Homemade Blueberry Jam (Lower Sugar)

homemade blueberry jam

Okay someone please tell me why I feel the need to make my own jams and jellies when there are perfectly good store bought products available?

Tell me that it’s totally worth it because I’m controlling the ingredients and sugar content. And it doesn’t matter that I’m melting over a hot stovetop on a 90° day!

Okay enough self-pity.

Late last summer, I decided that I was going to try to create enough canned jams and jellies so there wouldn’t be a need for commercial product.

Since I started so late in the season, all the cool fruits were out of season (like strawberries, blueberries, and stone fruit), so I started with an easy apple cider jelly, then onto batches of Concord grape jams & jellies.

I’m so proud that I made enough to last us through winter! But spring couldn’t come quick enough as I was down to one last jar of sad apple cider jelly, along with a few emergency jars of Concord grape “syrup” that didn’t quite work itself into jam.

So when Whole Foods Market announced that they were offering organic blueberries for $1.99/pint I knew it was time to start making more jam!

I had borrowed “Put ’em up” from the library and I found a “quick blueberry jam” recipe that utilized Pomona’s Pectin without the need for massive amounts of sugar, so along with 4 pints if blueberries, I also purchased a box of Pomona’s.

I used Pomona’s a couple of times last year. I like that I can use a smaller amount if sugar and didn’t have to worry about making the jam thicken on its own.

So this morning, despite the 90° heat wave, I got my ingredients ready and proceeded to make a batch of blueberry jam while a big pot of water and jelly jars came up to boil next to it.

I was doing really well, following the directions, allowing the jam to come to a boil slowly. I then added the lemon juice, calcium water, and sugar pectin mix and stirred stirred stirred waiting for the second boil.

I kept peeking, and it wasn’t quite there yet, until I turned away for a little too long and splurshhhh, blueberry jam erupted all over my gas stove!

Then it was time to remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before ladling into jars for the hot water bath. When I was finished, I had 4 (eight oz) canned jars and 2 for the fridge.

The other good news was the sticky blueberry mess on my stove was thankfully easy to clean!

Here’s the recipe:

Quick blueberry jam

Based on recipe from “Put em up” cookbook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 6 cups (original recipe stated 4 cups, I used 4 US dry pints of blueberries. 1 US dry pint = about 2.3 cups, even after losing some to boil-over on the stove)

This jam is full of fresh blueberry flavor. Because these berries are easy to stem and have no hulls or noticeable pips, it’s a quick project too.


1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons Pomona’s universal pectin
4 US/dry pints blueberries, stemmed (about 9-10 cups, original recipe stated 8 cups)
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
2 teaspoons calcium water (mix included in the Pomona’s box- I still had a batch in the fridge from last year)


  1. Whisk the sugar and pectin together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Rinse blueberries and add them into a (nonreactive) sauce pan (I used my 4qt stainless pot) and slowly bring to a boil over low heat.
  3. Continually stir and crush blueberries with potato masher and/or immersion blender (I used both)
  4. Add the lemon juice and calcium water.
  5. Slowly pour in the sugar pectin mixture and keep stirring to make sure it all dissolves.
  6. Return jam to a boil, and then immediately remove from heat to let the jam rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.
  7. Carefully ladle jam into small jelly jars and either store in fridge for 3 weeks or process for 10 minutes using hot water bath method.

Using only 1 cup of sugar, it’s approximately 17 calories and 4g sugar per Tbsp!!!

I couldn’t resist sampling on a slice of my homemade whole wheat bread!

homemade blueberry jam

The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook – Cornmeal Cakes Recipe

I borrowed The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods from the library and I’m loving this book! I hope I have time to write a complete review, but until then, I wanted to blog the details of her cornmeal cakes recipe.

the sprouted kitchen - cornmeal cakes

I made a batch this morning and was extremely impressed. Pancakes are hit or miss with me, usually because I wing it and don’t follow a specific recipe! This time, I followed her directions, well, up to a point. I still put my own spin on the ingredients, but it worked beautifully.

