Despite 10 years of blogging, there are some dishes that I make that I’ve never considered blogging about. They’re family classics that I make on auto-pilot, that feel a bit like cheater recipes. No or very minimal recipe, sometimes using store-bought ingredients. This recipe is one of them.
My grandmother has made this Italian Green Bean Salad for as long as I can remember. I remember – back when I was in elementary school – picking the green beans from her huge backyard garden, sitting on the steps trimming the ends, and then watching her make it for family dinner that night. It’s a quick and easy recipe, perfect for weeknight dinners but also summer BBQs and potlucks, as it can be served at room temperature. It’s also easy to adjust the recipe for a dinner for two or to feed a crowd.
- This salad can be served warm (room temperature) or cold, straight from the fridge. If making ahead and storing in the fridge, be sure to check before serving, to make sure that it doesn’t need a little extra salad dressing.
- Asiago cheese can be exchanged for Parmesan, if you have that on hand.
Italian Green Bean Salad
By Books n’ Cooks
Serves 4 as a side
- 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
- Italian Salad Dressing (I use Good Seasonings Italian, made with balsamic vinegar)
- Asiago cheese, finely grated (about 1 oz. Asiago, grated)
Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add green beans and blanch, cooking for 3-5 minutes until still crunchy. With a slotted spoon or tongs, move green beans to bowl of ice, to prevent beans from cooking any longer. When beans have cooled to room temperature (or cooler), drain and transfer to a serving dish.
Toss green beans with Italian dressing. Top with finely grated Asiago cheese just before serving.
Serve green beans at room temperature or cold.
Store covered tightly in plastic wrap in the fridge, if not serving immediately.
Ok, so I’m a few weeks late on this post… but it was a monster to write up and I’m badly in need of a new computer, so I’ve been avoiding anything that needs to be done on my computer, like photo editing.
In the Kitchen & Beyond!
This spring saw heavy comfort foods get kicked to the curb in favor of lighter options. We grill out at least twice a week. I usually keep it simple with a salt and pepper rub or a store-brought marinate, but this Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin from Eazy Peazy Mealz has been a favorite for the past couple of years. I also revamped an old standby – Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca – with new photos and some post revisions, as the post was super old and badly needed a face lift.
I’ve also enjoyed making several summery beverages at home. I could drink this super light Strawberry Basil Darjeeling Iced Tea all summer. And this Pomegranate Grapefruit Vodka Martini – a twist on the classic cosmo – is so good that I can’t keep the ingredients on hand, otherwise I might enjoy a cocktail every night.
Food-related but beyond the kitchen, if you follow me on Instagram, you know that I attended the Food and Wine Conference in Orlando, FL last month (a few photos from the weekend above). It was my first time attending but it was the conference’s 5th year (congrats to Isabel and the #SundaySupper Movement on this milestone!). I had a blast and could seriously write several posts on the amazing bloggers I met, the wonderful food, the inspiring stories, and the important lessons learned. Instead of that, I’ll give you some highlights and references.
- Food and Wine Conference official website – so that you can watch for next year’s event.
- Representatives from Certified Angus Beef, Florida Strawberries, and Florida Dairy Association participated in panels where I gained insight into the families that support U.S. agriculture and produce. The passion that these representatives showed was amazing. It makes me realize how much I still have to learn about how this portion of the economy works, to include sustainability. It also made me appreciate those that support these businesses even more, as family businesses, with every member of the family participating.
- On a more business front, today really is the digital age, where microinfluencers (bloggers like yours truly) and social media rockstars bring as much to the table for brands and big name companies – if not more – than formal advertising. Stay true to yourself but recognize the power you have.
- I have pages of notes on how to shoot videos, which is starting to overtake traditional still photography as critical aspects of food blogging. I’ve always found the prospect super intimidating but a couple of helpful talks and lots of Q&A have helped get me over the hurdle. After the conference, I even made and published my first video!
