Making Homemade Strawberry Jam and Canning, For the First Time

Just a bit ago, I had shared with you all what a great strawberry season we had this year, and all we have learned in the process of growing them.  Every season from the beginning, it had been my hope and plan, to learn make our own homemade strawberry jam.  The problem was, it never seemed we had quite enough berries ready, at the same time. But then between a bag we froze last year, and some more we froze this year, I was sure it was time to really try making some jam! For the first-time-ever. 

Our usual household jam, has always been Polaner’s All Fruit.  Just reading and comparing ingredients with the other jams and jellies on the grocery store shelves, made the choice clear to me. I mean…I wanted all fruit.  So I was thinking I’d try a sugarless recipe to make out own jam.

Inside the box of Pomona’s Universal Pectin (and calcium powder, necessary ingredienst for making jam, I found a paper with several recipes, that I had actually read over a few times, since I bought the pectin months ago.  I kept procrastinating, because in my head, making jam,and canning it and all, seems like a huge task!  And I still had questions. So I was pretty happy when I noticed a JAMLINE on the recipe/directions paper! I was like….”Really? There is a number I can call, with any questions I have about making this jam today?”  It was a weekend, so I didn’t think anyone would really answer.  I was imagining some company and all. But to my surprise, a woman and answered. And I could tell right away, she was not an employee in some company, but just a woman in her kitchen, who knows all there was to know, about making jam.  It was the most relaxed and friendliest conversation.  Like calling your Great-Aunt-Someone-Or-Other. We talked for awhile! I wish I actually got her real name. Maybe it was really the Pomona Family! Turns out she was located very near where I grew up in western MA.  Anyway, she answered all of my questions, and I really enjoyed talking to her, as much as I did making the jam! I learned a lot in our chat, and was so glad I called!

Just to share with you, I thought I’d highlight some the most interesting things (to me) that I learned:

*When I told the woman I was planning to make the “All Fruit” (no sugar)  recipe, because we normally eat Polaner’s All Fruit, she let me know right off the bat, that if that was our usual brand, we were probably going to be UNpleasantly surprised.  Why?  Because as it turns out that the reason Polaner’s is so sweet, is because they use a lot of fruit juice concentrate in it. So there actually IS a lot sugar in it, in the end.

**To give us as something as close to Polaner’s in taste, but still keep the sugar content acceptably low, she suggested I use the  Low Sugar recipe.  So that’s what I did. Well….we did. Michael was in the kitchen with me.

***Just to compare the sugar content of the recipe I was going to follow, to the typical jams in the store, my recipe called for 2 Cups of sugar, while the store bought has 6+ Cups in a jar! We were going to use all of the strawberries we had, and make as much as we could.  So we ended up double-1/2’ing the recipe….which added up to 5 Cups of sugar.  Still….5 Cups for 12+ jars of jam was pretty good!

I used the 2 big ‘picks’ of berries that I had put in the freezer, after washing and hulling.

We mashed, stired, cooked, stirred some more, filled (the jars) and then boiled them, and then let sit to cool.  After some time we started hearing Pop! Pop!  I was counting the pops, hoping they would all seal properly, so they didn’t spoil during storage.

You can get Pomona’s Recipes Low Sugar Recipe, and all of their jam and jelly recipes, HERE.

In the end we had about 16 jars of our very own Strawberry Jam!  Made in the Richard Kitchen! 
I was so ready to design some of my own canning labels. 

Naturally, we had to try some as soon as we could. So the next morning we opened a jar.  Very good!  Definitely a bit different taste than the Polaner’s we were used to, but we all loved it! The consistency was not as gelled as we had hoped.  Just a little runny—so I’m not sure about giving any of these jars for Christmas Gifts just yet.  I actually may call that Jamline again, and ask they nice woman what we might do better next time.  But we’ll have no problems eating up these jars, and maybe giving some away, anyway.  I already gave my brother one yesterday, and he was so excited to get it.

So I’d done it.  That little dream of making my own jam someday, with the strawberries I grew myself, had happened. And in retrospect, it was not nearly the big task I thought it would be.  So I am quite sure that I’ll just make our own from now on.  Providing of course, that we always grow enough berries.  Although I’d never have a problem just getting them at one of our Farmer’s Markets if need be, either.  I’m really so thrilled about this little accomplishment, and the idea that it’s one more homemade good, grown and made right here on our own little homestead.  It’s not even jam that I love so much!  It’s the idea, of it all…..just gardening and growing, cooking and canning…wearing an apron, even. You know…I like to be a little ‘Olivia Walton-ish’ when I can.  Taking care of and feeding my family, with all of the home grown love I can put in it.