Her original cornmeal cakes recipe also includes cherry compote, but we topped with some of my own homemade Concord grape syrup instead.

Cornmeal Cakes Recipe sans Cherry Compote

Recipe adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte (page 42)

Serves 4


1 cup fine cornmeal or corn flour
1.5 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp boiling water
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp chia seeds (or experiment with other seeds, like sesame, poppy or even caraway)
1/4 cup yogurt mixed with 3/4 cup water
1 egg, beaten
coconut oil for pan


  1. Add cornmeal to large bowl, then stir in oil and boiling water. Allow to rest for 5 minutes to soften cornmeal.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt, then set aside
  3. Add chia seeds, yogurt liquid and egg to the cornmeal mixture and mix until blended.
  4. Pour the dry flour mix into the cornmeal mixture and stir carefully until blended.
  5. Cook pancakes over medium heat in cast iron pan or griddle, adding 1/2 tsp of coconut oil to the pan for each batch.


  • Blending the cornmeal with the liquids beforehand seemed to make it a lot easier to blend in the flour. Sometimes I feel like I’m over mixing.
  • Sara’s original recipe included honey and sugar, but I don’t like adding any sweetener to pancakes since we always top with sweet syrup of some sort. Truthfully, even plain, these pancakes were really delicious! I didn’t miss the extra sugar at all! Anyway, I replaced 2 Tbsp honey with more boiling water. If you want to go by her original recipe, add 2 Tbsp honey with the cornmeal, olive oil, and boiling water, and 3 Tbsp of natural sugar to the dry flour ingredients.
  • Sara made her pancakes with 3/4 cup buttermilk. I had plain yogurt on hand, so I mixed 1/4 cup with 3/4 cup of water, making a full cup of liquid which was 1/4 cup more liquid than the original recipe. I like a really thin batter, and the consistency of this was perfect for me.
  • The original recipe used all butter, but I replaced with olive oil and coconut oil.
  • The chia seeds were my idea. I love adding seeds to pancakes!

I will definitely make these pancakes again. I love the taste of corn pancakes, and next time I’m thinking 1/2 cup of shredded coconut might be a nice addition. Yum!

the sprouted kitchen - cornmeal cakes

Gardening Diary: Preserving Tomatoes by Freezing, Oven Drying & Canning

cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine

My garden will never produce as many tomatoes as I’d like…even though I’m getting full bowlfuls every couple of days, it is never enough! Tomatoes are the perfect food. I adore them!

I’d love to someday grow enough tomatoes so I’d never have to purchase another can/carton of commercial tomatoes again, but that is not a reality this year, but I’m trying to make the best of what I have.

So, I have been learning about the many ways to preserve fresh garden produce for consumption in colder months.

I’ve made a lot of tomato sauce, sometimes with eggplant and peppers. I’m slow-cooking in the oven or in my crock pot. Then storing in freezer bags in my freezer.

I tried something new the other day and I think it’s going to be a favorite.

I was watching the Dehydration class over at breadbeckers.com and it inspired me to learn more about dehydration in the oven. I was thrilled to find out that my oven offers very low temperatures, as low as 100° so I experimented with a batch of cherry tomatoes.

sliced cherry tomatoes before oven drying

It took over 24 hours, experimenting with different temperatures (135-150°) depending on the time of day – it’s helpful if you use an oven thermometer to make sure oven temps aren’t off. The tomatoes dried to little jewels of sugary-flavorful-goodness!

oven dried cherry tomatoes

oven dried cherry tomatoes - close up

Then I spread them on a large plate, and flash-froze them, then bagged them in a quart freezer bag for freezer storage. I know it could be possible to maybe store in a jar, or in olive oil, but I figure that the freezer would be the safest method for now.

I finished drying a second batch yesterday morning, and they went into the freezer as well.

