The Jam and Jelly Lady

  (Lebanon, Ohio)
Yes You Can!
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New Year brings a Newly Inspired Jam!

We at the cannery usually take January off as we recover from months and months of harvest, fall festivals, and Christmas business.  But January is panning out a little different in 2012!  Already, we've been asked to stock empty shelves in our our little Southwestern Ohio shops, we opened our jams in a new shop (Basket Country in Maineville), and are planning new jams for our fans!

Last year we introduced Sweetheart Spread as an extra sweet-spicy jam to celebrate true love.  This year we've tweaked the spice level, making giving the illusion of a semi-hot cinnamon imperial candy, but with the fresh twist of juicy strawberries.  Here is are the ingredients that make up the flavor profile:

Strawberries: Besides being heart-shaped and red, this exquisitely sweet "fruit of love" was considered by the Romans as the fruit to offer the love goddess Venus.

Honey Bourbon: The Kentucky/Ohio border is famous for its fine bourbons. Being sweetened with honey, Honey Bourbon is smoother and sweeter than most whiskeys.

Cayenne: Whoa!  Cayenne and bourbon?  Oh, yes we can!  Besides being a time-honored cure for many maladies, cayenne is a natural blood thinner that strengthens the heart over time.  And what's true love without a heart?

Cinnamon: The intoxicating aroma of cinnamon has been immortalized in the religious documents of many faiths as it has been used throughout history as an offering, incense for alters, and even as a perfume for lover's beds.

Per our adherence to the principles of jam purists, Sweetheart Spread contains no citric acid (we use organic lemon juice) nor pectin (we cook it down the old-fashioned way that ensures the strongest fruit flavor and low sugar). 

In only a few days, our website will showcase a limited time special on Sweetheart Spread.  Take a peek and order some for your sweetheart!


Last week in the cannery... Ready to welcome the new year!

On the home stretch for holiday canning!  And we are wiping the sweat off our brows!

We start our holiday canning race in late May, when we receive our first batch of strawberries. The customers automatically start asking for all our strawberry-based jams: Christmas Jam, Winterberry Jam, Strawberry Syrup with Grand Marnier, Strazzberry Jam, 4th of July Jam, and, of course, Strawberry Jam. As soon as we quench those immediate needs, we start working on building the holiday inventory.

All summer and fall, we juggled the mountain of harvest canning with the surge of Christmas Jam orders.  So I can say that this last week or so of work is bittersweet.  The orders have slowed enough that we decided to quit work early today and do a little shopping, clean the house (haven't seen it much since August), and maybe grab a nap before the kids get home!

But whatever will I do in January?  Well, there are canning classes to teach, new recipes to create, and a cookbook to finally finish.  Can I do all that from the couch, I wonder?...  

 Thanks to all the great folks we've met through Local Harvest, the new customers we've been privileged to serve, and to our warm, caring wholesale accounts who prove everyday that small businesses that stick together will survive in the end...



The Birth of a New Jam...

Announcing the newest "seasonal" preserve in our repertoire:  Sugar Plum Preserves!  

Unlike our regular Plum Preserves, this spread is much sweeter, not tart. It is made with juicy, ripe plums, granulated sugar (NO HFCS), warm brandy, and a spoonful of spicy cinnamon.  Purrfect for an evening by the fire: warm, buttery brie, a crusty baguette, a fine glass of red wine, and a spoonful of this jam.

Here's the first picture of our bouncing baby jam.  Welcome!!


Buying American products for the holidays

Something to chew on.  Figuratively speaking.  

This past weekend, I taught a brilliant group of women how to can.  I got paid for my efforts, and was very thankful for the revenue because our business is like any other retail business:  the holidays can make or break our entire year. 

I'm grateful for each and every holiday jam order we receive and every student that I teach, but I get nervous hoping that the farmers I work with for years are as blessed as us. Traditionally, the farmers' products outsell mine in the summer markets because we're ALL reveling in the harvest! But when the harvest is finally "put up" in jars, I get to reap the financial rewards while they tighten their belts for a long winter.

