But We Don’t NEED Anymore Strawberry Jam!

Where is it written that you can only make something when you NEED it? I mean honestly, just because I have a pantry with 2015 jars of strawberry jam still on the shelves, does this automatically mean I can’t make some 2016 jars?

Isn’t there something about fresh-from-the-pot strawberry jam on lightly toasted bread or a hot from the oven biscuit that can’t be duplicated, even in home-canned strawberry jam. Sure I love my canned goods and am grateful the pantry is brimming with more than 70 different jams, jellies, preserves, and spreads, but given the opportunity to make a fresh batch to eat straight from the pot, I’m just going to have to do it.

This year I didn’t plan on making jam, but once those berries were safely home and sitting on the counter, filling the kitchen with their sweet smell, something came over me and I found myself whipping up a batch and then two.


Never fear though, the first batch was gone within hours (given away and eaten) and the second batch isn’t going to make it the pantry. Changing up last years recipe a bit yielded a jam so good, I can’t keep it from being devoured. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning for Strawberry Jam.

The rest of the berries were frozen or dehydrated or eaten. It’s amazing how fast 20 pounds of berries can get used up. Maybe I’ll have to head out for another 20 pounds or so. I don’t really NEED them or anything, but where is it written…

And for this I am — Simply Grateful.




Rebel With A Cause – Pressure Canning Against The Rules

I don’t always break the rules when canning, especially when it comes to pressure canning, but sometimes there are just no other options.

Such is the case when it comes to me, pressure canning, and using my glass top stove.

It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to use my “highly recommended against” glass top stove, although it is certainly easier than any other option, but when it is all you have that works, what other option is there?

So I am a rebel, again.

Good news though. It works. I don’t know why it is recommended against, but using my glass top stove has proven to be the easiest, most fool-proof method of pressure canning than any other I have tried and as long as I have a glass top stove, it will be my go to heating choice. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning Pressure Canning on a Glass Top Stove  for the complete story.

I’ve been working on canning beans all week and have two more days still to go. Then it’s out to the garden to get some spring crops started, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Christmas Cookies – Let The Baking Begin!

To be completely honest, my Christmas baking began more than a week ago, but the ones I made tonight are the only ones we still have some left in the tins to eat — which isn’t saying much as they are disappearing fast.

So far this holiday season I’ve made Lemon-Cranberry Cookies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, and the two cookies I made tonight that you’ll find recipes for on Simply Grateful Cooking: Peanut Butter Blossoms and Dark Chocolate Oatmeal.

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Best part of tonights baking…two new mixes-in-jars for the pantry shelf, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.



Michigan Concords – Another Casualty of Old Man Winter

I have been so busy with other things lately, that canning anything hasn’t made it onto my to do list, let alone crossed my mind. Last weekend, however, as some of my major projects have been winding down, I began wondering if Concord grapes were ready for picking yet.


Friday morning I called the only farm within 50 miles for grape picking and found out grape season was already closed. WHAT! How could that be? Concords don’t usually even ripen until the beginning of October here in Michigan, how could the season already be done?

Well, apparently the harsh Michigan weather we endured last winter took its toll on the grape crops and the season was very short and not very plentiful. Discouraged, I began to look for farms that were further out, but still feasible. There were none.

My only other option was to start calling farmer’s markets and see if anyone had grapes I could buy. Monday morning I called my favorite farm, Verellen Farms, and found out they had Michigan Concords. I drove there immediately, and by 9 a.m. was back home with 3 pecks of Concords for processing.


For two days now I’ve been working on grape juices, jams, spreads, and syrup. Check out Simply Grateful Canning for my posts on Concord Grape Juice Revisited, Updated, & Expanded – Cran Grape JuiceCran-Grape Syrup & Spread, and Cran-Grape Jam – Not Traditional.

I’ve got about a peck left and with that I think I might try an old-fashioned recipe for grape juice to compare it with the easy recipe I’ve done for two years now.