Next, I’m going to try some good ole fashioned canning! I haven’t decided if I’ll do a raw-pack or maybe stewed. I suppose I could try both!

I know I will not have enough of my own tomatoes, so I might be buying some “seconds” tomatoes at the local farm. One farm is selling 7 lbs for $5.99 while supplies last.

I’ve been pouring over canning cookbooks for the last week or so, trying to learn all I can (haha, no pun intended) and I hope that I love canning enough to keep doing it all year long. I have dreams of applesauce in the fall, and orange jam in the winter.


Homemade Refrigerator Pickles & Ideas for Used Pickle Juice

I’m excited to have a bounty of pickling cucumbers in my garden this season. I had such a huge batch the other day, that I decided to make homemade refrigerator pickles.

homemade fridge pickles

After googling a few recipes, I found some basic instructions over at http://hipgirlshome.com/.

Notes: Originally I used the quantities from the original recipe: 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, & 1 Tbsp salt, but when I poured into my larger jar, it wasn’t enough to fill, so I quickly made a second batch using half the ingredients, then poured into the jar separately. It seemed to work fine, but next time, I’ll use larger quantities right away.

Keep in mind, if you are using a smaller jar, you might start off with the lower quantities.

PS I am not a pickling or canning expert. I’m still learning, so follow at your own risk! :)

My Recipe for Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

  • Lots and lots of fresh pickling cucumbers
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • heaping 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • heaping 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • heaping 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp dried dill (I didn’t have fresh)
  • 1.5 cups mix of apple cider & white vinegar or mix of any tasty vinegar you’d like
  • 1.5 cups filtered water
  • 1.5 Tbsp kosher salt
  1. Slice the pickling cucumbers – I cut both ends off, but it’s very important to cut off the “blossom” end, because there is an enzyme that might cause your pickles to become extra-soft. The blossom-end is the opposite of the little stem-end.
  2. Fill a large glass jar with the sliced cukes, leaving a little head room.
  3. Using a mortar & pestle, crush the seeds with the dried dill, then sprinkle on top of the cucumbers in the jar.
  4. Add the sugar, salt, water and vinegars to a saucepan and bring just to a boil – the dill aroma took me back to my grandmother’s house, where she used to make homemade pickles too.
  5. Pour hot brine over the cukes and spices in the jar.
  6. Allow to cool, then cover & refrigerate. I didn’t tighten the jar lid completely, I read that there are gases that build up, and so it’s good to leave a little escape room for air.

I did not have to wait a week like the original recipe suggested; my pickles were scrumptious after just a few hours: crunchy and spicy.

In fact, they were gone within a week’s time! A really great bold flavor. I loved the kick from the mustard seeds! I was snacking on small cupfuls!

homemade fridge pickles
homemade fridge pickles

Re-using Pickle Juice

Now, I’m pondering what to do with the leftover “used” pickle juice.

I have a couple of ideas myself like finishing a recipe with a few splashes (I finish most of my soups & sauces with balsamic, so the pickle juice might also work well) or roasting with potatoes, onions, squash, etc.

I also found some great ideas online

  • Make more pickles, although they won’t be as bold and crunchy
  • Add to fresh baked/cooked beans recipe
  • Because the used pickle juice is diluted, it’s been suggested to add rounded tsp salt w/ Tbps or two of white vinegar & then reuse for new pickles
  • Steam your vegetables with it
  • Make pickled hard boiled eggs (never had them, interesting?)
  • Add to homemade salad dressing
  • Add to tuna, potato, egg salad recipes
  • Add to cole slaw
  • Add to mashed potatoes
  • Use as a brine/marinade for meat
  • Make pickled beets or green beans or other vegetables.
  • Make pickled onions (yum)
  • Use to clean your dirty BBQ grill
  • Drink it (hmm, not sure I like that idea!)
  • Freeze in cubes to suck on in hot weather (replenishing electrolytes)
  • Mix 3 oz with 1 chopped pickle spear & 1 pkg of cream cheese for cracker topping/dip
  • Mix butter and pickle juice for bread spread (that sounds strangely delish)
  • Make Pickle Rye Bread, this sounds yummy too!

