Summer Jamming with your Kids

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Mother Teresa

Every summer my father used to put on his ripped jean shorts, grab some plastic bags and a crudely-made walking stick, and take us on a windy journey through the ivy-infested woods of our back yard.  The mission: blackberry and raspberry picking!  We’d spend hours half-listening to Dad drone on and on about the insects and the flora and fauna and anything else he found interesting.  While we desperately tried to fill up our bags to the top, they were always only half full upon our return.  Nonetheless, we still celebrated our bounty:  fresh ripe bursting blackberries and raspberries from our own woods—not the store. I remember a few times Mom was brave enough to dare the long, uphill hikes but, most often she’d wait at home for the fruit loot so she could begin jamming.

The very last time Mom was out at the beach visiting we went strawberry picking at a local farm and made many jars of strawberry jam together.   Although the farm was flat and the fruit was easily accessible, Mom opted to stay home because she couldn’t physically bend over to get to the strawberries.  I remember being sad observing her hunched over the stove, stirring the pectin and fruit mixture.  At the time, I knew her health was deteriorating as was her cooking.  In fact, it was the drastic decrease in her cooking and the constant errors in her baking that were our clues to her sharp decline. She would NEVER lead on that ANYTHING was wrong.  Watching her stir the pot in a rhythmic, mechanical motion, dazing into the berry mixture, I stole a real glimpse of her genuine sadness. Yet, in typical Mom fashion, when the kids bounded into the kitchen to check on the jam progress, she quickly mustered up a tilted smile and spoke of how excited she was to fill the Ball jars and spread the jam on a bagel for breakfast the next morning.

a relic from the last jam session with Mom in 2006

I was reminded of our special jamming event just yesterday when I was cleaning out our freezer and stumbled upon the last remaining jar of jam from our 2006 escapade.  My heart sank.  The label still clearly reads “Maddy and Judy – 2006.”  I felt like I had just unearthed a valuable relic from the Titanic.  I didn’t know what to do with it.  Clearly it had past its prime as the sides of the jam were laced with a beautiful pattern of freezer burn.  But, I didn’t want to throw it away either.   Consequently, a huge wave of regret rolled over me as I realized that I missed the narrow two-week window for peak strawberry picking that came and went this past June.  How could I have forgotten? I was so upset.  Thank god every road on the east end of Long Island is dotted with various farm stands boasting freshly-picked fruit. I vowed I’d recreate the experience with my kids – minus the actual strawberry picking in the field.

We purchased the freshest boxes of organic strawberries from our fave local farm stand: The Green Thumb.  Soon, my daughter was removing the stems (a term I just learning called “hulling”) with the most unusual apparatus we purchased from the stand. I’m not sure if it saved us any time but, since we weren’t using a knife, it empowered my daughter to oversee the process unsupervised.

it looks like a fish but its a modern day strawberry stem grabber

Within moments we were stirring the most beautifully bright candy apple red mixture of mashed strawberries and pectin and sugar – just like Mom.

strawberries jelling with pectin and sugar

We filled all of the Ball jars, neatly labeled them “Maddy and Mom 2011” and lined them like trophies on the shelf in the kitchen— next to the one Ball jar labeled, “Judy and Maddy 2006.”

Ball jars beaming with freshly-made strawberry jam!

Have you jammed with your kids yet?  Any secrets to your sessions?


  1. This is one of my favorite posts yet! Love your writing!

  2. thanks Karen! now, start jammin’!

  3. Jenise Wilson says:

    Love this post. So special, and the jar with your daughter’s name…omg!

    • Jenise Wilson » it was definitely beyond emotional to find it but, so glad we made new jars and loved the experience….


  1. […] recipe has a little “zing” to it.  Plus, I had so many Ball jars laying around from my Strawberry Jam adventure that I had to put them to more good […]

  2. […] lasted a lifetime.  I’m certain my old-fashioned trips to the market with my mom and the raspberry picking escapades in our woods with Dad were far more effective than the karate classes I forced on my […]

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