- Look for opportunities to not just improve, but to pivot. Where can expertise gained from blogging, recipe development, photography, etc. be used to change your direction in the future?
On My Bookshelf
I read quite a bit in early spring, with my pace slowing down as the weather grew nicer. However, most of what I read this spring were knock-outs that I loved. As usual, you can follow what I’m reading in real time on Goodreads, but if you’re not on Goodreads, here are some of my favorites from this spring:
- The Freedom Broker (by K.J. Howe) – Howe’s debute novel, this mystery/suspense novel starred a kidnap-and-ransom expert searching for her kidnapped father
- The Great Library Series (by Rachel Caine) – a young adult series with lots of action, it is based on an alternate version of history.
- The Women in the Castle (by Jessica Shattuck) – a historical fiction novel set in Nazi Germany, about three widows surviving the way and rebuilding their lives
I’m now anxiously awaiting the third book in The Great Library series, which was released a few days ago. I should get it as soon as the book arrives at and gets processed into my local library.
Ever since we moved into this house (almost 5 years ago), I’ve wanted my own garden. I did small boxes of herbs a year or two, but this year, I finally got the garden I’ve wanted. I owe my hubby big time for building the raised bed.
We planted a couple varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, jalapeno, serrano peppers, baby bell peppers, and an assortment of herbs. I’m honestly amazing at how well the garden is doing. I’ve had to restake the tomato plant that were toppling under the weight of the green tomatoes. I’ve had to relocate some herbs that were overtaken by the zucchini. I’ve already harvested a couple of baby bell peppers, a half dozen tomatoes, and two zucchini. Not to mention the sage leaves I froze and the two batches of both cilantro and basil pesto I made and stashed in my freezer.
But the best part of the garden is how much my little ones love it. I have daily helpers watering, weeding, and looking for ripe vegetables to pick. My daughter – the World’s Pickiest Eater – took pleasure in picking the first baby bell pepper and taking a huge bite out of it. And then a second and a third bite! Definitely a win in my book.
Crafting has slowed this spring, as travel, time outside, and other stuff have picked up. I did finish and gift a baby blanket to my dear sister-in-law, who had her second son this spring. (Two boys, under 15 months apart – she’s like Superwoman!)
I’m in the middle of what feels like a zillion projects – a crochet blanket, a knit pillow case, a knit poncho, a knit shawl, a couple of counted cross stitch Christmas stockings, a couple of digital and paper scrapbooks… I either haven’t been able to focus on anything for very long due to attention span or to travel (I try to bring small projects with me, if any) or have just been too busy to pick any up. A couple projects are near completion or are just super easy, so I’m hoping to finish a few this summer, but we’ll see if that happens. It’s shaping up to be a busy summer with either travel or house guests almost every other week.
I hope you all had a wonderful spring and have a great summer lined up!
All the Best!
The Women in the Castle
By Jessica Shattuck
On the eve of WWII, a small group from Germany’s high society were planning Hitler’s assassination. Marianne von Lingenfels was the sole woman present. She not only supported the plot, recognizing the monster that Germany’s leader was, but was charged by the men with protecting and caring for their wives and families, should the plot go awry.
Unsurprisingly, the plot fails and the men, the resisters, are sentenced to death. Marianne survives the war and returns to the castle owned by her husband’s ancestors. It is from that home base that Marianne searches Germany for the women and children she promised to protect. She successfully recovers two fellow resister wives and their children. Together, the three women and their children spend their days at the castle recovering from the war and searching for a way forward in life.
Review/Recommendation: I read a lot of WWII-era historical fiction books but not very many from a German perspective. This book was super interesting and hard to put down. It was a fantastic story with engaging characters.
I thought it Shattuck did well showing the different perspectives of a German woman during Hitler’s reign. The three widows each brought their own perspective of WWII-era Germany – one [former] Nazi supporter, one adamant resister, and one just slightly the indifferent and a bit oblivious to the politics of the time. Each woman had a history that helped them make it through the years immediately following the war, when they were recovering and attempting to restart their lives. Each had a history that crafted their paths forward after the recovery period.