So as I headed to the bank today, I'm thinking about how the stores are packed with imports from so many other countries, all competing for our holiday dollars.  Why not try to find as many ways as possible to spend my money on strictly American products, agricultural or otherwise?  Could I surprise my family with a few gifts this Christmas season, while at the same time supporting my American brothers and sisters?

So I decided, in my small way, I'm going to try something new this year! My daughter is not going to get CZ earrings or clothes made in China.  She's getting fused glass earrings from an artist in town.  And I think maybe a weekend trip with Mom to DC to see the musical "1776"!  On the journey, we'll use our hard-earned cash to pay equally hard-working waitstaff, flight attendants, actors, pilots, cabbies, docents, etc!

Instead of imported electronics, the boys will get annual passes to the local train museum, which they are obsessed with. And we'll support local tourism by riding the train, dining downtown, taking the carriage ride they've always wanted, and spending a little at the shops filled with items made by local craftsfolk.  

My sis and her family may get a CSA share for Christmas - I need to work on that.  And all turkey, veggies, honey, cheese, and eggs used to provide our holiday meals will ALL come from local growers!

Finally, my husband will be getting a load of locally-quarried gravel hauled by the retired guy down the street. No, really, he'll love it...  Nothing is harder on our cars than a bumpy, pot-holed, gravel driveway!!  And I think he needs a dinner at the delicious Wildflower Cafe in Mason, which uses lots of fresh, local foods (they even own part of a local herd that is butchered just for their use!)  And perhaps a couple of gift certificates for oil changes or maybe a detail job for his truck?

He'll also love a new knitted hat and scarf set that I'll pick up at one of the nearby holiday craft shows. I can also nab other small gifts at those shows while supporting churches, schools, and the crafters. Beautiful homemade table settings, wooden toys, artwork, pottery, etc. - all made by talented local craftsfolk who really need and appreciate those dollars!

So, there's my thought.  A little long and drawn out, but you get the jist.   I don't have a beef with other countries - I just want to help out our own for once.  There are people in my little town who just need a little bit more cash to get them through the winter.  The farmers needs a little more help till the spring brings new crops.  I think if we all just think about how we're spending our money a little more carefully (i.e., forgo the new imported 52" flatscreen or 4G cell phone) our friends and neighbors could rest a little easier this winter.

Feel free to add your ideas on this subject.  Write them on this blog.  I'd love to read them!

And that's all I have to say about that. 


Winterberry Jam is back in season!


It's Back! Winterberry Jam is my very favorite jam to snuggle up with: a good book, a warm round of Brie, and a crusty baguette spread with Winterberry Jam next to the fire.  This comfort food combination consists of tart cranberries tempered by sweet strawberries, and brightened with a bit of warm brandy and pinch of cinnamon.  Yummmm...  This is why the Biggest Loser would NEVER choose ME!  Too much of a foodie!


Oh, yeah, and NO pectin in this jam.   Just rich fruits, granulated sugar, and organic lemon juice.  So the taste is very intense, and the jam isn't rubbery! 


It must be Christmas!

Besides having an incredible harvest to deal with, we are inundated with loading out for our biggest show of the year, the Country Living Magazine Fair in Columbus, Ohio.  

Last year, we had our hometown Applefest on the same day (our 2nd biggest show of the year, of course) - so I ran short on inventory.  Not this year!  Here's a picture of the beginnings of inventory we pulled from our shelves this morning.  It's going to be a long evening packing everything into the U-Haul, and making sure the house is spic-n-span before the in-laws come to stay with the kids!



In the midst of all this harvest rush, though, Chad, our beloved co-worker, somehow found the energy to can on the side!  Here is a picture of the incredible Dilly Beans and Spicy Carrots he delivered this morning as a lovely gift to each of us.  The killer is that each jar requires 2 weeks before the flavor is fully developed!  Those beans are quite incredible threaded on a stirring stick, lazily floating in a tall, cold Bloody Mary!  But I don't have much time for cocktail dreams now, anyway.  Maybe after we get back from the show!