Michigan weather can be brutal, especially when it comes to fruit trees. Thankfully this year I was still able to get some Concords, enough to stock the pantry for a good year or more, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


The Rantings Of A Burned Out Canner!

Every morning when I come downstairs from a restless nights sleep, I know exactly what is waiting for me, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Canning season has been in full swing for what seems like FOREVER now and the house, the kids, Hubby, and especially myself are really starting to suffer for it. As I trudged down the stairs this morning, dreading what I knew was waiting for me in the kitchen, as well as every other room in the house, the first thing that popped into my head was:

I want a clean stove!

Is that really too much to ask for? Can having a clean stove be something I will only dream about or is it something that might actually, possibly, just maybe happen some day in my life before we have to replace it for the third time because I’ve burned yet another one out?

Don’t get me wrong, I do clean my stove. Not as often as I should, or probably as often as most people do, but it does get clean. The trouble with cleaning it though is that gosh darn it if it doesn’t just get completely dirty again. And we are not just talking a spill here or a drip there. No, we are talking totally and completely unrecognizably stained, burned and splattered.

I don’t think I’m a messy person. I wouldn’t consider myself to be flippant when it comes to cleaning up messes, but my stove is NEVER, and I don’t use that word lightly, clean. Even when it’s clean, it’s not really clean. There is always just a subtle streak, a tiny spot, or because this stove is now several years old those black marks that just won’t come off there to mock me. Is it a curse? Am I the only one who can’t seem to have one day when her stove is clean for more than the ten minutes between meal preparation, canning projects, or kitchen endeavors?

Realizing that a clean stove just might be too much to ask, I began to think about all the other things that I want, and the list was HUMONGOUS!

  • I want a kitchen floor that I can walk on barefoot and not have to worry about crunching, sticking, or slipping.
  • I want kitchen cabinets without food drips all down the front of them.
  • I want empty counter space. Yep, either the counters are filled with full canning jars, empty canning jars, stacks of dishes to be cleaned, pots and pans to be scoured, or food to be processed.
  • I want a kitchen table without crumbs all over it because no one thought to shake out the tablecloth after the last five dinners I made.
  • I want a kitchen sink that isn’t already full of dishes soaking or stacked so high you can’t even use the faucet.

Then I moved from the kitchen:

  • I want coffee and end tables that aren’t covered and stacked with recipes, note books full of notes on future blog posts, gardening books, and all sorts of papers strewn on every table and taking up every cushion on the couch.
  • I want to know what color my carpeting is. I think we have navy blue, but for all the dust, lint, dog toys and hair, and other paraphernalia all over it I just can’t be sure. Doesn’t anyone around here know what a vacuum is – oh yeah, that’s my job. Okay then, I want my carpet vacuumed.
  • I want to know what watching television without a ½ inch of dust on it is like.
  • I want to know who keeps putting all those cobwebs in every corner and in every crevice imaginable.
  • I want the stack of ironing sitting on the fireplace to magically be done and all the baskets of unfolded laundry folded and put away.

Moving upstairs:

  • I want the sheets on every bed to get a washing that is too long overdue.
  • I want all the work that needs to be done in Zeb’s room behind me: The border on his ceiling needs removing, the walls need to be primed and repainted (including the ceiling and closet), his videos, trophies, and anything on his dressers or bookshelves need to be boxed so we can throw out his old “little boy” furniture to make way for his new bedroom set being delivered in a couple of weeks, we need to remove the old carpet and put in the new, and I need to find new bedding, make a new window treatment, and all the finishing touches a remodeled room requires. I want it done before he turns 22, which is in a few months, but in reality I have less than a month to get all the prep work done before the furniture arrives.
  • I want to wash my windows. Yes, you read that correctly. I WANT to wash my windows. I hate washing windows but at this point the prospect of washing them appeals to me. I basically only streak them, but I want clean windows so I’m willing to streak them as only I can and clean the tracks too! Of course the reason I want to clean windows now, when it isn’t really a priority, is probably because there is no way in the world I’m going to do it. When I actually have the time for such a project, I will hate every minute of it, but if I went upstairs right now and started cleaning any window, I think I’d find some sort of distorted comfort in it.


