Writing for Jam

I must admit I’m in a writing quandary. Having put all my spare energies and emotions into birthing a rather largish piece, now that it’s over (for the moment) my brain tells me to take a well-deserved break. But my heart is still racing from the adrenaline rush of that final push.

Perhaps I should tackle the other job on my to-do list: editing the novella I wrote earlier this year. It’s going to be a trilogy. Each story will stand alone, but some of the minor characters will get leading roles in the other pieces. I’ve written one page of the second story but I’m not yet ready to commit.

So tonight I made jam. Marmalade, to be precise. Brandied lime. No, I didn’t drink the remainder of the brandy, though it was tempting. Chastely I poured half a cupful into the bubbling vat and closed my eyes. The aroma of tree-ripened limes, sugar, and alcohol is simply intoxicating.

Now I have 15 jars of golden jelly cooling by the window: 8 large and 7 small. I might have squeezed out another small jar had I not spilled some (boiling marmalade is quite hot), and I left a bit on the side of the saucepan just so I could lick it off. Cook’s reward.

I’m not actually a marmalade junkie. Most of those jars will be given away to friends, including the generous woman who gave me the limes fresh-picked from her backyard tree.

So what’s the point of this tirade about writing and marmalade?

It’s about letting go. Relaxation. Clearing the mind so you can move on.

Jam-making is a recently acquired skill. Like writing, the more you do it the better you get. I’m now at the stage where I can recognise when the mixture will jell. Before, I’d leave it too long and it would stick to the bottom, a crust of stinking bitumen that would have to be chiselled off.

Making jam is calming and fun. Why don’t you give it a try?

You need about a dozen limes (lemons will do), 2 kilos of sugar, 5 cups of water, and half a cup of brandy.

Cut up the limes, skin and all, into thin slices and cover with water overnight.

Next day, bring the lime mixture to a boil and simmer for one hour.

Measure out the cooked lime mixture and add the same amount of sugar.

Stir while you bring it to the boil. Then boil as rapidly as possible for about 20 minutes – do not stir.

You must keep an eye on it because it will bubble right up the sides of the pan. When it’s nearly ready, the bubbles will become thick and syrupy and it will start to smell a bit like toffee. When you put a few drops on a cold plate, it will form a jell.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the brandy. Leave it about 5 minutes then ladle it hot into sterilized jars. (You can sterilize glass jars by boiling them in a saucepan of water for 5 minutes.)

Serve on warm buttered toast, and enjoy while writing your next novel.

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About Debbie Terranova

Debbie Terranova is an Australian author of contemporary and historical fiction. 'The Scarlet Key' published in 2016 is the second Seth VerBeek mystery. The crime-busting reporter is back with a new cast of unforgettable characters and a new puzzle to solve. It's about live, love, death, and tattoos, with a touch of the mystical. 'Baby Farm', her debut novel, is a cozy crime mystery about forced adoptions of the 1970s, and a surrogacy and baby trafficking racket. It is the first of the Seth VerBeek series. Debbie Terranova is a prizewinning author of short stories: 'Mowbray Brothers' about growing up in East Brisbane in the 1920s; and 'Mischief' about reinventing yourself and in the process falling in love ... with an adorable but mischievous cat.
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