J is for Jelly.
Jelly is a lot like ice cream to me in this respect: I don't think I've ever met one I didn't like. When I was a kid, my mom was big on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. With eight kids, I bet it was an awfully easy lunch.
The peanut butter came in a can. And the jelly--9 times out of ten, was mom's homemade chokecherry jelly. Chokecherry trees are related to the wild black cherry tree. But the black cherry trees reach 90 feet tall, and the chokecherries only about 45 feet. And let me tell you, that's probably a good thing that they're shorter, becaue we used to climb them to get the cherries.
The cherries are little things, at least half of which is the stone (pit/seed) inside.The fruit is bitter, but, we ate a lot of them when we were kids anyhow. We'd fill up gallon sized coffee cans with nail holes poked in the sides and bale-twine threaded through for handles. the perfect berry pail. And then mom worked her magic. Sunshine in a jar.
As I matured, so did my taste for more exotic jellies. You know, made from something that didn't grow in the cow pasture.
About 15 years ago, I found my new favorite jelly. I went to FL with a SCUBA group. We rode in a 16 passenger van, and it was a drive-straight-through trip, each direction.
On the way home, before we left Florida, we found--after searching for a bit, a local produce stand where we could buy fresh strawberries by the case, and oranges by the bag to haul home with us. The woman working the roadside stand was nice, friendly. Maybe she was even a tad over-friendly. She asked me if I'd like to try their hot pepper jelly. Never one to back down from something interesting--and having never before tasted it, I gave it a try. I watched her very carefully pull a Ritz cracker from the box, then use a clean spoon resting on a paper towel beside the jelly jar, and drop some jelly on the cracker before handing it to me.
I was in love--I know. That's kind of sick, falling in love with a food, but I did. It was love at first sight, or bite... or... well, I bought a jar.
I told everyone from the van, as they shopped around, to be sure to try the hot pepper jelly when they were ready to check out.
The woman sold several more jars to my vanmates.
I was the last one out of the stand, and had to run to the van. Everyone else was loaded.
I got in and sat quickly, buckling in as I looked back at the piles of the oranges inside the stand. My eyes caught movement, and there she was, the clerk behind the counter. I watched, disbelief grabbing me as she raised the spoon, looked it over, smiled really wide and stuck it in her mouth. When she pulled it out, I bet it looked really clean, right before she set it down on the paper towel on the counter.
I make my own hot pepper jelly now, thank you very much. ;-)