Friday, February 12

The Smell of Childhood

Today, for some reason, the smell of Jam came drifting into my nostrils, in my computer room.

To be more accurate, the smell of cooking Jam. I could smell fruit simmering on the stove, in an old Aluminium preserving pan, which was a treasure, belonging to my Grandmother. It was huge, to accomodate the thousands of pounds of fruit stewed or simmered in it's vast interior.

Of course the thousands of pounds of fruit, were not all put into the pan together. There were peaches to be made into jam, should they be too 'smashed' or unsightly, to be preserved. Only the best looking fruit made it to the preserving jars, so they looked beautiful on display, in jars of large capacity. Were they Mason Jars? The screwtop lids were carefully washed, recycled, and the jars washed, and sterilised for the preserved fruit or jam. There were also jars, with glass lids, and rubber seals, which were clamped shut, with metal fasteners at each side of the jar. The rubber rings could be purchased at the local Variety Store, or Gocery/Hardware Store.

There were small self sealing tops, which were placed on top of the Jars, before the Screwtop lids were sealed down. 'Perfit Seals'? Small metal discs, with a rubber ring around the outer edge, which presumably the heat and vacuum, sealed. I remember my Grandmother bought them in packets, and carefully took them out, to use on the still~hot jars of fruit.

The Jam was usually capped with Cellophone tops, which were bought in bulk, and they were wet, as in dipped in water,  before being placed over the jars of hot Jam, then fastened with rubber bands. Many jars of Jam, plum, apricot, peach, nectarine, blackberry & apple were 'put up'. Into the large Welsh Dresser, which lived out in our Porch, and was the home of the Preserves, throughout the Winter months. The cottage was too small to accommodate the large wooden Welsh Dresser, so it had to live out in the Porch. I remember it with awe. It was so beautiful. I wonder whatever became of it?

Then there were the Jellies, which were the more complicated 'Jams' made from the fruit. These were carefully dripped through muslin, which was tied, & suspended from a stick or wooden spoon, which was laid across a large bowl, so the juice could drip into the bowl. No touching and definitely NO squeezing was permitted, of the Muslin bag, or the resultant liquid would be cloudy. Clarity was of paramount importance, in the making of a good Jelly. I remember sometimes encountering old stockings used for Jelly Bags. Not Pantyhose, you note, as they were not invented then, back in the day!

If the season had been bountiful, we would have Blackberry Jelly in the Winter. Truly a taste to die for!! A luxury, of pure, rich,  fruit filled flavour, the like of which will never be found today, unless there is some person out there, making the Jelly from pure Blackberries.   If not, the Blackberries were mixed with Apples to make them go further, and a lesser conserve was the result. Still delicious, you understand but not the same richness of pure Blackberry.

Our Laundry room, which was then called the Washhouse, in my Grandparents' modest cottage, was the site used for the dripping of the muslin filled bags. It contained a large Copper, which had been the primary washing aid, until our Mother purchased a 'new fangled' Washing Machine. It had a mechanical wringer, which was truly a wonder, and resulted in the removal of the old clamped on wringer, between the two concrete tubs. There were two concrete wash tubs in the Washhouse, along with the copper.

The toilet was in a small alcove off the Washhouse, and so we passed the drippng Jellies on the way to the toilet. I suspect the bag was lightly squeezed now & then, by a passing child or two, just to see if anyone noticed!

I do remember the taste and smell of those Jams & Jellies were much superior to any commercial varieties available today. These days, I never eat Jams, and rarely try Jellies.

Once the Copper was retired from active washing duties, it became the receptacle for gifted bottles of beer and wine, and occasionally, my brother or I would sneak a bottle of beer,  out of the toilet window, to drink in secret, behind the Chookhouse! And we would pretend to enjoy the stolen bottle! Really, back then, it seemed horrible!! We kidded ourselves it was lovely.

Looking East last night, the sky looked so soft and gentle.

Looking West it was promise of gold. Beware false promises.

It was not entirely false. The day was mostly fine... & bleedingly HOT!
But Thunderstorms ensued and the humidity level reached screaming point!!

But I do love the sound of hard rain on the roof. Knowing I am safe and dry! One of Life's Free Treats.

Joan Baez, Forever Young.


marigold jam said...

How your description of the jam making took me back - like you I can see the rows of jams and bottled fruits in their Kilner jars all carefully preserved for winter along with eggs in waterglass - whatever that was!!

Thanks for the memories.


persiflage said...

Jam making! It is so satisfying. I used to make blackberry jam, in the days when I lived near blackberries. Sometimes you can get the good jam at the local produce markets. Nowadays I make cumquat marmalade and quince jelly. It is not easy to rig up a jelly bag, though.

