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Couple has fruitful partnership

By Staff | Sep 19, 2014

Sandee Bonner, of Vincent, applies a generous dollop of her homemade blackberry blueberry jam to a freshly baked biscuit. Bonner and her husband John Bonner often share jars of their jams and jellies with family and friends.

VINCENT – For anyone lucky enough to receive a jar of Sandee Bonner’s homemade jam or jelly – the label, which will read from the “Bonners” is an indication that the contents are from a team.

She makes the jelly or jam; husband John Bonner grows the fruit.

“It’s always the Bonners,” she said.”It’s a joint effort.”

Bonner has been making her sweet treats for most of her adult life; her mom made jam and jelly, her mother-in law canned.

“It was just something you did,” she said.

Sandee and John Bonner, of Vincent, label their jellies and jams as being from “The Bonners” since they share the work, he grows the fruit, she makes the jam and jelly.

As their children grew to adulthood, she asked John to scale the garden back a bit.

“He likes to grow stuff; we couldn’t eat it all,” she said.

The downsizing had an unintended consequence.

“He put in more fruit instead,” she said.

The distinction between jelly and jam is simple – jelly is made with the juice, jam is the entire fruit.

Sandee Bonner, of Vincent, holds a tub of recently harvested blackberries as she poses with a selection of her homemade jams and jellies. Bonner makes a variety of blends and single berry recipes mostly from fruit grown by her husband, John Bonner.

Within that, an almost infinite variety of flavors are possible depending on the fruit or blend of fruits used.

One thing you won’t find in Bonner’s product is a lot of sugar.

“I try to make it with more fruit than sugar,” she said. “I think it’s healthier that way. I don’t want it to be all sugar.”

She said there are several keys to success. The first is a high quality stainless steel pot – she won’t use anything else – along with wooden utensils to stir the boiling mix.

She chooses to use a water bath canner to seat the lids.

“Then I know they’ll seal,” she said.

The size of the jars used is up to the individual. She prefers smaller jars – it makes it easier to enjoy all the jam or jelly once it’s been opened.

Jam- and jelly-making have their seasons, she said.

It’s common for her to freeze freshly picked fruit and then make it into jam and jelly later.

She said she often makes it in November when she’s less busy at work. It has another benefit.

“It’s great when you want to heat up the house,” she said.

She recommends that until a cook has some experience and success making jam or jelly they stick to published and tested recipes.

Once they’ve mastered the process, she said, then begin experimenting with combinations of ingredients and flavors.

“You don’t want it to spoil,” she said. “Follow the recipe.”

Cleanliness is important, too.

She said she uses the dishwasher to sterilize her jars and lids.

“The dishwasher is the best invention ever,” she said.

Another hint: After putting on the lids and tightening down the threaded retainer ring, leave it alone for at least 48 hours.

While the Bonners enjoy giving away the jam and jelly, they also enjoy eating it.

Her favorite?

“On toast,” she said. “Jam on crackers with soup is also good.”

And of course there’s hot rolls, biscuits or bread, still warm from the oven.

Berry jams

(From the Ball Blue Book, 1969 edition)

Note: Works with blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, dewberry, gooseberry, loganberry, raspberry and youngberry.

9 cups crushed berries

6 cups sugar

Combine berries and sugar; bring slowly to boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.

Cook rapidly to, or almost to, jelling point, depending on whether a firm or soft jam is desired.

As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Pour, while boiling hot, into sterilized Ball jars.

Adjust caps. Yields 3 to 4 pints.

Berry preserves

(From the Ball Blue Book, 2013 edition)

Note: Use blackberry, black or red raspberry or loganberry.

2 pounds berries

4 cups of sugar

Combine berries and sugar; let stand until juices begin to flow in about 10 minutes.

Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Cook rapidly almost to jelling point. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.

Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving about 1/4-inch headspace.

Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Blackberry and apple jam

(From Food.com)

6.5 cups mashed blackberries

2.5 cups diced apples

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

4 teaspoons dry pectin ( follow directions on box )

Wash, remove stems and mash berries.

Dice apples into tiny pieces – leave peel on.

Place apples and lemon juice in a large pan on medium heat. Cook apples for 5 minutes until soft.

Add mashed berries and cook until it boils, stirring a few times.

Let fruit boil for 2 to 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and pectin, stir together.

Add sugar/pectin mix to boiling fruit and stir.

Boil on high for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and fill jars to within 1/4-inch of the top.

Wipe rims clean and screw on two-piece lids.

Recipe yields six 8-ounce jars.

Sundae in a jar

(From the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, 2006 edition)

2.5 cups crushed and hulled strawberries ( 4 cups whole strawberries)

1 1/3 cups crushed raspberries ( 2 cups whole raspberries )

6 cups granulated sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin

1/3 cup chocolate flavored liqueur

In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine strawberries, raspberries and sugar.

Over high heat, stir constantly bringing the mix to a full roiling boil that cannot be stirred down.

Stir in pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in chocolate-flavored liqueur.

Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Wipe rim, center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.

Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.

Makes about six 8-ounce jars.

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