That’s always the sweetest and best ingredient of all.  And it’s something you just can’t get in a jar bought at the store.

No matter how much sugar they put in it. ; )

Granola Goodness

We love granola around here!  It’s such a good and wholesome snack, handful after handful, with CrUnCh!  (Oh, how I love crunch.)  It’s really a great way to start your day off right too, in the morning!  Throw some in a bowl with a few splashes of cold milk, or load it on top of a serving of yogurt!

Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to find ‘peanut-safe’ granola at the markets.  Added to the allergies now, is cashews and pistachios. Even small amounts of granola are kind of pricey to buy, ready-made, anyway.  So, if we want granola (and we do!), it’s up to us to make it homemade.  But we don’t mind, because it’s easy and fun to make, and we can make BIG batches.

We have posted another granola recipe here on the blog before, and that one can be found here.  There is so many ways to make granola! Experimenting with different ingredients, is half the fun and surprise!  Here is the granola recipe we’ve been crunching on this week!

Granola Goodness

(Note: All C.(cup) measurements are heaping – not level.)

  • 4C rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 C shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 C wheat germ
  • 1 C chopped *unsalted nuts
  • 1/2 C natural bran (We used Fiber One cereal.)
  • 2 C raisins
  • 1/2 C cooking oil
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

(*For allergy safety, we rinsed and dried whole walnuts by the fire, and then shelled them and chopped up fresh.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a small saucepan, combine oil and honey.  Stir over low heat until the honey is melted and it’s warm and blended with the oil enough. (About 5 minutes.)  Stir in vanilla.  Pour oil mixture over dry ingredients, little by little, mixing to blend well.  Spread mixture on two cookie sheets, and bake for for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned, stirring and flipping mixture over about half way through time. Let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 12+ cups! 

Delightful Cranberry Muffins


     The rest of my family loves anything made with cranberries. But loving these muffins came as a big surprise to me, the first time my daughter made them.  Reason being, I personally have never cared much for cranberry bread of any kind.  I figured, it was cranberries, period, that I didn’t like. And between you and me, that felt a little wrong, and perhaps a bit of info I should keep to myself, living in an area simply surrounded by cranberry bogs, and in the town that until fairly recently) was the home of Ocean Spray Cranberry World.  You’ll also never hear me say “Pass the cranberry sauce” at the Thanksgiving table, either. Although, I don’t mind a little spread on 2 slices of toasted bread with plenty of mayonnaise, when making my turkey sandwiches in the following days.  I do enjoy cranberry juice now too, and with Ocean Spray still nearby in Massachusetts, there is plenty of that around. At many warm- seasoned waterfront events, representatives of Ocean Spray are often set up giving out free samples of their large variety of juices.  So….they were bound to grow on me, so to speak.  Cranberries are wonderful to decorate with, too!  I especially love using them with my winter ice sculpture yard decor! They add such a beautiful splash of color, against winter.

In the next year or so, we plan to take a cranberry-related field trip or two, with the kidsSo you’ll likely be seeing some interesting educational information and photos about cranberries and cranberry bogs around here, in the future.  And perhaps more recipes as well. We hope you enjoy this one as much as we have.

. . . . . .  

  Delightful Cranberry Muffins



  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped frozen or fresh cranberries


  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon



     In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Fold in sour cream. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in cranberries. Fill greased or paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over muffins. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick, or until the muffins test done. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to wire rack.  When completely cooled, store in a container. 

  Makes about 18 muffins.

    These muffins freeze very well, also.  We like to make a couple of batches at a time, and freeze some, to take out and pop in the microwave, on any morning we fancy. : )

Enjoy! With or without butter.

French Toast, My Way. (The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread.)

Recently, a very special breakfast was in order.  It was our Trio’s 9th Birthday, and we always have a special breakfast on birthdays in our house.  Usually, it is my husband’s specialty of ‘Birthday Number Pancakes’, which we have blogged about many times.  But this time, I had plans.  I really wanted to make French Toast, and just like the kind I had had so many times growing up, at a particular restaurant. The crazy thing is, I cannot for the life of me (yet) remember, what restaurant that was! It’s one of those questions I’d love to ask my Mom, but can’t. : (  I know she would know. I have searched recipes all over the net, trying to find a recipe even close to the kind I had had, to no avail.  Alas….I decided, “What do I need a recipe to follow for? I can figure this out as I go!”

