The Jam and Jelly Lady

  (Lebanon, Ohio)
Yes You Can!
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Last canning class of the summer

As August brings its heat and humidity, we are gratefully helping our neighbors harvest beets, peaches, beans, and tomatoes. So the cannery has been at full capacity for weeks! 

August also marks the last Canning Boot Camp, as well, for we are about to embark on a roller coaster of festivals, holiday markets, and apple season! Sunday, August 18 is the last camp. We were filled to capacity ALL SUMMER, and even had to open a couple of extra classes to accommodate all the folks wanting to join in the fun!

 We have 5 position opens this morning in our 10-person class. If you don't make it to this class, we hope to see you soon at our new shop: 52 East Mulberry St., Lebanon, Ohio! 


Which pressure canner is right for you? (part I)

You may have a canner handed down from generation to generation, with great love and care. But is it the right canner for your use?  Over the next few articles, I'm going to explore different canners based on safety, ease-of-use, and engineering.

Older canners usually have a "weighted gauge" on top. Some people call that the "jiggler" because the weight rocks side to side, creating a jiggling noise when it reaches the PSI you set. I like this gauge a lot. It's like home to me. From 30 feet away, the canner "speaks" to me, jiggling too fast and frequently when the pressure rises too high, and growing quiet if the pressure decreases too much.

My older canners are Mirromatics. Maybe you have one or two in your basement? They are tough as nails, and just about as heavy as a bag of them, too! These canners are not appropriate for smooth top stoves, and stove manufacturers always write disclaimers to that purpose. The wide bottom of the Mirromatic canner spreads the heat well beyond the boundary of the stove's heating element, and that high heat can crack the glass. I've heard of some people trying this anyway, but I've also met a couple of folks who've been very, very sorry they tried.

I always say that if you really want to use that older canner and don't have gas or coiled electric elements on your stove, buy a camp stove from Pro Bass, REI, etc. They look like a waist-high turkey fryer, and are energized by propane. The downside to these stoves is that the propane can be tricky to regulate. You should cook on this type of stove a number of times to become familiar with its heating capacity.

I walked into a friend's garage one day when she was using her camp stove to water bath can apple pie filling in quarts. The finished quarts sitting on a side table looked gooey, and although they had sealed, the seal wasn't strong because a lot of sugary syrup had pushed its way through the lid and dried.  

"What's wrong with this," she asked. "Why does this keep happening?"

I told her that she was running her stove way too hot. Although she could have attained a boil at a lower temperature, she had cranked the temperature dial all the way on high. The water probably would have come to a rolling boil on medium. The extra high heat caused by use of propane had caused her apple mixture temperature to rise so high that it expanded well over the capacity of the jar. 

She immediately cranked down the stove temperature. The water continued to boil, but the resulting jars were clean as a whistle on the outside!

So imagine not knowing your propane stove well, like my friend, placing an older pressure canner on it, and cranking up the heat. What might happen? The weighted gauge will tell you the pressure inside the pot, but if you walk away from the pot, you risk the temperature rising and the pot exploding. Propane is highly combustible, and gets very, very hot. So if you want to use your older canner on a propane stove, plan on these safety tips:

1. Experiment with your stove first. Cook some bacon on it in a cast iron skillet. That will show you how hot it gets real quick! Get a feel for how hot it can get, and how quickly it can reach that temperature. It sure doesn't respond like a residential-grade flat top!

2. Plan on babysitting your pressure canner. You can't start an outside stove with propane, and then decide to go inside the house to make dinner or watch the news hour. Instead, get a magazine and a lawn chair, and park yourself close enough to hear the weighted gauge speaking to you! It will "tell" you when the temperature is getting too high, but if you aren't within hearing distance, you'll miss it!

3. I would never run a propane stove in the middle of my garage. Put it on the edge, or even better, outside! It can be dangerous, and is a serious fire hazard. In the same vein, don't let your kids close to the canner.

When I was 4, I was permitted to ride my tricycle in a garage on the 4th of July because it was raining outside. The garage door was open, and my parents' friends were grilling on a Weber charcoal grill that they placed in the garage door opening, just barely out of the rain. Of course, in such close quarters, it was only a matter of time before my trike careened right into that grill, and to this day I have a dark oval on one arm where the grill seared me. Quite a painful 4th of July!

Pressure canners get so hot that just a touch can melt your skin. (Yes, I know that for a fact, too!). Keep the children away from them!

Thanks for reading this. I love to share my canning adventures, and will write more thoughts on pressure canners very soon!


The Jam and Jelly Lady 



A New Era for Our Cannery...

After 18 years of having babies, making jam, organizing farm markets, running a cannery, teaching new canners, and keeping a (mostly decent) house, I’m finally ready to make a change — a BIG change!

