As prepared by Maddie the Marmalade Lady
Six weeks ago in the “Statement of Intent” for Mr. Cope’s Cave, I promised to introduce you to any number of talented and scintillating personalities who, through no fault of their own, have nowhere else to come alive but on this page. One of these contributors is Maddie the Marmalade Lady, a sucré sauciér extraordinaire from right here in Meridian. I became aware of her remarkable jellies and jams at least two decades ago. I had attended one of the fund-raising bazaars my mother’s church throws every year, and among all the other crafted items available—(hand-knitted afghans, patchwork quilts, lovingly-painted birdhouses, dried flower arrangements, extravagantly-decorated scrapbooks, over-stuffed cushions, a wooden rocking horse, pies, cookies, etc.)—was a selection of berry jams with brightly-colored ribbons around the jars and happy faces painted on the lids with fingernail polish. Since I had no use for any of the other items (other than a parcel of oatmeal cookies that fell apart before I ever got them home), and since I didn’t want to leave empty-handed (least Mom think I was a cheapskate), I bought a jar of grape jelly and another of strawberry preserves. Figured you can’t go wrong with sugar and fruit.
It was probably a half-year later that I had a taste for something to spread on my Sunday morning toast and asked my wife why we never have any jam in the house. She reminded me of what I’d brought home from the bazaar, which had somehow ended up so far back in our modest pantry that I had to move four jars of various pickled vegetables and a forgotten package of ramen noodles to find them.
But it was well worth the effort. I went for the strawberry preserves first and was so impressed, I commented, “You know, this might be the best jam I’ve ever had,” to which my wife replied, “That’s nice, Honey. I’m glad you’re pleased.”
From that time on until my mother was no longer attending that church (owing to the fact that she died), I never missed a bazaar, and never went without leaving with more of those scrumptious spreads. I asked Mom who was the genius behind those little jars of Heaven and she answered, “Oh, that’s Maddie ___________ . She’s been making those jams since I don’t know how long.” (I withhold Maddie’s last name in case some radical anti-jam trolls decide to harass her on the Internet. You know how cruel people can be.)
Turns out, Maddie was there, and Mom pointed her out to me. I introduced myself and told her how much I enjoyed her product, and she giggled. “Oh golly, it’s no big thing. Anyone can do it.”
Maybe so, but I have hardly had any other jams or jellies but Maddie’s in all that time. When I was thinking about people I might include in this blog, Maddie’s was the first name to come up. I’m sure there are other spreadables recipes to be found on the Internet, but I see nothing wrong with breaking up the constant stream of political with a canning tutorial, do you? And perhaps, if I can talk her into it, Maddie might even provide us with some tips on other food stuffs. It is my understanding she makes a mean pot of chili.
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Maddie’s Rowdy Raspberry Jam
Well, it sort of depends on how much you want to make, doesn’t it? If you have one of the bigger families, you know, like the Packards or the Hansens or one of them Catholic families, you’ll want to double up on everything on my list. Or maybe even more, if your bunch are big jam eaters. Around here, it’s just me and Harold, who used to go through a lot of jam and about everything else as a matter of fact, as long as it was sweet, until Doctor Denny told him his blood sugar was shooting through the roof and I’d be packing him out to Meridian Meadows pretty darn soon if he didn’t slow down on the desserts and get his fanny out of the recliner now and then for a walk around the block. And then I give a jar or two out of every batch to my daughter Jeanie who lets her two boys have jam every Saturday morning but other than that they have to eat Wheaties and melon balls for breakfast since Jeanie is on this health food kick lately.
I have to say how Jeanie is the one who talked me into doing this. I first told Mr. Cope how I didn’t know nothing about this blogging stuff, but then Jeanie said “Well Momma, what about the Christmas newsletters you write every year?” Which is true. I’ve been writing the family Christmas newsletter ever since Aunt Connie died back in ’95. Or was it ’96? But anyway, everyone says what a good job I do with those newsletters, and Jeanie thought it would do me good to take up something new at my age. “Besides,” she says, “I don’t think a blog is much different than a Christmas newsletter.” So I asked Harold what he thought, but he didn’t have any opinions on the matter, so I told Mr. Cope I’d do it. And that’s that.
So then, you’ll need:
—Four cups of raspberries (Get fresh ones. I tried it once with frozen raspberries and it turned out horrible!)
—Four cups of refined sugar (That’s the white stuff. You don’t want to use brown sugar for no jams. Not if you want anyone to eat it.)
