Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread

I love this recipe for zucchini bread. When my children were young, we lived in one of those neighborhoods where there were lots of children, fenceless backyards, car pools, and lots of sharing of recipes. This was one of those recipes. Lucy, our perky neighborhood teen babysitter, used to ride her bike down Sneed Road to our house; believe me, my children were as happy to see her as I was. One day, she brought a loaf of her mother, Ellen’s, zucchini bread. It was unusually moist and dotted with colorful green flecks from the zucchini peel.

The flecks give the bread texture and color that make it visually appealing.
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The only change I made to Ellen’s recipe was to add more zucchini, nuts, and chocolate chips. One of my sons will not eat zucchini but loved this bread.
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What to do with a baseball bat-sized zucchini?

Like for many of us, I often make zucchini bread when I find one of those baseball bat-sized zucchinis in the garden. If you do that, too, be sure to remove the large seeds before grating the flesh by quartering the zucchini into long strips and cutting out the triangular-shaped seed section. For large amounts of grating, I use the shredder blade in the food processor. Put the grated zucchini in a colander until ready to use. They will start to sweat, and you want that liquid to drain away.

Have no idea how I missed this!  7 pounds 6 ounces
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Yield: 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 2 mini-loaves

Ingredients:

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3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 pound unpeeled zucchini (a tad over 3 cups when grated)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
(Optional: add ½ cup chocolate chips)

Mise en Place:

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325º if glass pans, 350º for metal pans. Grease loaf pans.

Coarsely grate the unpeeled zucchini and set aside. If liquid forms at the bottom of the container while it rests, discard it.
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Beat eggs in a mixing bowl for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla and mix for two more minutes on medium-low speed. Beating these ingredients together at this point in the recipe is one of the things that gives fruit bread “lift” by incorporating air into the batter.
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Add the dry ingredients: the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Remember, when measuring flour, spoon it into a measuring cup and level with a knife as opposed to packing the flour into the measuring cup by dipping it into a package of flour. You can read more about measuring ingredients in my home ec post.

Mix on slow speed for 30 seconds. Mix gently, you don’t want to stimulate the gluten in the flour to become tough and elasticky.
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Add the nuts and zucchini and mix on slow speed until just mixed, about 30 seconds max.
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If you plan to add chocolate chips, stir them in now.

Pour batter into prepared pans.
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Cook for about an hour, or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 15 minutes and then remove from pan and allow to continue cooling on a wire rack. I usually need to use a knife to loosen the bread from the edges of the pan before turning it over to release it.
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My friend, Patty, describes how she made the recipe gluten free in the Comments section. Patty also substituted 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar. This makes for a darker bread that is delicious, but needs to be called Honey Zucchini Bread because the final flavor left in your mouth is honey instead of zucchini.

I never thought of adding chocolate chips to this recipe until I started making my cousin’s recipe for pumpkin bread: Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate ChipsI thought her recipe was great with chocolate chips, and since zucchini and pumpkin are in the same family, I thought, “Why not?” It was delicious! Surprisingly, not too sweet.
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Related Posts
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
Fruit and Nut Bread
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream
The Biscuit King

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Oven-Roasted Strawberry and Rosemary Jam

Summer. In. A. Jar. The local strawberry season is too short; just six weeks long. Have you ever wanted to capture the smell and flavor of a just-picked, warm, lusciously ripe strawberry? If so, try making a jar of this oven-roasted strawberry and rosemary jam with a touch of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. This recipe was given to me by my friend, Malinda Hersch, Program Director at The Nashville Food ProjectMalinda made it for TNFP’s Patron’s Party gift baskets.

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The idea for this post started when I read in Edible Nashville, a gorgeous publication on local food trends, that the first Tennessee strawberries were coming in. On a whim, I emailed Hank Delvin at Delvin Farms to see if his strawberry crop was ripe. He said they were getting ready to pick that morning and invited me to join them.

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I love driving out to Delvin Farms in College Grove. It’s a beautiful drive, and I know I’ll always learn something new about organic farming practices from Hank or his dad. Check out this post from last year when I chronicled a morning spent gleaning vegetables for TNFP at Delvin Farms. The most interesting tidbit I learned on this visit was the concept of incomplete pollination. Like for many of you, I’ve seen the results of incomplete pollination, misshapen berries like the ones in the picture below, I just didn’t know there was a name for it — or a reason.

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Some misshapen berries are lovely!

