Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Don't Care 'Bout Spots on My Apples

We have a seasonal garden.  We're proud of it.  There's something fantastic about eating the things you've grown from your own soil.  An intimacy with nature.  We started with a relatively small garden: a few rows of corn, green beans, and tomatoes. Each year, it gets a little larger. Last year, we added cabbage, several types of peppers, carrots and potatoes. This year, we are considering planting peas, strawberries and peanuts.  We enjoy the produce while it is fresh and freeze/can a sizable amount to eat out of season.

My husband, the primary farmer, and I are in disagreement regarding whether to plant fruit trees.  I would like to plant 4 dwarf fruit trees: 2 apple, 1 pear and 1 peach.  Dwarf trees are easier to groom and maintain, take up less space, and reach maturity faster than standard fruit trees.  We already plant 60-75% of the produce we consume each year. Adding fruit trees seems like a logical step toward becoming self-sustaining.

Not familiar with self-sustaining gardening? It means exactly what you think it does: growing enough food to feed your family with few supplements from grocery stores.  Google it.  There's a wealth of information about it.  You can even find planning guides to optimize your space. I am particularly fond of 1-acre, self-sufficient homestead plans.

As I age, growing our own food is becoming increasingly important to me.  I surprise myself.  I never thought I'd want anything to do with planting, picking, and processing food.  It's so much easier to buy it.  Canned foods at Aldi are so inexpensive, I use to believe it wasn't worth the trouble.  I'm moving away from those thoughts, though.

Folks, what's happening to our food is frightening.  We are killing ourselves from the inside out.  I'm not going to fill this post with loads of facts and pretend that I'm some kind of nutrition expert.  I'm not.  But I am a mom and I'm now concerned with things like preservatives, hormones, and pesticides. With jealousy, I think of my grandmothers whom never had these worries.  

Have you noticed how many items contain soy?  Um, everything.  If it's processed, it probably contains soy.  Do you know what else contains soy?  Crayons, plastics, inks, and fuels.  I'm not convinced that it's meant to be edible.  Not everything grown from the Earth should be eaten. Example: broccoli cotton.

Back in the BC (that time period Before Children) I paid little attention to what I consumed.  If I liked it, I ate it.  I didn't care if it was highly processed or raw, full of fat and sugar or nutritious.  I valued food based on taste.  I can't be that lax any more.  My little peeps are just too important.  (Now, please don't think I'm a prude.  We still have plenty of snacks, cake, hot dogs and other no-so-good-for-you things.  They're just not consumed as often as they once were.)

If you eat, chances are you've been shopping.  Holy moly, food is expensive.  Choosing healthy food is a real kick in the wallet.  I recently found a great deal on strawberries. I was able to pick up 13 pounds of berries for about $1.22 per pound.  I wasn't sure what to do with that many berries.  Until recently, I would get a terrible rash if I ate strawberries. Once the twins were born, I discovered I was no longer sensitive to them. Yeehaw! Strawberries are delicious!

I decided to make jam.  Using Pinterest, I located a sugar-free, pectin free recipe for strawberry jam.  To be clear, the recipe does not require adding commercial pectin, however, it does call for 2 apples, with peels, so there is a small amount of natural pectin, which can be quite good for you.

The 2 apples I purchased.  These 2 little apples cost $2.38!!!!  At this price, 20 apples equal the cost of 1 apple tree. My trees could pay for themselves by their first year of maturity!!!  

Recipe:  6 lbs strawberries, hulled and halved (I cut them into tiny pieces); 2 Granny Smith apples, cored and grated; 3 3/4 cups honey (I only used 2 cups!); 1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice.

All of the ingredients. pre-boil. 

Put all of the ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Stirring often.  Then, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.  Skim any pink froth from the top and discard.  Mash the jam mixture with a potato masher or submersible blender.  Then continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes.

After 15 minutes.  Skim the top and discard.  

After 45 minutes, the jam is finished.  It will be a little thin, but it thickens as it cools.  The jam can be frozen or canned in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  I chose the hot water bath.

1 batch netted 8- 8oz. jars.  

I tried the jam tonight. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S and SUGAR-FREE!  I can only imagine how much better it would taste if I could use homegrown strawberries and apples.  Now, let me impress you with how cheap this is.

Strawberries:  $7.32
Apples:  $2.38
Honey:  $0  (A wonderful friend recently gave me a quart of raw honey straight from the Amish.)
Lemon Juice:  $0  (I always have some on hand.)

Total:  $9.70 = $1.21 per jar!!!  (Add a few cents for jar lids.)

I'm looking forward to planting, picking, and processing our garden this year.  Wish me luck as I constantly pester my husband to plant some fruit trees.

**Does anyone know why this song is called Big Yellow Taxi?

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