The Women in the Castle flipped back and forth between different dates (mostly prewar and postwar, the “present” of the novel) and between each of the different characters, giving the reader insight into the women’s history and life. The format worked well for the book and for the story Shattuck crafted.
I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to any fans of historical fiction.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!
Get the book:
Chambord was the first high quality liquor that I ever drank. A black raspberry liquor, my mom (yes, I was legal drinking age and yes, I was a good girl) introduced it to me in the form of a Chambord Sour. The sweet-sour drink worked for my young palate, but as I got older and was introduced to a much larger variety of good quality liquors (not the junk we drank in college), I grew to appreciate a nice glass of Chambord on the rocks.
I’ve always loved the liquor and am immediately drawn to drinks that feature it when we’re out to dinner. So when this week’s #SundaySupper theme was announced as Simple Mixed Drinks for a Refreshing Summer, I immediately knew that I wanted to make a cocktail with Chambord as the star.
After tossing around a few ideas, I decided upon some sort of Chambord sangria, with a light white wine as a base. At first, I attempted a straight sangria recipe – Chambord, white wine, and a few muddled raspberries. However, I found this far too sweet for me. I envisioned something lighter, which I planned to solve with the addition of tonic or soda water. I went with the former, which mellowed out the flavor nicely. I was apparently on the right track with the recipe I’ve presented below, as just a day or two after making it, my Pinterest feed was filled with Chambord recipes, one very similar to the below, the Chambord Spritz.
Sparkling Chambord Sangria
By Books n’ Cooks
Makes 1 drink
- 1 oz. Chambord black raspberry liquor
- 4 oz. white wine (I used pinot grigio but a chardonnay would work well as well)
- tonic water
- fresh raspberries
In a cocktail glass filled halfway with ice, add 1 oz. Chambord followed by 4 oz. white wine. Top with tonic water and garnish with fresh raspberries.
Thanks to Christie at A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures for hosting this event. Be sure to check out the recipes below for more refreshing summer cocktails and mocktails!
Classics with a Twist
- Blackberry Gin Mule by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Boozy Rootbeer Float 2 Ways by My Life Cookbook
- Frozen Banana Daiquiri by Restless Chipotle
- Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Pimm’s Cup by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Spiked Arnold Palmer Cocktails by Hardly A Goddess
- St. Germain Gin and Tonic Cocktail by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Make Mine a Mocktail
- Florida Cider Caipirinha by Gourmet Everyday
- Raspberry Lemon Blush by Our Good Life
- Screwmosa Cocktail by Food Lust People Love
- Skip and Go Naked by Positively Stacey
- Spiked Spa Water by Simple and Savory
Tasty and Tropical
- Blackberry Mojitos by The Chef Next Door
- Fresh Cherry Margaritas by The Crumby Cupcake
- Frozen Peach Margaritas by Pies and Plots
- Perfect Pina Colada by My Imperfect Kitchen
- Pineapple Margaritas by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Prickly Pear Margarita by Palatable Pastime
- Strawberry Sunset Lemon Drop by Soulfully Made
- Boozy Watermelon Slushies by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Cantaloupe Wine Slushie by Family Around the Table
- Cava Sangria by Caroline’s Cooking
- Easy Red Wine Sangria with Spiced Peaches by Cricket’s Confections
- Pink Lemonade Sangria by Baking Sense
- Sparkling Chambord Sangria by Books n’ Cooks
- Watermelon Sangria by A Mind Full Mom
For even more inspiration check out these Simple Mixed Drinks for a Refreshing Summer by Sunday Supper Movement
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.
Happy Sunday! I hope you are enjoying a long weekend celebrating our great country.
My family and I are thankfully having a mostly lazy weekend – play dates, baking, and chores, with a dinner with friends planned for the 4th. We’ve had a whirlwind could of weeks with me away for a week and some family in town. I’ve been enjoying playing catch up. Enjoying the relative quiet in the house. And enjoying taking a little bit of time to menu plan, blog plan, and vacation plan.
