Helping to make apricot jam

I recall I am helping my grandmother make apricot jam. I am about six years old. She is doing the preparing and cooking. I am sitting on a kitchen floor helping by cracking the apricot pips to get to the soft kernels (seeds?) inside. The pips are tough. I am hitting them with a hammer.

“Ouch, that hurt”. The hammer misses the pip and hits the side of my thumb, not for the first time! Darn! The next hammer blow is much too hard and shatters a pip and kernel into little pieces. Grandma mutters about being more careful. I try harder.

The art of cracking apricot pips

It takes time to get it right. Keep thumbs and fingers clear. Hit too soft and the hammer bounces off the pip and the pips bounces away. Hit too hard and the kernel is crushed. Just right, and the pip breaks allowing me to remove the kernel.

The kernels give the jam a lovely almondy sort of flavour (I never tasted apricot jam like that ever again). I think the kernels also helped the jam thicken, without cooking it too much. Pectin?

Grandma blank

I loved my other granny and can picture her clearly. This one I cannot see. But I can taste her jam. And I remember her feeding me soup, in bed, after I had broken my arm. Otherwise, that grandma is almost a blank. One other thing, I remember my father saying that she was silly because she would drive 50 miles to buy bottles of honey and then only save a shilling a bottle.

I don’t remember my grandparents ever visiting us. We did stopovers a couple of times on the way to Umngazi.

Ernest Mansfield

I recall even less about my grandfather, Ernest Mansfield (a stockbroker). From this distance, I would describe him as austere. I think he always wore a rather formal hat when outside. And a suit, even in the garden. But maybe I can picture him with his tie off once or twice.

I think, like Smuts, he was a believer in holism* I think I am too!


She and my grandfather retired to Howick. There is a small road named after them. I wonder why? Perhaps because theirs was the only house in the road, back then. After they died, the thatched-roof house burned down.

I recently bought a retirement house at the Ambers just outside Howick. I wonder if there is any connection?


*Holism and Evolution is a 1926 book by South African statesman Jan Smuts, in which he coined the word “holism“, although Smuts‘s meaning is different from the modern concept of holism. Smuts defined holism as the “fundamental factor operative towards the creation of wholes in the universe.”  Wikipedia.

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