And what became of that fearless leap, is the best French Toast, we have ever had. (Quite equal to the mystery restaurant’s French Toast, if I do say so myself. Except their’s was like, a 1.5 inch thick slice of bread, cut corner to corner into a triangle.  The crust sides were the best.)

It’s important to note, I am pretty health conscience, for my family. But this French Toast was to be deep fried, which of course is why it is SO good. And it’s a treat! On special occasions, one needs to indulge. Still, I wanted to make this recipe as healthy as I possibly could, while still making it taste exactly like I wanted.   So, while we never really have white bread, we did for this.  The oil I was deep frying in, was the healthiest possible (I think): Canola Oil.  It’s what we always use to make donuts and such as well in the Fall. And as you read the few steps here you’ll find I had a few other tricks that made me feel better about the whole health thing in my mind.  You are going to need a deep fryer, for this particular how-to recipe. Ready?

Participating Ingredients, to have on hand:

(*Amounts depending…)

  • Bread Slices (I used thickest white slices I could find.)
  • Corn Flakes Cereal
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Canola Oil

For Table:

  • Butter
  • Confectionery Sugar
  • Syrup


*I say amounts depending, because it really depends on how many French Toast you need to make.  If you need more of a batch of anything, you just get a little more as you go.  No big deal.   Also, to keep things moving and producing quickly, it’s helpful to have a helper. {A} and I were a great team in the kitchen this particular morning. (And will be a gain soon. ; ).  So, the following is stations you want to have prepared before you actually begin cooking.

Dipping Mixture:  In a shallow dish, crack 3 eggs.  Add 3/4 cup of milk,  a few drops of Vanilla Extract, and a dash or 2 of cinnamon. Whip it up with a fork.

Bread/Toast: A key ‘trick’ here, to making your French Toast as good as it can be, is to pre-toast your bread. Trust me, it makes all the difference, as to not soak-up the mixture into the bread, but rather coat it as intended.  So for us 6, I covered 2 cookie sheets with tin foil, and put the bread slices in the oven at the lowest setting. Just watch them, until they are toasted a bit. Flip them if you’d like. Both sides don’t need to ‘look’ toasted, but just feel toasted on the surface.  Once they are all toasted, pile them all onto one sheet and cover the emptied sheet with a layer of paper towel.

Deep Fryer:  Fill fryer with Canola Oil to recommended level. Heat to 350 degrees.

Crunch Coating:  In a shallow dish also, have Corn Flakes cereal crushed up.  Little flakes are fine.  Don’t crush it to dust.

Now… goes the assembly line routine, which you can sort of see in the 2 photos coming up:

1) Put a piece of toast into the egg mixture, flip it over quickly with a fork to coat the other side, and take it out right away using a forl. Let it drip off as it hangs from the fork, and then lay it in crushed Corn Flakes dish.

2) Press the toast slice down a little into the flakes, flip over, and press again.  Neither side has to be completely covered with the flakes.  You just want some on there.

3)  Move the coated slice from the flakes, and lay it in one end of the deep fryer basket.  Then do a 2nd piece the same way:  Quickly coat both sides in egg, let drip, coat both sides in flakes, and lay in  free area of basket.

4) Now lower basket into oil, and immediately start counting to 1o.  The toast will float.  So when you get to 10, flip them both over, and count to 10 again.  Bring the basket up, and hook on the side.

Enter Trick # 1: I had to stand both pieces up after each set, as shown above.  In my mind, it best helps any excess oil drip off, instead of soaking into the toast.  And ultimately, makes it crispier. Then….I would put onto the paper-towel covered cookie sheet in the still warm oven.

Repeat sets of toast until you are done. We only had to make a little more egg mixture once, and crush up some more Cornflakes a few times.

Now, this was our Trio’s Birthday Breakfast, and so we had traditions to stick to. I managed to cut 9’s out of the top French Toast on each of their plates, and put it on the side. Of course, this was before we added the wonderful toppings! (Coming up.)


The Happy & Hungry, 9 Year Old Trio!!

For topping, I just lightly butter, sift a little confectionery sugar on,  and then drizzle on the syrup.

I can’t even explain how delicious this French Toast is. My family was loving every bite. It’s filling, for sure. But it’s not heavy in your mouth or stomach, in the oily ‘ugh’ kind of way. It tastes light, and sweet, and it’s nicely crispy on the outside. Add some sausage or bacon on the side, with juice or coffee, and it’s a special breakfast, that’s worth the little production effort for sure. Consider trying it this weekend, and letting us know how you liked it!

I think we might be having it again ourselves.  😛