Thimbleanna said...

Oooh Meggie, now you've made me hungry for some bread with jam. Your jam making memories are so wonderful -- most of us don't take the trouble to make jam anymore -- it is a very fun activity though!

Christine Thresh said...

I love blackberry jam. Robert makes it in the summer.

Scents bring back powerful memories.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Funny how just a fleeting waft of a scent can elicit memories! I think all my memories of my grandmother involve food. She had only a third grade education and never followed a recipe, but that woman could cook! I have tried to recreate dishes she made, but have never quite gotten it right. I would stand by her side and watch her cook. Her moves were effortless as she created a huge meal that would easily feed a couple dozen folk.

Molly said...

What lovely memories! I wonder what smells will stir our children to nostalgia?

Molly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
By Hoki Quilts said...

Such lovely images created through your text. I can remember making the jellies, I would upturn a chair onto the table and use the legs to suspens the muslin bad while the 'goodies' dripped into the bowl below. Rose jelly, yum a taste I haven't had for a good twenty years and a recipe I forgotten.
hugs - Miche'le

Ali Honey said...

We still hang jelly bags Meg, but on a string looped around a broom handle between the dining table and the shelf.

I wonder how you remember that some child may have squeezed the bag...naughty!

Smells are amazing aren't they. How can there be so many very distinct smells that are easily indentified. My sense of smell is acute.

Patty Skypants said...

Jam! Summer! I'm LOVIN' it!! Bhu and I are furreeezin' and gonna get more snow tonight. xxoo Patty

U iz wonderful writer, Meggie! xxoo Bhu

Jo said...

Omigoodness, you have just brought back a memory for me. Whenever I went to visit my grandmother in the summertime, she was always making raspberry jam. She would hug me with her big granny hugs, and she smelled like raspberry jam. Just the other day my brother said, "Whenever I think about Granny, I can smell the distinct smell of raspberry jam."

Oh, what a lovely memory.

ozjane said...

Meggie if your preserves were bottled in Australia you pobably used Fowlers Vacola Jars.
We had oddles as my Father was a diabetic from age 18 and had fruit and veg three times a day. He was a market gardener and would buy boxes of fruit from the market. We had some trees but I would rather dread coming home and seeing the fruit ready to 'be dealt with'. We had a stove top vacola sytem ...Big round container to heat them in and later and elecric one. I did bring that here but gave it and bottles away. There were a variety of sizes of bottles and the clip lips as you describe and the rubber rings which you would test before putting on. Because we did so much it was often more practical than beautiful, but I still have the stoning, peeling, coreing implements...along with the butter pats in my drawer. Must blog them one day.

Katherine said...

In New Zealand, men have an expression when referring to a woman they admire - with overtones of domesticity and reliability... they say "she's a bottler!".

The Sagittarian said...

Homemade stuff, you can't really beat it eh? Great post, Meggie.

Rosie said...

mysweet is an obsessive jam maker, and will make it out of anything he can find... It must be red or purple to do it for me!

Jellyhead said...

Mouth-watering memories Meggie. I remember my grandmothers doing just the same thing - making preserves and jams, with the rubber-ringed jar lids.

Is it still stinking hot where you are? We are melting here, too! Maybe a cool change will come sweeping through soon ... I live in hope!

ozjane said...

I did mean to write "oodles" rather than
We call people a bottler here in Oz least it was a common term in the country in the era I group up in.......and I am beginning to feel as old as Noah.....

corry said...

I remember how my mother made jam from all kind of fruits grown in our garden.
I never made jam myself, maybe i've to try it sometime!

Jerry said...

You commented on my blog so it seemed proper to return the favor. It's kind of a blogging obligation I think.

All sense of obligation evaporated when I started reading. I remember that jams and jellies my grandmother used to 'can' on the farm in Oklahoma. (I never did understand the term 'can' when it was obviously Mason Jars.) Then this started a whole flood of memories -- the outhouse that I hated, the wood stove, churning butter, walking with my grandfather through the fields behind the house blithely shoving snakes out of the way with his foot.

I enjoyed this....and will read more.



Anonymous said...

A lovely bit of nostagia. I love making my own jam and do so regularly.

Warty Mammal said...

You've brought back so many memories. My paternal grandparents had a storm cellar and a huge garden. The former would be filled with my grandmother's canning efforts. She used to put melted paraffin on top of her preserves and jellies and such instead of the seals with rubber rings. That would never pass muster these days, but as far as I know, no one ever got sick off her canning.

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it