Store-bought ravioli or tortellini with homemade pesto from the freezer has become an easy weeknight staple in our house. It takes so little effort and time to make that we really have no excused for ordering out when I’ve got the pasta and pesto in the freezer. I stock up on homemade pesto when my herbs (or my mom’s herbs) are growing like crazy over the summer time. They’ve been planted for less than two months and they’ve already started to grow a bit wild. I’ve already have to trim them back several times, freezing sage leaves and making both cilantro and basil pesto.
Tortellini with Fresh Basil Pesto
By Books n’ Cooks
Serves 2 as a main dish, 3-4 as a side dish
Ingredients for the Tortellini:
- 1-9 oz. package store-bought cheese tortellini
- 1 c. fresh basil pesto (ingredients and instructions below)
Ingredients for the Basil Pesto: (makes 1 cup)
- 2 c. packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- ¼ c. pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, skins removed
- pinch of kosher salt
- pinch of black pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, more if needed
Prepare tortellini according to package. While tortellini are cooking, make the pesto. (If tortellini are finished before pesto, drain, toss with a little bit of olive oil to avoid sticking, and cover to keep warm.)
Make the Pesto: Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until large chunks. With the food processor still running, slowly pour in olive oil. Turn off when thoroughly combined.
Toss tortellini and pesto, until tortellini are completely coated. You may not need the entire cup.
Freezing Pesto: Basil pesto freezes wonderfully and is one of my favorite things to stock up on over summer, for quick weeknight dinners throughout the year.
To freeze, transfer pesto to an airtight container (I use mason jars) and freeze until ready to use. Pesto may be defrosted in the fridge or for 30-60 seconds in the microwave (don’t forget to take off the metal lid and rim!)
Sweet and tangy pomegranate combines with bright grapefruit to make a refreshing summer cocktail that is just slightly sweet.
By now, you must be realizing that there’s a foodie holiday for everything. Last week’s National Iced Tea Day, National Doughnut Day earlier this month… These holidays are a lot of fun for bloggers who use them as inspiration for their blog and social media posts. After all, who wouldn’t love to drool over the over the top recipes that come out for National Ice Cream Day?
Welcome to #NationalMartiniDay!
Whether you enjoy your martini with vodka or gin, shaken or stirred, we’ve got some libations for your happy hour.
This is one foodie holiday I couldn’t wait to celebrate. While I’m usually a wine drinker, I increasingly enjoy experimenting with new cocktails when we go out for dinner or at home in my own kitchen. This foodie holiday was perfectly timed this year, as I had recently had a wonderful cocktail at a local restaurant, The Wine Kitchen on the Creek, that I was anxious to recreate. You see, they had a spin on the classic cosmo – one of my go-to cocktails of cranberry juice, vodka, orange liquor, and a splash of lime – that featured pomegranate juice and grapefruit juice instead of the cranberry and lime. So good!
My recreation took me a few times to get right. It needed to be a little bit sweet but not overpowering. Take 1 was definitely too sweet. Take 2 was better but still not the perfect balance of flavors. Take 3 was it. I made sure by having two cocktails. The things I do for you… 😉
Cheers to the start of a good week!
Pomegranate Grapefruit Vodka Martini
By Books n’ Cooks
Makes 1 Cocktail
- 1 1/2 oz. good-quality vodka
- 1/2 oz. Cointreau
- 1 3/4 oz. pomegranate juice
- 1 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- grapefruit wedge and/or pomegranate arils for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add vodka, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, and grapefruit juice. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Pour into a martini glass and serve immediately.
Check out the collection of martinis that our bloggers have created for you!
And big thanks to Ellen at Family Around the Table for hosting this one!
