‘A jam making disaster taught me a lot about marriage’

Aug 18, 2019
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Jenny's mulberry jam was a bit of a disaster. Source: Getty Images

Back in 1968, I was a young married woman trying my best to be the kind of wife my mother and grandmother were. Husband and I had just moved into a lovely home with a white picket fence, the house I had always dreamed of. There was a huge mulberry tree in the backyard. It was covered in big juicy mulberries just begging to be picked.

My only experience with mulberries had been in Grandma’s tree. Me and my siblings used to climb it and paint each other purple, as well as feasting on the sweet fruit. The purple took days to fade off our skin, but Grandma never scolded us. She just laughed and called us purple people eaters.

Getting back to my own mulberry tree, husband did not like to waste anything. He demanded I pick the mulberries before the birds ate them and use them to make things.

I was just 19 and not much of a cook so I rang Grandma and asked her what I could do with the fruit. There was no Google back then, not like these days.

“Make mulberry jam,” she told me. “It is easy. Just boil up the mulberries until they are soft, then add sugar and lemon juice and boil until setting point is reached.”

It certainly sounded easy to me.

The first lot I boiled bubbled up and went all over the stovetop. I was in a panic. What if hubby came home and saw the mess. He would not be happy.

I found a box of rags and proceeded to clean it all up. I was covered from head to toe with purple goo. I figured I must have needed a bigger pot.

Eventually I got it all cleaned up, but I still looked a mess. Nothing for it but to put a long sleeved shirt on to cover the purple blobs all over my arms.

I tried again, only this time I used a much larger pot. I could barely see the mulberries in the bottom of it, but I was confident it would not boil over.

I boiled the poor fruits to within an inch of their lives, then added sugar. No measurement, just tipped it in. Next I added lemon juice. Probably a cup full would do it I thought.

After an hour or so the jam still looked the consistency of water. I added more lemon juice and more sugar to counteract the tartness of the lemon. By this stage it was probably more like lemon marmalade than mulberry jam.

I boiled and boiled. Then it started to look a bit thicker. I thought it must be done.

I poured the mixture into clean jars and left it to cool. I have to say I was feeling mighty pleased with my efforts.

Hubby came home and admired the jars of jam. He immediately wanted to try it. I buttered some nice fresh bread, opened a jar of jam and attempted to get a spoonful out. Darn, the spoon would not go into the jam. It was set like concrete. I made the spoon hot in the hope it would slice through the jam. No such luck.

I told hubby he better try and get it out of the jar, it seemed a little firm. Again, no luck. Hubby got the carving knife and stabbed at the solid mass. Success! Removing the knife and blob of jam proved rather difficult. It was the consistency of nougat. Mulberry flavoured nougat.

I quite liked the taste, but hubby was not impressed and told me off for ruining good berries.

Needless to say, I never attempted jam making again. Nor did I stay in the marriage for any length of time.

Has there been something you’ve tried that was a disaster on your first attempt?

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