So… No more farmer’s markets. A happy, and a sad decision. And a decision I have agonized over.  I will especially miss the cool, crisp mornings, greeting the other farmers as we hustle to set up our booths, smelling the sweet hot coffee brewing, and salivating over fresh bread baking in a nearby wood-fired oven. (NO better breakfast than fresh coffee, hot, smoky bread, and a little cup jam or honey to dip in…)

However, my 50-year-old bones won’t miss lifting thousands of pounds of jam jars in and out of the work truck. Lifting, carrying, setting up, and tearing down a tent, several 6-foot tables, cases of product, signs, banners, samples, and special orders is a job NOT for the faint of heart! One lovely lady in perfect make-up, coiffed hair, floral perfume, and elegant silk cruise wear drops by my booth twice a summer to comment on how red-cheeked and sweaty I look…

Trust me, I know I look a mess after an hour of tough, physical labor, but isn’t that part of being a farmer? And isn’t that part of feeling strong and empowered – to be in charge of my own business, my own little corner of the world? Am I hot, sweaty, with cheeks on fire? Perhaps. But I’m also energetic, capable, and sure in my ability to make people happy with a little taste of their home, their history…

When we helped organize the first local market, Waynesville Farmer’s Market, in 1995, people believed a farmer’s market was a sort of flea market or hippie gathering. Certainly perceptions have changed a lot since then! Now, every trendy downtown is trying to organize a market (or two). I remember managing a market in nearby Springboro, which caused me acute embarrassment. Each year, before the farm market commenced in the spring, I had to appeal to the zoning board for permission to assemble in the Tractor Supply Company parking lot. And every year, someone on this auspicious board asked the same question: “Will you be selling Elvis paintings on velvet, or queen-sized mattresses and the like?”

Nowadays, markets have multiplied so greatly, there aren’t enough farmers to fill all the wannabe farmer’s markets. So if a southwestern Ohio market should be lucky enough to persuade Dale Filbrun’s Morning Sun Farm to bring their eggs to market, they are considerably fortunate! However, there is a rare occasion when a citified customer will balk at produce that isn’t grown right in their own town. “I don’t think peaches from 20 miles away should be considered local. Isn’t ‘real’ local supposed to be from our own town?,” they wonder.

I reply, “Look around. Where would you like to grow peaches in West Chester? There’s hardly 10 square feet that hasn’t been paved! How would bees survive? No crops, no bees. No bees, no pollination or honey. No pollination, and the chances of growing fruit trees is slender. Be thankful that the farmer will drive this far!”

In only 18 years, I’ve seen farmers pushed further and further away from the cities. Our definition of “local” has been stretched. I giggle at Krogers, passing under the sign touting veggies from “local farmers.” Read the fine print. “Local” to Kroger means within 450 miles!

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m grateful for lettuce, zucchini, and cucumbers in the winter. However, I see farmers driving farther and farther to get their goods to market, and gas sure isn’t cheap! Exponentially, a local rhubarb farmer (using pricey local labor) traveling 30 miles to bring in 100 lbs of fresh-picked rhubarb has much higher overhead than a super store ordering 10,000 pounds of rhubarb shipped on a semi from a California mega-farm (using quite cheap labor, to boot).

Obviously, I’ve got strong feelings about the farmer’s markets. And although I’ll soon depart from their ranks, I’ll continue to buy as much raw materials for our products from local farmers as I can get my hands on. My connection to them is deeper than 18  years of shoulder-to-shoulder work. We’ve raised children together, toasted birthdays with glasses of their homemade blackberry wine, and had fun searching for Halloween pumpkins under the harvest moon long after the “regular customers” have left for their homes. These farmers, our friends, are a part of my family’s fabric forever.

As I said, I hit 50 last summer and felt that I needed to do something out of the ordinary. A BIG change. So I strolled around downtown Lebanon for several days in January, taking pictures of empty storefronts, and perusing those pictures at home. I finally decided a certain empty storefront called to me. I found the owner’s name (Russ), and called him. Turned out he lives on my road and our girls were scouts together! (Oh, I just love, love living in a small town…)

Russ and his lovely wife, Pam, decided that turning the empty office into a store that they could rent might be a good idea for a little extra income. Russ moved his small office up to the unoccupied second story of this three-story corner building, and soon after began updating the first floor for our new shop!

After much thought, Pete and I decided to call the shop “The Jam and Jelly Lady.” We already owned the domain name, and had worked hard to build our brand over the years, so we felt a different name for the store would be a detriment to our goals.