- Blueberry Lemon Vodka Martini from Family Around The Table
- Mermaid Martini from Amy’s Cooking Adventure
- Orange Creamsicle Martini from A Day In The Life On The Farm
- Pomegranate Grapefruit Vodka Martini from Books n’ Cooks
- Thai-Tini from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- The Jasmine Martini from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Vesper Martini from Potable Pastime
- Watermelon Strawberry Martini from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- White Peach and Honeysuckle Martini from Palatable Pastime
The Little Paris Bookshop
By Nina George
Jean Perdu is a bit eccentric. He is know as a literary apothecary. Perdu owns a little bookshop, a barge docked on the Seine River. From here, Perdu prescribes books for helping and for healing whatever troubles his customers. “To a certain degree, [Perdu] could read from a body’s posture, its movement and its gestures, what was burdening or oppressing it” (p. 27). Intuitively, Perdu knows exactly what his customers need.
It’s a quiet life, with Perdu going through the motions of everyday life without really living, numb inside. But after a neighbor returns a long-forgotten letter from an old lover, Perdu’s world is turned upside down. Memories and feelings are woken. Perdu must learn to not just cope but to live and love again.
Recommendation/Review: I have mixed feelings on this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed the story. The books chronicles Perdu’s emotional journey starting with reading the letter from his old lover – breaking his heart all over again and inducing great guilt – through experiencing loss, mourning, and healing as he sails to his lover’s homeland. Along his journey, Perdu picks up other men that are in need to healing and self-discovery in their own way. The men provide support for one another, showing and experiencing life’s joys again, and gradually find their way back to living again. I found this touching, and enjoyed seeing Perdu and the other characters grow, learn, and find themselves. Especially Perdu – following him through the stages of grief before he was able to come to terms with history and move on with life.
However, on the other hand, I did find some of the dialog and descriptions in the book a little too flowery and unreal. Nicely written, but I couldn’t help rolling my eyes or skimming ahead a bit. It was just a little too over the top for me, at some parts.
Overall, the book was enjoyable, and I’m glad I read it.
If you’ve read this book, what did you think?
Disclaimer: Thank you to our #IcedTeaDay Sponsor: Adagio Tea for providing the prizes free of charge. This company also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #IcedTeaDay. All opinions are my own.
It’s #IcedTeaDay! Are you ready for some fun?
Welcome to #IcedTeaDay hosted by Sue from PalatablePastime. We are so excited to have you join us as we cool off with drinks and treats made with Adagio Tea. Thank you so much, Adagio Teas, for generously supplying the bloggers with product for development and providing a prize package for our readers! We have an incredible giveaway below and we’d love if you would take a moment to read about it and what you can win!
Bloggers are hanging together today to share their favorite iced tea recipes using gourmet teas. In addition to the giveaway below, you can also find a collection of recipes that bloggers have created using Adagio Teas, inspired by Iced Tea Day. There are some great recipes for cold beverages and even a popsicle recipes, so be sure to check it out!
I am a long-time hot tea drinker and usually have a couple of cups a day. But I have never been one to drink a lot of iced tea. I’ll drink the occasional glass of unsweetened iced tea, but by comparison to my sweet-tea-loving hubby, I drink very little. Iced Tea Day was a fun experiment, and I completely loved the results.
I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to create an iced tea with a black tea. The Darjeeling Sungma Summer Tea, a black tea that is much lighter in flavor than my favored Earl Grey, was the perfect pick. It has subtle floral white grape notes, making it just sightly sweet. As a hot tea, I enjoyed it on its own, or with a touch of orange blossom honey (also available from Adagio – I might have gone a little nuts shopping!). As an iced tea, it’s light floral notes paired with a touch of a strawberry basil simple syrup were right up my alley. The Darjeeling Sungma Summer Tea was killer with a couple teaspoons of the simple syrup – just enough to add a sweet berry flavor. I loved this so much that I was seriously thinking about running back to the grocery store for more strawberries to make another big pitcher of this tea and more simple syrup. I couldn’t get enough of it.