Oatmeal/7 Grain Chia Raisin Walnut Muffins

oatmeal whole grain cereal chia raisin muffins

Oh these muffins were fantastic! Surprisingly, rolled oats work well in place of flour in muffins. I also used Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain hot cereal, but plain oat bran would work fine. Hmm, I also might try 100% rolled oats next time!

Muffins made from cereal are a quick & easy way to eat a healthy breakfast, especially when you have someone that generally doesn’t like hot cereal!

Like most muffins, these freeze well!

Oatmeal/7 Grain Chia Raisin Walnut Muffins Ingredients:

Makes 12 muffins

1 cup dry Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 oz chopped Walnuts
1/4 cup Chia Seeds (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1 cup Yogurt, Plain, Whole Milk
1 large Egg
1/4 cup Molasses
1 Tbsp Honey, optionally dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Olive Oil
84g Raisins (about 3/4 – 1 cup)


Preheat oven to 350F
Whisk all dry ingredients (including nuts & chia seeds) in large bowl
Whisk wet ingredients in a large glass measuring cup
Mix wet into dry ingredients, then carefully mix in raisins
Divide into (12) paper-lined muffin pan(s)
Bake for about 18 minutes or until muffins are lightly browned & firm to touch
Remove from muffin pan(s) and allow to cool on rack

oatmeal whole grain cereal chia raisin muffins

Nutritional Data

Calories: 214
Fat: 10g
Saturated: 1.6g
Poly-unsat: 1.8g
Mono-unsat: 3.8g
Cholesterol: 20mg
Sodium: 191mg
Potassium: 165mg
Carbs: 29g
Fiber: 4.7g
Sugar: 12g
Protein: 6g
Calcium: 12%
Iron: 8%

oatmeal whole grain cereal chia raisin muffins

Bob’s Red Mill Cereal Muffins with Peaches, Strawberries, & Raisins

I love making muffins using Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain (or 10 grain) hot cereal. They’re similar to oat bran muffins, but so much better!

My husband enjoys eating muffins for an easy breakfast-on-the-go, and I always keep a batch in zip bags in the freezer for him. These muffins are especially great for those (like my DH) that do not like hot cereal! They make a great mid day snack too!

bob's red mill cereal muffins with peaches, strawberries and raisins

Here’s my recipe for muffins with peaches, strawberries and raisins:

Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain Cereal Muffins with Peaches, Strawberries, & Raisins

Makes 18 muffins


  • 3 cups dry Bob’s Red Mill – 7 or 10 Grain Hot Cereal, or regular oat bran hot cereal
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar or sucanat
  • 2 cups unsweetened Almond Milk (or any liquid equalling 2 cups: plain yogurt with water, regular milk, coconut milk, etc)
  • 1 large egg (or extra-large, jumbo, whatever you have on hand, muffins are so forgiving!)
  • 1/2 cup honey, preferably raw
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, preferably organic
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1 cup (not packed) raisins, preferably organic
  • fresh fruit: handful of strawberries, 2-3 peaches or nectarines, 3-4 plums, a cup of blueberries, etc.
  • Other optional ingredients like chopped nuts, seeds, etc.

Note: These muffins were sweet, so you can reduce the honey to 1/4 cup, which is what I will probably do next time I bake them.


  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In very large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients: cereal, salt, baking powder, sugar
  3. In large glass measuring cup, combine milk/water, eggs, honey, applesauce, and extracts
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry, mix carefully, try not to overmix.
  5. Stir in fresh fruit
  6. Spoon into muffin tins lined with paper – I use my Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop that I picked up from Amazon last year. It isn’t overly large, so I need to usually scoop twice, but it works really well without too much mess.
  7. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until tops are no longer soft and mushy to touch.

