Yay, Florida Fall!

It’s finally Fall! I love the Fall. For a lot of people, it means leaves are turning beautiful shades of crimson, orange, and goldenrod, but for us gardeners in Florida, it means a whole new season of gardening. Actually, it’s the kickoff to eight glorious months of garden-friendly weather. Summer is a moot point; I’ve given up. Planting in the Summer only leads to heartache and asking myself “why, why, why did I do this…again?” So I wait. I patiently (haha) wait until October.

When the heat and humidity start to subside, that’s when the good things start happening in my garden. What’s more is that our homemade black gold is ready to be used! And we build a new bed to replace the hot mess that was there before. Thank goodness, too, the old bed was spent. See?

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The Old Overgrown Bed

The new bed is an 8′ x 8′ that replaced the 3′ x 6′ bed we used to have in the same location. This is the best spot for pure, radiant sun in the fall and winter. And it’s right next to the rain barrel and hose.

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The New Bed’s Frame

But this bed takes a lot of dirt! It’s taken many trips to the garden center to make up for what our homemade compost didn’t cover. No matter, it’s the Fall and we’ve got a lot of stuff to grow! I’ve grown some mean broccoli on this side of our house, and we plan to grow enough to freeze. And speaking of broccoli…

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Mean-Looking Broccoli

Seed shopping gives me palpitations and a major case of the “I-want-them-alls.” Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a mecca. I’m really tickled because they specialize in heirloom, organic, and non-gmo seeds for the southeast region. I only bought a couple things.

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I Behaved Myself

This weekend will be a busy weekend for us. I’ve already got baby heirloom tomatoes started indoors, and they will be planted this weekend, too. I’ve been hardening them off, and they’re nearly ready. And, compost bonus: there’s oodles of mystery cucurbit seedlings doing incredibly well. Butternut squash? Straight Eight cucumbers? Spaghetti Squash, even? Don’t know. Don’t care. It’s all good.

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Mystery Cucurbits

We’ve got sun, temperatures perfect for germination, and good dirt. What more could a Florida girl ask for?

Until next time,

Jenna

 

 

Introspection, Food-trepreneurship, and Being Happy-Go-Lucky

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Hi, friends, I’ve missed you. It’s been quite some time (well, two weeks, actually, but it feels like a million years)…

As some of you might remember from my “The Long and Winding Road: Saying Goodbye to Cottage Law” post from the Spring, I’m doing my best to make it as a food-trepreneur. Happy-Go-Lucky Foods (formerly Happy-Go-Lucky Granola and, before that, formerly nameless) has gone from zero to sixty in seven months, and I’m taking a moment to catch my breath and write about my experience thus far. I’ll begin by saying that I never thought I’d make it this far. I really didn’t. I wanted to, but was wanting to enough?

Desire only can take a person so far; having a plan (not necessarily in the full-on business 101 sense of the word) is uber-important. Being aimless and being successful in business don’t correlate well. I told my new friend, Amanda, of Amanda’s Amigos this when we spoke last week. I’m sure I was more eloquent then, but…

I met Amanda at my farmers market booth a few months back. She bought a few Apricot Ginger granola bars, we chatted for a moment, and she was off. A few weeks later, I was tickled to be included in her Daytona Beach is Vegan Friendly post. Amanda was on vacation from Alaska! A-L-A-S-K-A. How cool (no pun, I promise.).

A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me and asked if I’d have some time to chat; she wanted to know how to start her own vegan-based business. And, so, while chatting, laughing, and experiencing the joy of cross-country internet-related issues, I had the chance to reflect. Sometimes, when life is so busy, we forget to look inward. Amanda’s thoughtful inquiry encouraged the introspection I so desperately needed. From our chat, I learned the following:

Have a plan, but know that it’s OK to deviate from it.

Being too rigid can hinder you from following your intuition. If you know something’s not right or could be better, allow yourself to re-envision your path. Be flexible.