As promised – some more great #IcedTeaDay recipes created for you using Adagio Teas:
- Caramel Corn Iced Tea from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Cold Brewed Yerba Mate from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Iced Redbush and Elderflower Lemonade Tea from Palatable Pastime
- Iced Tropical Rooibos from A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Mojito Iced Tea from Hezzi D’s Books and Cooks
- Strawberry Basil Darjeeling Iced Tea from Books n’ Cooks
- Strawberry Iced Tea from Feeding Big
- Vanilla Caramel Cream Tea Pops from Family Around the Table
And now for my own recipe…
Strawberry Basil Darjeeling Iced Tea
By Books n’ Cooks
Ingredients for the Iced Tea:
- 8 c. water
- a heaping 1/4 c. Darjeeling Sungma Summer tea from Adagio Teas
Ingredients for the Strawberry Basil Simple Syrup:
- 1 c. water
- 1 c. granulated sugar
- 1 c. sliced fresh strawberries
- 12-15 large basil leaves, roughly torn
- sliced strawberries
- fresh basil
Make the Iced Tea: Add water to a large pot. Add tea – either loose or within a paper tea filter. Bring to a boil. Turn off and allow to steep at least 10 minutes, or until cool enough to transfer to a pitcher. When cool enough to handle, remove tea filter (or strain over a fine mesh sieve or through cheesecloth, if you used loose tea) and transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate until real to server.
Make the Strawberry Basil Simple Syrup: In a small pot set over medium-low heat, combine all ingredients. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn off and allow to cool.
Strain out solids with a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Transfer syrup to an airtight glass jar and store in the refrigerator.
To Make Tea: Fill a glass halfway with ice. Add iced tea and desired amount of simple syrup, to taste. (I use 2 teaspoons – from my everyday silverware – for a 16 oz. glass.) Stir and serve immediately.
- I like to make the iced tea and flavored simple syrup and keep the two separate. This allows everyone to mix up their own flavored iced tea, adding more or less per their preference.
- Simple Syrup will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight jar in the fridge.
Adagio Teas is giving away a gourmet teas gift pack (valued at $92)
Enter the Contest~Giveaway
Giveaway is open to residents of the United States who are 18 years of age or older. Winner will be announced and the prize package sent after the giveaway ends on June 16, 2017. Bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.
The Freedom Broker
By K.J. Howe
Thea Paris, nicknamed “Liberata,” is an expert in the kidnap-and-ransom field, working for a private consulting firm. She routinely negotiates for the release of hostages, but sometimes, works with an elite team to bring the hostages home through covert missions and/or forceful means.
When Thea’s father, a prominent oil executive, is abducted from his home in Greece, she sets off to find him. Thea jets from Greece to Africa, unsure of who she can trust and having no idea what she’ll unravel.
Review/Recommendation: Super short summary, right? The truth is that, while the above is the main plot line, there are a lot of smaller stories that run through the course of the book, all tying into the above at the end.
This mystery/suspense novel was a breath of fresh air from others in the genre. With a lead character a profession other than a cop, federal agent, or a lawyer, it was still fast-paced and very engaging like others in the genre. There were a number of connected story lines that the reader had to puzzle through – how were those story lines connected to Thea’s missing father? Who was lying and about what? Who was trustworthy and who was not? Some answers were clearer than others, which is part of what made the novel so entertaining.
I also appreciated how Howe drew upon the childhood experiences of the main characters. Thea’s brother was kidnapped when the two were children and was missing for about a year. Thea was the intended target. These experiences shaped Thea and her brother’s paths in life, from their occupation to their relationships with others.
If you enjoy mysteries and suspense novels, I’d encourage you to pick up this one.
The Freedom Broker is K.J. Howe’s first novel. It was published in February 2017.
Being a working mom, I always wish that I had more time with my kids – time to go out and do things. You know, trips to the parks, local museums, children’s events… that sort of thing. With our current routines, I feel like there’s just not enough time to do all of that, with working 5 days a week, finding time to do laundry, clean the house, grocery shop, and still manage to find some time to see friends and decompress a bit. But the one thing I think my hubby and I have been pretty good at is taking our kids out to the local farms to pick fruit during the summer and apples and the obligatory Halloween pumpkins during the fall.
