Strawberry Balsamic Jam with Cracked Black Pepper

This is a soft-set jam with the consistency of a loose fruit spread.  The balsamic vinegar turns the jam a deep purple and adds a tartness, which is unidentifiable as vinegar, and the black pepper provides a slow, pleasant heat. This recipe will make approximately 2 cups (or four half pints) of jam.

4 cups mashed strawberries

2 cups sugar

4 tablespoons of a good quality balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons of freshly ground cracked black pepper (grinder set on largest setting)

Place strawberries and sugar and a non-reactive container and refrigerate for a few hours, even up to overnight. This will allow the fruit to macerate and dissolve most of the sugar prior to cooking.

Before you begin cooking the fruit, prep and prepare your jars for water bath canning. If you are new to canning or need a refresher, Ball, is the universal canning guru. I am not receiving any compensation from Ball or any of their affiliates. I am attaching a link to their site because they are just so good at what they do. In my opinion, they set the gold standard for canning. Following is a link to their site:

Place the strawberry and sugar mixture in a heavy skillet that is deep enough to hold the mixture and allow it to boil without boiling over. Place over high to medium high heat and stir to dissolve any remaining sugar crystals. Allow mixture to come to a boil, reduce heat to keep it at a low and stir occasionally to keep the strawberries and sugar from burning. Once the berries have reduced to half in volume (this can take anywhere from 30 minutes on up) add the balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper and cook for about 5 minutes more.

Remove prepared jars from canner. Fill jars to about 1/4 inch from top. Apply lids and rings and place back into the canner. Allow water to come to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars from counter and place on a heat proof surface. Listen for the distinctive “pop” or “click” to indicate that the jars have sealed. Allow jars to sit, undisturbed, for about 24 hours, check the seal, and if sealed properly, remove rings and store in a cool, dark area. (I have shelves in a rarely used guest room that I store my canned goods.)

Any jars that have not sealed, place in the refrigerate as they are not safe for room temperature storage.

I plan on enjoying my jam over brie with a glass of red wine and some crackers.

JamStrawberry Season

Salt Water Taffy

I found this recipe in my recipe organizer. I don’t know if this is the same recipe we made in Home Ec but if not, it’s very similar. Please pay particular attention to NUMBER 6 in the directions, cut your waxed paper squares ahead of time and pay attention to the cooking stage of the sugar. Undercook it and you will have fudge. Overcook it and it will be impossible to chew.

Here’s a link about my first taffy making experience at home. Candy Making 101


2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup water

2 teaspoons butter

A few drops of food coloring

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon extract, of your choice


1. Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and water in a 2 quart pan.

2. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Be careful not to splash the sides with the sugar mixture.

3. Heat mixture, without stirring, until it reaches a hard-ball stage.260*

4. Remove from heat and mix in remaining ingredients.

5. Pour onto a lightly buttered baking sheet. 

6. Cool until just able to handle.

7. Butter hands and gather taffy into a ball and pull.

8. Continue to pull until light in color and hard to pull. This works best if you have someone to help you. 

9. Divide into fourths.

10. Pull each fourth into a 1/2″ thick rope

11. Cut into 1″ pieces using buttered scissors

12. Wrap individually in waxed paper or it will stick together.

Grandma’s Syrup

2 cups water

2 cups light or dark brown sugar

Maple flavoring, if desired (Grandma never used this)

In a heavy saucepan, combine water and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer until mixture reaches the consistency of syrup. Add maple flavoring, if desired, prior to serving.

Note: You can add more brown sugar to thicken the mixture more quickly.

Attached is a story about breakfast at Grandma’s house. Breakfast at Grandma’s House


Presbyterian Potatoes

When I lived in Virginia, a good friend gave me this recipe. She was a Methodist. I have no idea how these mashed potatoes got their name but they are, hands down, the best mashed potatoes I have ever had. They can be prepared the day before and reheated without any loss of flavor or texture.

5 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced

1 – 8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese

½ to 1 cup milk

1 stick margarine or butter

1 t. onion salt

1 t. salt

1 t. seasoning salt (like Lawry’s)

¼ t. pepper

Cook potatoes until soft.  Drain well.  Mash potatoes with all ingredients and serve while warm.

These can be prepared the day before and refrigerated.  Reheat potatoes in a covered dish in a 350 degree oven until heated through.

We have found that in lieu of the cream cheese and butter, one box of the Boursin cheese works as well.  Our favorite is the garlic but the herbed cheese also works well too.

Leftovers also make terrific potato pancakes!



(from the kitchen of Nancy Deaton Mullins)

*2 cups cornmeal

*2 tablespoons baking powder

*1 teaspoon salt

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

1 large egg (use 2 eggs if they appear to be smaller in size)

¼ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, for skillet

*(or if you have made your own mix ahead of time, 2 cups of self-rising cornmeal mix.  To make mix, use  1 tablespoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt for every 1 cup of cornmeal.)

In a 10” cast iron skillet, add 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil.  Place skillet in oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Let the oven completely preheat before you begin mixing your batter.  If you mix your batter ahead of time, it will sit and be way too thick to pour.  To get a good crust on the cornbread, the skillet needs to be nearly smoking hot.

Once the oven is preheated, in a bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and oil.  Add the cornmeal mix and stir until combined.  Remove the skillet from the oven—remember to use an oven mitt because those handles will be hot.  This batter will be fairly thick.  Pour the mixture into the hot skillet and place back into the oven.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and turn out onto a plate to serve.

During the last five minutes of baking, if you want the top crust to be as browned as the bottom, remove the skillet from the oven, grab a plate and carefully turn the cornbread on to it.  The slide it back into the skillet, top side down and bake for about 5 minutes longer.

Cornbread Wars

Broccoli Raisin Salad


2 bunches broccoli, florets only (5 to 6 cups florets-I chop mine up pretty finely instead of leaving them in hunks)

½ cup medium red onion, chopped

2/3 cup raisins

8 – 10 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

1/2 cup sunflower seed kernels, salted


1 cup mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons vinegar


When I make the dressing, I add more vinegar (and sometimes more sugar) as I like the sweet/tart combination.  I also use light mayo and have used sugar substitute as well. This dressing mix is what I use for coleslaw as well.

Combine salad ingredients; top with dressing mixture just prior to serving so broccoli doesn’t get soggy.