photo by Lynn Agajanian / Indian
Zionsville Times Sentinel

I adored my Grandfather Hutcheson. He died when I was just 5 and I have only a handful of foggy memories of him. One of them popped into my head the other morning while fixing breakfast. When eating his morning toast he always had his jam or jelly in a little mound on the plate and would use a knife to put the jelly on one bite at a time. I don’t recall anything ever being said about this jelly procedure, but I took notice. I remember thinking at the time that this was terribly sophisticated and gentleman-like.

This is a memory I cherish, perhaps because there are so few of them. I know lots of facts about my grandfather, but they are the kinds of details listed in his obituary: married to my grandmother for 40 years, practiced dentistry for 35 years, member of the Methodist church and several civic organizations. No mention of his practice of eating jelly on the side.

It is no coincidence that I started writing about the same time I became a father. I have no intentions of leaving this good green earth anytime soon. If I do make an early departure I’ve got this feeling that their “new daddy” will be someone their mom meets on a post-funeral tropical getaway, perhaps a tanned and six-packed surfer. In their new beach-side home, my boys will grow up to be surfers as well, with only a few memories of their land-locked father. Hopefully my writing will prevent that scenario. With several years of newspaper columns, magazine articles and a book or two, they will be able to easily unlock the mysteries of “mom’s first husband.”

I feel like one of my biggest responsibilities as a dad is to share with my children a sense of their heritage, especially the previous generations of men who had their same last name. Perhaps one Sunday morning, we’ll have toast for breakfast and when I unscrew the jam and place it in a little pile beside their toast I’ll say, “Did I ever tell you about your great-grandfather Hutcheson…?”

This isn’t the kind of jam my grandfather ate, but its strawberry season and this jam is delicious. The balsamic vinegar gives it an unexpected depth of flavor.

2.2 pounds of strawberries, washed, tops removed

4 cups sugar

3 T lemon juice

3 T balsamic vinegar

Place the strawberries and sugar in a non-reactive saucepan. Smash a bit using the back of a fork. Leave them alone for a couple of hours so that the juices begin to extract from the berries. Turn up to high heat and add the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes and then pour into canning jars, using proper canning methods. This will fill about five jelly-size jars.

Scott Hutcheson is a food writer based in Lebanon. Visit the Hungry Hoosier Web site at

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