My poems are in jars

My poems are in jars

I keep saying

I’m going to do another kind of writing

The kind that involves stanzas and tropes

But then the strawberries come in at Howards’.

In the silken sunrise

One picker’s pink sweats, another’s shirt

And the ripening berries

Stand out like traffic lights.

The sweet smell in the truck cab

Mimics a junior high afternoon

Picking berries at the Hontzes’

Hoping one of their sons would

Pick up on my princess-ness

From inside their house.

Half a century later

Smashing berries

Stirring sugar

The fruit at a roiling boil

Concentrates a lifetime

Turning my face to the sun

Seeking approval

From men and boys.

OK, Proust’s madeleine swallowed and the crumbs dusted from the counter. The actual recipe goes like this: 4 cups smashed (perfect) strawberries, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice and 3 cups sugar. While you sterilize jars, lids, rings and other utensils, stir ingredients together over low heat. Raise the heat, stirring often, and using a candy thermometer, keep mixture at a strong boil until temperature reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ladle jam into hot half-pint jars, leaving ¼- to ½-inch headroom. Stir with sterilized knife to remove any air bubbles, and put on lids and rings, turning rings until they’re about ½- to ¾-tightened. Process in hot-water bath for 20 minutes. Using tongs, remove jars to several layers of towels on counter and leave undisturbed for 24 hours. After that, check seals and re-tighten rings. Makes about 5 half-pints, plus a little leftover to enjoy immediately. Allow canned preserves to mellow for a couple of months.


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