Summer Jams

One of the memorable rites of my childhood summers was growing tomatoes, hand cranking ice cream and making grape jelly. We had a grape arbor in a corner of our garden with deep blue sweet Concord grapes. Mom, a neighborhood teacher and home during the summer laid claim that in mid to late August, the grapes in the arbor were ready to be harvested.


My sister Susan tells the story from here.

Once I saw the jelly making equipment (canning jars, large pots, Certo pectin and thermometers), I knew that school was almost about to start and we were going to be making grape jelly which was an all day event.  Pat and I were required to pick the grapes from the arbor and collect them in a bucket. The arbor was filled with bees and yellow jackets and I’m lucky we didn’t get stung! Bees were EVERYWHERE and got in our hair, on our clothes and buzzed furiously the entire time we were in the arbor.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
My mother who was raised on a farm in North Carolina put on her overalls, her hat and sneakers and we went to work. We had an aunt who lived in Brooklyn and often spent weekends at our house. She was enlisted, too! I don’t remember exactly how old I was when we started doing this but I do recall doing this well into my teenage years. The older I got the less enthusiastic I became over this annual ritual. Even though I knew those grapes were going into jelly for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which we'd carry for lunch.
After many buckets of grapes were picked, they had to be sorted and washed. This was done outside using a garden hose with grapes placed on large white sheets spread over the concrete driveway. Dear Lord! The grapes had cobwebs, were sticky and had bees in them!

After the sorting, washing and stem removal, the grapes had to be cooked in a huge pot on the stove. Our house was not air conditioned and the kitchen felt like a sauna. After cooking, the sterilized jars were filled and pectin was poured on top for sealing. The jars had a special two part lid. These hot jars had to go in a water bath on the stove. After using many potholders and kitchen towels, the jelly was placed carefully in the water bath. It was critical to pay special attention to this step to avoid getting burned!

After the jars cooled the jelly was ready to be stored. Many jars were given away as gifts to friends and neighbors. To this day, I rarely eat grape jelly. However, I do appreciate having learned how to make jellies, jams and canned foods.

I prefer jam myself—especially strawberry. Susan shares a recipe for a refrigerator strawberry jam that is delicious. Also good with blackberries, blueberries or black raspberries!

Black raspberries
Here's Susan's recipe:
1 pound cleaned, sliced mashed strawberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 squeezed lemon
In a medium pot add above ingredients. Mash in pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir into a clean jar until cool. Refrigerate.
This year I'll be trying my hand at canning a few jams, encouraged by my friend Judi who gifted me a canner. Judi is a master at canning and last year around this time she promptly made a batch of peach preserves after I dropped off some local peaches on her porch. Judi is a real peach 🍑!


Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and lifestyle company.

Pat's Granola is sold online at and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:

Troubadour Coffee Roasters

Sports and Spine Physical Therapy

Local Flavors Shoppe

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Locle Box

Made Cleveland

Mister Brisket

Nature's Oasis Lakewood

Happy Cows Group Share Happy Cows Group Share 

The Corner at The Van Aken District The Corner at The Van Aken District

Sweet Bean Candies Sweet Bean Candies


Listen to Pat's story:

Food Founders Podcast or CLE Foodcast

Pat's Granola would love your feedback.

Post a review to our profile.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published