Strawberry Time!

Hello friends,

Our local farms offer pick your own strawberry fields, I can't resist. Each June, my Mom and I took my sons to pick berries fresh from the farm. My Mom is no longer able to go but I still enjoy the experience. Nothing can beat that sweet juicy tangy aroma and taste. These are such a treat compared to the flavorless supermarket berries that are shipped in from other states.

Acres of fields of glossy red beauties, filling the air with fragrance,
shining in the summer sun ready for harvest.

I picked 16 quarts, it only took a little while. I was home by 10 AM.

We always have homemade strawberry shortcake with sweetened biscuits and fluffy mounds of freshly whipped heavy cream enriched with pure vanilla which is the perfect foil for the rich aromatic berries. This dessert was a favorite of my Father-in-law along with my homemade butterscotch and./or apple pies. When I picked the berries, I would let him know and he would come up for dessert which we enjoyed on the terrace. Pap, Tom and Tommy liked theirs with ice cream , the rest of the family preferred fresh whipped cream as the only adornment.
I always think of Pap when we savor this seasonal delight.

Here is the recipe for shortcake.  You can also do a quicker version using Bisquick, the recipe is on the box and tastes very good, too.

Soapsmith's Strawberry Shortcake
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
1 egg
1/2 cup cold half-and-half, whole milk, or buttermilk

whipped cream topping
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat to 425 degrees. Mix flour, salt, baking powder and 3 Tbs. sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter until crumbly. Combine egg and half-and-half; pour into flour mixture. Lightly blend with a fork to form large clumps. If needed you can add a little more half-and-half to the bowl if dough won't come together.

Drop into large dollops about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. It is best served warm, you can reheat leftovers in the microwave for a few seconds.

Hull and slice fresh berries with sugar in a bowl; let stand until sugar dissolves. Beat cream to soft peaks, gradually adding 1 Tb. sugar at a time then vanilla.

Split each cake crosswise; spoon a portion of berries over each cake bottom, then a dollop of whipped cream over berries. Cap with cake top and serve immediately.

We have installed a new strawberry planter this year.  Hopefully it will keep the berries out of the reach of the rabbits and deer.

The remaining berries will be processed into strawberry jam to preserve the summer sun for the deep dark winters.

 Wild strawberries make the best jam, they are tart and flavorful - of course they are tiny and require much more effort than tame. You need to locate fields and spend time gathering enough, but the rewards are a fantastic jelly.  Many hours of my childhood were spent gleaning the fields of wild berries of all sorts for my Mom to turn into tasty jellies and jams.  

Soapsmith's Strawberry Jam

5 cups prepared fruit (about 2 quarts fully ripe strawberries)
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

Hull and crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time using the bottom of a canning jar to mash the berries. I like my berries to be lightly mashed so the fruit maintains some texture but you can do whatever you prefer. Measure 5 cups of the mashed berries into 6 quart saucepan.

Stir sur jel pectin into prepared fruit in sauce pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. The water much cover the jars by 1 to two inches, you can add boiling water if needed.

Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If the lid springs back, it is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

Too bad local strawberry season is so short...up next pick your own cherries from the orchard, yum!

Thanks for visiting,


These were the first two berries I harvested from my planter this morning.  The biggest ones I ever had.  Look at that glossy, deep rich color - so sweet, juicy and delicious and the fragrance is divine.

Reader's Comments

By Guest on 01/14/2013 @ 09:59pmJust found your blog. Pictures are great, and the recipe sounds wonderful for strawberry shortcake. Now I'm wanting some, and can hardly wait til June. Think I'll do desert crepes with strawberries and cream this week. That's yummy too!

By Guest on 06/22/2012 @ 02:29amLooks so good!

Classic Pressed Garden Flowers

Hello friends,

The pleasures of a tranquil walk in the garden or wild flower meadow can be captured and preserved with a simple flower press.

 My spring garden yields wonderful specimens that are perfect for pressing. Pansies, phlox, impatiens, violas and sweet violets are have a natural flat growing pattern that is ideal.  Woodland wildflowers are wonderful - violets, buttercups, phlox and daisies are ideal.

