When I was a kid my dad would make jam. My parents house was blessed with a multitude of different fruit bearing bushes and trees, blackberry, gooseberry, damson, cherry and crabapple. If we felt like getting more exotic, strawberries for instance, we would trot over to the local country estate at Kimberley and pick our own from their walled garden. This was a fairly intensive form of child labour, the type of thing that would be legislated against today, but we were happy to just stuff our faces with fruit and cycle home with boxes of jam making material.
Dad constructed some pretty bizarre bird scaring mechanisms to protect his backyard crop. I recall lots of netting covering the bushes and even a summer's afternoon spent on tall ladders in an attempt to cover the 40ft Japanese cherry tree. I'm sure I remember that.
When the harvest was in there would be lots of washing , boiling and squashing of fruit, sugar would be added and the process of seperating pips and skin in order to create jelly (a clear, smooth form of jam) would begin. I think my parents still have the tall stool that was turned upside down, placed on the kitchen table and used to hang the muslin bag through which the soggy fruit would drip into a bowl. We would also produce the more tradtional types of jam with the bits in it, this works better with more pippy fruit such as strawberries or raspberries whilst apples and cherries produce excellent jelly.
Jars that had been collected would be filled with the latest batch, labels written and the stuff would be left to set. In a day or two we would attack the batch and be ready for a winter of toast and jam breakfasts. I can't quite tell which was my favourite, Crabapple jelly perhaps.
My grandad produced excellent honey but that's another story.
When I taught in Somerset in a depressed rural community I often received homemade jam as a gift from the kids. In the autumn the jars would start to arrive. One kid I remember very well, we used to have tremendous run ins over behaviour issues yet he would keep me supplied with the most delicious damson jam throughout the year. As some kids might bring an apple (yes, it does sometimes happen) or flowers, Iwan would bring me jam often with a ridiculously articulate excuse about his latest misdemeanor and once with a determined explanation that he was not attempting to poison me. He also made the most beautiful labels, coloured in pencil in 3D block letters,"DAMSOM JAM, SEPTEMBER 1997".
I still love a good jam, some friends in Brooklyn have German relatives who make the most amazing jam, all fruity and a little bit boozy. For me it's the breakfast of champions, doorstep toast, great coffee or tea and a choice of good, homemade jam.