If you don't get to Columbus this weekend, check out our newly updated website:  We just put out a new shipping special for the holidays, and Custom Labeling is now FREE when you order a case (12 jars) of Christmas Jam!  (That's blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, for those of you who haven't tried it yet!) 




A fresh marmalade morning...

What started as a lovely morning (70 degrees and a sunny blue sky), turned even brighter when I was presented with this golden clear marmalade.  Chad, a friend, has a penchant for making sensational and creative marmalades.  OK, I make a LOT of jams - thousands of jars a year - but I'm always delighted when Chad drops by with perfectly sliced and suspended citrus, showcasing both his artistic talent and his fabulous palate!  

I guess yesterday wasn't complete for Chad unless he tried a new grapefruit marmalade - shown here.  An exotic twist of sweet and bitter, this thick-cut spread left its flavor impression on my palate long after the first tasting!  

Later in the evening, I made a bedtime snack with the marmalade:  thin cucumber slices, a sprinkling of fresh feta cheese and finely diced spicy red onions, and a schmear of grapefruit marmalade - all snuggled in a soft flour tortilla!

Tomorrow Chad promises to create a new marmalade for the Country Living Magazine show in Columbus Ohio, September 16-18.  Although marketed as an incredible home decor show, this outdoor exhibition hosts a wonderful farmers' market, as well.  This will be our 4th year at the Country Living Fair, and it's one of my favorite farmers' markets of the year, as I have the opportunity to demo the versatility of our no-pectin jams to folks visiting from around the world!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to tasting the new concoction of Chad's.  We had a lively discussion this morning regarding the new marmalade:  juicy sweet oranges with dried hot cayenne peppers.  I wanted to sneak a little ground cayenne in it, too, just to ensure that jumpy pepper flavor is represented well!  Pepper Orange Marmalade will pair well with farmer's cheese, pork chops, or as a glaze for ham slices! Pictures forthcoming!


Perfect Girls' Getaway: B&B and Canning Classes

Looking for something really special, really fun to do with your girlfriends?  I think we've come up with the perfect getaway:  The Jam and Jelly Lady has teamed up with Silver High B&B to offer a weekend of crazy canning fun in one of Ohio's most historic towns!

The Jam and Jelly Lady, a Master Preserver who is certified by the FDA in Thermal Process Control, has been teaching Beginner's Boot Camp canning classes for 16 years.  Learn canning the SAFE way!  Class includes a buffet lunch.

While you're in town, you can lay your head to rest at the Silver High B&B, hosted by Nick and Celeste Stark.  Celeste knows all the best haunts in our county: wine tasting, historic restaurants, museums, quilt and art shows, and other special events.  Lodging includes a delicious gourmet breakfast.

Canning classes are not taught in August, September, or December, due to the harvest season and then the holiday orders!  

Plan your girlfriends getaway by calling 513-228-2200 to confirm available dates.  To take a peek at Silver High B&B, the link is:


Tips for Canning Salsa

So you've got bushels and baskets of big ripe tomatoes and need to DO something with them before they rot?  Let's SALSA!

The number one condiment in the USA is the least understood when it comes to canning, however.  Inspectors at farmers' markets are always on the lookout for salsa vendors who are using inexperienced or even deadly practices in salsa canning.

So here are a few tips to help you safely and deliciously can your salsa this canning season.

First, if you've never canned salsa before, select a recipe from a credible source, like the Ball Blue Book, or the back of Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix. You wouldn't believe how many folks I've met over the years who have tried to can their "favorite salsa recipe," only to have disastrous results!  

Recipes for making "fresh" salsa are usually very different from "canned" salsa recipes.  Oftentimes, fresh salsa recipes do not contain vinegar, an essential ingredient in canned salsa.  Or they might not have a correct pH level of acid.  Tomatoes are really a fruit, but on the pH scale, they loom dangerously close to a vegetable, and are often canned under high heat in a pressure canner, rather than a water bath canner.

Second, consider using cider vinegar as the vinegar of choice.  Many recipes call for distilled white vinegar, but cider vinegar pairs quite well with delicous, in-season tomatoes.  The flavor is more robust than white vinegar.

