If you have a purple thumb, does it mean that you have a talent for jam making?
I launched into a quiet Sunday morning jam session, just as daylight was yawning and stretching away the sleepiness of night and making it's own way to the kitchen (no doubt drawn by the smell of freshly-pressed maple-sweetened Sunday morning coffee----a delightful tradition here). The first jam of the season happened to be black currant, hand-picked by a Vermont farmer, grown on his multigenerational farm, and sold to me as a humble half-pint at farmers market yesterday.
I fell in love with jam making last summer, when, never before having boiled fruit or known about testing setting consistency, I cooked up small and lovely batches of rhubarb and rosewater, spiced peach, blueberry honey, and beautiful apple jelly the color of amber honey, to my satisfaction. Disappointed in my apartment rental's glass top stove and it's apparent inability, by design, to heat a large canner full of jam jars to proper consistent sterilizing temperature (Does anyone know anything about this?), I played with freezer jam like a mad scientist, coming up with my own concoctions of flavors and subtle levels of sweetness, knowing that using less sugar wouldn't cause spoilage on the shelf.
Actually, it was more like art than science; imagining what beauty might taste like and performing the gentle kitchen dance of weaving in flavors from my culinary palette while absorbing their sensual qualities through sight, taste, and texture. The results came in the form of beautiful colors to be painted on toast, and eaten with relish, moved by the rich, subtle, and complex flavors that artists of nature's bounty manage to create for their grateful audience: the observant tongue.
I'd never tasted black currants before, despite having grown up in the Vermont countryside, the daughter of a jam maker and resident of a state where numerous types of berries abound. 'The berry' is perhaps even my favorite fruit; small, aromatic, and decorative morsels, delicate and fleeting, and often potent in medicinal qualities. Black currants themselves are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which may help prevent cancer and reduce the effects of arthritis.
But, if I wasn't aware of their particular taste and unusual scent, which floated on the wave of coffee aromas wafting through my kitchen this morning, I fell in love with their color, both whole in the basket, stained bright purple on my white morning clothes and deep purple into my fingers (thumb included), and in the jam pot, half-mashed and mixed with honey and a touch of lemon juice and cinnamon. The color and flavor combined, made for the most lovely breakfast of summer Sunday toast and pleasant lickings of aromatic sweetness off sticky thumb and fingers.