Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A Defence of Jam and Jerusalem...

A jam wall, physically fending off EU legislation...
So the EU (not content with investing time and more money into tackling the economic crisis and making delayed decisions about extraditing terrorists) have decided to pick on the stalwart, nay the backbone of British society -the Women's Institute. Although it's not just the WI who are targeted -anyone who has been making their own preserves and perhaps selling or trading their surplus at the legions of fantastic farmer's  and church markets around the country could also be at risk.

Their argument is not necessarily about the quality of the product within the jam jar, but the nature of the jar itself. Glass is apparently porous (although judging by my wall of preservey-defiance, some of it has been well contained without leaching for at least two years...) and therefore bugs, bacteria and other 'contaminant' nasties could get to the produce inside. Secondly, the lids might not be suitable for reuse, therefore questioning the sterility of the jar. All of this sounds a tad like scientific nit-picking that covers up the real attack -that jam makers are incapable of being scrupulously clean and hygienic when preparing their preserves!

The whole point of preserving fruit and veggies in this manner is to make them last longer. My mum has regularly told me (amongst other things...) that my Nan and Grandfather gathered enough fruit and made enough jam and marmalade to have a jar a week for the whole year. Why? Because to buy jam in that quantity to give your kids some tea after school is expensive! And at this point in time, with the economy in such a buggers muddle (EU take note) we are all a little stretched and many of us are turning to homemade fairs and markets as sources of food.

In fairness this is perhaps an unintended consequence of the economic down-turn -that more people are trying to make their own produce, to trade with friends and preserve what they can forage from hedgerows and neglected fruit trees, so that they don't have to pay inflated supermarket prices for a lesser quality product. I would also argue at this point that the small producer has the time, ability, and down-right pride in their work to ensure that whatever they put into perfectly clean jam jars is of the highest quality. I know that food that I buy at markets made by local, traditional producers has been done so with care and attention, and no, it might not conform to some marketing executive's notion of what ideal 'sausage size' should be, but it tastes brilliant.

So please, make your jam.Trade your jam. Sell your jam with pride. Because if we stop, I can easily see a day when I will have to take out public liability insurance to serve a homemade birthday cake at my son's birthday party, where health inspectors will be knocking on the door on Christmas Day to check the core temperature of my turkey and I won't be able to sing Jerusalem loudly without issuing ear defenders to the neighbours.

Add to the debate with your own jam wall pictures at Instagram #wijam, or share your rants (or renditions of Jerusalem) here or on Facebook!