As a new bride, one of my homemaking goals was to learn how to make strawberry jam. I also had a dream of winning a blue ribbon at the county fair someday, for my efforts. My first attempt at jam making was a success. I made blackberry and strawberry jams, and my new husband loved it.
I thought to myself, “If it is that good, I'll enter it in the fair!" Unfortunately, I did not study the rules for entering canned items to be judged. I cleaned out an old pickle jar, put my carefully prepared jam into it, and considered it pretty and tasty enough for judging. I was in for an education. When I took it to the entry booth, I was given a disapproving look and was told that I didn’t qualify because my item wasn’t in a proper jar with a two piece lid.
Embarrassed at my ignorance, I left the fairgrounds. I spent the next year reading the fair premium rules and everything I could get my hands on about properly preserving foods.
The following year, when the fair time rolled around, I was ready! I canned a quart each of strawberry, blackberry and blueberry jam and salsa too. I was so proud of my accomplishment, and I was ready to show those fair judges that I knew what I was doing that year! I rushed home after work on the day that the newspaper said to bring the entries to the fair office. I gathered all of my carefully made items and set off once more to the county fair. As I made my way through the exhibition hall, something didn't feel right. I noticed that many items on displays already had ribbons on them. When I asked an official, she said: “You were supposed to have your entries in yesterday.” When I showed her the newspaper ad that stated that particular day, was the day; she quickly said: “Sorry, that was a typo.” My heart sank to the floor. I missed my shot at a ribbon, this time because of a typo.
You ever notice how bad luck seems to come at you, several ways at a time? Well, as I was walking downtrodden, back out to my car. I noticed a huge black cloud in an otherwise sunny blue sky. Rain drops started pelting my head, drenching me and my box of fair entries. While the sun shone everywhere else, I was all wet.
The next year, I won a ribbon by golly. Not a blue one but red. Second place. That coveted blue ribbon wasn't mine yet- but I was determined. Fast forward a year; the first of three babies came, and we moved out of state, so I put the pursuit of blue ribbons on hold for a while.
I'm happy to say that eight years ago I finally won a blue ribbon at the Stanly County fair for my strawberry jam, and I’ve won one every year since.
What's the takeaway from this story? Persistence is key.
This week, I am going to direct you to my website for a recipe and how-to video for my blue ribbon winning, vanilla bean infused strawberry jam. It is It is delicious with the sweet strawberries and hint of vanilla.
If you just want a jar of jam and don't want to fool with making it yourelf, see me at the Locust farmers market starting May 5th, from 11-4. I'll have plenty on hand there.
That’s the news from the homestead. See you next week.
The fragrance of sun-dried laundry is sweet, pure and fresh. For me, there is nothing that promotes a heavenly sleep better than slipping into a freshly-made bed with sheets pulled fresh from the line. Such a blissful sensation!
When I was a child, we had a neighbor who hung her wash out to dry on a round clothes line. The colorful towels hanging there were like flags waving in the breeze, beckoning us to come and play. My brother and I thought it was a thrill to run through her towels and twist the pole like a merry go round as we wrapped ourselves up in her freshly washed, still damp laundry. Unfortunately, the neighbor lady did not find it as thrilling as us and soon put a fence around her property to keep us away. My own children did the same thing when they were younger. There is just something so tempting to a child that makes it so they just can’t help it. Of course, I didn’t yell at my kids like the neighbor yelled at us. I laughed and watched and remembered the fun.
We don’t have a traditional clothes line like I recall from my childhood. Years ago, I purchased a Minky retractable clothes line. I bolted one end to a tree and anytime I want to hang my clothes out to dry, I just pull out the cord and attach it to another tree where I fashioned a hook. We have a Y shaped stick that I put in the middle of the line to hold it up if it needs extra support. It fits the purpose beautifully and we don’t have any poles to mow around or lines to get caught up in when not in use.
Did you know that the sun is not only good for drying clothes but it is a great stain remover and whitener? Anytime I have a cup towel from the kitchen with a wine or spaghetti stain, I will wash it and hang it in the sun to dry early in the morning. By the time evening rolls around, the stain is usually gone or at least faded away. It is a great way to whiten cloth baby diapers and white T-shirts too.
A few years ago, I began noticing that I sneezed and itched whenever I washed and wore my clothes. It must have been sensitivity to the commercial washing detergents that I was using. I did some research and found that you could make your own cleaners at a fraction of the cost and without all of the harsh chemicals and overload of fragrance. After I started using my homemade washing soap, it took care of the sneezing and itchy skin.
For homemade laundry detergent, you only need a few, easy to find items. Everything is fairly inexpensive and you will be amazed at the money you save.
Home Made Laundry Detergent
1-5-gallon bucket with a lid
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 cup Twenty Mule Team Borax
1 Bar Sweet Harvest Homestead Laundry Soap-(grated)
8 cups water
Heat 8 cups of water in large pot and dissolve grated Sweet Harvest Homestead Laundry Soap. After all of the soap is dissolved, stir in washing soda and borax. Remove from heat. It will have a honey like consistency. Pour concentrate into the 5 gallon bucket. Add enough water to nearly fill the bucket. Stir well and cover with a well fitted lid (I love Gamma Seal Lids)
When you open the lid the next morning, the detergent will be thick. That’s okay. Stir it a bit. Use 1 cup of laundry soap per load of wash. (I like to turn my water on in the washing machine first and add the laundry soap to the water before I add the clothes. This gives it time to melt away and go to work getting your clothes clean.)
That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week.
12 Medium Apples
16 Red Bell Peppers (yellow and orange work well too)
1 1/2 Pints Sweet Onions
3 Cups Sugar
1 1/2 Pints Apple Cider Vinegar
Chop everything in a food processer and put in to a large stock pot. Pour in the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and cook for 15 minutes.
Pour into jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
Makes 20 half pint jars. Use on anything!
So many memories are closely related to food. Mama’s Cornbread Dressing makes me think of Christmases long ago and Aunt Debby’s Blueberry Dessert reminds me of Thanksgiving and all of the fun that we had when we were all together.
When springtime comes around and all of the tender lettuces and spring onions are ready to harvest from the garden, I think of my Grandmother and the day she introduced me to Wilted Lettuce Salad.
When I was a new bride, I worked down the road from my grandmother’s house. I got off work at 3:00, and many afternoons, I would go by her house and visit for a while before making my way home to my new home and husband.
One particular spring afternoon, I stopped by her house and she asked me if I was hungry and If I would like some Killed Lettuce. Killed Lettuce!? Say what?
Well, she proceeded to go out back to her small little garden patch and pick a mess of tender lettuce and green onions that she had growing in the back yard.
She already had cornbread in the oven and white beans on the stove so all that was left was to make up this ‘Killed Lettuce’ that she spoke of.
She walked me through the process of making it. First you fry the bacon, save the hot grease and put in a little sugar and vinegar then pour the dressing over the lettuce to kill or wilt it.
She crumbled the bacon on top and armed with glasses of sweet tea and full plates, we went out on the porch to enjoy our feast.
I don’t really remember what we talked about that day. I am sure it probably centered on my new home or the recent death of her husband (my Granddaddy). I do know that it was such a peaceful, full feeling to be there with her, sharing a simple meal, listening to the birds and watching the little rabbits scamper by.
It is those simple, sweet moments in life, like this one, that make the best memories.
If you would like to learn how to make this salad, be sure to watch the video below.