Homemade Concord Grape Juice

Well, it’s that time of year again!  Ready for the picking are clusters of deep purple grapes hanging off of the vines in my back yard.  While the last couple of years have brought bumper crops to our lot, this year’s pickings have been a bit slim. This didn’t stop me from making a few of our family favorites…flavorful grape juice and grape jam.

There’s no greater satisfaction than to grow and process your own produce.  Several years ago I planted two Concord grape pods and they have grown to cover a large open area with a plentiful bounty of fruit.  Fresh air, rain and sunshine nourish the plants throughout the summer months until the gorgeous fruit are ready for picking.  I don’t water, fertilize, trim or fuss.  This is my kind of gardening!  The reward for leaving the plant to do what it naturally does; lots and lots of grape jam and juice that will last throughout the year.


Above is the recipe from the Ball Blue Book published by Alltrista Corporation.

Here is another method that produces similar results…
Homemade Concord Grape Juice

TO EACH STERILIZED QUART JAR
2 cups washed and cleaned concord grapes

1/2 cup sugar

Boiling water

In sterilized jar place 2 cups grapes. 

Add 1/2 cup sugar.  



Fill with boiling water leaving 1/2″ headspace. 

Seal jars at once with 2 piece lids. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove from canner and let sit for 24 hours.  Remove metal lid-bands, and label with date and contents.  Let juice stand 3 to 4 weeks before using. (The longer you let it sit, the greater the concentration.) Strain juice from grapes and use juice. Refrigerate after opening. 

For a great tasting homemade Grape Jam, try this Ball Blue Book recipe…



Advertisements

Late Summer Zucchini Quick Bread



How many of you have loads of zucchini that are ripe and ready for picking?  Just a few plants seem to produce lots of long slender veggies that taste great sliced and sautéed with carrots and onions, diced and cooked into a spicy spaghetti sauce, or shredded and dumped into your favorite quick bread recipe.  

A local farmer dropped off a bag full of produce last week. I was delighted to see the assortment of zucchini that often overwhelm the garden. I graciously thanked my friend and scooped up the zucchini with this delicious recipe in mind.

Tip: I always use my food processor to shred a summer’s worth of zucchini and then place in freezer bags in 2 or 4 cup quantities.  (Label with date, product, and amount).  This way I have zucchini ready whenever I want to bake this quick bread throughout the year.  

This recipe yields four deliciously moist loaves that can be eaten, frozen, or given away as fresh baked gifts from the kitchen.  Don’t forget to share a loaf or two with a local grower who might be inclined to share some freshly picked produce when he/she has more than they can use.

Late Summer Zucchini Quick Bread 

6 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon baking powder

6 teaspoons ground cinnamon

6 eggs

 2 cup vegetable oil

4 cups white sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

4 cups grated zucchini

2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups raisins

1 package instant oatmeal for topping, any flavor

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray, four 8 x 4 inch pans.  In a very large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together.

Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a separate large bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini, nuts, and raisins until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle flavored instant oatmeal evenly over batter.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20-30 minutes. Carefully, remove from pan, and cool completely.



Rosemary and Basil Herbed Flat Bread



I usually make this bread during the late spring and summer months when fresh herbs are abundant and ready to be trimmed.  There’s no point in making this bread unless you have fresh herbs to incorporate into the batter and snip over the finished product.  As the bread toasts in the oven, the irresistible aroma of freshly cut basil and rosemary, garlic, and olive oil is like no other.  The combination of herbs and spices help to make this summer staple undeniably scrumptious! Often served with pasta and red sauce, cheese and grapes, or a lite summer salad… It’s crazy delicious!



Rosemary and Basil Herbed Flat Bread

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning mix, and fresh herbs (to sprinkle over the top of bread after baking)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray or line each sheet with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, herbs, baking powder and salt. Stir in water and 1/3 cup oil until mixture forms a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead for about 1 minute.

Divide dough in half; shape into two balls. Roll each ball into a thin oblong shape to fit on prepared baking sheet. Carefully transfer dough to prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack and  lightly brush each with remaining oil; sprinkle with salt and garlic powder, seasoning mix and fresh herbs. Slice for serving. 





Beef Salami

We recently had a substantial amount of local beef delivered to our home. One of my colleagues owns a beef ranch and I decided to try the product that so many often rave about.  The delivery came with a selection of cuts including various roasts, steaks, and ground beef.  As I looked at all of the individually wrapped beef packages, I was reminded of a recipe that I first spotted in a community cookbook that I’m fond of.  It’s an ole’ time recipe for homemade beef salami and the ingredients are few and common.  I substituted Lawry’s seasoning salt for the “tender quick salt” just because I didn’t have any on hand.  The beef salami turned out just fine.