The past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough that my parents were in town for strawberry picking. The first year we went, we set off with the intention of picking some berries and maybe making a batch of the jam that my mom used to make when I was growing up. We accidentally ended up with close to 20 pounds of strawberries. Needless to say that day was filled with 3 times as much jam-making as anticipated (in addition to setting aside berries for freezing and eating) and a number of trips to the store to pick up extra supplies.
Since then, we’ve prepared a bit better. We still pick roughly 20 pounds of strawberries, but with the intention of canning more (my brothers and uncles have been over the moon with gifts of homemade jam). My son and daughter have a blast picking and eating the fresh berries, and my daughter can’t wait to get into the kitchen with Mommy and Manna (aka Grandma) to make some jam. It’s a family tradition that makes everyone happy.
This jam can be made as chunky or smooth as you’d like, depending on how much you crush the strawberries. And I’ll give you my little secret – It’s on the sweeter side, and makes a wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream as well.
Cooking Note: I’ve made jam this two years in a row now, both times with my parents. I highly recommend taking advantage of the prep steps noted below, as the jam cooks up pretty quickly. If you have a second set of hands around to help with setting the timers and getting the jars ready for you, use them!
Adapted from Certo
Makes 8-10 Cups
- Canning jars, with lids and bands
- Very hot water (i.e. heat on a stove until very hot or boiling)
- Wax, for sealing the jam
- A small inexpensive pot with a lip, for melting the wax (I recommend one designated solely for this purpose)
- Tongs, to move hot jars
- A large (8+ quart) stainless steel stockpot, for making the jam (Don’t got smaller – the mixture will bubble up a good bit)
- A stainless steel ladle, for portioning out the hot jam
- A wide-mouthed funnel, for portioning out the hot jam
- A baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil
- Kitchen timer
- 5 c. barely crushed strawberries (from ~8 c. whole strawberries, hulled)*
- 7 c. granulated sugar (I used Dixie Crystals sugar)
- 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter
- 1 packet Certo pectin
* Strawberries were barely crushed – smashed once or twice with a potato masher so that most were not whole. Don’t worry if it looks too chunky – the strawberries will break down more as they cook.
Prep: Wash jars and clean out sink. Place clean jars in the sink.
Fill a medium stockpot (~10+ cups) with water and start heating on stove. This water will be used to heat up canning jars.
Start melting wax in a small pot on another burner. When wax is completed melted, keep warm on lowest setting.
Place foil-lined baking sheet on the counter next to the stove (or wherever you’re going to be filling the jars). Set kitchen timer nearby.
Make the Jam: In a large (8+ quart) stainless steel stockpot over high heat, combine crushed strawberries, sugar, and unsalted butter, stirring constantly until sugar is melted. Bring to a rolling boil, 8-10 minutes.
When mixture is very close to a boil, take hot water and fill waiting canning jars. The goal is to keep the jars very hot, so refill as needed, if the water cools before the jam is ready.
Stir to make sure the mixture is fully at a boil. Boil for 1 minute (time it!). Stir in Certo. Return to a rolling boil (happens very quickly, within a minute) and continue boiling for another minute. Turn off stove.
Can: Working quickly, empty water from canning jars and move jars onto waiting baking sheet. Using the funnel and ladle, quickly fill jars with jam, leaving about an inch of room at the top of the jars. Top off with about a 1/2 inch of melted wax. Let jars rest, allowing the jam to thicken and cool, and the wax to harden and seal in the jam.
If jars don’t completely seal (wax moves around or jam starts to come up above the wax), remove wax and store in the fridge for immediate use.
Store sealed jars in a cool place.
Serving: When read to open a jar, use a fork or knife to puncture the wax and remove from jar. The wax may be cleaned and set aside to be remelted for future canning.