The Jam and Jelly Lady

  (Lebanon, Ohio)
Yes You Can!
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Last Beginner's Canning Class was a Joy

Yesterday marked our last Beginner's Boot Camp for the year!  That's always both a relief and a somber time for me.  I've been canning and teaching hard since May, so I actually got to spend a few minutes sitting with my husband today - just sitting - no interruptions - just enjoyed one another's company.  A rare moment around this place!

But the end of the canning year is a time to reflect as well.  I looked at my records, and this year I taught over 120 people not just a cooking technique, but a tradition that they can safely pass on to future generations.  That is a feeling of success for me.  I NEVER knew this little canning itch of mine would impact so many others' lives... 

Yesterday, I had the priviledge of teaching a nutritionist (those folks really know good technique when they see it), a husband and wife team (trying to get back to the basics), a homesteader, and an experienced canner who yearned for more scientific background, plus a few more good folks.  It's a pleasure seeing through their eyes the first time they pour a good strawberry jam into a clean glass jar, filling the void with the rich red color.  And when we taste the jam poured over pound cake with whipped cream...  Mmmmm...

Thanks to all these delightful folks who participated in class, brought their canners in for testing, asked ALL good questions, and shared their own information about CSAs, u-pick farms, etc.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Canning Class - Welcome the New Canning Queens!

What a fabulous class yesterday!  Thanks to the lovely, intelligent, and articulate women who became newly crowned Canning Queens, and who shared their rich experiences with CSAs, canning, cooking, gardening-in-bikinis, and family lore!

We made a VERY thick Strawberry Jam (as I was lecturing a lot, and didn't know how thick it was getting!), and Glazed Carrots.  We decided at the last second to spike the carrots with a tiny bit of Grand Marnier (we were BAD), and the glaze smelled just heavenly.  I hope you all enjoy opening this jar at home on a special ocassion - like tonight!

This was a particulary fun class because it is sooo easy to teach inquisitive folks.  These ladies asked questions a mile a minute, and added to the class with their own interpretations and experiences.  What made me happiest was to see all hands up at the end of the class when I asked, "Who is planning on pressure canning this season NOW?"  Taking unbelievers and making converts is my reward!  Watch out, out local farmers - there are a newly released batch of canning queens who are going to fight for your fresh farm products!!


Canning Like Crazy!

Had wonderful opening days at both the West Chester and Lebanon Farmer's Markets.  I can tell that Chef George Stengl of Lebanon and Stengl's catering is the biggest new hit at both markets.  He drags along a custom-built wood-fired oven in which he bakes fresh French baguettes and pizza: savory pizzas for the Lebanon market, and sweet breakfast pizzas for the West Chester market.  George's Famous Dressing that he used to bottle and sell at his Best Cafe in Lebanon is also sold at his booth, and I've already loaded up!!

I'm almost out of jams after only two shows and two markets!  If you come by our road this week, you'll notice smoke coming out the cannery doors as I hustle to replenish our supply!  Farmer Jon Branstrator of Clarksville supplies me with the most georgeous local strawberries, and I'll be using his berries up as fast as I can to create many different preserves: Strawberry Lemonade, Strawberry Jam, 4th of July Jam, Jam Lady's Special Reserve, Christmas Jam, Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam, Strazzberry Jam, and Strawberry Syrup with Grand Marnier. 

Well, look for a new canning tip on my blog by Tuesday.  Have a Master's canning class tomorrow night (relishes), so after canning all day, I'll be canning with students all evening.  It's a good thing I'm CRAZY about canning!!

Happy Spring, Sonya


New Canning Class Schedule for June

Whew!  Trying to get ready for the Glendale Wine, Beer, and Food Festival that runs Friday through Sunday in Cincinnati takes days,  Meanwhile, I've been getting lots of email from folks who want to take a Beginner's Class, but can't make the class I've got schedule for next week, Mon and Tues the 17th and 18th.

So, I glued myself to the computer for a 1/2 hour and tried to come up with a date that will help everyone.  Sorry, can't do Saturday classes now that the farmers markets are beginning!  Without further ado, here is our schedule:

Beginner's All-Day Canning Class: Sunday, June 20, noon - 6.  In between water bath and pressure canning, I will serve a small tea using the jam you've made.  Each student takes home 2 jars they've canned themselves.  Very hands on.  $75.  To register:  This may well be the last all-day class I'm able to offer until October, due to a merrily BUSY canning season!!

Master's Class - Chutneys: Tuesday, June 22, 6:30 -8:30 p.m. $25.  You must have completed the beginner's class before moving on to this class!  We will learn to can two delicious chutneys this evening, and you will take a jar of each home.  Fabulous way to use up excess garden this summer!

Don't forget that you can purchase canning equipment after class: jars, water baths, pressure canners, books, and more. 

Don't wait to take a canning class - we won't offer any during the months of August or September because we're crazy canning everything in sight for the winter sales!!


Name our new jam and win a Jar!

