Oh Sugar, My Perpetual Temptress, My Sometimes Lover

Yesterday, I blogged about my experience making strawberry jam, though at that point in time, I had not actually tried the jam. But this morning, I got up, sliced some bread, toasted it up, spread it with butter, and then topped it with the homemade jam Amanda and I made.

Y’all, I’m converted. I’ve seen the light. But that light is slightly hazy as there is a sugary cloud obscuring it. (In case you’ve never had the distinct pleasure of dumping a 50-pound bag of sugar into a large industrial bucket, as I have in restaurant kitchens, sugar (just like flour) releases a fine cloud of sugar dust. I used to stand over the bucket and sniff at that sugar cloud, inhaling it so that I could smell and taste at once. I imagine a bright, beautiful, jam-making light, and that cloud, that tasty cloud of sugar passing through the light.)

Homemade bread with butter and strawberry jam

I can happily tell you that the jam is delicious. I wish there were more strawberry taste, and a little less sugar taste, but it’s still tasty – like strawberry Jell-O, but not quite that sweet. Next time, I’ll use about half the sugar and go from there.

As I was gearing up to write this post today, to update the world that I believe was eagerly awaiting my verdict on the strawberry jam, I started thinking about my sugar intake. Now, I am by no means the champ. That title goes to my friend Heather, who puts about three times as much sugar in her coffee as I do and who actually taught me how to make sweet tea with a certain fearlessness when it comes to sugar. But I’ll claim my place in the sugar world:  I have, historically, been able to put down some pretty impressive amounts of sugar. When I bake a sweet potato, it is not ready to be eaten until I have slathered it with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon, and melted a fine layer of light brown sugar over the top. The same process goes for oatmeal, actually. There are coffee and tea, which I prefer to taste like dessert.

Jam! Sugar! Wait. Too much. All sugared out.

Once, I went to the dentist, and they found that I had cavities. My usual dentist wasn’t there, so a petite Asian woman came in, poked at my teeth for a few minutes, and then sat back and looked at me. “You like sugar?” she asked. “Oh yes!” I said. “Yes. I can tell. You eat too much of it. Scale back.”

Scale back? I’m sorry. Do you know who you’re talking to? I once ate an entire dessert course first at a church potluck, only to go back for my main course, and then go back a third time for dessert course number two. I take a particular joy in making meringue because it involves me ever-so-carefully adding sugar spoonful by spoonful, building up a meringue that is sweet and airy.

Y’all, I can put back some sugar. But I’ve noticed something in the past year or so, and it is a little freaky:  I am actually beginning to think things are too sweet. My mom used to make me this ridiculous chocolate fudge cake for my birthday:  chocolate cake, fudge frosting, and crumbled up chocolate bars sprinkled over the top, served with Moose Tracks ice cream on the side. I gorged myself on it, relishing the rich sweetness, masochistically enjoying that sick feeling that follows where my insides almost seem to shake with sugar overload. Like being chilled from the inside. An icy, sugar-coated tundra. But now? I can’t do it. That sick shaky feeling isn’t fun. I don’t experience it and think, yeah, that was some good cake. I experience it and hug my stomach and know that Alka-Seltzer is in my future – Alka-Seltzer and regret.

You know, last year, I actually threw out a cup of sweet tea because it was too sweet. Do you know what that means?

No seriously, I’m asking.


8 thoughts on “Oh Sugar, My Perpetual Temptress, My Sometimes Lover

  1. Sorry to tell you this, but it means you’re getting older! 😉 It just happens. And just as an FYI, on the sugar content of your jam: You want to use anywhere between 65%-75% sugar to fruit ratio as that is what keeps it preserved. If you use less, there’s a chance of the jam going moldy. (I make and sell preserves and jams).

    1. Sigh… I thought that might be the case. 🙂

      That’s helpful information! Is there a good ratio to use? The instructions were 2 cups crushed/chopped berries to 4 cups sugar, plus the pectin mixture.

      1. Wow, no wonder why it was so sweet!
        I would try to work with the 75% ratio to be sure, (plus it’s easier) so for two cups of berries you would want 1 1/2 cups of sugar. I don’t use commercial pectin very much as I make my own. Different fruits have varying amounts of pectin. Some fruits should have some kind of an acid added to them, such as lemon juice.
        When I make strawberry jam (which I just made last week) I usually soak the fruit (you can leave the smaller berries whole and cut the larger ones in half) over night in the sugar (in a non-metallic bowl) then put it into the pot with the juice of a lemon…no pectin needed. Heat it gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat to bring it to a rolling boil for about 10-15 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, take it to 221F degrees. Then test for setting point by putting a spoonful onto a cold plate, letting it cool and push it with your finger. It should wrinkle then you know it’s set. Pot up into hot, sterilized jars, seal and let cool before labeling. It should keep for about a year but refrigerate it after opening.
        That’s a quick little lesson on making jam, but if you plan on making your own preserves more often, you might want to get yourself a preserving book.
        Good Luck!

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