One of the most enjoyable things about growing your own food is sharing it with others. Last year I made strawberry jam and red currant preserves. I was so excited to give them as gifts. But what if the gift recipients don’t appreciate them?
Making Homegrown & Homemade Strawberry Jam
It was a bumper crop year for strawberries, and fruit always makes people happy, so why not give the gift of strawberry jam? During the garden season when things are busy, I divide the strawberry harvest into 1-pound batches, wash and de-stem, then freeze.
It’s easy to thaw the strawberries in the winter, when the garden season has slowed down and when it’s a more desirable time to heat up the kitchen. The recipe I chose to make this year included strawberries, apples, and grape juice. No weird additives or white sugar needed.
As the strawberries, apples, and grape juice cooked down, it turned a nice deep shade familiar to all who have ever tasted the dreamy goodness of strawberry jam:
And finally, jarring it up and canning it in 4 oz gift sizes:
Next on the agenda was to make Bar-Le-Duc red currant preserves, which I mentioned in a recent post about growing currants. Bar-Le-Duc is a tiny village in France that’s been known for its red currant preserves since the 1500s.
The women of the village have passed down the secrets and the skills, generation upon generation. Red currants have tiny seeds. The women of this village have learned the skill of extracting the seed from each tiny berry with a goose quill without smashing the berry. Talk about patience!
It’s currently the most expensive and sought-after preserves in the world. Luckily, my recipe did not call for extracting the seeds, and for that reason it would not command the same price, if that were my goal. However, it still turned out scrumptious.
Starting with a pot of currants…
…cook them while mashing…
…until they begin to turn a dark, rich color:
Finally, the preserves were canned as I did with the strawberry jam.
The Problem with Giving Jam as a Gift
If you have bread in your house and eat toast or PB&J on a regular basis, then you probably also buy jam regularly. Jam is abundant and cheap at the grocery store. In fact, you can get the same amount of Smucker’s strawberry preserves as my 4 oz gift for about 70 cents.
And some people who aren’t interested in quality food or value the intention and deeper meaning of handcrafted goodness, will open your gift, utter a quick thank you, and look for the next, more exciting gift.
They aren’t aware of the time and care that went into growing the berries, harvesting them, preparing them for processing, and the day-long event that is processing berries into jam (this all amounts to multiple days’ worth of effort).
If they were aware of the effort involved, they would probably think you’re crazy, wonder why you bother, and go find that bulk Welch’s on sale for a steal.
So why bother?
Giving Without Attachment
One teaching from Buddhism that I really like is the idea of giving without expectation of reward. We aren’t giving homesteady gifts because we have an agenda that our friends and relatives see the light and become suburban homesteaders, too.
We aren’t trying to will them into having different values. We aren’t even clinging to the idea that they will love the gift. We are simply giving a gift that comes from the heart.
I like to give useful gifts, and jam is certainly a useful item that I can produce from the tiny sliver of land that I have, to share happily with others.
My land is a gift to me that I have gratitude for daily, and I will pass that gift on to the recipients of my gifts. I give freely from the heart.
This mantra I will practice repeating to myself each and every holiday season until I give freely without having to remind myself to do so, a spiritual practice for a spiritual time of year.
And finally, wrapping up our holiday gift lineup…
Last year we also gave homemade Texas-style chili containing homegrown tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers, homemade vanilla almond biscotti, and homemade chocolate hazelnut spread.
What homemade items will you give this holiday season? Did you have any gift recipients who were less than enthusiastic about your gifts?