Today I'm canning a new jam to commemorate spring and celebrate the opening of the Cincinnati Fine Food Show, which is part of the 21st Annual Cincinnati Flower Show this weekend in Symmes Township Park.  It's a big event, and usually grabs a few pictures in Better Homes and Gardens.

The new jam is based on strawberries (my favorite spring fruit), and flavored with dandelions and lemon balm.  The dandys and lemon balm give the berries a lighter, lemony, honey flavor. 

Sooo.  I'm announcing a contest, just for today (ends on April 15th, 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.)  The quest?  To NAME this jam!  I need a name that is fun and quirky.  Not "Springtime Jam" or "Strawberries with Dandelions and Lemon Balm Jam".  Because of the size of our labels, try to limit the name to 20-25 characters.  Try not to go over 5 words.  2-3 words are probably better.  Our funniest-named jams are Traffic Jam and Sweetheart Spread, just to give you an idea of what I'm looking for.

The WINNER receives a 9 ounce jar of this wonderful new jam, shipped anywhere in the United States!  To enter, just respond to this Local Harvest blog or enter on our Facebook page.  I'll be checking responses all day while I can as fast as my little hands allow! 

Happy Spring and Good Luck!


Canning tip of the week!

Starting today, I'm going to write one canning tip per week.  It IS the beginning of canning season, right?  The strawberries are just about ready to burst, herbs are appearing, and canners are pulling equipment from their basements and shining them up for the season!

Tip #1

Pressure canners.  Older pressure canners have a weighted gauge on their lids to help us humans determine inside pressure by listening to the jiggle of the gauge as it was rocked by the steam emitted by the canner.  But newer brands rarely use this method of gauging pressure.

New canners succumb to our society's need for visual reassurance of correct pressure.  They come with a dial gauge that looks similar to a clock face, only with the numbers 5,10, 15, and sometimes 20 printed on them.  The numbers signify pounds of pressure.

At the beginning of each canning season have your dial gauge calibrated by your local extension office.  I've never seen them charge for this service.  You are usually asked to bring in your lid, with the gauge attached.  Why is this chore important?  Pressure causes your gauge to decalibrate a little at a time.  You think you're applying 10 lbs. pressure, but in reality it is only 7.5 lbs. because the dial hasn't been reset.  Dangerous if you are canning low-acid foods like beans or corn!


Tips for Beginning Canners

Had a wonderful time Sat. teaching canning to a super groups of cooks from the Cincy area!  Thanks so much to Carol (the effervescent learner), Peggy (the inquisitive educator), Judy (Carol's generous and sweet friend), and Jennifer (the determined, gentle mother).  You women MADE the class so much better with your undying curiosity and genuine humor!  I truly loved working with you and "handing down" my knowledge to folks I know will treasure and share it!

Here's a tip that we talked a lot about in Saturday's class.  When looking at the mounds of tomatoes your garden produces this summer, don't get the idea of canning them all into salsa (USA's favorite condiment) without using a tested recipe.  I know, I know!  We all have a fresh salsa recipe that all our friends clamor for at cookouts and parties.  Yeah, a quart of it would make an unforgettable Christmas present!  But a fresh salsa recipe is not necessarily a canning recipe!  Safely canned salsa always contains vinegar to heighten the pH level.  Salsa without added vinegar or another acid source is not acidic enough.  Don't endanger your family and friends!  There are plenty of TESTED salsa recipes that you will really enjoy, i.e., The Ball Blue Book, etc.

No more class dates are firm at this point, but I'm planning one more all-day Saturday beginner's class in mid-May - before Sat. farmer's markets start up!  After that, the 6-hour Beginner's Class will be taught mid-week, either all-day or 2 week nights.  

Here are the Master's Class topics I have in mind for this summer:  1) Relishes  2) Curds  3) Pickling Fruit (watermelon rinds, pears, etc.)  4) Chutneys  5) Refresher Canning Course  6) Herbal Vinegars.  If any of these sound interesting or if you have any other topics in mind, please comment here or on our Facebook page (The Jam and Jelly Lady).  

Don't forget that I can't teach during the months of August, September, and December.  The cannery is too busy at those times catching up on the harvest and fulfilling gift orders.  But you can still make an appointment to purchase canning equipment at any time.

Thanks, again, ladies!   Hugs to you all! 


Last canning class of Spring!

Last canning class of the spring is this Saturday, April 10, 9-3 at our cannery.  As of this posting, I'm using a neighbor's internet to write because our internet has been down for two weeks!! So if you are interested in class, please don't register online, but call 513-932-6470 instead!

 What do we do in class?  It is divided into two sections.  In the morning we work on food safety regulations and water bath canning procedures.  Students can strawberry jam themselves!  

After a quick lunch (provided) we move into pressure canning, in which we learn how to can delicious glazed carrots. 

Jars, pressure canners, water bath canners, and other equipment are available for purchase that day.  It is so much fun networking with other canners and foodies - a hands-on class that is unlike any other cooking class you've attended!

