As a child, I remember how Mom would bring home these dark red and purple jams from Grandma’s house. They were always sweet and thick, and they never lasted that long, being that they were gobbled up quite quickly. My maternal grandparents lived on a working farm. Well, by the time I came along they were already starting to downsize, but some things were still an annual occurrence. The making of fruit preserves was one of them. Grandma had a complete second kitchen in the basement where all the canning and preserving took place. Every year Grandma had a patch of strawberries that would be incorporated into desserts, left plain, or made into jam. I recall seeing a rather large pot of water on a burner of the old stove, filled with nothing but glass jars. I now know that was how she sanitized them, but thinking back I do believe I thought Grandma was a little off her rocker, boiling jars and all. I never really have understood what the difference is between a jam, a jelly, or a preserve. They were all just something you spread on your morning toast, with some being more “chunky” than others.What really stands out to me though, and what comes to mind instantly, is the paraffin wax seal. That was the first thing your eye saw when you opened a new jar. This common practice consisted of pouring thin layers of paraffin over your jam, until you built up about 1/2 an inch of wax on top of your product. It was a real pain to dig that out, and quite a process if memory serves me. Seems this “back in the day” method had a high rate of failure though. The main issue was that there was no way to check your seal. Even though I don’t think we ever discovered any furry mold under the wax, I read it was a common finding. Well, either Grandma got it right, or the jams just didn’t sit long enough to accumulate anything. But, getting back to understanding what the difference is between all these sweet concoctions, and the whole reason for this post, you’ll find that I have defined each one in a short list below.
Now, the real kicker is that I still don’t have a clue what the heck Grandma was making. I think some of them were jams, some of them were preserves. Maybe some were suppose to be one and then turned into the other….I don’t know. Either way, at least I know why she was boiling the jars, right? I have never canned anything, nor have I ever attempted to make a jam. I understand it’s really not that difficult, but neither is picking up a jar from the store. Oh, and there are some many flavors to choose from! I will admit that I did try to make homemade pickles once. The whole house smelled like a vinegar factory! The husband was not too happy with me, but I can’t say I wouldn’t try that again. I think I have figured out the error of my ways. Ha! Ha!
Just may have to give that a try one more time.