Mind you, I am NOT a baker, but I do like making muffins because they are so forgiving. I don’t have to measure quite as precise as other baked goods, like cakes and pies. I can throw a bunch of dry and wet ingredients together, and if the consistency is too dry, I add a touch more liquid.

bob's red mill cereal muffins with peaches, strawberries and raisins

Nutritional Data

1 muffin (from batch of 18)

Calories: 179
Total Fat: 1.7g
Cholesterol: 13.6mg
Sodium: 162mg
Potassium: 111mg
Carbs: 39g
Fiber: 4.8g
Sugar: 18g
Protein: 5g
Vit A: 2.7%
Vit C: 4.3%
Calcium: 7.4%
Iron: 7%

As I said, the sugars are on the high side. Reducing the honey to 1/4 cup, lowers the sugar to 14g. If you also reduce the raisins to 1/2 cup, the sugar is lowered to 12g. Start off reducing the sweeteners slowly, and your taste buds will get used to it.

Fresh Vegetable Stock – For Free!

Today I made another batch of “free” veggie stock! I love doing this.

I save all my veggie scraps in a gallon zip-lock bag in the freezer: carrot peels/ends, onion ends, fennel fronds/stalks, celery ends/leaves, broccoli ends, parsley/herb stems, etc. I don’t save too many cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, as they can overpower the stock flavors.

Anyway, once my gallon bag is filled, it’s time to make stock. I dump the whole bag (frozen) into my 7qt cast iron pot, along with a handful of homemade dried celery leaves, then I add water to cover (today I used 14 cups) and simmer. You could probably add other dried herbs too.

I didn’t want it to boil too quickly, so I slowly heated the contents on the stove, and after about 1.5 to 2 hrs, I moved the pot from the stovetop to a low-heat oven and simmered for another hour or so.

I carefully removed all the bigger veggie pieces, then strained the rest in a colander. Then strained once more to remove all the teenie bits using a fine mesh strainer. It made just about 14 cups, almost filling 4 qt sauce pot.

I used the stock today to make bacon lentil veggie soup. Yum. But it can easily be frozen like any other stock.

Masa Harina Corn Jalepeno Muffins Recipe

masa harina corn jalepeno muffins

This recipe is slightly inspired from the Cornbread Muffins recipe found on page 124 in the Power Food Cookbook by Rachael Anne Hill and Tamsin Burnett-Hall. I used their recipe as a base, but put my own spin on the ingredients according to what I had on hand.

It’s all about adapting to your own pantry!

I didn’t have any milk (dairy or non-dairy) but I did have a carton of powdered buttermilk in the fridge, so I figured that would work. I also added 2 Tbsp of local raw honey and used less wheat flour, adding a mix of different corn flours, including masa harina, which I bought weeks ago to make tortillas (still on my list of things to do.)

The original recipe included chili peppers and corn! I still have a stock of frozen chile peppers from the summer CSA and there was a half bag of Trader Joe’s frozen organic corn. The original recipe called for 2 Tbsp of baking powder, and in my opinion, that is just way too much, so I cut it in half.

Masa Harina Corn Jalepeno Muffins Recipe

1 cup whole wheat flour (pastry if you have it)
3/4 cup stoneground cornmeal
1/4 cup corn flour
1/4 cup masa harina flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
5 Tbsp powdered buttermilk
couple of grinds of fresh ground pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 fresh chile pepper, deseeded, deveined & minced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1-1/3 cups water (or use milk and skip the powdered buttermilk above)
2 Tbsp honey (optional)
1 egg, beaten
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) olive oil

  1. Whisk the powdered flours, baking powder, salt and powdered buttermilk in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add black pepper, cumin, chile peppers, and corn, then mix to combine
  3. In large glass measuring cup, melt honey in about 1/2 cup of hot water and stir; once honey is completely dissolved, add the rest of the water to equal 1-1/3 cups liquid.
  4. Whisk in egg, and oil, then pour liquids into dry ingredients. Stir together until just mixed.
  5. Spoon into muffin tins, then bake in preheated 360F oven for 15-20 minutes until risen, firm, and lightly browned.
  6. Transfer muffins to cooling rack.