Any feedback is good feedback.

Listen not only to yourself, but those around you. Feedback is important; take advantage of it. You don’t have to jump at every suggestion you hear, but allow yourself the liberty to explore feasible options. When a regular customer tells you that she has to repackage her granola bars as soon as she gets home from the market because the moisture leaches out onto the kraft paper bag that they’re packed in, get different bags! And feel free to thank the honest individual who cared enough to share her thoughts with you. Everybody likes to know they’re being heard.

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Acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.

If I never admitted that I bought cellophane bags that were too small for granola clusters, I’d still be spending double-time cramming too much product into too small of a package. My boyfriend said they were too small, and, while I absolutely didn’t want to admit he was right, I did. I now buy bigger bags. It’s OK for him to win once in a while.

Don’t buy whims in bulk.

While a great deal on organic dried Zante currants in bulk might seem too good to pass up, consider if you really need them or not. Case in point: I gave tons of currants to my neighbor.

Don’t go into unnecessary debt.

My financial goal was to let Happy-Go-Lucky Foods pay for itself as it grew. I knew that I’d have to pay for testing, licensing, permitting, equipment, etc. as I moved forward with adding hummus to our product line, but I let the sales from selling granola under Cottage Law pay for the expansion. While hummus was always the plan, being patient prevented me from taking out loans. It was the best decision I could have made.

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Be grateful for every customer, no matter how much they buy.

It still amazes me that people shell out real dollars for the hummus and granola that we make. They work hard to earn money and choose to spend some of it with Happy-Go-Lucky Foods. I smile every single time I think of it. I’m ever-so-grateful. Whether someone spends one dollar or fifty, I know they don’t have to spend any at all. Never take any customer for granted.

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Be consistent.

McDonalds is so popular, in part, because they are consistent. The fries taste the same from coast to coast and even across continents. People love consistency. If you’ve got a slew of people who love your banana walnut bread just as it is, don’t add nutmeg. We all know what happened to New Coke.

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Enjoy the ride.

Enjoy every moment of being an entrepreneur. It takes guts to go out on a limb and do your own thing. Breathe it in. Know that you’re courageous. Believe that you can do it. And don’t forget to smile.

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Thanks for seeing this post through to the end, my friends.

Until next time,

Jenna

P.S. Thanks, Amanda, for encouraging me to look inward. Good luck on your adventure.

 

 

The Art of Winging it (and Creamed Corn)

I swore this wouldn’t work out. But something (well, my boyfriend, really) told me to take photos anyway. I shrugged and said “what the heck.” A couple of nights ago, I looked at three ears of perfectly cooked corn on the cob and knew I had to do something with it. I’d been slathering butter and garlic all over those perfect ears for days now, and I (Don’t even think I’m going to say that I got sick of it, because that could never happen.) felt compelled to try something different. I didn’t want to mess with perfection, but, against my better judgement…

“Creamed corn,” he said. I’d never made it before. The concept was simple enough, and if being a southerner has taught me anything (I’m barely a southerner. I’m from Ft. Lauderdale.), it’s that I know how to do corn. And, I’ll tell you, I’d save a couple of ears again to make this easy peasy creamed corn…with garlic. (I had to work the garlic in there. I had to.) That business came out soooooooo gooooooooood.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 ears cooked ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • pinch of cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Melt butter in your favorite skillet over low-medium and add the minced garlic to the pan before it starts to bubble.

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Add the corn to the pan and toss. Keep the heat at low-medium. Meanwhile, make a slurry by adding the pinch of cornstarch to a small amount of the milk and whisking. The goal is to just get the clumps out.

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Add the milk, half and half, and slurry to the pan with the corn and bring to a slight simmer.

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 In a food processor or blender, take out about half of the corn mixture and blend. It’s up to you how pulverized you like your corn to be. (I’d actually blend less next time because I’d like more texture.) Add the blended bits back to the pan. Simmer over low-medium heat for about five minutes until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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 There. Creamed corn. With garlic. Yum.

