It’s that time of year again – the fruits are coming in, redcurrants are done and what the blackbirds didn’t grab are in the freezer (didn’t make jelly this year, but Jane’s Redcurrant ice-cream is delicious and there are several pounds of berries in the freezer for future use), blackcurrants are looking good and starting to pick although the blackbirds are having a go at them too, looks like there might be good crops of plums, pears, apples and some medlars as well.
In addition to the tremendous satisfaction from growing, tending, harvesting and consuming your own produce there is also a nagging suspicion that perhaps all of this bottling and jam-making is one of the few subversive activities available to us.
I think I first made jam in about 1977 at the same time as we started making our own bread and settling down and have done so ever since – rarely (perhaps once or twice a year) buying commercial jam or marmalade or bakery produced bread.
There are two things going on here. One is that you are directly consuming your own labour, no medium of exchange or profit involved. This is directly counter to the essential principles of capitalism. We are refusing to engage with one tiny part of the machine; it may only be a drop of water on a stone but in the end the stone erodes and the more drops the faster the erosion. Any surplus I produce is cycled into the gift economy – I don’t think anyone has ever paid me for jars of jam or loaves of bread and that is good.
The second thing is that you are storing up the surplus of today for the lean times to come – and they always will come. This is the basis of the peasant economy and again counter to the consume-today pay-tomorrow line of current social norms. It also seems like a wise thing to do, cycling a small store of food enough to get through a few tough weeks seems like a sensible precaution against the day when the supermarket deliveries don’t get through.
Of course about half of what is in each jar is refined sugar, ofttimes imported from a few thousand miles away, and at best the product of an industrial process in the desertified fields of East Anglia. But that’s the way it goes for now. Maybe one day I’ll try refining my own beet or jam-making with honey if there are still bees with stocks to spare…
So here is the first of this year’s jams:
Its called Anarcho-Syndicalist Currant Jam
I’ll leave you to work out why