I made peach jam for the first time ever this week.
Part of the above statement is a lie.
I think I was in good shape with the project until I actually started reading the recipe that came with the box of pectin. My mother assured me this was what she relied upon. Initially, it seemed fine. 4 cups of peaches. Check. 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Check. 1 package of pectin. Check. 1 billion cups of sugar. Hold up.
I had this idea that peach jam would be primarily peaches, not sugar. I’m also foolishly committed to the idea that spooning jam onto toast is essentially the same as slapping a couple slices of fruit on top. In other words, healthy. So I stared at the sugar content and thought maybe I should lower the amount so I could feel better about myself when I cracked open a jar. Then I looked at the instructions: “Do not reduce the sugar content. Use the exact amount of sugar recommended for the recipe. INEXACT SUGAR MEASUREMENT WILL RESULT IN SET FAILURE.”
I’m not even making up the all caps.
Surely, such a bold warning should make any sane person think twice before they fooled with the sugar. But did I heed the loud and clear and capitalized voice of reason from the pectin company? No. But you see, what happened was I measured all the sugar into my pot and I basically couldn’t fit any peaches in there, because it was full of sugar. So you see I just scooped out a couple cups of sugar to make room for the fruit.
It wasn’t a normal week this week. Maybe that’s why I thought I could mess with the sugar. This was the second week of school. I’d been on school property from 6:45am till 5:45pm. Whether or not I was really “at work” during that time is not something I’m going to comment on (I mean, truthfully, that last hour was spent being eaten by mosquitoes while watching the varsity boys soccer game. It was still a long day, okay?). Anyway, I scooped some sugar out of the pot, dumped the peaches in, and didn’t look back.
The jam started boiling and I remembered that the directions said “boil for one minute EXACTLY.” I decided it was time to do as I was told, so I set a timer for one minute. It beeped. Then I decided that one minute wasn’t long enough, so I tossed the directions into the recycling bin and let the peach goop boil for a few more minutes.
I ladled my “jam” into jars and prayed that my stubborn willfulness wouldn’t cause any major consequences.
Next morning. Worst fears realized: SET FAILURE.
Luckily peach soup still tastes pretty darn good.
I’m writing this down, but I don’t think I have a point. Maybe it’s to show I’m less of a conformist than I think. Or maybe there’s something in the fact that I dared the SET FAILURE to happen because it would be a better story if I ended up with soup instead of jam.
I guess I could say something cheesy about God dealing with our set failures when we willingly disregard his directions. Because that jam, if you want to call it jam (actually I’m calling it preserves, which sounds authentically less jelled for some reason), still tastes good (actually it mostly tastes like sugar, so I’m sticking to my guns on the less sugar decision). Regardless, the peach “preserves” weren’t a total disaster. Maybe there’s truth in that, somewhere.
In all honesty though, I wrote this because I laughed when I read SET FAILURE in all caps, and I wanted you to laugh with me. The end.