As the holiday weekend approaches, I thought this might be a fun recipe to try as I’m often assembling plates of appetizers when friends stop by and the kids open the fridge constantly looking for something to munch on.







Pecan and Raisin Zucchini Quick Bread



As the end of the traditional Midwest growing season is well past it’s prime, local farmer’s markets are providing customers with an array of cool weather vegetables.  The unseasonably mild temperatures have helped zucchini, beets, and winter squash continue to grow.  

Last week a co-worker filled a basket with end-of-the-season zucchini that she had picked from her garden.  She placed the bountiful basket on the break room table to share with all.  I quickly scooped up an armful so that I could make a few batches of zucchini quick bread.  This is one of my favorite recipes.  It’s moist and flavorful with lots of texture provided by the crunchy pecans and sweet California raisins.  The recipe freezes well so I make quite a few loaves, wrap them and freeze them for gift giving or for a quick morning breakfast accompanied by a mug full of piping hot coffee.

Note: I sprinkle a tablespoon of wheat germ over each loaf before baking.  This gives the loaves a crunchy topping and a boost of fiber.

Pecan and Raisin Zucchini Quick Bread

2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cup canola oil

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini 

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3/4 cup raisins

Optional Topping: 

2 tablespoons wheat germ

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9×5″ loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and baking powder; gradually beat into sugar mixture, mixing just until moistened. Stir in zucchini, pecans and raisins.

Transfer to prepared pans. Sprinkle each loaf with 1 tablespoon of wheat germ (optional).  Bake 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool. 

Easy Blueberry Upside Down Cake





This time of year, there are plenty of local blueberry farms lining the county roads throughout the Midwest.  In early July, rustic hand painted signs announce the arrival of a new blueberry crop at many of these farms.  Last Sunday, I stopped at one such farm to gather a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.  To my surprise, there were “slim pickings” available for sale. The unprecedented soggy, Midwest rains and cooler summer temperatures have made a bit of a mesh of things.  When I asked if they had any blueberries for sale, the owner expressed her disappointment as she said the crop was a bit overripe and the berries seemed uncharacteristically  soft.  I usually bring home a 25 pounds box, but instead, I purchased only two pints.  Hopefully, I can visit another stand with a bit more success.

For a quick summer treat, I assembled this incredibly easy recipe that is sure to tantalize your taste buds.  It’s much like a traditional upside down cake that usually includes pineapple.  Instead, a few cups of berries are used to top the tender butter cake.  I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try. It seems the flavor grows as the cake sits for a bit.

Easy Blueberry Upside Down Cake

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 package yellow or butter cake mix + recipe eggs, oil, and water

1 teaspoon almond extract

Coat the bottom of a 13×9″ baking dish with butter; sprinkle with brown sugar and blueberries. Prepare cake batter according to package directions.  Add almond extract, mix well.  Evenly spread the batter over the blueberries.

Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate. If desired, serve warm with ice cream.  

Sweet and Spicy Pepper Relish

While waiting in the checkout line at a local grocery store this week, I noticed a monthly cookbook tucked into the magazine rack close to the register.  The front cover and title focused on “Canning and Preserving”.  It was a “Taste of Home” publication and I’ve always been a big fan of the reader provided recipe contributions showcased in the magazine. I’m a sucker for spending extra cash in the checkout lane so I threw the book in my cart.

 As I thumbed through my newly purchased mini-cookbook, a recipe for pepper relish caught my eye.  It looked simple and straightforward so I decided to purchase the ingredients to give it a try. 

The result, a sweet and spicy mixture that’s a perfect condiment for bratwurst links,  steak or baked chicken. Great with anything cooked on the grill…   It can also be used as a flavorful appetizer paired with cream cheese and crackers.



 Here’s the link to the recipe:  

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/autumn-pepper-relish/print

I changed the pepper ratio a bit, but not much…

Sweet and Spicy Pepper Relish

(Adapted for Taste of Home)

6 medium sweet red peppers 
2 medium green peppers

6 jalapeno peppers

4 medium Granny Smith apples (about 1-1/4 pounds)

2 medium pears (about 1 pound)

1 medium onion

3 tablespoons canning salt

2 cups white vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon fennel seed

Seed and coarsely chop peppers. Peel and cut apples, pears and onion into 1-in. pieces. Pulse in batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss. Let stand 6 hours. Rinse and drain well; blot dry with paper towels.
In a Dutch oven, combine drained pepper mixture, vinegar, sugars and fennel seed; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 40-45 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Carefully ladle hot mixture into eight hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.

Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 20 minutes. Remove jars and cool for 12 to 24 hours before removing the bands and storing in a cool, dry location.