Before pressing:

After pressing:

Herbs can be pressed as well, flat leaved herbs, lavender, lemon balm, chamomile all work well and offer the added bonus of fragrance to your projects.

Delicate fern fronds, newly sprouting leaves and grasses provide elegant additions to craft projects utilizing the more colorful blossoms.

I have had much success with the spring blooming bleeding heart and creeping phlox, including the green foliage is always a good idea. Always pick your materials on a dry day after the dew has evaporated. Wet petals and leaves will not give optimum results. You can trim the stem close to encourage thicker flowers like daisies and zinnias to lie flat, naturally flat blossoms like violas, pansies and violets can be pressed with stems in tact.

This old fashioned craft has been handed down for generations. There are variations on the process but all yield good results. Simple presses that utilize acid free blotting paper to sandwich the fresh flowers between layers of cardboard are inexpensive and easy to build or can be purchased in arts and craft stores.

I have several sizes. Small lightweight presses are compact enough to carry in a backpack and are great for your gathered wildflowers. Larger presses are perfect for full size ferns, long stemmed flowers or massive amounts of materials.

I make my presses with solid boards or plywood cut to the dimensions I need. Four holes are drilled near the corners for the bolts with wing nuts. I usually use 4 to 6 inch bolts, but you can purchase longer bolts that will allow you to press more layers.

I cut cardboard and acid free blotter paper to fit within the bolts. First place a piece of cardboard, then blotter paper. Carefully position your treasures as flat as possible. If I have thicker flowers, I trim the back with scissors to achieve a thinner blossom. Top with another piece of blotter paper and then cardboard. Repeat the process until you have all your specimens prepared. You can do as many or as little layers as needed as long as you don't exceed the thickness of the length of your bolts.

Once you place your florals, don't move the papers. If you wrinkle the tissues, it will be permanently pressed into the final product. I usually leave my press unopened for a minimum of 7 days for thin flat objects and longer for thicker flowers. I tighten the eye bolts when needed as the thicker blossoms flatten through the pressing transformation. 

Other options are to use breathable nylon scrub pads in place of the cardboard, velcro bands in place of the bolts, and use plastic sheets in the microwave to speed up the process. I prefer the traditional method. The anticipation is part of the charm of this time honored art. Good things come to those who wait.

After the waiting period, loosen the bolts and gently separate the layers to reveal your treasures. If more time is needed, the press can be reassembled. The finished pressings are very fragile. They can be used immediately for craft projects or stored between layers of the blotter paper in the press or between the pages of large books.

Violas, daisy mums and pink larkspur just out of the press. Autumnal splendor can be savored with preserved leaves from your press. Herbs also do well. These beauties are wonderful for elegant projects. Lovely greeting cards or stationery embellished with your pressings are a welcome gift. The flowers and greens can be placed between glass layers for wall and window hangings or coasters. With care, the delicate pressings can decoupaged to candles, decorative boxes, gifts and more.

This is a great craft to introduce to nature lovers of all ages. Spend some time with a child exploring the wonders of the forest and be sure to bring along your flower press to create lasting memories. Gift a press to your grandchildren. What joy!

Thanks for visiting,


Reader's Comments

By Soapsmith on 06/24/2014 @ 11:11pmI don't sell pressed flowers. I just do this as a hobby for my own personal use. Sorry, I can't be of service! Bonnie

By Guest on 06/24/2014 @ 11:05pmCan I buy roses that have already been pressed and ready for a scrapbook, etc.?

Homemade Dip Mixes

Hello Friends,

Herbs and Spices for Dip Mixes

   For this year's homemade goodie treats I am doing dip mixes. Over the years I have done smoked/seasoned/herbal salts, homemade vanilla, cheese balls, party mix, cookies, candies, herbal gifts, homemade hot cocoa mixes etc.  I try to do something new each holiday gifting season. You can find recipes and instructions on my other blog posts.  Recipes

 These are quite easy to do with lots of variety to choose.  If you want it even simpler, you can purchase dip or herb mixes in bulk and just package them up.  Fun project to do with the little ones and they would made wonderful teacher or grandparent gifts, too.