Finally, don't be afraid to add a pinch of this or that when it comes to seasonings.  I'm not saying add a cup of fresh herbs (they contain a lot of water, so don't go overboard with them).  But if you like pepper, and a 1/4 tsp.  If you like extra hot salsa, try adding a little extra cayenne powder or dried chopped peppers.  In all canning recipes, it's quite acceptable to experiment with bits of different seasonings to promote the happiness of your own palate!

Let's Can!

 - Sonya 

It's Salsa Season!

Our cannery smells great all the time: blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, pickling spices, peaches, etc.  But to my mind, nothing beats salsa season!

The other salsa vendors at our local farmers' markets use diced, canned tomatoes and pre-cut onions and peppers to create their fresh salsa mixes.

I'm very proud to say that we, on the other hand, have locally grown organic tomatoes (from Waynesville), and locally grown peppers, garlic.  Today's batch of salsa uses an organic heirloom tomato called Brandywine.  I'll add a hodge podge of peppers for flavor: green bell, jalapenos. Anaheims, and maybe a Scotch Bonnet or two for added heat.

I go for flavor, not heat.  The best tomatoes ever are always grown in your own garden, or a neighbor's.  So why not salsa made with local tomatoes?  When you open a jar in the middle of winter, it's like a blast of summer hitting your senses!

Come by the West Chester (Ohio) Farmer's Market this Saturday for a tasting and buy a jar! 


Turning a sow's ear into a silk purse

Sometimes a mistake can turn out to be a good thing...

It's chaotic in our little cannery this time of year, as farmers arrive daily to drop off delicious offerings of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, black raspberries, a plethora of peppers, onions, zucchini, stone fruits, early tomatoes, herbs, etc.   Amidst the pressure of canning it all as quickly as possible, I made a funny mistake recently.

I was canning three recipes at once: Traffic Jam, Peach Jam, and Apricot and Pineapple Conserve.  I'd just finished prepping the pineapple for the conserve, and I dumped the fruit into a waiting pot -- only to peer in the pot to discover I'd accidently added pineapple to the Peach Jam pot!  Oh dear!

I avoided my initial reaction to throw the mixture into the compost pile.  "Take your time, Sonya, and give a moment to consider..."  I put the pot into the cooler and decided to wait a few hours...

Voila!  I was deep-frying shrimp for dinner, and was musing about what type of sauce to make for the shrimp.  Why not a tropical jam?  I pulled the peach-pineapple pot out, and began adding coconut creme, mango, papaya, and lemon juice.  

With some nervousness, I cooked down the jam.  For dinner, we dipped the shrimp into the jam with a little trepidation.  It was excellent!  

Looking forward to giving our customers a little taste at the farmers markets this weekend.  So happy to have something fun and new to offer! 


Based on popular demand, we repeat "Canning with Limoncello!"

Just finished teaching a packed house of canners tonight how to can tomatoes three ways - boy the cannery smells good!  We canned Bruschetta, Italian tomatoes, and Creole Sauce.  While waiting for the pressure canners to finish, I made little garlic toasts, and we sopped up plates of bruschetta - yummy!

Some of the students missed the "Canning with Limoncello" class I gave in the spring, so I agreed to reteach it next week, Tuesday, July 12, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.  In this class, I teach the various stages of Limoncello (and of COURSE we sip a little!)  Then we make two jams using this delicious Italian liquor.  

I also agreed to teach "Pickling Fruits", and scheduled it for Wednesday evening, August 3.  We'll turn juicy ripe peaches and pears into delectable dessert fruits!  I love this class -- whipping out vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and whole allspice!  All the sweetest spices of my childhood memories!

Both of these classes are for students who've already completed our Canning Boot Camp.  If you are a graduate, and are interested in either of these, send me an email, as I don't think I'll have time to get these on our online roster.  If you would like to register for Canning Boot Camp on Sunday, July 10, you may do so on our website:

Thank you, all who came to class tonight, for helping me clean up.  As always, I enjoyed the evening! 


