A Real-Life Pear-able
by Joy Martin, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
Last week a family friend asked if we wanted any pears from his mother-in-law's trees. Thrilled at the prospect of free fruit, I told Zach to let him know we'd take however many he wanted to pass along. To say he was generous would be an understatement. Our best guess is that we ended up with about fifty pounds or so. That's a lot of pears!
I'm not going to lie. When I saw the boxes of pears sitting on my kitchen counter, I was a little overwhelmed. I knew I'd be able to juice a lot of them but certainly not all of them. I also had plans to make pearsauce, which I've successfully made in the past. But what else do you do with pears other than eat them whole? Well, after a bit of discussion, Zach and I decided that our windfall of pears would be the perfect opportunity to try our hand at making jam.
You should know that prior to this week neither Zach nor I had ever made jam, jelly, or preserves. We'd also never canned or even seen anyone else can anything, for that matter. We've actually talked about doing home canning before but had never taken the plunge. So why not pears?
After posting a request on Facebook for pear recipe suggestions, a friend passed along a recipe for pear preserves that he'd gotten from his aunt who had gotten it from her mother (his grandmother). It sounded like it was a family favorite, so I figured I might as well use a tried-and-true recipe for my first attempt. I gathered everything I'd need and spent what seemed like hours peeling, coring, and slicing pears. The pears were small and not very ripe, which made them harder to peel and slice. But even with that said, I managed to get my six cups ready without cutting myself a single time.
When it was time to actually make the jam, I followed the recipe to the letter–even when I questioned the amounts listed for the spices. It called for 2 teaspoons each of nutmeg and allspice, which seemed like a lot to me. But, that's what the recipe called for, so that's what I used. You see, I'm the kind of girl who follows directions, especially in the kitchen. I rarely stray from a written recipe.
As I ladled the hot jam into my sterilized jars, I knew that it wasn't quite right, but at that point there was no turning back. There was nothing I could do but wait until morning when I could test my cooled creation. When morning arrived, I popped on a jar to discover that my jam was the consistency of raw honey (very thick and very sticky), and the spices were intense, to say the least. It was edible, but it wasn't anything like I had hoped. A little went a long way!
Luckily, I was able to reach a friend who's a jam-making expert to get her opinion on what went wrong. Apparently too much pectin (a natural thickening agent) in jam will make it too thick. My pears weren't very ripe yet, which means they naturally contained more pectin than very ripe fruit; hence, my very thick jam. The spices were another matter. We concluded that the recipe probably should have called for 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice. My guess is that somewhere along the line it was simply written down wrong, which would be an easy mistake to make.
As I was reflecting back on my first (but certainly not last) experience making jam, something rather profound occurred to me. As I was cooking, I had a recipe in front of me that detailed each step of the jam-making process. It was a recipe that had apparently been used for decades by the family of someone I trusted. This friend took the time to type out the recipe himself so that I could use it. And yet, there was something wrong with the recipe. I suspect that if I were to go back to the original recipe–the one that this man's grandma had used all those years ago–it would contain different information than the version I ended up with last week. It's important to note that I don't think anyone intended to give me faulty information. My friend wasn't intentionally trying to lead me astray in any way, shape, or form. And yet, that's precisely what happened. I followed faulty instructions that led me to make bad decisions, which resulted in less-than-appetizing jam.
And although I learned some valuable lessons about making jam through my experience, the more important lesson is one that reflects on life. Have you ever had someone tell you something about God that didn't seem quite right? Maybe it was a scripture that a friend quoted, something you heard in a sermon, or a commentary you read in a magazine. And even though the source was trustworthy, the information seemed just a little off. To take that a step further, have you ever taken that information as truth despite your initial hesitation? And then, low and behold, you find out later that the information was, indeed, faulty. I think it's safe to say that this happens on a regular basis in the Christian community. Something that starts as Truth can easily become twisted into misinformation by well-intended Christians.
Remember the telephone game from grade school? Ten kids sit in a circle, and the first one whispers into his neighbor's ear, "This morning I wore green mittens." Then kid two whispers the same sentence to kid three, kid three whispers to kid four, and so on down the line. By the time the sentence has reached kid ten, it's become, "My sister smells like pickle juice." Perhaps the example is extreme, but the illustration remains the same.
Although sometimes in life we'll be stuck with a thick, sticky, intensely flavored batch of jam, when it comes to the Word of God, we never have to be stuck using a faulty recipe. In all of His wisdom, God had provided us with an instruction book of sorts in the form of the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
In this country, we are blessed to have easy access to the Bible, which means at any time we are left questioning the truth of something we heard, we can go back and fact-check our source. Here's the catch: you have to be willing to do the fact-checking. If you simply live your life listening to others' interpretations of scripture and believing what your family and friends tell you about God, faith, and the Bible, you will never really know if you are following a faulty recipe. And believe me when I say that when it comes to your walk with Christ, you want to have confidence in the recipe you're following.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pull a pear upside-down cake out of the oven …