Cute holiday packaging - Christmas ornaments filled with dip mixes.

Herb de Provence
with my own garden herbs

    I use a lot of my own grown garden herbs when possible and purchased other ingredients at the Amish bulk food store. If you don't have a local source for bulk foods, you can find many options to purchase ingredients shopping via the internet. I have included a few recipes and you find many more on line so you can be sure to find something to your favorite flavor profile.

    I purchased things like buttermilk powder, granulated bullion, dehydrated onions, garlic, vegetables, powdered cheeses, sea salt and many spices.  You can also purchase dried herbs at great prices if you don't have your own herb garden.  I used my own grown and dried thyme, rosemary, lavender, dill, sage, oregano, parsley and marjoram.  Dehydrated fruit powders like blueberry, raspberry, strawberry make a nice base for sweeter dips for fruits and cookies 
 just mix with a little sugar and you are ready to go.

    I packed some in clear cello bags with tags and did a few in cute Christmas ornaments. You can find the fillable ornaments and bulb shapes at the craft stores.  If you don't find ones with regular screw top lids, you can use plastic ornaments, just be sure to cover the hole with a piece of foil before replacing the cap.

    You can package it in individual size packets, cute jars, bulk cello bags, decorative ornaments or glassine bags.  Be sure to label everything with directions for use. You can make the gift more upscale by including gourmet or homemade bread sticks, crackers, dip bowls, decorative containers, quality olive oil or a keepsake basket or serving platter. 

Here are some recipes:

Bacon Onion Dip Mix

1 cup Bacon Bits( imitation if you are not able to refrigerate it, or real if you can)

1 cup Minced Dry Onion Flakes

 ½ cup  Beef Bouillon Granules

3 tsp  Onion Powder

1 ½ tsp Parsley Flakes

 1 tsp Ground Celery Seeds

1 tsp  Black Pepper

 1 tsp  Paprika

 1 tsp Salt

Fiesta Dip

1/2 cup dried parsley flakes

1/3 cup dried minced onion

1/3 cup chili powder

1/4 cup ground cumin

2 tablespoons dried minced chives

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


2 Tbl Garlic Powder

1/4 Cup Onion Powder

1/2 Cup Dried Oregano

1 Tbl Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 Tbl Dried Thyme

1 Tbl Dried Basil

1 Tbl Dried Parsley

1 Tbl Sugar

1 Tbl Sea Salt

1/2 tsp Celery Seed


1 cup powder buttermilk

1/4 cup dried parsley

3 tbsp dried dill

2 tbsp dried chives

1/4 cup garlic powder

1/4 cup onion powder

1/4 cup dried onion flakes

2 tbsp salt

2 tbsp ground black pepper

(Options - add bacon bits for Bacon Ranch, Parmesan for Parmesan Ranch)

Individual sized packets of 3 tbl each make it easy to use.
Each packet makes 2 to 3 cups of dip adjusted to your tastes


4 Tbsp Minced Dry Onion Flakes

2 Tbsp Beef Bouillon Granules

½ tsp Onion Powder

¼ tsp Parsley Flakes

1/8 tsp Ground Celery Seeds

1/8 tsp Black Pepper

1/8 tsp Sweet Paprika

1/8 tsp Salt 

Herb Dill

1 Cup Dry Parsley

1 Cup Dry Dill

1/2 Cup Dehydrated Onion

1/4 Cup Dehydrated Garlic

2 Tbl Smoked Paprika

1 Tbl Sea Salt

2 Tsp Black Pepper

My labels

Herb de Provence

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers

3 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons dried savory

1 tablespoon dried oregano

3 teaspoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons dried marjoram

Process to fine grind with mortar and pestle.

    These make wonderful hostess gifts, stocking stuffers and thank you presents for when you need a little something for the special people in your life. Consumable gifts are always appreciated and homemade gifts from the work of your hands makes it heartfelt.  Make some up and have fun!

Thanks for visiting,


Soapsmith's Party Mix

Soapsmith's Cocoa Mix

Cheese Balls

Soapsmith's Homemade Vanilla Extract

Cookie Delivery Day