Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jammin' with the neighbors

Get this... I actually taught someone how to make jam yesterday (four someones, really)! I know I was supposed to be hiding in bed all day, but I snuck out about 2:30 to meet our neighbor Kim and her two daughters. When I got there, Kim hadn't made it home yet from work, but her mother-in-law was there eager to watch us make jam. The more the merrier!

This all came about when we saw their family at Cotton Patch last weekend, a restaurant that's close enough to our house that Dave and I walk over once a week for a nice meal out. Now, we don't know this family well, but we know their names and we wave and say "hi" from time to time. On our way out of the restaurant, we stopped by their table and offered them a few of our Cotton Patch coupons (allow me to explain about the coupons - I had seen one in a university newspaper advertisement last winter and realized I was looking at a gold mine. Maybe that's exaggerating things, but $5 off our meal when we're there every week anyway?It was time for Operation Coupon. I patiently waited a few days, my beady eyes watching eagerly, then raided the recycle bin when no one was looking, netting like 40 coupons! Totally frugal - ok, fine. I'm cheap. I can live with that.)

Anyway, back to the story. Since we were swimming in these things (even after 6 months of using them), Dave suggested we share some of the coupons with our neighbors. They had a large group and perhaps the coupons could be of use. So as we stopped to say "bye" on the way out, we handed a few to Kim. They thanked us and we waved goodbye. Then later that day, our doorbell rings and it's the two young neighbor girls from across the street. It seems after they left the restuarant, the family went blackberry picking and were offering us a bowl of fresh, plump berries to thank us for the coupons. Yum - I was drooling before they entered the front door! A few minutes behind the girls, Kim (the mom) walked up. Supposedly they had picked tons of these berries and wasn't sure what to do with them all, so I told them I had recently learned how to make jam and would be delighted to show them if they wanted to make some. I got an unanimous and enthusiastic "Yes!"

So that's how I ended up across the street yesterday afternoon. Of course in addition to being excited about hanging out with the neighbors, I was completely panicked that I would mess it up and look like a blundering idiot. I've only been doing this for a few months, after all. But making jam is really super easy and very little can go wrong (that is as long as I don't forget to put in the pectin - yes, I've done this once).  And, no, I didn't burn their house down. It seems even my curse has limits. Pshew!

I stood back and let the two girls do most of the work - just like Liz and Ruth taught Sharli and I. I explained each step including all the hows and whys. Their grandma watched and made notes. She couldn't believe how easy it was and wanted to keep the recipe to try it again on her own. I can't believe I taught a grandma how to make jam!

We took a break after the first batch. Kim still hadn't made it home and I wanted her to be able to participate in the second batch. So we all sat and talked and listened to the sweet "pop" of the jars sealing. Music to my ears!

When Kim came home, we had a quick snack (Mmmm, homemade blackberry cobbler) and then started on the second batch. The girls stepped right in and remembered most of the process. I explained each step to Kim as we went through them until we had another full batch of blackberry jam.

As the second batch of the jars cooled and sealed, the girls showed me their new Wii. Now, I've never seen one before, let alone played a video game since, I don't know, 1990. But, it turns out I'm an awesome tennis player. Unfortunately, I suck at baseball and bowling (I could have told you that, although really, I suck at tennis but don't tell the computer. So far I have it fooled). We all had a wonderful afternoon and Kim was so proud that her girls had made the jam with just a little instruction from me. 

I'm just excited that up until a couple months ago I was completely clueless about making jam - oh, I could never do that! And here I was teaching people. How cool is that!?!  It gives me hope that what might today seem impossible, will someday be looked back upon with fondness - remember when I thought I'd never be able to do that? It turns out, all I have to do is try.


Beany said...

That is so cool you were able to teach your jam making skills. I was really surprised that the grandma didn't know how to make it...I thought all grandmas knew how.

Heather @ SGF said...

Yeah, I was kinda nervous when I first got there becuase I figured she'd be watching me to see if I did it right, but it turns out she was there soaking it all in. Who knew?

Melissa said...

good for you...I would have cracked under the pressure :)

sharli said...

I'm just glad you remembered the pectin! (unlike me) My mom and I made peach jam yesterday and forgot to boil the water in time.... I'm sure we were pretty amusing to watch, racing to see if water would boil faster on the stove or in the microwave, all the while, counting down that last minute that the fruit and sugar boils.

Heather @ SGF said...

How did it taste? Was it a pain to peel all that fruit? Peach is definitely next on my list!

sharli said...

It wasn't too bad. We peeled and chopped while dinner was in the oven cooking, then made the jam after dinner. Now, I'm on the prowl for more good juicy peaches so I can make more!