20140730-112513-41113028.jpg And, yes, I’m eating it out of a ramekin. I’m eating it as I type. Don’t judge me. ;)

 Happy creamy corn, everyone!

Jenna

Homemade Local Blueberry Jam

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What does one do with a massive bag of freshly picked summer blueberries? Sorbet? Sure. Frozen and dropped into a glass of Champagne? Absolutely. Blended into a fancy schmancy BBQ sauce? Sign me up. Cooked into  the perfect jam? YES. Today, I vote for jam!

This is the second post in the “It’s UnCANny…” series, and making homemade fruit jams are a fantastic and simple way to break free from the store-bought stuff.

To make this summery-sweet blueberry jam, you’ll need:

  • 6 cups of fresh blueberries, washed and picked of stems
  • 3 cups sugar

I realize I use a lot less sugar than a lot of jam recipes out there, but perfectly ripe berries are sweet enough on their own. Feel free to up the sugar ante if you’d like.

Method:

Using your favorite heavy saucepan or enameled cast iron pot (my personal preference), place the berries first and then the sugar. 

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Over a low heat and while stirring, cook the mixture until the sugar dissolves.

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In about five minutes, it should look like this.

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Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.

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Boil until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. This batch took about 10 minutes.

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Enjoy the taste of summer.

Until next time…

Jenna

 

It’s UnCANny: Vegan Refried Black Beans

We’ve been working toward eliminating canned goods from our pantry for quite some time, and last night, we finally said adios to canned refried beans. Honestly, refried beans from the grocery store shelf are fairly disappointing. First, we don’t love pinto beans. Second, finding organic refried beans is difficult. Third, they’re salty. Fourth, they’re not worth the money. Fifth, we like to have control over what we eat. Making these organic, vegan refried black beans from scratch was incredibly simple and very inexpensive. You’ll never go back again. I promise.
You’ll need:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Method:
In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, sauté the diced onion until soft and translucent.
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Add the garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds.
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Add the cooked black beans, cumin, oregano and lime juice.
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Begin mashing with the back of a large wooden spoon or a potato masher. Mash until your heart’s content. I prefer mine smoother rather than chunkier, but it’s up to you.
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Give the beans a taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
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I made an amazing quesadilla with these beans, but the possibilities are endless. You could serve them along side enchiladas, have them on a vegan taco salad, or eat them with saffron-scented rice. Regardless, be proud that you’ve said goodbye to a canned pantry staple.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be re-creating more unCANny favorites, and I hope you’ll join me as I work toward reducing our household waste.
Until next time…

The Best Organic, Heirloom Tomato Season…Ever

So far, 2014 has been the most fruitful, pun intended, tomato season I’ve ever had. I started everything from seed and everything came from heirloom seeds come from Tomatofest. Please share in my happy. And, if I’ve jinxed myself, it was worth it. :)

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Yellow Currant tomatoes from Tomatofest

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More Yellow Currants from Tomatofest

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Super sweet Chadwick Cherries from Tomatofest

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Beautiful cluster of Yellow Currants from Tomatofest

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Thai Pink Egg, Hawaiian Currant, and Yellow Currant tomatoes all from Tomatofest

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Yep, more Yellow Currant and Thai Pink Eggs from Tomatofest

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Four varieties in one day: Thai Pink Egg, Hawaiian Currant, Chadwick Cherry, and Yellow Currants…seeds all from Tomatofest

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The late Tomatofest bloomer: The very ugly Martino’s Roma tomatoes finally ripening

I hope everyone’s having a productive, delicious, and healthy season.

With love and dirt under my fingernails,

Jenna

Dropping a Mallet on my Face and Reminiscing

Not only is it Throwback Thursday, but I’ve officially written 100 posts on Delicious Daydreams (feel free to applaud) and wanted to do something a little different.

