Early autumn is a particularly pleasurable time of the year. No rain, no exhaustingly high temperatures either (that never fail to make me whine for Scandinavia). The colors of surrounding nature are peacefully beautiful and I am tempted to sit outside all day long with a cat on my lap and a book in my hand… And some tea and cake, not to forget.
It is harvest time. And although there is not much to harvest, for there are only one peach and two apple trees in front of the house, there is still plenty of work with all the fruit they bare. Nevertheless, it is a sweet labor – no matter how tired I am after hours of picking, rinsing, peeling and cooking, there is something profoundly fulfilling in a kind of tiredness it all brings… The most enjoyable and by far my favorite part of the process of making jam is standing by the stove and looking down at the boiling mash, steering occasionally and breathing in the scents – it simply screams for some poetry. I chose Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist this time; suits perfectly!
It is interesting – when the house is thus occupied by the smell of boiling fruit and I’m steering with the favorite wooden spoon I always remember Meg (Little Women) struggling with her currant jelly; I see her face red with heat, and her apron and hands covered with berry-blood and the picture brings a smile on my face.
.. [she] spent a long day picking, boiling, straining, and fussing over her jelly. She did her best, she asked advice of Mrs. Cornelius, she racked her brain to remember what Hannah did that she left undone, she reboiled, resugared, and restrained, but that dreadful stuff wouldn’t ‘jell’… In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair. One edition of jelly was trickled from pot to pot, another lay upon the floor, and a third was burning gaily on the stove… Meg wrestled alone with the refractory sweetmeats all that hot summer day, and at five o’clock sat down in her topsy-turvey kitchen, wrung her bedaubed hands, lifted up her voice and wept.