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Hank plants new June-bearing strawberry plants in long rows of plastic-covered raised beds every September. The plants go dormant in the winter and start growing again in the spring. The plastic keeps the weeds out and helps to warm the soil in the early spring.  Once the delicate flowers start blooming, it is imperative that the blooms be protected from frost.

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To this end, whenever the temperature dips, Hank’s staff has to cover each row of strawberries with agricultural cloth. This past spring there were six frosts in the three weeks preceding the first harvest.

Plant Sex

Strawberries are considered self-pollinators, and as such, their male and female parts are on the same flower. It takes gravity, the wind, rain, and insect pollinators to move the pollen across the flower to pollinate it. If the plants are covered, the wind and bees can’t do their part, thus, a higher incidence of incomplete pollination.

I was amazed to see the plants’ leaves waving in the wind, a wind I couldn’t even feel.

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Pistils and stamens. Remember them?

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The strawberry flower is not your typical flower. Yes, it has the male parts which are the yellow pollen coated anthers known as stamens. And it has the female part called an ovule that connects to an ovary and collectively is known as the pistil. However, whereas most flowers only have one pistil, the strawberry is an aggregate fruit and has as many as 500 spike-like ovules, each one an immature egg needing to be pollinated so it can produce seed. The more of those ovules that get pollinated, the bigger, puffier, and more perfect the strawberry.

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The Recipe!

Yield: 4 cups of jam
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8 cups (2 quarts) strawberries, stems removed and berries quartered
4 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
4 bushy sprigs fresh rosemary (1/2 ounce).

Clean and hull two quarts of strawberries. Figure on four cups of berries per quart container.

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Slice berries into lengthwise quarters.

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Add strawberries and sugar to a mixing bowl, stir and allow to macerate, which means to break down and soften.

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Allow berries to macerate for two hours, or up to 24 hours, stirring regularly to re-incorporate the sugar that sinks to the bottom. Don’t skip this step. It’s what helps the berry chunks to keep their shape.

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Squeeze the juice out from one large lemon and set aside.

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Pour the macerated strawberries and lemon juice or vinegar into a saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat watching carefully, so the juice doesn’t boil over. A rolling boil is one that doesn’t stop boiling when you stir it.

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Once the mixture reaches a full boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for ten minutes. About five minutes into the cooking time, add the rosemary sprigs, stir, and continue to simmer.

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The lemon juice and vinegar are acids and when heated help release the pectin in berries. Pectin is a gum-like substance that is needed to “set” jams and jellies. It occurs naturally in fruits, but more can be added in the form of powder if a faster set is desired.  For more on pectin, read my posts about making grape jelly and crabapple jelly.

Now it is time to roast the berries.
Preheat oven to 150º. If your oven’s lowest temperature setting is a little higher than that, that is fine. You could even set the oven to convection roast and cook it in half the time, but I prefer the slow cook method.

Pour the mixture, including the rosemary, into a  13″ by 18″ baking pan. Place pan on the middle oven shelf and roast for 10 hours, or until the syrup is thickened and has a gel-like appearance. I often put it in the oven at bedtime and take it out the next morning.

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How to test hot jelly for gel formation: Use a chilled wooden spoon to scoop up the preserves. Allow to cool and then tilt the spoon, so jam starts to drips. If the drips form a triangle-shaped thick flake, it is ready. Don’t get too hung up here with the testing. After 10 hours, assume it is going to be great!

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Ladle into four 8-ounce hot, clean jars using a large-holed funnel and either
1) process in a water bath for 10 minutes, using the appropriate two-part jar caps, aka “canning,” or
2) cover with lids, turn upside down, allow to cool, and store in the refrigerator, right side up, until ready to use, or
3) freeze in plastic containers.

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I love the combination of strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar, so I often substitute four tablespoons of balsamic vinegar for the lemon juice. The vinegar not only flavors the jam, but it gives it a smoother, earthier taste than the lemon juice.

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This jam is great spooned over @judyschickens granola and plain, low-fat yogurt.

About The Nashville Food Project

The Nashville Food Project brings people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city. Their primary fundraising event, Nourish, will take place on Thursday, July 20th this year in the gorgeous dining hall at Montgomery Bell Academy.

Other Recipes with Strawberries
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Very Berry Clafoutis

Other Jelly Recipes
Crabapple Jelly
Grape Jelly

Other Breakfast Foods
DIY Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese
Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola
The Biscuit King
Mom’s Monkey Bread, circa 1970

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips

Let’s just say you need something to serve for a morning meeting or an afternoon snack. Or, maybe you need to come up with a contribution to a bake sale or a neighborhood party. Or, maybe you are looking for a healthy-ish dessert. This is your recipe!