Boy does time fly. It seems like yesterday that I started my first blog: “Jenna Dreams of…” It was short-lived, but a lot of fun. I mostly wrote about my escapades in food and gardening, so I re-imagined the whole thing and DD was born. It’s a little more than a year later, and here we are.

And while I’ve said “so long for now” to “Jenna Dreams of…,” I wanted to share a post that still makes me laugh…and wince.

In case you didn’t realize this, I’m a klutz. A lot of people say they’re clumsy, but really aren’t. It’s not cute to pretend such things. Being klutzy isn’t like being a unicorn. It’s not special, and it’s not pretty. Band-Aids and Neosporin are a big part of my life. And, no matter how the cartoons make it look, walking into door frames and shutting drawers on my fingers doesn’t end up with cute little birds flying above my head in concentric circles. Getting hurt isn’t fun (but it sure does entertain my friends).

So, blogosphere, please share one of my most memorable gardening/blogging moments with me. I posted this more than two years ago on “Jenna Dreams of…” It’s OK to laugh.

It’s true. I’ve found yet another way to injure myself. And this is a doozy. Today I spent the day gardening and decided to brace some PVC with some heavy duty 7-foot garden stakes.

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All was well until five minutes later…

I grabbed the mallet from the garage and gave it to my boyfriend. He said it was unnecessary because he was able to push them right into the ground, but noooooooooooo…..I’m smarter. I picked up the mallet, held it two feet above my eager face, and began to pound the stake further into the soil. After about three whacks, I dropped it right on my mouth. I DROPPED A MALLET ON MY FACE!!! So what did I do? I threw the mallet down and walked right to the bathroom to spit out blood. I looked in the mirror, said, “SERIOUSLY, JENNA?,” went to the kitchen, got a frog-shaped ice pack from the freezer, wrapped it in a towel, held it to my throbbing, bloody lip, and then sat down in a dark room to play Simpsons Tapped Out on my iPad.

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So lovely. So very lovely.

The moral of the story is that in the history of morons, idiots, Tim “the Tool Man” Taylors, and so on, I have to be the first to accomplish this. If I’m not alone, I’m not even sure that would make me feel better because I don’t want them (by “them,” I mean people like me) driving school busses, flying planes, or operating carnival rides.

Happy Saturday. Get me some Advil.

And, that, my friends, is that. I hope you had a chuckle…even if it was at my expense.

Happy and safe gardening to you all,

Jenna

How Does Our Organic, Urban Garden Grow: An Update

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Things are looking pretty good around here! I posted a while back about how Spring was treating us in sunny Zone 9, and now it’s time for an update. A month is like a jillion years to a gardener, so here goes…

The Kentucky Wonder beans have been nothing but amazing. For the past two weeks, I’ve gotten a small handful every day. For three plants, that’s pretty good! The wax beans are also going strong.

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The heirloom crookneck squash, on the other hand, was a total bust. Powdery mildew invaded and stunted the growth of the plants. I waved the white flag pretty early because I knew the pot could be put to better use. This is the best they’d ever look.

Crookneck Squash Babies

The same failure goes for our cukes. I swear I’m going to give up on even trying to grow them. The only time we have luck is when the plants are volunteers. I don’t know what it is. I suspect the humidity and salt air is the downfall, but who knows? This was our one delicious, crunchy, crowning jewel:

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I also grew an “onion.” Laugh it up. It’s OK.

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The heirloom lettuces and Swiss chard ended up in the compost heap after a good run. I tried to save seeds from some of the bitter, bolted babies, but it didn’t work out. Perhaps they’ll self-seed in the fall.

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But, the tomatoes. The TOMATOES. I’m pleased as punch. And, I know, a gardener should never count their peppers before their picked, but I’ve got to toot this horn! I’ve been harvesting a bunch of yellow currant tomatoes every single day.

