Copyright 2023 by Sara Etgen-Baker
of Sara's mom.
washed in like the tide, advancing confidently with warmth and
sunshine one day and retreating the next. Some days the pansies and
daffodils in Mother’s garden were bathed in lukewarm air that
gently encouraged them; on others, the wintry wind gusted fiercely
demanding a return to the bitterness of the months before. But like
the tide, spring wouldn’t be stopped. Warming winds blew,
banishing winter’s chill; brown grasses became lush, erasing
the memory of their wintry selves; the air vibrated with birds
singing; and the plum trees in our back yard budded with leaves and
brilliant pink blossoms.
May the pink blossoms had fallen off, replacing every branch and limb
with sweet-tasting large red plums that ripened at once.
crop,” Mother announced, grabbing the bushel baskets from the
shed. I followed her to the backyard, and together we spent the
entire afternoon plucking plums from the vines, occasionally rubbing
one clean on our shirts and biting into it quenching our parched
throats with its juicy warmth and sweetness. By the end of the day,
we’d picked so many plums that our fingers were sticky and our
Mother exclaimed. “We have over six bushels of plums—too
many to eat before they rot in the baskets. Time to make plum
next morning Mother retrieved her jelly jars from the attic,
carefully inspecting them for cracks and the rings for rust, tossing
aside the defective ones. We immersed the jars in hot, simmering
water until the jelly mixture was ready. We washed the plums; cut
them in half removing the pits; combined them with sugar, and water
in a large pot; and brought the mixture to a boil until it looked
like thick plum soup. I added pectin to the mixture while she
stirred until the consistency was, as she put it, just right.
sweet, savory aroma of plums and sugar wafted through the air. My
stomach clenched with hunger as I thought of spreading delicious, red
jelly on a piece of warm toast
removed the mixture from the heat while I skimmed off the heavy foam
and ladled the jelly into the hot, sterilized jars. “Wipe off
the tops of the jars and place the lids on the top,” she
instructed before screwing on the rings finger tight and returning
the jars to the boiling water. After about 20 minutes, we removed
them from the boiling water and placed them on the counter top.
will we have jelly?” I asked, my mouth all but drooling.
“After they’ve cooled and sealed. Just
listen for the soft popping sound.”
sat at the kitchen table, my chin resting in my hands, waiting and
listening for what seemed like forever. Eventually, I heard the
gentle, repetitive popping sound as each of the 45 jars announced
that afternoon, we treated ourselves to some of our congealed
perfection, spreading it on a piece of warm toast. How delicious
that jelly was! How priceless were the memories we made! Even now, I
can still taste the sweetness of that jelly and cherish the magic of
making memories with Mother that spring.
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