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What Happened to My Blackberry Jam? 1

Freda Isaksen

In the northern country of Norway the growing season for produce is very limited because of the harsh climate. There is only a short summer season when the sun is expected to shine and stimulate the growth of vegetables, fruits and flowers after the spring rains. Even then the supplies and varieties are very small because the previous months of cold weather will not produce anything tropical. Consequently all the food that is produced and not eaten in a very short time must be preserved to be consumed later on during the winter months when the ground is covered with snow.

In former years before modern transportation of food from other countries became available, vegetables grown in the winter would be cooked and bottled or heavily salted to preserve them, then the salt would be removed by soaking in water to make them edible. Fruits were likewise bottled and preserved in sugar and would be just as delicious when eaten as dessert after a hot winter’s meal. The loving preparation that was soaked into them tasted so sweet.

The strawberries grown in that region have always been recommended for their luscious flavor and besides there were always plenty of wild berries such as blackberries and red currants and the local mulberry, if one was resourceful enough to know where to find them. All were wonderfully edible straight from the vine as an inexpensive treat.

A delightful way to spend a summer day was to go out and seek the berries in the country lanes and fields, pick them by hand and carry them home in straw baskets, then preserve them as delicious jams and jellies. My hobby was to do just that. Whilst picking the colorful berries we would eat all we desired, even licking our juice stained fingers, they were so sweet and flavorful not a drop should be wasted, then at home add enough sugar to make them jell, boil them up, cool them, then ladle them into jars and set them on shelves ready to be enjoyed after the season when no fresh fruits would be growing in the orchards or sold in the stores.

The memories of the day finding and picking the fruit would be absorbed into the berries to be enjoyed as conversation about the experience. Surely this custom was going to continue forever. Nature would supply the fruit every year, the sugar would be available in the stores and we would always have a home with plenty of shelves in the larder for provisions. That was our expectation.

But we did not foresee that war would come and the good life would come to an end. I have lost so many material things. A home, a business, valuable possessions but they were just material acquisitions and could be replaced in better times. I have not mourned those losses.

What I remember and regret so vividly are my glass jars of homemade blackberry jam that I joyfully picked with my own hands and sugared and bottled so carefully and set down so evenly in rows in my own green painted kitchen pantry. 2 I visualize now, their dark red color visible so clearly in their juicy syrup, just waiting to be enjoyed by those who had happily labored to prepare the delicacy.

Actually they had very little monetary value, they could easily be replaced by a commercial product, but I had prepared them myself with anticipation of enjoying them in my peaceful home in future weeks. What I want to know is, “What happened to my blackberry jam?” I would prefer to know that the glass jars were shattered and broken and destroyed and discarded than to think that the enemy soldiers found them and consumed them as they confiscated or stole everything else that they found.

Footnotes

  1. For the context of this story, see Freda’s Autobiography.
  2. See Frustrated Nostalgia for a followup on the jars.


Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at math.wayne.edu.

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