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I even harvested the first Thai Pink Egg yesterday. All of our 24 plants are doing pretty well. A few have yellowing leaves here and there, and the tomatoes from one of our Martino’s Roma plants have blossom end rot (none of the others do, even in the same bed), but still, I’ve never had such a successful season. I guess I should knock on some wood.

And, surprisingly, the carrots are still going strong. Succession planting has been our best friend.

Here’s yesterday’s harvest:

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All in all, this is our best season yet. Disaster could certainly strike at any minute, but for now, I’ll bask in the glory of our organic gardening endeavors.

 

 

 

Angel Hair with Lemony Kale, Caramelized Onions, & Ricotta Salata

Kale is the new little black dress. Sautéed, baked, raw, braised, or fried, it all works. And I’m so fortunate to have oodles of the stuff from my favorite local farm. We’re always coming up with new ways to infuse the leafy lovelies into our meals, and this pasta dish may be my new favorite.

For this dish, you’ll need…

  • approximately 50 leaves of curly kale, stripped from the spines, washed and dried (use your salad spinner)
  • four tablespoons of EVOO
  • two yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • five cloves of garlic, minced
  • half fresh lemon, juice and zest
  • Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces Angel hair cooked al dente

Optional:

  • Balsamic vinegar reduction
  • Ricotta Salata cheese, crumbled

To begin, heat two tablespoons of EVOO in your favorite, very large, skillet over medium heat.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and a small pinch of sea salt.

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Keep the onions moving so they don’t burn until they start to soften. Reduce the heat to low-medium and let them caramelize. This should take about five minutes. Once they’re done, transfer them to a separate vessel.

Add one more tablespoon of EVOO to the pan and add the kale.

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Using tongs, toss the kale a lot as this will help it wilt. You’ll want it all in the pan, but it takes patience. Cooked kale, like any other green, cooks down to a minuscule portion of its original size once the water content is gone. The result is concentrated, amazing flavor.

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Add the lemon juice and a large pinch of sea salt. Give it another good toss. Put the lid on the pan. The kale will really start to break down because of the steam. After about a minute, remove the lid and check the progress. If it’s not soft, put the lid back on and wait another minute.

Remove the lid and make a well in the center of the kale. Add the minced garlic and give it a good stir. Add a bit of olive oil to help the sautéing if you desire.

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Add the lemon zest and stir again. Have cute boy help in the kitchen.

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Add the caramelized onions back to the pan and toss.

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Add the cooked pasta, drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of EVOO, and add salt and pepper to taste. There, you’re done!

photo 4But, if you’re like me, you’ll want to garnish this dish with crumbled ricotta salata cheese and a hefty balsamic reduction drizzle (yes, we always have this on hand). If you don’t have ricotta salata, feta cheese would be a great substitute.

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Until next time, my friends, happy eating!

 

Fresh Jalapeños: We can pickle that!

I’ve never looked at a basket of garden-fresh organic jalapeños and thought “Mmmm…I’d love to gnaw on those!” So when I was gifted with some uber-spicy jalapeños from my friend at the farmers market, there was only one option: pickling. These are great for perking up a sandwich, sprinkling on nachos, or serving on top of a steaming bowl of chili.

This is such a simple process as this isn’t a proper canning. But it’s great and so very quick!

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh jalapeño peppers
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

Cut one pound of fresh, washed jalapeños in rings.

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Soak the rings in a bowl of cold water. Swish around with a long-handled utensil every now and then as this will help some of the seeds fall to the bottom. Please don’t do this with your hands and then touch your eyes! Gently scoop out the pepper rings without getting the seeds that have fallen to the bottom and transfer to another vessel.

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In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt, and sugar together and bring to a boil. Add the drained jalapeños to the pot.

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Cover with a lid and let sit for 15 minutes off the heat.

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Transfer to your favorite jar and keep in the refrigerator. They’ll last for quite some time even though they’re not properly canned.

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