Wanted: Jars for canning. That was my post on Freecycle. A lady emailed me stating that she had a few dozen jars of some sort of jelly. The jelly would have to be thrown out, but I was welcome to them.
I collected what turned out to be eight dozen half pint and pint jars of jelly, complete with rings and eight quart jars. Even though it meant driving to a not-so-nice part of town, I was thrilled to have this great start to my new garden canning. My Ebay pressure canner had arrived a couple of weeks prior. The lady told me that a house had burned and she was hired to clean out the shed behind the burned house and found these. She remembered that they were in her garage when she saw my Freecycle post.
I decided I'd clean out the jars a bit at a time, as I had room in the dishwasher and debated about whether or not to compost the contents, finally deciding the black gooey stuff was better off down the disposal. I didn't want all that sugar in the compost attracting Grimm knows what.
Today I was dumping sticky, nasty, ancient jelly down the disposal; smugly thinking about what a great find I'd made. A crumbling, yellowed, hand-written label on the front of one of the jars flashed a scene into my head.
Muscadine Jelly. On the top of the jar was a smaller label: $1.75.
A widowed woman, looking much older than her 70 years, in a print cotton dress, bent sweating over a huge pot of muscadines she'd picked from the overgrown jungle behind the house. Once it had been a neat garden, but that was before her joints woke her every morning with their constant complaining. Before she was on her own.
"No need crying about it," she said, smiling to herself as she stirred the dark mess of fruit and sugar. She'd just pick what she could and put them up and go sell them at the Jockey Lot on the weekend. It wouldn't bring much, but it was better than nothing, which was about what she had now. Not that she needed much more.
But things happen. Maybe she sold most of them. Maybe she never got to the Jockey Lot at all. The jelly was well past using. Some of the rings were rusted, though they'd been stored neatly in their boxes.
I decided that jars with this much history deserved a good hand washing. A bit more care. I was smiling but there was a tear in my eye when the jelly went down the drain.