  • I want a fresh cup of coffee. I have been drinking out of the same pot of coffee, just reheating it, for the past three days now. A fresh cup of coffee sounds so good right now, but a luxury that cannot be – BECAUSE I’D NEED A CLEAN SPOT ON THE COUNTER IN ORDER TO MAKE IT!
  • I want all the shoes that everyone just tosses off and leaves in the entrance to the laundry room put away where they belong. Let me qualify that by saying “put away by the people who tossed them there” and not by me!
  • I want someone to walk Bell. Although it does give me a reprieve from everything overwhelming me here in the house, it would sure be nice to have someone else take her for a change.
  • I want dinner done. No matter what I do all day long, dinner is the one thing that absolutely, positively, without fail has to get done TOO! Not in leu of, but along with. How nice it would be to actually spend a day just making dinner and not have to worry about everything else on my perpetual to do list.
  • I want the gardens to be cleaned out. The cucumbers and peas are done and need to be cleared to make way for spring crops and there are several gardens that need revamping for next year as well.
  • I want all the peppers and tomatoes waiting to be harvested picked and processed, the pumpkins pureed and frozen and the corn dried. Actually at this point I just want the peppers and tomatoes to STOP. The peppers especially seeing as I can’t figure out anything to do with them and there are at least a few hundred more peppers out there to pick.

Is all this really too much to ask?

Oh, and I want a stocked, full pantry. Wait. I forgot…the pantry.

Yes, this is stocked and overflowing. A testament of where my time has gone, what I’ve been doing, and why everything else in our house seems to be in complete upheaval and an utter disaster. So is this the price I have to pay for a full pantry?

The argument could be made to pace myself. How??? Fruits and vegetables wait for no one. The window of opportunity for preserving is so short that it is impossible to stop and smell the roses. So the only thing to do is push forward and keep telling myself “this too shall pass.”

Still, what I wouldn’t do for a fresh cup of coffee right about now, and with that I’ll sign off – Simply Grateful.


Canning Is A Learning Process

One aspect of canning that I never get tired of is the fact that no matter how long I’ve been doing it, there is always something new to learn.

This year while canning whole plums I decided to take the time to test hot packing plums versus raw packing them. The results were surprising and enlightening, see today’s post on Simply Grateful Canning on Canning Whole Plums.

I am so glad I took the time to find out why one method might be better than the other and didn’t just take the quick, easy route (raw pack). Had I done that, I never would have realized that there is a better way and the reasons why it is better.

I never get tired of learning new things, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Recipe Catch-Up #2 – Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

When I saw this recipe for a jam combining raspberry with jalapeno peppers, I was intrigued. Thinking back to the Jalapeno Jelly I made last year I wondered if this would be something we would actually eat. Although the jalapeno jelly was good, the uses were limited to a few appetizer recipes or possibly on a bagel with cream cheese.

Being an extreme canner, I had to try it, even if it was only this once.


Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

4 Cups Strained Raspberry Juice

1 Large Jalapeno Pepper

2 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of water

  • Mince the jalapeno pepper and depending on how spicy you want the jam, remove or add the seeds. The seeds will make it spicier.
  • Combine the raspberry juice jalapeno pepper, sugar and lemon juice in stock pot. Bring to near boil.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil for one minute or until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars. Wipe rims, adjust lids, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 7 – 8 oz. Jars

I began tasting this while the spread was cooking and at first the jalapeno taste was not noticeable. I saved a small portion in a bowl while processing the remaining and as it cooled the flavor of the jalapeno began to come through.

Using one jalapeno with no seeds gave it a slight pepper flavor with very little spice. If I were to make this again I would add a few seeds to the spread.

