The Jam and Jelly Lady

  (Lebanon, Ohio)
Yes You Can!
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Getting ready for Canning Boot Camp in June

It's canning season - and perhaps a little early! I've already been canning Ohio strawberries for three weeks -what the heck? It's so unusual to have these delicious, ruby-red berries in my cooler so early in the year, but you know the saying: make hay while the sun shines! 

The next 2012 Canning Boot Camp is Sunday, June 24, in our FDA/ODA inspected cannery, Lebanon, Ohio.  This hands-on class is geared for people who've never canned; for canners who are unsure of their techniques; for foodies who want to bring farm-to-fork; and for folks who are concerned that they are stocking their pantries with the freshest, healthiest foods for themselves and their family. We have a couple of openings left, and we only take 10 students, so sign up soon! 

All materials (plus lunch and snacks) are provided.  You need only bring your heart, an appetite (we serve a delicious buffet lunch), and perhaps an apron.  Each student leaves with a jar of what they've made: Strawberry Jam and Glazed Carrots! 

Sonya Staffan is a Master Preserver, and has operated The Jam and Jelly Lady for 17 years.  Before registering online (at, please call or email ( to make sure we still have openings.  We only allow 10 studenst per class because of the hands-on nature and the personal attention we like to give each student. 

Hope to can with you in June! 


Preserving of all Sorts!

It's not news to anyone who knows me: I'm crazy about the science of preserving.  I've been studying it for half my life!  When I teach a Canning Boot Camp, I love to include snippets of preserving history.  I just had to share one of these fascinating pieces today!

I've always been mesmerized by the "Cornish Pasty" - sort of like today's "Hot Pocket" frozen food.  During the Middle Ages, women would bake half-moons of dough filled with pieces of beef, bacon, fish, onions, potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetables.  Sometimes a little sweet jam or fruit was baked in one corner of the pocket for dessert!  Pasties were easily transportable for workers, and they preserved the fillings until workers broke for lunch. 

My favorite version of a pasty, however, is the kalakukko from Finland. "Kala" is Finnish for "fish", and "kukkaro" means purse.  Rye in the dough makes this huge pasty quite dark colored.  Baked at a low temperature for several hours, the fish bones inside the kalakukko actually melt, adding to the flavor and moistness of the filling.

The coolest version of kalakukko had a wicker handle baked into its side.  With no fast food or buffets to enjoy after church, families would carry a family-sized kalakukko to church and hang it on a tree outside.  After church, families would picnic together before journeying the long way home!



Canning Tip #4: Old Jars - To use or not to use??

I'm often asked in canning classes how I feel about using old jars.  Really depends on what you classify as old.  I've had several students so worried about food safety that they never used a jar twice!  On the other hand, I've had students use the oldest, narliest jars (including mayo jars) and they can't figure out why their canning success ratio is so low!

Canning jars are made to be used again and again.  The glass is very thick and can withstand the heat of a water bath canner or a pressure canner.  That's why it's not safe to use a jar from the store that you purchased spaghetti sauce or mayo in.  These jars are very rarely thick enough for your purpose.  The process used to store foods in these containers does not require a sturdy jar that can withstand pressure and heat.

However, even a canning jar can get worn out. 

Always check your jars for even the tiniest chips in their rims.  An uneven rim prohibits a lid from pressing tightly against the jar.  Beautiful old jars are usually best for decoration only! 

Try this: take a new jar and an old jar, and run your fingertip lightly around the rims of both, and you'll easily feel the difference.  Old jars were manufactured with less accurate technologies, and their rims are frequently uneven and often sport a raised ridge on the inside rim.  Food canned in older jars has a higher rate of improper sealing because the lid cannot snugly connect to a faulty rim.  Even if a jar seems sealed today, an older rim may be struggling to stay sealed, and in the middle of winter you may find your once-sealed jar to be floating in moldy scum! 

Older jars can still be used to store dry ingredients, seeds, or just look beautiful on a windowsill!  New jars can be used for quite a long time, so you'll get your money's worth, AND you will have safe food to serve your family and friends!

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