Old Fashioned Blackberry Jam w/ Orange Zest

Audley’s precious grandmother passed away over the weekend, leaving a legacy of a life well lived.

Audley was blessed to speak at her memorial service on Tuesday and quoted scripture from Hebrews 13:2 during his beautiful tribute.

That was Granny Odessa;  a woman who served others.  In fact she was such a servant that one time she made a dozen or so sandwiches and a cooler of tea and carried it out to the convicts on a pick-up crew working the road in front of her house!  She even went so far as to tell them that “if that wasn’t enough just come on up to house and I’ll fix more!”
Oh, how she loved to do for others, never once thinking of herself!

Some of my favorite memories of Granny Odessa include picking blackberries and muscadines with her each summer, then making jam (we did this until last summer).  Not only did we make regular jam, but we would also make diabetic jam, fruit spread, bread to accompany jam, or just separate berries and muscadines for those who wanted to eat only fruit and then we would deliver to people she knew throughout our little community.

Actually delivery went a little more like this: “George (Audley’s late grandfather) run this to Snook’s house, and on your way home pick up some chicken at Save-A-Lot.”

So today, I just had to share my blackberry jam recipe.  We didn’t get to pick together this summer, but I was able to share with her what I made several weeks back before she she made the sharp turn downhill.

5 cups crushed blackberries
1 package powdered (1.75 oz.) fruit pectin (I used Mrs. Wages)
2 Tablespoons Orange zest
Juice from 1/2 orange
7 cups sugar

**Prepare the canner, jars and lids.  If you need tips to help with this you can click here.

**In a large saucepan, add your berries and smash with a potato masher to release all of their juices.  Add the orange zest and juice, then whisk in the pectin until it is dissolved.

**Bring the mixture to a roaring boil, stirring to keep from sticking.  Add all of the sugar at once, stir,  and return to a boil.  Stirring continuously, boil for about a minute.  Move from the hot stove and skim the foam from the top.

**Ladle the jam into the prepared jars, leaving about a 1/4-inch space front he top.  Wipe down the jars with a dampened cloth before screwing on the lids.

**Process in a canner about 10 minutes.  Remove from water and allow jars to cool and seal before storing.

Homemade jam has been quite a hit in our home this summer.  From bread and jam for breakfast to Peanut Butter & Jam for a snack, the whole family has its favorite flavor to satisfy any craving.

I love to make a little extra jam to share as gifts.  Jam makes a great hostess gift when my children are spending the night away from home.  

I’m linking up with Foodie Friday this week. Drop in at Designs By Gollum for more delicious dishes.

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

I don’t think there is anything better in the summer than fresh, homegrown tomatoes.  After planting mine a bit late, babying them through a serious heat wave, and then have a large tree branch fall on three of my six plants in a storm, I didn’t think we would ever have any tomatoes!  But as July is wrapping up, I do have some beautiful heirloom tomatoes that are gracing my table on a regular basis from my omelets at breakfast to a salad for supper!
Brandywine tomato growing beautifully.

Clusters of Roma’s ready for a delicious pasta sauce.
Tomatoes are so versatile.  Classified as a fruit, they also work well as a vegetable and can be prepared in so many delicious ways.
Our family favorite?  
Fried Green Tomatoes.

Of course at this point in time, nothing fried is coming through my kitchen, so improvising to get a similar effect is necessary.
Dipping my sliced green tomatoes in buttermilk, I coated them in Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs) seasoned with a little cayenne pepper and onion powder, then baked them at 400 degrees about 15 minutes or so.

The result was crispy and tasty “fried” green tomatoes that pleased my feisty family.

My twelve year old son likes his tomatoes best cold.  It is nothing for him to eat one like an apple, but his most favorite way to have them is on a good old-fashioned BLT sandwich on lightly toasted Sunbeam bread.  
Add a little light Miracle Whip & smear of French’s mustard, and I think I could eat several of these right now.

But, I suppose my favorite way to prepare tomatoes in the summer is a lovely Caprese salad.  Using fresh tomatoes and basil right from the garden then pairing it with fresh (skim) mozzarella cheese, I think I could sit and eat an entire plate of this refreshing salad!
I think everyone prepares their Caprese salad a little differently.  For this one I layered my tomatoes and thinly sliced mozzarella cheese and then topped it with freshly ground black pepper, a very light pinch of Kosher salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  To finish it off, I shredded fresh basil on top for a fabulous accompaniment to grilled BBQ chicken for supper. 
At the end of the day we can’t possibly eat as many tomatoes as we have coming in the house, so canning them to carry on a little of this fresh flavor into the winter is a great solution.  Nothing brightens up a savory soup, stew or winter pot roast more than home canned tomatoes!
I like to cold pack my tomatoes which allows for me to do as few or as many at one time as possible.  Cold packing tomatoes is fairly easy, especially when you are using firm and fresh tomatoes. 
First, I prepared my jars by washing them, then boiling them in a large pot about fifteen minutes.  I usually put my lids in a separate pot to boil so that they are easier to access.  
While my jars are boiling I also prepare a pot of boiling water to drop my tomatoes in after I have rinsed them off and slit their skin a little.  I let them sit in the hot water about 1minute, then remove them to cool.  The skins should just slip right off!  
I try to remove as many of the seeds as possible and then dice my tomatoes.  
Removing each of the jars from their pot, I pack the tomatoes in firmly.  For each pint or 1/2 liter I add  1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Finally I seal each jar and then process in boiling water for 20 minutes.  Since I am cold packing they need to process a little longer than necessary to heat through and seal. 
See, I told you it was easy!
{Very messy though.}

Linking up with Foodie Friday this week.
What is your favorite fresh summer treat?