The shop will not only sell lots of our jams, relishes, and salsa, but become a mecca of hard-to-find canning supplies. Besides the regular Presto and Ball supplies, we will have:

- Tattler reusable canning lids
- All-American no-gasket pressure canners (the Cadillac of canners)
- Gloveables, retro-designed rubber gloves
- Unique canning accessories: counter-top compost bins, herb shears,  herb keepers, dissoluble labels, premium jars, collectible jars, stainless steel water baths, etc.

We’re also stocking lots of delicious, locally made specialties that have made their way from farmer’s markets to our own table for years:

- Crisenbery Baking Company’s organic breads, Lebanon
- Country Manor Mixes, Milford
- La Crema Coffee (including a blueberry tart variety), West Chester
- Chesapeake Popcorn (made with homemade caramel!), Liberty Township
- Main St. Sweets  (cotton candy, chocolate treats), Mason
- Chris’ Honey, Lebanon
- Vino Wine Slush Mix, Cincinnati

But the best part of opening a new shop is the renewed family energy. Pete, the kids, and I have had tremendous fun at the dinner table, planning out every minute detail of the new shop, right down to the gumball machine; places for visitors (husbands) to rest their weary feet while the rest of their party (wives) continue to shop; cute pennants as window treatments; and opening day treats.

Just as the farmer’s markets offered my family a chance to work, play, and dream together, this new endeavor is a woman entrepreneur’s dream. I can have my jam and eat it too – that is, I can have a job I’m passionate about, and use that job to involve my family in a most unique way.  18 years of farmer’s markets gave my children a great work ethic, problem-solving capabilities, marketing and accounting skills, and the ability to be creative and think on their feet.

My mid-life crisis may just be one of the best trips our family has ever been on! We’re excited, united, and can’t wait to serve you at our Grand Opening! Please, if you have a moment, stop by our new shop (52 East Mulberry Street, Lebanon, 45036) between June 8 and 16 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). We would love to give you a tour and ply you with am amazing sampling of our our local foods. Don’t be surprised to see my family hustling to help you, either! I’ve got the feeling that the little “birthday gift” to myself may be enjoyed by Pete, Jessica, Will, and Jack even more!

Thanks for reading, and please help us celebrate!


Learn to "Put Up" in our licensed cannery!

The next Canning Boot Camp is Sunday, June 30, 2013, 10-4, in our FDA/ODA inspected cannery, in 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.

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 18 years.  If it is past June 15th and you are registering online (at, please call or email ( to make sure we still have openings.  We only allow 10 students per class because of the hands-on nature and the personal attention we like to give each student. If we are full, just check the website schedule for upcoming classes!

Look forward to canning with you! 


Canning Boot Camp is this Saturday!

Only three days until our next Canning Boot Camp! We still have 3 positions open for anyone who is interested. Before registering online, please email or call to make sure the positions haven't already been taken, because they usually go fast. 513-932-6470 is the cannery number, or

Who should come to this class?

- anyone who's never canned

- folks who've canned a little

- people who've canned a lot but need to know the physics, food safety, and biology of canning

We offer something for everyone, plus a chance to develop a network of other folks who share your passion for preserving food!

We'd love to can with you,




Two New Canning Boot Camps Scheduled!

As I sit here in a cool, quiet cannery, awaiting the first rhubarb of local farmers (quite far off, actually), I appreciate the calm of winter. After our Christmas sales broke 18 years of sales records, I am quite happy to have little to do other than plan classes, write curriculums, review canning cookbooks, and watch the snow drift down!

We've successfully sold out of 2013's first three Canning Boot Camps. I think the old cannery was happy to see SOME action in January and February! Our next classes are as follows, and you can register for them at

March 16th (Saturday) 10-4 

April 7th (Sunday), 10-4

Boot Camp is a 6-hour intensive investigation into the how-what-why of canning, and is essential for any new canner who wants to use safe, USDA-approved procedures! Although a lot of work, we have a lot of fun, too, and it's quite hands-on, so when you leave class you'll have a very good idea of what it takes to become a regular preserver.

Classes are taught in our ODA and FDA-approved commercial cannery by Sonya Staffan, a certified Master Preserver. Each student cans their own jam and carrots, and takes them home! A cold lunch buffet is provided. All students need to bring is an apron and their enthusiasm! Registration is required, since we accept only 10 students in one class. Here is a remark sent by one of our February students:


First - thank you SO much for such an awesome class!  I had a great time and learned A LOT!!!  I can't wait to further my canning skills (and take some master classes!).  Now, I just need to figure out what I want to do about my whole flat top range situation...haha!

Second - the Sweetheart Spread is absolutely delicious...and that is an understatement!

Third and final - I can't thank you enough for helping me get over my initial hesitation of pressure canning (or canning in general).  I honestly had NO idea that making such delicious jam or carrots could be that easy...heck, I should have done this a long time ago *:) happy

Thanks again!

Theresa W.




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