Music City Jam Session..Strawberries

Music City Jam Session

I realize that “strawberry season” is over here in Nashville.  So why am I having a        “Music City” Jam Session? Whipping up jars of Strawberry Jam? It is September… What has gotten into me? Let me tell you.

 Circumstances dictated my non-musical (except for Pandora) strawberry jam session. I ended up with lots of berries from a photo shoot – bags of IQF strawberries to be exact. You may ask what is IQF? or not? IQF stands for “individually quick frozen”. This means the berries were frozen on trays as individual berries, then bagged. The result is wonderfully whole, intact berries, not smashed & clumped together. The flavor & color of berries frozen this way is also still present.

Three bags of beautiful IQF strawberries I could not toss out. They came home with me. I made a quick freezer jam. Here are my jars awaiting the freezer, to be eaten way past summer, when the days get longer & dark and we need something colorful & comforting to cheer us up.

jars filled with strawberry jam

You can make this with any “IQF”/frozen fruit…blackberries, blueberries…even peaches. If you missed the local harvest but crave a jam session then just go to the grocery, bring home your frozen fruit & get busy. This is so simple & easy.

Here is how you do it:

1. Start with 2 lbs of frozen whole berries, thawed. Place berries in a deep non-reactive pan. Grate the peel of one lemon into the pan. Stir to blend. Place pan over medium heat.

2. Sprinkle 1 cup sugar over mixture and stir until sugar has melted. Allow berry mixture to come to a low boil.

                       Lemon zestingStrawberries in Saucepan

3. Meanwhile add Ball Pectin, or any other brand, by following the instructions on the packaging right under the label. I mixed 2 tbsp. of pectin with 1/2 cup water, whisking until it was dissolved. Quickly stir into the pan of berries.

Ball PectinPectin dissolved in water

4. Bring mixture to a slow simmer  for 30 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat.

Cooked strawberry jam

5. Spoon hot strawberry jam into 1 or 1/2 pint clean glass canning jars leaving a “1/2 inch unfilled” at the top of each jar which is important. The jam will expand as it freezes so you need this extra headroom to allow for this. Trust me…I failed to pay attention to this rule when I made my very first batch of freezer jam and just let me say that the results were interestingly “volcanic-like” in my freezer!

Doesn’t my jam making area always looks a bit like a CSI crime scene? But sweeter.

filling jars with jam

6. When all your jars are filled wipe edges clean, top with lid and rings, tightened. Let jars of jam sit until mixture has cooled down. Pop into the freezer (I keep one out in the fridge to eat immediately). I always give most of my jars away to my daughters who love this particular jam. Allow frozen jam to thaw in the fridge overnight before using.

Freezer Jam

Yes, anyone can, “can”.


“Strawberry Freezer Jam’ on hot buttered toast for now and later.

“Music City Mocha Chip Cookies”

“Music City Mocha Chip Cookies”

(developed for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011)

This chewy cookie is subtly bold with a hint of heat… it is familiarly cozy in its chocolatey-ness, but is that coffee I smell? Hmmm….molasses?

As my cookies were to be mailed out to three fellow food bloggers scattered around the country it was important to me to use  as many local ingredients as possible to share a taste of Music City.   Chewy, chocolatey (Olive & Sinclair) with a hint of coffee (Bongo Java) and a little unexpected “bite” via hot pepper was what I settled on as the flavor profile.  I made about 3 recipes before I got to the one you see here. They were all tasty, but I was just dancing around until I came up with my “Music City Mocha Chip Cookie”, a cozy little cookie that is great with a glass of milk for Santa….


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (White Lily or Martha White) mixed with 1/2 tsp baking soda & 1 tsp sea or kosher salt

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temp (Farmer’s Market)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

1 generous Tbsp Sorghum Molasses (Tennessee)

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs, room temp (Farmer’s Market)

3 Tbsp finely ground coffee (Bongo Java “Mystic’)

 2 cups chopped semi sweet chocolate (Olive & Sinclair chocolate)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper + more to garnish if desired

1/2 cup cocoa powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream butter, brown sugar & granulated sugars together until fluffy using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

3. Add in eggs one at a time.  Scrape down sides of bowl often. With mixer on low add in ground coffee & vanilla extract.

4. Add the flour mixture until well blended. Sprinkle in cayenne pepper & cocoa & mix well.

5. Stir in chopped chocolate until fully incorporated. Chill dough for 1 hour before baking.

6. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart after dipping tops of  dough balls in decorative sugar crystals.

7. Bake until cookies are puffy & the surface starts to “crack”. About 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle on more decorative sugar & extra cayenne if desired,  cool on wire racks. Cookies will keep for up to one week stored in airtight containers with waxed paper between layers.

The dozens of cookies were baked, cooled and readied for mailing. I wanted my cookies to arrive at their destinations in good shape, in fun packaging, something a bit special and Holiday-like. I found great sturdy tins & mailing boxes at The Container Store. My tags I made using imagery from my many Christmas catalogs.  I used a Christmas tree rubber stamp I made last year to decorate the outside of the mailing box. I inserted more catalog imagery into the top of the tins and constructed ingredients list envelopes using art paper scraps & cardboard…I really had to make myself stop…those boxes had to get in the mail!

Bon Voyage “Music City Mocha Chip Cookies”, Bon Voyage.

Thanks to Julie ( and Lindsay ( for organizing this fun event.

Here are the cookies I received:

From Megan at
From Nancy at
From Steph at

….bake, share & have a very, very sweet holiday….