Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jam. Or Jelly.

Here's one of those uneasy cross-over American/English words. So far as I'm concerned this is a pot of Jam - blackberry Jam, to be precise, from blackberries grown at Manesty - the farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains owned and restored by my cousin Tim and his wife Susan. It's particularly wonderful to me, because it tastes just like real English blackberry jam - and that's something that my mother used to make when we lived up in Cumberland. Indeed, my father even made blackberry wine - there's a 1959 bottle of it still sitting in Wimbledon. We used to walk out from Naworth, my mother and I, sometimes even driving out in a car with Mrs Windle (my mother didn't drive), armed with white china pudding basins, and occasionally plastic bags - all of which would stain deep blackberry color - and then go home and boil large sticky vats on top of the stove, and then fill jamjars full of the stuff.

Only here, I never quite know what's Jam, and what's Jelly. So far as I'm concerned, jelly might, just possibly, be jam that's been strained before cooling and setting, with all the fruity bits and seeds taken out. But truly, jelly for me is what Jello is in the US. It comes as dessert - o.k., "pudding" in middle-class England in the 1950s and 60s: orange jelly with tinned mandarin oranges in it; pineapple jelly with tinned pineapple - or, adventurously, tinned fruit salad; raspberry jelly with - my favorite! - tinned raspberries. That is, in each case, "canned" fruit. No wonder I found mention, in US books, of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches completely mystifying - how ever would one make this stuff stick inside slices of white bread? What's more, I was deeply, deeply shocked when I first met the weird US habit of serving dollops of green jelly with one's entree - and have never quite managed to reconcile myself to it.

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