Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Final Scholarship Runner-Up

"The Best Tasting Stuff in the World"
By: Laura Denyer

There is nothing that excites me more than summer. Not just summer, but the things to do int he summer. Going to the beach, swimming, and relaxing are just some of the wonderful activities that can occupy your time. But what are some other things that you can do? There are many. One of them is picking berries and another is making jam.

You may be asking yourself, why would I want to do that when I could just buy some at the store? Well, I will tell you why. Because store-bought jam is nothing compared to the sweet and delectable jam that you can make yourself. I have been acquainted with making jam for as long as I can remember. My mom would drag us to the strawberry and raspberry fields to pick berries for that season's batch.

Of course, I couldn't see the intrinsic value of doing things by yourself at the time, and so I often found myself just sitting in the middle of a row and eating the berries instead of putting them in the basket. Soon the sun was getting to me, and I joined my sister in the nice air-conditioned car and drank all the water we wanted after sweating in the sun for so long. We simply could not understand how my mom kept picking for hours on end and why others would engage in this exhausting chore. But soon my mom understood our point of view and started offering us motivation to pick berries. She promised us that she would buy us a piece of candy from the "general store" at the orchard if we stayed and helped her for the whole duration. This duration was never a fixed time; it was always a few hours longer than she originally said (like that never happened to any of us kids.)

As time went on, and the number of batches grew, I soon found myself volunteering to go to the fields, and actually getting excited about it. I didn't fully understand this transformation at the time, but now I think it was because I was trying to cling to family traditions. I also began to see the appreciation of other people for our hobby of making jam each summer. And when people admire, why not continue with it?

So to this day I look forward to summers filled with berry picking and jam making. In fact, two years ago, we picked our biggest amount of raspberries- 40 pounds (which totaled $120). And let me tell you, that is a heck of a lot of jam! Before, my mom would always make the jam, and I would sometimes help her. But now I have learned how to make it, and so I have made all of the strawberry and raspberry jam myself.

If this story has convinced you to try making jam yourself, I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that you enjoy the experience, and take in the pride of making something that most people just buy at a store. Some bits of advice that I would give you is to use the Ball brand jars, as I have only used their jars, as they are of excellent quality. The Red Hill General Store has those jars, and many more high-quality Ball products. Another piece of advice is to try making the freezer jams. I believe this type of jam tastes much better than the canned jam, as it has more fruit, more flavor, and has a better consistency (but canned jam is good too). With that in mind, I would also suggest not mashing the berries too much when preparing it. Having generous bits of fruit in jam gives the consistency of preserves which taste almost like pie filling (which we all know to be excellent). If you do decide to freeze the jam, it can stay good for up to a year. So by the time you run out, it will be summertime so you can make some more. And believe me, most of the batches we make are too small, and don't last us a full year.

So think big and bring friends with you to the berry fields. But make sure they want to come with you. Try not to "drag" them to go picking, as it may turn them off to it. Plus they may just end up in your car, draining your battery and soaking up the air conditioning, and the water (like I did) while you're slaving away. Someone who is curious about berry picking and jam making will be an extreme help, as I am not going to lie, both of these tasks are rather difficult. Remember that job that is done right is done by someone who wants to do the job.

So start planning your trip to the fields, and try to find some local berry farms that have "U-Pick", where you pick your own fruit. Yes you could buy the fruit and make jam from it, but if you want to feel even more proud of yourself and your work, I would suggest you go the whole nine yards and pick the berries too. You will leave with a good feeling of self-sustain, one that many people lack.

And lastly, my most important piece of advice: HAVE FUN!

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