When my Grandma Shaffer died (Fall 2006) one thing I really regretted was not learning more about how she did things in the kitchen. She made amazing lasagna, buckwheat cakes, and jelly (among other things). I'm told her jello was pretty good, too, but I don't eat jello so I wouldn't know.
The summer after Grandma died, a little old lady from our church called me and asked if I wanted to come by and learn how to make jelly. Mrs. Lemp always gave us jelly at Christmas, and it reminded me of Grandma's, so I jumped at the chance.
I thought making jelly required some mystical powers or something, and certainly it had to be really difficult and time consuming. When I arrived at the Lemps (with 3 kids in tow - Camden was 4, Josiah was almost 2 and Trevor was only a few months old) I was surprised that there wasn't a laboratory set up. She had jars and lids, a big pot, some juice, sugar and pectin. Surely, we were missing something, right?
Of course, before we could make jelly, Mr. Lemp had to show me HOW he juiced all those berries. He took me out to the garage and showed me his steam distiller and explained how it worked. If you've ever met the Lemps, you know that they love to talk about this and that....and talk they did!
Once we got into the kitchen, Mrs. Lemp walked me through the process of making jelly. It was fun, it was simple, and it was instantly nostalgic. We made batch after batch of blackberry jelly, and she told me stories about raising her four boys. Mr. Lemp came through the kitchen with old pictures or coins and told stories of days gone by.
This scenario has repeated itself several times in the past 5 years. Mrs. Lemp will call and the boys and I will head over there for an afternoon. I always leave with at least a dozen jars of yumminess, and Mrs. Lemp gets a task crossed off of her list.
This week, I went to the Lemps for what may be the last time. I stirred and stirred and made multiple batches of jelly. Camden even got in on the action! Mr. Lemp showed me old pictures and Mrs. Lemp showed me the grandkids on the fridge (again). We talked about farming and trees and how they raised four boys in that house. They aren't getting any younger, and we'll be moving this summer (maybe somewhat local, maybe not). If we're still in the area, I hope to get back over there for another jelly making session.
If not, I'll have happy memories of learning how to make jelly and of long afternoons with a wonderful couple!