Kitchen Scrapes: How Not to Make Jelly

photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

It was one of those lovely spring days. The counter and table were covered in strawberries. For years I’d helped make jam and this time convinced my mom that I could finish this batch alone. I was thirteen.

All was going well. The jars were sterilized, jam made and the water bath canner was boiling away when the timer rang.

It was time to get the jars of jam out, but I couldn’t find the canning-jar-lifter. Anywhere.

I panicked.

Rather than running to find my mom, I found two forks and tried to lift a can out. It didn’t work. Desperate, I grabbed an oven mitt. Surely that would protect me from the boiling hot water, right?

Slipping my hand into the mitt, I stuck it into the boiling water and grabbed the first jar.

The burning reality hit just as I pulled it out of the pot right over my bare feet. Reason, who had abandoned me to this point, returned for a moment and kept me from dropping glass and boiling jam on my toes. Then, just as quickly, Reason fled.

Worried that 37 seconds too long in the water would ruin the jam, I stuck my poorly defended hand back into the pot for the second jar, then the third…

Just as I pulled out the last jar, my mom came back into the kitchen. Impressed isn’t quite the right word.

In less than a minute my hand was soaking in ice water and Mom had taken over the kitchen.

After about twelve hours of ice water (and as many slices of strawberry-jam-lathered-bread) my fingers finally stopped stinging.

Moral of the story: never make jam without the canning-jar-lifter standing close by.

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