Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grandpa's Blackberry Jam

When I think of my Grandpa I think of bear hugs and whisker rubs.  I think of long afternoons sitting in the carport watching him guide wood across the surface of his table saw, showing me how to do it safely, how to measure carefully so no wood went to waste.  He built furniture with sturdy frames, generally covered in laminate with a wood pattern - he thought laminate with a wood pattern was a marvel.  When I smell sawdust, or wood glue, or contact cement those memories rush back.

My Grandpa was a teacher, not so much with his words as with his actions.  Despite growing up in an era where a woman's place was securely in the home, he sent my Grandma off to go shopping and socializing with her girlfriend's every weekend.  He stayed home and invited all of the neighborhood children over for a big pancake breakfast.  I am sure that there was no mess for her to clean up afterwards, that would have been an unacceptable way to treat a wife he loved deeply.

I have so many memories of growing up with him.  When I turned five, he dressed up as a candyman for my birthday party.  He pinned bags of candy all over his shirt and pants and then ran as a horde of young girls chased him down ripping off the candy.  The before, during and after pictures are hilarious and he is smiling in all of them.  During Christmas he let the grandkids decorate his bald head with the bows from our presents because it made us laugh.  He loved making people laugh.

What I remember the most though is how openly he loved us.  His cards were always the corny floral ones with one on my mantle reading in his carpenter's print, I want to thank you for the treasure you have become to me.  It's from several years ago but I pick it up and read it often.  He was such a treasure to me.

He loved me despite the distance between our world views, despite my back covered in tattoos and my hair dyed a platinum blonde.  It is through him that I first began to understand what unconditional love looked like in real life.

He passed away a few months ago, after several years of decline, first his body, then his mind.  I mourn that the newest generation, my baby nieces and nephews, will never remember his bear hugs.  In my mourning though I realize the honour of sharing his love falls to those who knew him.  That I can make epic pancake breakfasts, hug my niece tightly and love her unconditionally. 

At this time of year, late-August moving into fall, blackberries are at their peak and blackberry jam was my Grandpa's favorite.  I decided to ask him for the recipe a few years ago, I wanted to know his secrets, the story behind the recipe that I was sure had been passed down through the generations.  In his common sense way, he looked at me and said, "Just follow the directions on the pectin box dear."  So as I attempt to capture late summer in a jar by carefully following the directions on the pectin box please know that his love is my inspiration.


Follow the directions on the pectin box.  With blackberries you may want to strain half the berries to remove some of the seeds as it is quite a seedy fruit.  That's the one tip Grandpa gave me.

Thanks Grandpa.

Eat on toast with cream cheese or butter.


Shonagh explores the guts of food in An Offal Experiment.


  1. What a great food story ... You've been nominated for my Food Stories Award. I know some bloggers don't participate in blog awards but I hope you'll at least check it out because mine is unique in the fact that it is only given to food sites and all the nominees are in the running for the monthly award and prize. If you're interested, you can check out the details at my site, FoodStoriesBlog dot com and then click on "Food Stories Award" up in the top navigation bar ... Either way, love your site and I hope you're having a great foodie day!

    1. Thank you so much! I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for reading.

  2. Made me cry, for what he gave us and what we've lost.