Again, students should register by calling us directly, not online registration, please.


Strawberry Amaretto Trifle

Looking for a new new, luscious dessert to bring to an Easter brunch or buffet?  Take a peek at our new Strawberry Amaretto Trifle on our website,  Very easy recipe - but moist and yummy.

Why easy?  Well, with three very young active kids and one grown active kid (the husband...) I never seem to have enough time to prepare something grandiose like Lemon Meringue Pie or Eclairs (anything with a creamy filling makes me happy!).  But being a cook automatically raises the bar for me, according to Pete's family.  I'm expected to bring something sinfully rich to every family occasion!

Thus, the Trifle. 

No one know it's half-homemade.  I first designed the recipe for demos at foodie shows because I needed something to create in under 15 minutes that highlights JAM as the major flavor component.  If I'm in a big rush, I can make it in under 11 minutes now!

Try it.  You may not have our delicious jam to use as the base, but if you can locate a jam without a lot of pectin in it, you can do this.  We don't use pectin in our cannery, which is the original way jam was made.  Not knockin' pectin - well, maybe I am.  Pectin requires additional sugar to activate, and it "freezes" water into the jam without allowing it to evaporate.  Pectined jam is sort of like Kool Aid to which you've added too much water so you can have enough for the neighborhood kid who just walked in the back door!

Without pectin, the jam is soft and smooth - not gelled.  You can swirl it its intense flavor into hot oatmeal and yummy yogurt, pour it over warm brie and rich cheesecake, or use it as a cake filling (like Trifle!)

Happy Easter and Happy Eating!


Ohio State Fair this July

Just got back from vacation to find a very nice invitation from Ohio Proud (the state-sponsored collaborative of Ohio-based food producers and manufacturers) to conduct a cooking demo at the 23rd Annual Heartland Cuisine program at the Ohio State Fair.  The demo must use Ohio products (hmmm, think we MIGHT use some JAM!)

Really, if you've never been to the Ohio Food Pavilion at the state fair, you must go.  I'm surprised every year by the sheer variety of foods produced in this state!  Did you know that Ohio has more than six potato chip manufacturers?  Here are some: Ballreich's, Conn's, Frito-Lay, Herr, Jone's, and Shearer's.  Who knew?

Besides the fair, we are preparing for our next big show: the Cincinnati Fine Food Show at Symmes Township Park.  The food show is a subset of the Cincinnati Flower Show, and is on April 17 and 18.  We'll have plenty of favorite springtime jams: Blackberry, Strawberry, and Blueberry.  But also our specialities: Pear Honey, Traffic Jam, Strawberry Lemonade, Cranberry Chutney, and Christmas Jam (combination of blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries). 

In a few days, I'll have our complete line-up of shows for the summer and fall completed.  We'll post them here!  Enjoy this beautiful spring day!


Oh, the weather outside is frightful!!!

We received about 9 inches of snow today - kids got a snow day.  

We had a ball making snow men, snow ice cream, snow forts, and snow angels!  And we played with the idea of a new dessert using our delicious Strawberry Lemonade!  The kids and I are planning on experimenting with a Strawberry Lemonshake recipe.  Tune in tomorrow to see the results.  If it works, I'll post the recipe and pictures.  Boy, when we are homebound, our imaginations go crazy!

I think we'll have a snow day tomorrow, too.  I went to Home Depot tonight and the roads were pretty clear.  20 minutes later, I exited into a blinding world of white!  At first I thought it was Home Depot's roof just swirling snow off the top, but it quickly became evident that we were in a white-out.  40 mph winds combined with an unexpected hard snowfall.  Don't think I'll be canning tomorrow - it's getting harder and harder to push through the snow drifts to the cannery out back! 



Master's Class - Valentine's Day!

Thanks to the die-hard canners who braved the arctic cold and made it to the Master's Canning - Valentine's class!  We made a new jam: Sweetheart Jam, and a butter pastry to match!  Sweetheart Jam will be stocked at Butcher Bill's in Mason, and also on our website,

What is Sweetheart Jam? Strawberries (the fruit of love!), orange zest and juice, cane sugar, organic lemon juice, and (drum roll, please) Grand Marnier! 

This is another of our "SoftSet" jams.  They are very soft, spoonable jams that you can stir into yogurt, drizzle over cheesecake, or pour on ice cream.  We use no pectin, unnatural preservatives, or corn syrup.  Actually, I don't have a problem with corn syrup, used in the right way - just not in everything I eat! 

Here's a picture of a heart-shaped tart that Martha made in class.  Thanks, Siewtin, for taking the photos!  I love when Siewtin signs up for class because she always brings her awesome Blackberry!  See our FaceBook page (Jam and Jelly Lady) for other photos!

Sign up for Beginner's Class - February 6th!  NOW is the time to learn to can - BEFORE canning season! 


Manufactured Jams versus Hand Made Jams

Pectin - what is it - how does it play into manufactured jams and home made jams?   [Read More]
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