—One lemon (Make sure you get a real one. That plastic squeeze bottle that looks like a lemon just won’t do.)
—Two jalapeño peppers (They got a be fresh. If you grind up a dried one, it’ll leave grit in you jam. You don’t want that.)
You’ll also need:
—A four-quart sauce pot (and make darn sure you have a lid that fits it.)
—eight or nine half-pint jam jars with sealing lids.
I should tell you right off the bat that Rowdy Raspberry Jam is not the recipe I’d of started with if it had been up to me. Some people think that the jalapeños make it a whole bunch too rowdy, especially for what you expect out of jam. And besides, my specialty is orange marmalade. That’s why I let Mr. Cope call me Maddie the Marmalade Lady in this blog thing. And that’s what I would have started with, orange marmalade definitely, except for Mr. Cope saying he didn’t think people who might read this blog wanted to hear anything more about orange than they had to. I got no idea why he’d say something like that, but it’s his blog, so I’m just going along to get along. If you know what I mean.
So what you do is take a potato masher to the raspberries and make a good mush out of them. You don’t want to turn it into runny juice, but then you don’t want no big lumps floating around in it either. Some people add the sugar in before they start mashing, but I don’t. I don’t think it matters one darn bit whether you do it my way or their way, so you do it whatever way you want. No skin off my nose.
Hint: if you warm the sugar up in the oven first, it dissolves better. At least, that’s what this one cookbook I have says. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I figure if you’re going to read something out of a cookbook you paid good money for, you might as well do it. So I do it. I put the four cups of sugar in a pie pan and heat it up in the oven for fifteen or twenty minutes before I put it in the raspberry mush.
So then, you pour all that raspberry mush into your four-quart pot. Or you could of mushed it up in the pot, I suppose. I do it in a mixing bowl, but you can do it anywhere you want. I just don’t like the sound it makes when you’re mushing up berries with a metal potato masher in a metal pot. Metal on metal, that sets my teeth on edge, if you know what I mean. Say, I just got to thinking why Mr. Cope thinks people want nothing to do with orange anymore, and I wonder if it has anything to do with that Donald Trump. I bet it does, now that I think about it. From what I’ve seen of this blog thing, Mr. Cope isn’t no fan of Donald Trump. Can’t say I am either, but can’t say I’m real keen on Hillary either. And so then you mix in the sugar real good. You don’t want sugar clumping up in one spot and the raspberry goop clumping up in another. Then you put it on the stove to get it simmering while you go to cutting up the lemon and the jalapeños into itsy-bitsy pieces.
The thing about Hillary is, I can’t get myself to trust her much. Seems like ever other day, another email mix-up turns up. Emails emails emails! Between you and me, I’m sick of it. How many emails did she write, anyway? She was only the Secretary of State for four darn years, but they already got over 45,000 emails. Good honk, that’s over 11,000 emails a year. Can you imagine? That’s over 30 emails a day she had to either write or read. Where did she get time to do anything else, for goodness sakes? And if she keeps on emailing so much when she’s president, how are we to know she’ll even notice if Russia …
Hold on. There’s someone at the front door.
Just a couple of Jehovah Witnesses. I told them I already have a church I go to, thank you very much. But then I gave them a quarter anyway for that Watchtower mag … oh, shoot! Here I been gabbing away about Hillary and Jehovah Witnesses when I should of been stirring the raspberries. Darn. And I haven’t even started dicing up the jalapeños yet. Oh, darn. Now I got to scrape the bottom of my pot and start all over. Darn. Why’d I ever let Jeanie talk me into this?
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Okay, I think maybe we need to give Maddie some time to pull herself together. She’s awfully upset. Her first outing on Mr. Cope’s Cave and she burned the mix. Smells like someone spread jam on a slice of bread before they put it into the toaster. It’s a damn wonder she didn’t start a sugar fire in here, judging from the smoke. I should have told her to relax and have fun. Instead, she thought I expected her to actually prepare a batch of jam as she was writing about it—all at the same time. Hell, I couldn’t do that, and I’ve been at this sort of thing for years.
So maybe we’ll try it again in a week or two, after I explain to her she doesn’t have to make it a real-time experience. Now I gotta set up a fan or two to blow the smoke out of the kitchen.
This, of course, is a virtual orange, borrowed from the same Internet closet in which I found the virtual raspberries and virtual polka-dotted pot. I wanted to put it side-by-side with a picture of Donald Trump for a color comparison. Sadly, I could not find a picture of Donald Trump somebody didn’t want to charge me for using. Screw that.–BC