That is, until a few years ago. Things in my life were unsettled and I no longer had a garden in which to grow fruit. Inexpensive, quality, local fruit is rare (the key word being inexpensive; certainly, there's quality, local fruit, although after having grown my own for 18 years I have very high standards). So jams and jellies went by the wayside.
This summer, I happened upon some really wonderful peaches. I was skeptical at first (California peaches? they couldn't possibly compare to those tree-ripened, South Carolina gems) but they smelled so good that I bought a few and tried them.
Then I went back and bought a few dozen more. They're the best peaches I've had in years, and the ones that didn't get eaten went into preserves.
Everything I remembered about making preserves was still true: tedious preparation of fruit. Sticky mess everywhere. Scrubbing of jars and lids. Hot, scalding, bubbling fruit splattering my hands and arms.
And wonderful aromas, warm, rich tastes, and jewel-like colors. Delicious preserves to share and enjoy all winter long.
But best of all was that it was good to return to that part of me. It was about more than tradition or doing something familiar; it was a reconnection to my past, to something that I loved, and to a way of sharing that has been part of who I am for the majority of my life.
Cook, eat, dance, love!
(The recipe I used is in Sure-Jell boxes and on their website, so I'm not repeating it here.)