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There is something about the way the earthy pumpkin purée in this bread absorbs the heat of the spices and the sweet taste of the chocolate and turns it into a decadent memory of all that is autumn. Bonus points to this bread for being dairy and nut free.

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My cousin Marion first emailed me this recipe back in 2008 when I was looking for something to make for a school bake sale. It took me a year to make it because I couldn’t see pumpkin and chocolate tasting good together. When I finally tried it, I was blown away by the flavor. The spices subdued the sweet chocolate, and both did something crazy good to the pumpkin. The combination was brilliant. I started making her pumpkin bread every year for the school bake sale. It was so popular; it was placed on the school’s website where it remains all these years later. This recipe is so well-loved my cousin has to print copies for her customers to take home with them whenever she serves it at her Details and Goods trunk shows.

Yield: Makes 2 loaves, 1 bundt cake, or 18-24 muffins depending on size

Ingredients:
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Mise en Place:
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1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup canola oil
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
1  15-ounce can pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º

  1. Grease baking pans and lightly dust with flour. This recipe will fill one bundt pan, two loaf pans, 18 muffin tins, or six mini-loaf pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, applesauce, and eggs on medium speed for two minutes.
  3. Add pumpkin purée and spices. Mix on medium speed for 30 seconds more. Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as you mix.

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4. Add flours, salt, and baking soda. Mix for 30 seconds on low speed just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.
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Stir in chocolate chips.
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Pour batter into prepared pans.
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Bake on the middle rack of oven for 50-60 minutes. To test for doneness insert a knife into the center of the baking pan. If it comes out with orange residue on it, put back in the oven for another 10 minutes. If it comes out with just melted chocolate on the knife, then it is ready.

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Next, run a knife around the edges of the pans to loosen the loaves. Turn the pans over onto the wire rack and shake the loaves out. Immediately flip them over, so they are right side up. Allow to cool for an hour before packaging.

A few baking notes:

If you don’t have applesauce, use 1 full cup of oil instead of half oil and half applesauce.

If you don’t have whole wheat flour, use 2 cups of all-purpose flour.

In case you’re wondering, a 15-ounce can is equal to 1¾ cups of pumpkin purée.
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Marion, thanks for turning me on to this unlikely pairing of flavors! Marion thanks her friend, Marilyn who first introduced her to this recipe in the form of muffins as a crowd-pleasing snack after a high school lacrosse game.

Holding hands with my favorite cousin and first friend, Marion.

MarionMartignetti&JudyCulotta
Other Nice Fall Desserts
Mom’s Apple Pie with a Cheddar Streusel Topping
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Homemade Grape Jelly

I can’t believe I made GRAPE JELLY, that ubiquitous purple gooey staple of my youth.

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For Baby Boomers like me, long before we had five varieties of preserves in our refrigerator, we had one — Welch’s Grape Jelly. In the 1960s and 70s, my mother always had a two-pound jar of it in the cupboard, along with a five-pound tub of peanut butter. Every day, my brothers would come home from school, make two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, add a stack of Oreos, place it all on a plate, and down it all with a glass of milk — all as an afterschool snack. To this day, I can still visualize the sleeve of sliced bread collapsing as its contents were depleted within an hour of the boys getting home from school.

That memory got me wondering about PB&J sandwiches. You can read, A Brief History of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, HERE

Growing Grapes at Home

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Over the last 20 years, my husband has tried to grow grapes with only fair results. We often had a lot of foliage with very little fruit. About five years ago, he decided to get serious about it and built a trellis for the vines on the western end of our vegetable garden. We planted muscadine grapes, which we knew grew well in our area, and one lone purple grape called Champanel, which is similar to the Concord grape. This year, grape production from that one Champanel vine exploded.

March 15: Grapevines appear dormant.

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April 12: First nodes, and then buds appeared on the vines as the outer leaf unfurled.

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April 30: Each green ball is a flower bud. The buds bloom into tiny white flowers that last one or two days before falling off and leaving the beginnings of individual grapes.

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July 23: Almost ready to pick. I covered them with netting to keep the birds out.

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August 6: Harvest day. Notice Marion, the Plymouth Bard Rock hen, eyeing the bowl of grapes on the ground. Chickens. Love. Grapes.