Vidalia Onion Jam

After a most adventurous week, I am finally finding a few minutes to sit and write.  It has been a seriously crazy and emotional week that kicked off with the girls and I suffering from what we were pretty sure was food poisoning.  My in-laws arrived late Monday night, and Tuesday Audley had his heart cath.  All of our prayers were answered and any issues he has been having with his heart hopefully will be corrected with cardiac therapy.  No blockages or issues with the muscles.  God has definitely blessed us and I am glad this nightmare is over!
Last week while making strawberry jam, I also took the time out to make a little Vidalia onion jam since Vidalias have arrive from Georgia at last!  This a a true southern treat that everyone needs to try at least once!
  When I mentioned the jam, I got several questions regarding this scrumptious treat; the most common being “what do you serve it with?”
Oh!  Let me suggest a few ways!
*as a Hamburger topping
*a little on a grilled brie cheese sandwich
*on a New York Strip with a bite of blue cheese
*on top of a baked potato or stirred into mashed potatoes
*in an omelet
*to top a smoked bratwurst
*as an accompaniment to brie en croute
*enjoy with a little spinach quiche
*spread a little on a warm croissant
*or stand at the counter and eat it from the jar. 
{You can guess my favorite!}

I don’t really know how to describe this jam; it’s sweet and so savory, it’s a little tangy, and definitely the most unique condiment you could have in your refrigerator.
Here is all you need to make your own Vidalia Onion Jam:

8 cups thinly sliced Vidalia (or any sweet) onion
4 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 box (1.75 oz package) powdered pectin
1-2 Tablespoons fresh ground black pepper

Saute’ slice onion in the butter on medium-high heat until onions are wilted and transparent.  Add the Balsamic vinegar and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer about 35-45 minutes until balsamic reduces and onions are caramelized.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.  
After onions are caramelized, add both the brown & white sugar, stirring quickly, so that they begin to dissolve.  Also, add your red wine vinegar at this point.  Once sugar has dissolved, add your black pepper.  I like to really taste the pepper so I add a full 2 Tablespoons!  
Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to keep it from burning.  Add 1/2 of a package of powdered pectin, mixing in well.  Allow to boil about one minute and remove from heat.  
Ladle into prepared jars.  At this point you can process the jam to seal the jars or just put them in the refrigerator.  I did both just so I could keep mine longer.    
Because I used butter to help caramelize the onions, as the jam cool the butter rises to the top of the mixture.  It’s fine as long as you are keeping it refrigerated.  This will keep about eight weeks.
To serve, I bring the jam to room temp, stir it, and then use it in any number of ways. 
 Personally all of my family has fallen in love with the jam on top of a grilled pork tenderloin.
I just love the way it melts over the hot tenderloin and flavors it “oh!”, so richly!
Stored in a pretty jar this would also make a lovely hostess gift to any cook-out you are invited too this summer! 
 I am linking up with Foodie Friday today.  Skip on over and check out all the other luscious dishes featured this week!

Just {Jammin’}

I love to listen to music when I am in the kitchen.  I tease the kids and tell them I am jammin’ out, which makes them laugh hysterically and they remind me that 80% of the music I listen to is not jammin’ material!
{OK, then!} 
Have you heard of Jackie Evancho?  
She’s a 12 year old classical music artist who I think has become my favorite companion in the kitchen this last week.  Her beautiful voice has made actual “jamming'” in the kitchen this week so relaxing and enjoyable.  
Strawberries have been just beautiful this spring, so when I had an opportunity to purchase fresh berries at a local farm over the weekend, I willingly helped myself!
I put up a few berries for pies & homemade ice cream later in the season, but then I saved some for making strawberry jam.  There is something so wholesome about making your own jams and jellies.  I love to set an open jar on the table at breakfast or supper time for my family to spread on toast or biscuits.  I also like knowing what exactly is going into the mouths of my family.  No artificial flavors, sweeteners or color here!
And aren’t canned goods just so pretty?  It looks like jewels sparkling in the afternoon sun!

Making jam isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe.  Getting everything together and prepping your fruit can be time consuming, but honestly what task isn’t time consuming that is worth doing?
 I made two recipes of strawberry jam; a vanilla-laced strawberry jam and balsamic-strawberry jam.  I’m sharing the vanilla-laced jam here since it is the less tedious of the two.
Strawberry Jam w/ Vanilla

8 cups sliced strawberries
juice of half a lemon (abt. 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 pkg. powdered pectin (I prefer Ball)
1 whole vanilla bean, scored down one side
7 cups sugar

Take your strawberries and smash them a little at a time in a large pot on the stove, until all 8 cups are smashed and juicy.   I use a potato masher for this.  Add your vanilla bean, lemon juice and pectin (making sure to stir it until it is well dissolved); then bring to a boil.  Stir constantly to keep from burning on the bottom.  Pour all of your sugar in at once.  Stir until it dissolves, then bring to a roaring boil that you can’t stir down, continuing to stir.

Remove from heat and spoon out the vanilla bean.  Ladle into prepped (sterilized) jars, seal and process in a canner about 15 minutes.  Remove and cool.  Store in a cool, dark space; you don’t want to discolor your jam!

I like my jam spread on a slice a fresh white bread.  How do you like yours?

I’m linking up to Foodie Friday this week.  Hope you’ll link over and check out what else is cooking this week!

And, I’ll leave you with a taste of Jackie Evancho.  You can let me know what you think!