Ever since I can remember, I have spent my Summers in Michigan. My sister & I would share time between both sets of grandparents. As an adult, I carry many happy memories of Michigan with me in my heart. Humid, sticky days at the Lake; catching candy at the Fourth of July parade; searching the woods for tree frogs with my cousins; watching Cat in the Hat on the floor of Gramma's living room; ice cream after dinner...always; digging to China from my Gramma's sandbox (& nearly making it there); & strawberry jam.
My Gramma Bonsole has made & canned her own strawberry jam for as long as I can remember...heck, as long as even my Mom can remember. During our visit, she & Grampa would load us in the car & drive us to the strawberry patch where we would spend hours picking & eating berries, avoiding bees & filling our buckets as full as we could, each of us proclaiming, "Look at my strawberry! This one is perfect! I found the most perfect one in this whole entire patch!"
Once we had paid for & loaded our precious berries in the back of the car...more than we could ever eat before they went bad...we would talk about all of the wonderful things we would be soon eating over the next week. Strawberry pie! Strawberry shortcake! Strawberries with sugar! And most importantly, strawberry jam.
The next day, Gramma would give each of us girls our very own apron & we would get to mashing those berries!! Our excitement would almost always die off about an hour into mashing & Gramma almost always finished the jam on her own, but she & Grampa would still sit us at their table to pose for a picture with the jam we made.
The jam is a family favorite & she still sends out a few jars to each family once a year. Upon their arrival, we will all call each other & declare over the phone, "We got three jars! How many did you get?"
I have always wondered what super special, mysterious ingredients my Gramma uses in her jam. Because it just tastes that freaking good.
Today, on a whim, my Gramma, Mom & I decided we needed to make some of this fine jam. Only this time, with Costco strawberries. We pitted, we sliced, we diced, we mashed, we mashed some more, we mashed even more, we boiled, we stirred & we canned.
At the end of this day, my brain filled with conversations I'd had with my Mom & Gramma over filling jars with sweet, sticky jam; the aroma of strawberries still wafting in the air, I asked my Gramma for her recipe.
She made a beeline for the trash can & pulled out the recipe from the Sure-Jell packet. "Oh, here it is! It's just from the box. You can have this one or when you buy the gel, use the one in that box."
"Wait....you use the recipe on the BOX?!?!?!"
Dreams of passing on our secret family jam recipe crushed, I snatched the damp, wrinkled recipe from her hands before she could shove it back in the garbage.
I wanted this recipe, damn it. Trash smelling or not. At least it came from her hands & at least it carries the memory of this day with it.
...& I can still say it is a secret family recipe filled with super special, mysterious ingredients.
...because it is: one part laughter. A funny story or two. Two cups tradition. And all parts love.