Girls in a Jam
Meet my friend Michelle-
I am honored to introduce to you my good friend Michelle: We met five or six years ago while doing some volunteer work. We are of kindred spirits and enjoy many of the same things, including food. I’ve asked Michelle to be my first guest blogger and am honored to introduce her to you today. She’s going to tell you a story about the “Girls in a Jam” and share a couple of her best recipes! Michelle is one of the MOST creative cooks I know and a very positive person. She has won a Blue Ribbon for her jams at the California State Fair – if you are lucky enough to be a recipient of one of those jars of gold, then you are indeed a special person!
I find myself getting up at o-dark thirty in the morning. I read old cookbooks at night trying to get ideas for different flavor combinations. By the time the sun comes up, the jam sits in front of the windowsill, catching the morning light. It’s my favorite way to start the day.
Girls in a Jam…
began when I found myself with an excess of plums (three trees worth to be exact). The Fab Four (Deb, myself and 2 other women) got together one night to have a plum-a-thon. We made a total of 80 jars of plum jam, plum sweet & sour sauce and plum chutney. We had the best time. We cooked, we drank wine, we laughed and we ate outside by candlelight when we were done. We worked so well together. We were all having job crises and we all needed new careers. Hey,this is fun someone said and the idea for Girls in a Jam took off.
Three years later, we are still jamming and playing together, but I’ve mainly been the one to keep the obsession going. I make about 400 jars of jam a year, changing varieties as the seasons change. I trade Rangpur limes from our tree for Meyer lemons, to one of the women who works at the Post Office. I buy Mandarin orange seconds from the farm down the road that sells what they call seconds that are bit miscolored on the outside and liquid gold on the inside. I buy Gold Dust Peaches from a ranch on the other side of town, and return half of the batch of jam to them in exchange for a good price on the fruit. I live in the foothills of Placer County where bartering is still in fashion.
All my relatives and friends know that I will show up at visits and dinners with jars of jam. Every box that goes to my family in Boston will have a jar or two tucked in. My dentist and his staff expect it. When they call to remind me of my appointment, they mention that they have empty jars waiting for me. I smuggle pectin into the house using mad money because I am always going over my jam budget.
The Main Squeeze Lemon Marmalade is fun to make as it surprises everyone. Most people who don’t like marmalade say it’s because the rinds in it are too bitter. (I noticed when I made it with larger pieces of rind, everyone left them in the jar and just ate the rest of it.) This way, because the rinds are blended into small pieces, it becomes more to everyone’s liking. The addition of vanilla gives it an interesting twist.
The Sweet Mandarin Sunshine Jelly is one of my favorites. It’s easy to make, and the mandarin season is usually about 2 months long. I usually juice a big pitcher of mandarins the night before I want to make the jelly. Then, it’s simple to put it together, cook it up, and put it in jars. And when I see the jars lined up, and look at them with the sun shining behind them, I feel like I’ve just made magic.