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Strawberry Preserves: Part of My Heritage

Growing up I can remember my great-grandmother Minnie, as well as both my grandmothers, Edythe and Lucile, making preserves. For many years, my mother continued this tradition of making strawberry preserves in May, blackberry in July, and peach in August.

For my grands, canning and preserving was not a choice; it was a way-of-life. Both these generations lived through the Depression and knew the importance of saving any bounty. They each had specific stock pots that they used and shared jars with each other. All four covered the preserves with parafin wax to seal the jars and used Sure Jell as pectin.

Communities used to have canaries for locals to use; this brought a lot of fellowship to this task.

None of them grew these fruits, so they either picked them or bought them at a road side stand. Mother had a favorite stand in Inman owned by the Settles family, or she would find the fruit she needed at the old Farmer’s Market on Kennedy Street. Critt and I didn’t mind following her around on these shopping sprees, because she we always received free samples.

Farmers brought their produce, fruit, and plants, rented a space, and waited for the Spartanburg matrons to show up. As you can see from the above photo, parking spaces were angled. Patrons parked and walked down one side and then the other.
Conversations between buyers and sellers were usually short, because the goods were clearly marked by price. But meeting friends along the way made the excursion a bit longer. The ladies went home from a relaxing time at the market.
There was not an emphasis on buying local or fresh like there is today, but for many homes this was a good choice.
None of my family’s four homes was air conditioned, so the heat from the stove and the boiling of the fruit made this a hot chore. I can remember all of them with kerchiefs tied around their heads and wiping their faces with aprons, as they melted a bit from the excessive heat. All chose early morning for making preserves.
And here I am in the present, because this morning I made strawberry preserves from three gallons of strawberries from Strawberry Hill. And the only thing different about my morning from their mornings is that I didn’t use paraffin to help seal the jars. On three burners, the jars, lids, and bands boiled for sanitation, and on the front large burner, I stirred and stirred and stirred those strawberries. Yes, some of the sugary fruit popped out on the stove and my hands, but the finale was worth it all.
Now in the pantry are several dozen jars of the most delicious strawberry preserves. Yes, John and I both taste-tested it and decided no improvement was needed.
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Yes, there was a bit of drudgery to this morning, but I still enjoy the tradition of having preserves on hand to serve and give to friends and family. No, I didn’t have to spend the morning like this; Smucker’s makes delicious strawberry preserves. I have to admit there was a lot of satisfaction in choosing to follow in my family’s footsteps in this task.
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