When I walked into Patti Dahlgren’s home to hear about her jam journey, it felt as though I were walking into my grandmother’s home. The environment offered that same familiar, comfortable feeling, even though Patti and I hardly knew each other.
We sat at her kitchen table where several fresh jars of jam sat, and she shared that her journey began with her grandmother, who made jams when Patti was a young girl. Patti was a World War II baby and when her dad left to fight the war, she and her mother moved in with her grandparents where she learned the magic of jam-making. To this day Patti still uses an old fashioned cone strainer similar to the one her grandmother used.
Later in life Patti continued to learn about jams on a ranch in Nebraska from her mother-in-law. When she had children and began a 27 year career as a teacher, the hobby fell to the wayside. However, when the school started playing “Secret Pals” – a game where students and staff give each other homemade gifts – her hobby came back to life.
She decided to start selling jam at WFFTP’s markets after retirement and has worked alongside the organization since the beginning. Now, she’s nearly working a full-time job again. Last year she made a total of 1,536 jars of jam.
Patti plans to rent a booth in the vendor area at the Good Food Hub and sell jam at theMarketplace – all 17 different flavors of them. Thehub’s commercial kitchen will also make it possible for her to sell to restaurants in the community.
Patti’s journey has connected her to the Casper community in unique ways. People often approach her at the markets and ask if she can identify what kind of tree is in their yard. In Wyomingit’s not uncommon to find cherry, pear, apple, andchokecherry trees. If someone does in fact have a fruit tree, they invite Patti over and help her pick the fresh fruit to use in her jams.
She has also helped people in ways she may not have ever anticipated. An older gentleman on a bicycle once approached her booth at the farmers’ market and bought a jar of raspberry jalapeño jam. The following week he returned.
“When I have a little tickle in my throat, I put some of that jam in my tea and it helps,” he said. “But if not I’ll add a couple teaspoons of whiskey and thatREALLY helps.”
She laughed as she told the story.
Before I left, Patti granted me a couple jars of jam: Wyoming cherry and the same raspberry jalapeño that the older gentleman bought. Back home I tasted each and my mouth watered with delight. It was obvious that Patti took her time with each individual jar.
She typically begins by picking fresh fruit. She then pits every piece, runs them through a blender or pulses them, then cooks the fruit with pectin and sugar.
If one thing is true it’s that a jar of Patti’s jam is more than just a throat soother or an addition totoast. Rather, it’s a product that has been createdwith intention and joy from beginning to end and represents a valuable piece of family history – something that can not be easily purchased from a supermarket.