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We harvested 8 pounds of grapes from that one plant. After washing and patting them dry, and removing the stems, rotten fruit, and unripened grapes, we were left with about 6 pounds of grapes.

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Making Grape Jelly

All sweet jams and jellies are made essentially the same way. First, you simmer fruit to soften it and get it to release a naturally occurring gum-like “setting” agent known as pectin. Next, you turn up the heat, add sugar and bring the fruit juice to a rolling boil which evaporates some of the water eventually leaving a gelatinous substance we know as jelly.

Note: only use grapes that are sweet enough to eat! The only “fail” I have had with this recipe was to use grapes that looked ripe but hadn’t ripened to the point of tasting sweet off the vine. I was trying to beat the birds and harvested too early. I thought adding sugar would sweeten them, but the jelly still tasted unpleasantly tart.

About Pectin:

Different fruits have different amounts of pectin in them — crab apples have lots of pectin, grapes have very little. Thus, to get low-pectin varieties of fruit to set, you need to add additional pectin from another source. Otherwise, you end up overcooking the fruit’s good juices to get it to firm up. Additional pectin helps speed up the setting process.

The pluses of using pectin: pectin helps jelly achieve a set quickly resulting in a shorter cooking time which translates into a more intensely flavored jelly, pectin helps keep the fruit’s natural vibrant color, and finally, pectin results in a higher jelly yield because you boil it for a shorter amount of time allowing for less evaporation of the fruit’s juices.

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Feel free to follow the directions on the pectin box which calls for 3.5 pounds of cleaned grapes and 7 cups of sugar. You can buy grapes at the supermarket. Look for the darkest grapes you can find for the most intense flavor. You could also use 100% pure grape juice. I altered the recipe to fit the amount of grapes I had harvested. I honestly had no idea if the proportion of grapes to sugar and pectin would work to achieve a set. I was thrilled when it did and provided you with the exact amounts of ingredients I used for this batch.

My ingredients for 13 cups of jelly:

6.25 pounds cleaned grapes which produced 7 cups of grape juice
9 cups sugar
1 box of pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter (Optional — used to stop jelly from foaming while cooking.)

Instructions:

Before you get started cooking, clean two-cup jelly jars in the dishwasher and have them ready to fill as soon as the jelly is finished cooking. You will also need clean lids. Be sure there is no rust on them.

Pour grapes into a large pot. Do not add water.

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Using a potato masher, squish the grapes in the pot.

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Turn heat on high. Grapes will release more juice as they are heated. Bring grapes to a gentle boil. Continue to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

Set up a sieve over a bowl and strain the juice. Here’s where I got lucky. I have had this vintage juice sieve in my basement for 10 years. I had picked it up at a yard sale because I thought it had nice lines. I had no idea about its specific role in the kitchen, and I had never used it. When I saw cooks using it in jelly-making videos online, I was thrilled to learn of its raison d’être and then even more thrilled that I hadn’t konmaried it!

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Pour the crushed, cooked grapes through the juice sieve and swirl the dowel to push the juice through the holes.

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The seeds and skins remain in the well of the sieve and can be composted.

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Here’s an action video:

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The juice and pulp settle in the bowl.

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Take the juice and pour it back into the clean pot. Add butter to prevent foaming and pectin and then bring to a boil over high heat. Stir frequently.

When the jelly reaches the point of boiling rapidly, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Nine cups seems like a lot of sugar, but that’s what it takes to get jelly to achieve a good set.  Boil rapidly for  ccone minute, stirring constantly. Start timing when the juice returns to a rapid, rolling boil, a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred. After one minute, remove from heat.

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Ladle jelly immediately into prepared jars.

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Cover jars with clean lids. At this point, you may choose to place the sealed jars in a boiling water bath to preserve them through the process of pasteurization, or you can store them in the refrigerator unprocessed for immediate use. Since each of my jars was going to family and friends to be used right away, I didn’t bother to process them.

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At the end of the season, we prune our grapevines way back leaving us with long winding grape vines. I stripped those vines of their leaves and made grapevine wreaths. Now, I get why Martha does this stuff. The long vines were just there begging to be made into something decorative!

The final fall harvest from last year.

garden harvest before freeze

Early Fall Favorite Posts:
Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Marinara Sauce
Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onion, and Potato Sheet Pan Supper
Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Putting Your Garden to Bed with a Blanket of Cover Crops
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
How Local Canola Crops are Grown

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.