Ever since I started making jams and working on the blog, I’ve been thinking about this memory I have from when I was real young of making jam with my mom at our house in Evanston, IL. I would’ve been about 2 and a half at the time and I remember standing on a chair or stool and helping to stir this dark purple syrup in a big pot on the stove with the back door open and the sun shining in.
It’s a great memory, but I couldn’t be sure it was real without checking. You see, I have a bunch memories from my childhood that just never happened. I don’t know if they were dreams or what, but I’ve come to realize that my little old brain just isn’t content with the facts sometimes. Like that time that my dad fell off the ladder? Didn’t happen. Oh well, I suppose it’s better for him that way, if mildly disconcerting for me.
So, I called my mom to check the facts and it turns out that this one is true! At the time that we were living there, my mom was running a little day care out of our house. There were four big bushes in the back yard and she wanted to make sure the berries weren’t going the kill the kids if they ate them. So, she called the previous owner of the house, an older English couple, to get the story on the berries.
It turns out that the couple had moved to the house from England a number of years back and found themselves missing the currant jelly that they had loved so much back home. So, they imported four currant bushes from the UK and brought them to Evanston and planted them in what had become our backyard. Each summer they would pick the currants and make themselves a year’s supply of jelly. Well, to make a long story short, my mom got the recipe, took it home, picked the currants and we made jelly together.
So, my mom was telling me the story over the phone last week and, naturally, I asked, “Do you still have the recipe?” Turns out she does! She emailed it to me and now I need to see if I can’t find some currants and make it.
So, here’s the recipe from Mrs. Youngren, as written down by my mom in the summer of ’84.
“Pick currant berries and wash them. Then put in kettle and mash. Put them on the stove and bring to a low simmer. Don’t add water. Cook about 10 minutes until they become liquid. Then put in a sieve over a pot to collect juice and let sit over night. In the morning measure juice. Then add the same amount of sugar as there is juice ( 1 cup juice=1 cup sugar). Bring juice/sugar mixture to a boil while stirring carefully until it comes to a soft boil. Boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes. Put in glass jars to cool over night. Put parafin on top the next morning. Be sure you cover the whole jar.”
And now, 24 years later, here I am with a deep, abiding love of England, jams and fresh local food. Coincidence? Or do I owe more to Mrs. Youngren than I realized?