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Throwback Thursday: Soft As A Grape Revisited

One of my ideas that I shared with the other participants in NaBloPoMo was that we could occasionally republish an old post from our blog. Something that we felt particularly good about or that didn’t get much attention at the time. I know it’s kind of a cop out but this work week is condensed and intense since I took Monday off and Tuesday was a holiday and my time for blogging right now is exactly . . . zilch. 

And so, I thought, do a Throwback Thursday of an old blog post. Something from waaaaaaay back in the day. I wasn’t sure what to choose but then a friend on Facebook mentioned making grape jelly and inspiration struck. Allow me to present, from back in October of 2005, when my writing was good but my pictures were small and not-so-good, the post I wrote about making grape jelly with Dale’s mom.

Dale grew up with a grape arbor in his backyard. He has loads of stories about the grape harvest every year – including the accomplishment of stuffing 100 grapes in his mouth. Dale_Grapes.jpg
He fondly remembers grape fights and tossing grapes into the air to catch them in his mouth. He chuckles when he tells the story of tossing a handful of rocks, rather than grapes, into the air for his brother, Randy, to catch and swallow. He also remembers the year the grapes fermented on the vine and the birds all got drunk. But mostly what he remembers is drinking the grape juice and eating the grape jelly his mother made every year.

My mother-in-law, Ruthie, was what we often refer to as a “character.” She was loving and funny and silly and believed fiercely in protecting the earth. She walked to the river behind our houses every day that she could and nothing made her happier than just being outdoors. She was ahead of her time by recylcing way before anybody else did. She conserved water and resources and could squeeze the life out of a dollar like nobody I’ve ever known. Making juice and jelly from the grape arbor in her yard was something that she enjoyed. But she also saw it as a responsibility, a way of reaping the benefits of the land and feeding her family with the results.

Six years ago I asked Ruthie to teach me to make grape jelly. Now, with apologies to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the day you make grape jelly must be hotter than the hinges of hell. So, on this particular day in September, I headed next door to make grape jelly, in the heat, with Ruthie. We laughed and we talked and we sweated and by the end of the day we had about 4 dozen jars of jelly and 4 big bottles of juice. I had learned to make the jelly and I have made it every year since. And it has always been hot and humid on the day I’ve made it.

Ruthie passed away this past winter and, while we hadn’t made jelly together in recent years due to her illness, this is still the first year I’ve done it without her being right next door. As I said to Dale while we were picking over the grapes that he and Hannah had picked the other day, I do this to honor his mother’s spirit. She taught me to do this and continuing the tradition is a way to keep her and the things that mattered to her alive – not just for the sake of her memory but for our whole family. Because, of course, the jelly will be shared with the family. And co-workers and the mailman and the neighbors, too, depending on the harvest.

Most people probably wouldn’t bother with this anymore. They’d leave the grapes for the birds or just let them rot on the vine. They are probably the same people who buy their socks at Walmart and their sweaters at L.L. Bean. Nothing wrong with that but no real sense of accomplishment. No pride in the finished product. No piece of yourself in every mouthful of juice and schmear of jelly. All of that and also the fact that nothing, but nothing (except maybe the magic of knitting) compares to starting with this:

and winding up with this:

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. what a sweet (pun intended!) post. 2005 was a few years before I started reading your blog, so this was brand new-to-me content anyway!

  2. This post was new to me and I loved reading it! I always thought the day I canned tomatoes was the hottest of the summer, but now I know it’s really grape jelly day.

  3. A beautiful story and a wonderful legacy. I’m so glad you shared this story again! (So many things in life are worth repeating.)

  4. Beautiful story! I canned tomatoes and peaches with my MIL. And just this fall I helped 3rd DDIL freeze green peppers. I love that I’ve worked in the same kitchen with both generations. Maybe Hannah will be interested in learning how to do grapes too…

  5. Great post from the past! Love reading the story of Ruthie’s jelly. My grandmother and mother made jelly, too. You brought back memories of my own with your story.

  6. You just reminded me – my husband bought me Concord grapes over the weekend and I totally forgot about them! I better go eat them before they go bad. See – your post was very helpful!

  7. Those look like Concord grapes. Lucky you! they’re the best. And there’s something particularly wonderful about handing down a craft.

    My mother planted fruit trees all over our quarter acre property (now sold and gone). She used to make strawberry jam, raspberry jam, quince jelly, grape jelly and mincemeat. How I wish I had her mincemeat recipe! (Although in my family, mincemeat is an acquired taste).

  8. I love this post! If you hadn’t said it was re-post I would never have known. We have been at this blogging thing for a long time and memories are short.

  9. I think it is awesome that you continue to honor Ruthie’s heritage and memory by making jam and jelly and juice! I never learned, but that’s ok because I don’t care for grape jam or jelly or juice. But, ahem, Shawn does 😉

  10. This post brought tears to my eyes, remembering my grandmother and mother and all the wonderful things they made from their gardens. Your mother-in-law sounds inspirational. Finally, I was realy taken by your statement about accomplishment.

    P.S. Repost any time the spirit hits you!

  11. Ruthie sounds like my grandmother! I think older generations were sometimes WAY better at conserving/recycling/using what they had, and in every possible way.

    It’s a lovely story, and one that I don’t remember previously reading, either. We have been at this a long, long time… so many words!

    I posted a throwback today, too, and for many of the same reasons!

  12. Not a jelly maker amongst us in my family. What a wonderful tradition and the laughs you must have had together. The best.

  13. Great post! I’d continue to do the same as you if I had a grape arbor. Traditions passed down are a good thing. Kudos.

  14. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    This was an excellent post the first time around, and I am all for re-visiting ones archives. 🙂

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I also add participating blogs to my feed reader.

    So I’m just dropping by to let you know I’ve added your blog to my feedreader, I’m reading you loud and clear, I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts, and you’ll likely see me drop by again during November.

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!

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