by Ekaterina Leonova

The fruits must become transparent and the consistency of your jam should be spreadable, not runny, this was my mantra while I set myself to work on the intrinsic summer task of jam making.

Our plum tree is quite old but it still gives us its juicy gifts every year without fail.  As far as I remember it was always there in the garden. One first sees it covered with beautiful blushing flowers in spring, then later with barely visible tiny green bulbs – a promise of the future deliciousness and finally with heavy-on-the-brunches spillage of bluish fruits covered in fruit wax looking like they are covered in icing sugar.

So I’ve got a bowl of August plums, fresh from our ‘dacha’ garden waiting to be turned into the jam we can enjoy in winter. I cut them in halves, then added sugar and watched them releasing their juices and simmering in a cooking pan. It’s best to make your jam when the weather is not scorching hot when you have a breeze coming through the open window.  Jam making is a bit like meditation: you must concentrate on the bubbling mass and stir it at equal intervals.

Meditation it was as my mind drifted to the country house and its surroundings, which is called ‘dacha’ as mentioned above, a word so familiar to a Russian ear.

The first thing you do when you arrive at ‘dacha’ is changing your clothes. I choose something roomy and breathable like my knee-length skirt and light cotton shirt. This ritual switches your mind, fine tuning it to embrace nature that is around. 

It’s not just plums that await me. There are apple and pear trees which will soon start to fill the air with the sweet aroma of ripe fruits.

There is also a swing in the garden, where you can sit, tilt your head back and look up at the clouds passing by.

In the wooden house which has seen three generations of my family, there is an old round table with carved legs. Sometimes we use it for family gatherings and sometimes for drying herbs.

One of the best experiences is at night when the lights are out and the sky is suddenly full of stars. You sit outside in your nightgown sipping herbal tea cuddled with the cool air and darkness.

All this went through my head while I was stirring the fragrant mass of plums almost ready now to turn into the desired consistency. The pieces of fruits had almost become transparent. I filled the jars with the glossy mass and screwed the lids tightly. They now became vessels with dacha spirit trapped in a glass always there for me to remind of summer.