When Houston reporter Lucy Resnick cashes in her retirement to buy her grandmother’s farm in Buttercup, Texas, she’s looking forward to a simple life as a homesteader. But Lucy has barely finished putting up her first batch of Killer Dewberry Jam when an oil exploration truck rolls up to the farm and announces plans to replace her broccoli patch with an oil derrick. Two days later, Nettie Kocurek, the woman who ordered the drilling, turns up dead at the Founders’ Day Festival with a bratwurst skewer through her heart and one of Lucy’s jam jars beside her…and the sheriff fingers Lucy as the prime suspect. Horrified, Lucy begins to talk to Nettie’s neighbors, but the more she gets to know the townspeople, the more she realizes she’s not the only one who had a beef with Nettie. Can she clear her name, or will her dream life turn into a nightmare?
Bubby: Buttercup, Texas. Doesn’t it just sound idyllic? Rolling hills, green pastures, friendly neighbors, small town charm,a lady who wants to destroy your livelihood, a murderer on the loose – perfect! I know that this is a cozy mystery and that the murder (and subsequent investigation) are supposed to be my focus in the story but the little budding romance between our heroine Lucy and Mr. Hot Veterinarian, along with the fabulous recipes straight from Grandma’s handwritten notebook really caught my fancy. How about some Killer Dewberry Jam?
Sissy: And how about making your own cottage cheese? We’ll put Grandma Vogel’s recipe at the end of the post too. It’s Lucy’s dream come true to own her grandma’s farm, to have given up the stress of city life and come back to her roots and warm memories. On the face of it, getting away from it all it does sound appealing but the reality is that all I could think of was old farmhouse needing repairs to the old wiring and old plumbing, old everything, plus animal poop. And perhaps the occasional need to kill and pluck chickens…
Bubby: Remember how Dad refused to eat chicken noodle soup because the smell reminded him of the many many chickens he had to kill and pluck for Grandma?
Sissy: Yes, I think I would have a similar problem. I would, however enjoy picking the fresh berries. At any rate, Lucy’s all in with the farm thing and as an added bonus, we come to find out that apparently her beloved deceased grandma is *still* around and trying to influence events for good at Dewberry farm.
Bubby: Did you know that we have a haunted closet at my house, Sissy? It’s what we refer to as the “Harry Closet” (cause it’s the closet under the stairs and we’re all Harry Potter freaks in my family) and the door randomly opens and closes at will – and things move around in there.
Sissy: I’m not sure what that has to do with anything but, uh, when your closet starts smelling like lilacs when suitable boys come to visit your daughter or shuts the engine down on nasty oil drillers, then we’ll talk.
Bubby: And that was my point, exactly. My ghost is useless, unlike Lucy’s grandma. I’ll trade! I have to admit that the true identity of the murderer caught me by surprise. I had it all figured out in my head and (shockingly) I was completely wrong.
Sissy: There were some entertainingly quirky characters in Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney but I especially enjoyed the antagonists. Yes, there were more than one! They were terrifically nasty, underhanded, scheming sneaky slime balls and it’s not surprising that one of them gets skewered with a kabob (not that I agree with random skewerings, no matter how heinous the person).
Bubby: I know a few people who I’d have skewered (non-fatally) if given the chance. But I never did. I’m excited to see more from Karen MacInerney. She has another cozy series called The Grey Whale Inn Mysteries that I will now have to read! I really got attached to some of the characters in Killer Jam, and being from a small town myself, the whole “it takes a village” mentality was quite appealing. Now I need to go make a few jars of jam from my own home-grown raspberries (assuming my children haven’t eaten them all in my absence).
Sissy: I’m certainly glad you never acted on your non-fatal skewering impulses, Bubby. It would have been terribly difficult for us to write our blog with you in the joint. However, you have to endure a fictional impaling or two to have a good cozy mystery, which is what Killer Jam is. I look forward to reading more about Lucy and her escapades in Buttercup, Texas and hope we see a lot more of a certain fine lookin’ veterinarian!
Click HERE to buy Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney
Killer Dewberry Jam
1 pound dewberries or blackberries
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 large cooking apple, grated
1 pound granulated sugar
1 vanilla pod
Sterilize four 8-ounce jam jars, and put a small plate in the freezer, then wash the berries, and put into a heavy bottomed pan with the water and lemon juice. Add grated apple into the pan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the sugar, stirring gradually until all the crystals have dissolved, then scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the jam and stir. Increase the heat and boil until a candy thermometer consistently reads 220 degrees F.
To test the jam to see if it’s set, drop a little jam onto the frozen plate. When jam has set, the liquid will be gel, not liquid, when touched with a finger. If jam is still liquid, continue to boil for a few more minutes, then test again.
When set, pour the jam into sterilized jars, leaving a little bit of space at the top of the jar, and screw lids onto the jars while the jam is still hot. As they cool, the jar tops should “pop,” indicating the seal is good. Leave jam jars untouched for at least 24 hours to help the jam set.
Grandma Vogel’s Cottage Cheese
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pour the milk into a large saucepan and place over medium heat until it reaches 120 degrees F. Remove the milk from the heat and gently pour in the vinegar, stirring slowly for 1 to 2 minutes until the curd separates from the whey. Cover the mixture and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Line a colander with a tea towel, then pour the mixture into the lined colander and allow it to sit and drain for 5 minutes. Gather up the edges of the cloth and rinse the curds under cold water for 3-5 minutes until they are completely cold, squeezing and moving the mixture as you rinse. Once the curds are cool, squeeze them until they are as dry as possible, and transfer them to a mixing bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine, breaking up the curd into bite sized pieces as you go. Eat or refrigerate immediately.