Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Family tradition carries on in Mount Michael’s homemade jams and jellies

If you see a light burning in the kitchen at Mount Michael at 3 a.m., most likely it is Father John hard at work, making jams and jellies.
The modern, commercial kitchen gives him all the equipment and the space he needs to create tasty concoctions of jams and jellies, like zucchini-peach, chokecherry, grape, apple butter and even jalapeño. Made mainly from produce homegrown at Mount Michael, the jams and jellies are just one way Father John Hagemann. O.S.B., helps raise money for the school and the abbey.
Both are close to his heart. He came to Mount Michael in 1963 at the age of 14. He taught English and theology full-time for about 30 years, along with directing musicals and the school choir. He continues to teach all the seniors on a part-time basis while serving as the groundskeeper for Mount Michael’s extensive property. Father John is also the monastic choirmaster, organizing music for the liturgy in the chapel.
In his seniors’ Social Justice and Peace class, which focuses on environmental issues, Father John has the students participate in their immediate environment, the campus of Mount Michael. They help trim trees and pitch in to prepare for the annual Fall Festival. The jams and jellies he makes are sold at the festival and the Farmers Market, and Father John makes them throughout the year from the juices and berries he has carefully frozen. Those visiting the Guest House for luncheons are able to purchase the jellies by the jar or the case, and all the flavors are available for people to purchase at the Development Office for holiday gifts.
Making jam has been a tradition in many monasteries over the years, but Father John is following a family tradition. For a long time, his mother and his sister made jams for Mount Michael’s Fall Festival and the Farmers Market, but his mother passed and his sister moved, so he decided to carry on the tradition. His cousin, Paul Dohmen, who lives in Columbus, continues to supply him with wild chokecherries that grow along the canal there, chemical-free.
Another family tradition Father John follows is baking seasonal pies for Mount Michael’s Farmers Market. Rhubarb custard was his dad’s favorite, and one he loves to make now.
“My mom could always make him happy with one of those pies,” Father John said.
He also makes pumpkin bread from the leftover pumpkins from the Mount Michael Fall Festival. Visitors enjoy it, as well as the students, who are treated to it at lunchtime now and then.
The Festival and Farmers Market are over for the season, but the jams and jellies, as well as some homemade pickles, are available for purchase now.
“People love the rhubarb-strawberry,” Father John said. “It’s a real seller.”
The jalapeño jelly is made from jalapeños grown for the Fall Festival. At the festival the jalapeños are stuffed with cheese and grilled. The leftover jalapeños are processed and frozen for the jelly, which can be mixed with cream cheese, for instance, and served on crackers or bread.
Father John’s apple butter and applesauce are made from the red and yellow Delicious apples grown in Mount Michael’s own orchard. The red apples give the applesauce a natural pink color.
The jams and jellies are reasonably priced, and the sales benefit the school and the abbey. To purchase any of the homemade items, visit Mount Michael’s Development office, 22520 Mount Michael Road, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For pumpkin bread, call the office a few days ahead at 253-0950. Other gift items are available in the Guest House and at Journey’s End Farm located on Mt. Michael’s campus.

by Mary Lou Rodgers
Reprinted with permission from the Douglas County Post-Gazette

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