We were that family at the airport—the frantic mom and dad with a small child and far too much luggage that is running late, very late.
It was a Friday morning of a holiday weekend, and even at 7 am, the airport was thick with people.
Between me, my husband our 4-year-old son, we had two small roller bags, one larger suitcase, and a car seat. My husband precariously balanced the car seat on top of the large suitcase and somehow managed to move one other bag along as well. I pushed our son in a stroller with my right hand and dragged a suitcase behind me with my left. I also had a black, oversized “mom purse” slung over my right shoulder that was stuffed with miscellaneous items we had forgotten to pack.
After walking the entire length of the airport to get our boarding passes and check the car seat, we rushed to security and found ourselves at the end of a very long line. We had less than 30 minutes to make our flight. It did not look promising.
We finally made it through the line, shimmied out of our jackets and shoes, and hefted our suitcases and stroller onto the conveyor belt of the security scanner.
I went through security first, and then I heard the question every traveler dreads.
“Ma’am, is this your bag?” the TSA agent asked.
It was indeed my bag—the bulging mom purse—but I had no idea what I had in there that might be causing concern.
The TSA agent said, “Ma’am, I’m going to have to go in and further inspect your bag.”
“Fine,” I said impatiently, wondering how far it was to our gate.
The TSA agent slowly went through my bag and pulled out my wallet, my smartphone, an iPod, children’s-sized headphones, our plane tickets, a large pack of tissues, and then finally the offending item—a jar of homemade mandarin jam.
At the peak of the citrus season, a colleague at work started bringing in scores of mandarin oranges to share. Her mother had sent them from the family’s orchard in California.
The instant I pierced the peel of one of these mandarins, the fruit let off a wonderful fragrance that was a wonderful prelude to its sweet and tangy flesh.
I wanted to make something delicious using the mandarins, and after consulting several recipes online, I decided to make mandarin jam.
I had never made jam before, and I decided I wanted to try canning the jam too (something else I had never done). So I called my friend Sarah, who is an excellent cook and an experienced canner. I live in Washington, and Sarah lives in Utah so she walked me through the process over the phone.
Making jam and home preserving is fairly easy, providing that you have everything you need in place, and you commit ample time to the process.
I found an analogy by Jeanne for the Canning Across America “Water Bath Canning Cheat Sheet” extremely helpful. She wrote, “Maybe you’ve heard of mise en place, a French culinary term. Roughly translated, it means ‘put in place’ and more broadly refers to getting organized in the kitchen with all necessary ingredients and tools for a particular dish. In canning, it is especially important to pull together your mise en place to ensure delicious and safe results.”
I preserved the mandarin jam in four cut glass jars and put handwritten labels on them. My family quickly went through two jars of the delectable jam, and I gave one to my co-worker who had supplied the mandarins.
I saved the last jar for my friend Sarah, and her husband Damon, who we soon would be visiting. It was pretty to look at and delicious to eat, and I was proud to offer it to my friends.
That jar was the one that the TSA agent pulled out of my purse at the security checkpoint.
My heart sank when I saw the jam.
“What do you want to do with it?” the TSA agent asked crisply.
We had about 10 minutes to get to our gate and make our flight.
I sighed and said, “I’m leaving it here.”
We boarded our plane on time and were soon in Utah to visit Sarah, Damon, and their baby Chloe.
One morning during our stay, I woke up very early and decided to make orange and cranberry scones for them. I had never attempted to bake scones until I had made the mandarin jam. Like the jam, scones were much easier than I thought to produce.
To be perfectly honest, I never was a huge fan of scones. I thought they were dry and tasteless–essentially paperweights masquerading as pastries. Then I tried this recipe from Allrecipes.com, which results in light and fluffy scones that are just heavenly when they are still warm. (I do think hand-grating the butter does make a difference although I’m sure using a food processor would work just as well.)
And they were perfect with the mandarin jam. I thought that if Sarah and Damon couldn’t have the jam, they could at least enjoy the scones.
As the scent of freshly baked scones filled Sarah and Damon’s kitchen, I forgot about the disappointment of the lost jam and savored the process of creating something that I knew would surprise and delight my friends.