, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for homemade jam because it's her gift to me, forever her labor of love.
I don't think I've made jam since Nana passed away, but her voice was in my head throughout the whole process. Since our raspberries aren't quite ready, I went with strawberries this year because they were on sale. I bought my box of Sure Jell Premium Fruit Pectin (which comes with the recipe and instructions) and new lids, sterilized my rings and jars, and followed the Sure Jell recipe exactly, just how she taught me. Her advice? Measure everything in advance and have it ready to go before you start. And fill the jars to within 1/8 of an inch! Don't have a canner? As soon as the lids are screwed on tight, place the jars upside down so the boiling jam will do the sealing for you. Works every time! Write the date on the lid in case the 1 year storage date sneaks up on you. And always plan to give some away- everyone loves homemade jam and it's meant to be shared!
Since Nana taught me, I've passed on her wisdom to a few others over the years. Because making jam for the first time is intimidating, but I've found that people wish they had the skill and experience so they can make and enjoy their own. Because there is something wonderful about seeing berries on sale and being able to say, "I can make jam!" Thanks Nana :)
Lately I've also been thinking about making homemade jam with my own daughter someday and the fond memories we'll share then. I've been so inspired this summer by a few Moms I've started following on Instagram. The curriculum they have created for home school has gotten me so excited for preschool years and summers- I love writing lessons for my 6th graders, and now I'm starting to see all the possibilities for teaching my own little ones in the home!
While I made the jam, I kept imagining reading Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban or The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood with this little girl and watching our berries grow throughout the summer. We could learn about bees and plants, the science of pectin, and all about my wonderful Nana as we harvest fruit from our own garden (or go berry picking at a local farm!), make our own homemade jam and labels, and enjoy the fruits of our labors on bread straight from the oven or in a simple PB&J.
How old does a baby have to be before she can eat jam? Or fresh raspberries? And when do they start loving books? I wonder what she'll want to plant in the garden.
This baby girl can't get here soon enough- But I can wait :) I know it's all going to go too fast as it is!
Sure Jell recipe with notes from Nana