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  • Mary Kay

Jammin' with Gram over Sweet Tea

Gram stirred her tea with homemade jams – what a sweet memory!

I think I began drinking tea when I was about 3 or 4 years old, and I still drink it to this day. It’s actually my Gram’s “fault.” When I would spend the day with her at her farmhouse, we would “set down for spell” in the afternoon to enjoy a nice cup of hot tea with cute little sandwiches we had made, and a special sweet treat for the tea. She didn’t always have sugar in the house, but she always had a variety of sweet jams and jellies on the shelf in the “cold room” under the house.

She called hers a cold room while my other Gram called her storage area under the farmhouse a root cellar. The root cellar was a much larger room under the house with a dirt floor and low ceiling, and the entrance was a slanted set of double doors attached to the base of the house to keep the rodents and rain out, with cement steps that directed you down into the space. Those grandparents stored raw carrots, turnips, cabbages, large stoneware crocks of fried meats layered in lard and rows and rows of glass jarred canned vegetables and meats. Neither set of grandparents purchased much in town in those days, maybe kerosene for their lanterns, sugar, fabric for making clothes and other sundries.

When Gram’s little farmhouse was built back in the early 1900’s there was no basement, but somehow, they did have a 5’x5’ room under the living room, jam-packed on all four sides with shelving that Gramps had built in order to house all the jams, jellies, pickles, and other vegetables Gram would “put up” for the winter. To get a jar of jelly she would take hold of a big 4” ring attached to a square of the floor off to the side in the living room. She would prop it up and climb down the straight up and down ladder. As a little kid, I would lay on the floor and peer down her as she nimbly lowered herself. There was barely enough room for her to turn around down there, it was such a tiny space. But as she did, she would name off the variety of jams neatly stored on the shelves and I would holler down my choice before she tucked it into her apron pocket and climbed back up.

Then we would set down to our tea and sandwiches…and molasses cookies we had baked that morning in her woodstove. She would let me wind up the old Victrola record player and we’d listen to old Gene Autrey songs – her favorite. We would sit together on the wicker settee on the porch while she tapped her foot, and we'd share giggles as we turned the pages of some big old magazines with oversized pictures of people from far away, strange exotic animals and recipes. I remember the ads in the magazines were always intriguing – beautiful ladies telling us how wonderful the cold creams were on their faces, corset ads for hour glass figures and ladies in large beautiful hats holding cuddly little kitties. It’s amazing what a person remembers from childhood. It was always a delightful way to spend the afternoon with Gram. I always had her undivided and, of course, she had mine.

Oh, yeah, back to the tea. In the morning we would have gone down to the pump near the creek and pump cool fresh water into the metal kitchen bucket (it was only used for fresh water). You see, there was no running water in the farmhouse. She would add some kindling to the ancient woodstove and we would heat up the water in her old black kettle. After spooning some loose black tea leaves into our pretty little tea cups with matching saucers, she would carefully pour the hot water. Then we’d decide which type of homemade jam we wanted for sweetening our teas. We would spoon generous teaspoons of wild grape jam or wild blueberry or even strawberry jam into the hot liquid. It was a way of bringing the sweet days of summer back during cold blustery days. We did this often, and those days are well worth remembering, savoring every memory along with the sweet tea.

Gather the Ingredients:

1 Teacup or Mug of hot water

1 – 2 T Loose leaf tea or a teabag

1-2 T of your favorite homemade jam or jelly

Heat your water:

- Heat the water until just boiling. Microwaves were not around yet, so Gram heated hers in the old kettle on her woodstove.

- Spoon the loose-leaf tea in your cup. The amount depends on how strong you like your tea.

- Let it steep or set for a couple of minutes or more, depending on how strong you want it.

- Enjoy with a favorite person, little sandwiches and special homemade cookies.

Enjoy your tea and friendships, and “Bake your own Memories.”

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