Canning Classes: Beginner's Boot Camp in July!

Probably the last Boot Camp we'll have for beginner's this summer is scheduled for Sunday, July 10.  Surprisingly, the positions (we only take 10 students) have gone rather quickly.  We have three left at this point.  

Why don't we teach canning in August?  Because we're so busy canning! Basically, I won't have a day off work until the beginning of November. (Good thing we had a relaxing camping vacation last week!)  Harvest season already began with strawberries, and now we're into blackberries, raspberries, and black raspberries.  

Berries are pretty easy to make into delicious jams, but peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums are a bit different, and take longer.  Then along come tomatoes and corn - boy, now we're talking loongggggg days!  Add to that two farmer's markets, 15 retail outlets that we wholesell to, internet orders, walk-ins, phone orders, and some huge weekend shows in September and October...  No free weekends for a long time!  Thus, no more canning classes until at least the end of October.

If you've already taken our Boot Camp course, we have an excellent Tomatoes: Three Ways (Masters Class) scheduled for July 6, in the evening.

Happy Canning! 


Rating the Newest Ball Canning Equipment

As a place to take canning instruction, we are listed on the Ball website, under "Happenings" and "Learn to Can."  As such, UPS delivered an unexpected surprise today: a free box of the latest Ball products.  Like a kid in a candy store, I ripped into the box and unearthed all sorts of canning goodies that would cause my dear husband, Pete, to sigh and roll his eyes in exasperation!

Of course there was the latest Ball Blue Book, but the box also contained the newest retractable silicon funnel, jar lifters, dissolving jar labels, and the new line of pectins, pickle mixes, and salsa mix.

Didn't take me long to put everything to the test, as today I'm busy canning 100 jars of custom-labeled Strawberry Orange jam for the local United Way fundraising campaign.  Here are the results.

New funnel: OK, for very liquid items.  But I like hard plastic or stainless steel funnels better because I can press my spatula hard again them to whisk out the last bit of jam.  The new funnel is stairstepped, which catches jam and won't release it easily.

Already had the Blue Book: as canning cookbooks go, it's always the best bang for the buck.

Dissolving jar labels: I can hundreds of jars for my family, plus over an additional 10,000 for retail and wholesale.  Just too busy to put a nice label on our personal pantry item.  I just write on each lid anyway, and the commercially sold jars have specially ordered labels we use.  But I think other canners will appreciate these.

New mixes: Finally, Ball is making mixes that are more natural.  They're going to give Mrs. Wages a run for her money this summer, guaranteed!

Jar Lifter: Saved the best for last!  Wow.  A new era in canning!  The lifters are spring-loaded, so they're easier to operate.  Also, the rubber is thick and squared.  Makes it slightly easier to nudge a jar to the middle of a pressure canner so you can grab it and lift it.  

Good job, Ball.  We teachers are very happy today! 





Thanks to our newly christened canning queens!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a fabulous group of ladies who wanted to learn canning from the ground up.  Thanks so much for your enthusiasm, curiosity, creativity, and joy - you really kept me on my toes!

Especially Linda Oda, my dear friend from Springboro High School - you are an amazing woman - so inquisitive and sharp.  Because of you, I have a page of new ideas to teach!  Lynne - I think we're ALL going to go home and try your method of using fire tongs to pull jars from the water bath!  lol!!!

Elaine, we wish you well in the birth of your new baby.  I loved how the women immediately perked up at the news that you were expecting - we all had a piece of advice, whether or not you needed it!!!

Jessica and Jessica - look for our "Tomatoes Three Ways" Masters Class that will be on the website in a couple of days.  I've scheduled it for July 6th!

Jenny and Janet - could we HAVE any more "J's" in the class?  You were a riot!  I hope you enjoy your newfound skills.  

Everyone, I hope to see you in a few Masters Classes - you're all quite talented and resourceful!  It's not often that I get an entire class that is quite obviously intent on canning for many years to come...

Thank you, thank you, for the outstanding class.  I'm toasting you ALL with a little Limoncello right now as I'm canning Strawberry and Orange Jam! 

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