I thought these muffins were delicious. I loved the texture of the corn kernels, and the chile peppers didn’t add heat, but did add yummy flavor.

They were delicious for dinner, paired with a fried egg and sides of homemade cole slaw & cranberry sauce.

corn muffins with fried egg & coleslaw & apple cranberry sauce

Sprouting Mung Beans

Well I did it! Finally!

I’ve been wanting to try sprouting beans for so long. Months ago, I purchased a small amount of mung beans from the Whole Foods bulk isle and they have been waiting patiently for me in my cupboard.

So, in 2012, I’m making a point to try new healthy projects, like SPROUTING!

So a couple of weekends ago, I watched a few YouTube videos (again) then poured 2 Tbsp of mung beans into a large glass jar, rinsed a couple of times, added fresh water, topped with cheese cloth & elastic and stored in a dark cupboard. I set my iPhone alarm to remind me to drain and rinse every morning and night for the next few days.

Instructions suggest not to keep in sunlight, and since my kitchen has a skylight, the sun can pour in to different areas all day. I didn’t want to risk leaving it on the counter. I was thinking about keeping it in a cupboard, but then I read that it shouldn’t be in complete darkness either, because the nutrients wouldn’t develop.

Other tips were to keep in a warm place, around 70° but my house is usually much cooler than that, but I figured it would be okay, just maybe a bit slower to complete.

I ended up keeping it in my office in the daytime, then on the kitchen counter at night. It took about a week for the sprouts to finish. I think it is probably too cool in my house to grow the sprouts properly, but they were alright. They tasted a lot like raw corn on the cob! Funny! I ate them raw for lunch, my favorite was on top of warm quinoa & mushrooms.

Would I sprout again? Hmm, not sure. I think maybe in the spring I might try again. Also, I don’t know how sanitary it was to use the cheesecloth. I’m looking into buying an official sprouting jar so it would be easier.

Helpful videos and web sites:

Tammy’s Recipes
Wikipedia – Sprouting

For future advanced sprouting:


Roasting Tomatoes and Drying Celery Leaves

Went to a local farm in a neighboring town and picked up 6 lb gorgeous tomatoes ($1.75lb) along with a big celery with tons and tons of leaves ($1) and two small pickling cukes ($1). All for under $13.50!

As soon as I returned home, I washed and chopped the tomatoes into halves/large chunks and put them in the oven to slow roast @ 260F.

Never ever throw away fresh celery leaves when you buy them fresh at the farm or farmer’s market. They dry out so easily in a low oven and will keep in a air-tight container for awhile. Use like any dry herb, for soups, sauces, etc. Penzey’s Spices charges over $8 for a 4 oz bag of celery flakes and the dried leaves work just as well!

Just tear off most of the deep green celery leaves (thin stalks too), rinse and spin dry. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and into the (260F) oven. I had mine drying along with the tomatoes.

Watch the celery leaves in the oven, remove when they get crispy and can crumble completely in your hands. It takes about 30 – 45 minutes. Then allow to cool (only takes a few minutes) and crumble the leaves and stems into an air-tight container or plastic baggie. They keep for awhile, but will lose flavor the longer you keep, just like other dried herbs.

Back to the tomatoes. It’s about 2-3 hours to roast the tomatoes, and once they’re all roasted to sweet goodness, allow them to cool. I transferred into quart freezer bags, ready to use in the winter months when I’m longing for fresh tomato sauce! You can also freeze fresh (uncooked) tomatoes. I just core them and freeze them whole. Works great!

I’ll probably buy more tomatoes from this farm and freeze those raw, but this time, I wanted to get them roasted up first.

Oh it will be soo nice to have summer tomatoes available for my tomato sauce in February…if they last that long!