I always loved visiting the McConkie residence in St. George, UT. Situated on a fairly large lot, the backyard was bordered by bushes and populated by pecan trees. We’d often visit during the nut harvest. The adults would shake the trees with tall poles and I would collect the fallen nuts into a plastic ice cream bucket. When I got bored I would loaf in the tire swing or play hot lava on the toys at the Elementary school across the street. Great grandma would let me help her in the garden and she always complimented me for the ear splitting tunes my inexperienced fingers plucked out on her piano. She made quilts, worked at the temple, and let her Depression years rule the amount of toilet paper she hoarded in the bathroom. Unfailingly, the thing that will always remind me of her though is pomegranate jelly.
Before the pomegranate super food craze, my great grandmother grew pomegranates in her yard. The delicious juice laden beads appeared in Dixie salads at family gatherings and were turned into canned jelly for everyday use. I didn’t eat grape jelly as a child, didn’t even like it. When my great grandma passed away in 2003, her house was sold and that great big backyard was sadly bulldozed to make room for some duplexes. Although my grandmother made sure we had Dixie salads on special occasions, the jelly making dwindled when our pomegranate supply was cut off.
When I met Noel’s parents for the first time during the summer of 2006, I was nervous, stressed, and unsure of how I could fit into their family. When the weekend ended and I went to say my goodbyes, Noel’s mom gave me a gift. She told me that it was just silly, but it was a Cooper family tradition. She gave me a jar of pomegranate jelly made from her mother‘s recipe. I cradled the jar in my hands and as cheesy as it sounds, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “It’s a sign.”
Other than just being delicious, pomegranate jelly is a loving reminder of the wonderful people that both Noel and I come from. At my family bridal shower, one of my great aunt’s gave me a stockpot, a case of Kerr jars, and the family jelly recipe. I haven’t made any yet, but I know I need to.