I’ve been eating this spread on toast and find it a unique change from my other spreads. I’m glad I tried this and now have something a little different to share with family and friends, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Recipe Catch-Up #1 – Raspberry-Blueberry Preserves

Raspberry-Blueberry Preserves


4 Cups Seedless Raspberry Juice

5 Cups Fresh or Frozen BlueBerries

3 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 5 Tbsp. Water

  • Combine raspberry juice, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in large stock pot. Bring mixture to a near boil.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil. Boil for one minute or until thickened. Remove from heat and let sit five minutes.
  • Ladle preserves into hot jars, wipe rims, adjust lids, and process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: 11 – 8 oz. Jars

This preserve is excellent on toast, English muffins, bagels, or just about anything, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Pepper Progress

The one crop in my garden that I have been the most nervous about this year has been the Romainian, Szegedi, and White Cloud peppers.

Last year I had great success with my jalapeno peppers, but in the past bell peppers have never fared well in my garden. Back in March I ordered seeds for the peppers I usually buy from a local farm and then planted them in early April. Nearly every seed sprouted and at the end of May I transplanted them into the garden.

At first the plants seemed to just stall and for several weeks absolutely no new growth was to be found. Then, finally in early July the plants took off.

Here is what the plants looked like July 8 —

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One week later on the 15th they looked like this —

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And today they look like this —

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I have picked 9 peppers so far and plan on picking at least five tonight.

I planted these peppers for pickling, but Hubby is enjoying them too much right out of the garden to even think about depriving him of the fresh peppers just yet. I figure I’ve got a month or so of peppers ahead of us, so even if it means picking up a few from the farmer’s market, I’d rather he enjoy them while he can.

Forty plants went into the gardens. My hope is that we’ll pick at least a bushel of peppers which is what I need to pickle enough for a years supply. Nine is a great start with the plants teeming with more, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Three Canning Projects At Once – Layered Berry Spread


A few years ago I came across an article in a magazine while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store for layered jam. The idea was to layer two separate jams in the same jar before processing in the water bath. This year I finally decided to give it a try using raspberry and blackberry seedless spread.

The first step in making a layered jam is to prepare each jam.

Raspberry Seedless Spread


4 Cups Strained Raspberry Juice

2 Cups Sugar

3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

5 1/2 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of Water

  • Combine fruit juice, sugar and lemon juice in stock pot. Bring to near boil. Turn heat to medium-high and add Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil and cook for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat. If making a layered spread, cover and set aside. If canning individually, ladle spread into hot jars, adjust lids, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  • NOTE: If not canning this spread as a “layered spread” the amount of Clear Jel and water to 3 Tbsp.

Blackberry Seedless Spread


5 1/2 Cups Strained Blackberry Juice

3 Cups Sugar

6 1/2 Tbsp Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of Water

  • Combine fruit juice and sugar in stock pot. Bring to near boil. Turn heat to medium-high and add Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil and cook for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat. If making a layered spread, cover and set aside. If canning individually, ladle spread into hot jars, adjust lids, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  • NOTE: If not canning this spread as a “layered spread” the amount of Clear Jel and water to 5 Tbsp.

Blackberry/Raspberry Layered Seedless Spread


  • Fill hot jars half full with either blackberry or raspberry seedless spread. Let spread sit in jars for 5 minutes.
  • Ladle second spread carefully into half-full jars. Be sure to ladle hot spread into jars by allowing it to slide down the sides of the jar, this will ensure that the layered effect is visible.
  • Wipe rims, top with hot lids and bands, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This particular project did not turn out exactly as I had envisioned because my raspberry spread was darker than anticipated and the color differentiation between the two spreads was hardly noticeable. Next time I try making a layered spread, I will use two spreads/jams that have a more noticeable contrast.

Although this particular project did not turn out exactly as I wanted, I am glad I tried it. I ended up with some raspberry spread canned separately, blackberry spread canned separately, and then several jars where I layered the two. Experience is the best teacher and even though the jars of layered spread might not be as impressive as I had hoped, I now know how to remedy this in the future, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.