“You girls having a jam party?” asked the guy ringing up Michelle’s boxes of Kerr jars at the Tru-Value on Court Street. Bingo.
On a Tuesday night, a dozen friends rendezvous’d in the basement of the Unitarian Church on Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights to learn to preserve food by sealing it in jars. The space was perfect: ample burners for multiple pots and extra counter space for assembly-line style chopping. Though the kitchen hasn’t hosted such a party in recent memory, a church employee said that decades ago, it was a common setting for Brooklyn women to gather and “put by” summer’s harvest.
They brought in produce from the Brooklyn Heights Greenmarket, jars with two-part lids, a stock pot for sealing the jars, and takeout Middle Eastern from Fatoosh—and boiled the night away, from 6 to 10 p.m. Two of the women were experienced canners but everyone got their hands in the mix. Said Kate, who organized the event, “The strawberries just seemed endless but the hulling went quickly as we chatted. Each of us had wanted to can, but were afraid to learn from a book and get it wrong and kill our whole family with botulism. This way we knew it was safe. Plus it was fun!”
By 10 p.m., the popping sound of sealing lids subsided, and each participant had five pints of strawberry jam, a quart of pickled beets, two pints of mostardo (strawberries cooked with balsamic vinegar and mustard, to be served with meat), and two pints of “strawberry-rhubarb business” to top ice cream, pound cake, or yogurt.
Said Kate, “It had a great feeling of self-sufficiency. The strawberries were so sweet we decided to use less sugar. It was a powerful thing to have that control.”
All agreed this was a warm-up in anticipation of the main event: a tomato-canning extravaganza in August.