Preserving the harvest

There is a house in our neighborhood which is vacant and for sale. In the back yard stands two apple trees and five (yes 5!) plum trees.

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Last year I got permission from the owner/tenant to pick their apples since it was obvious by the number of apples on the ground that they were not going to be doing anything with them.

This year I called the realtor and he gave us permission to take all the fruit we want.

Yay!

So I’ve been supplying us with plums to snack on for a couple weeks now. And I’ve had a basket of apples sitting in the corner waiting for me to do something with them.

Then two days ago a friend gave me some cucumbers and zucchini that she had left over after making all the pickles and relish she wanted.

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So today, I sat down with my recipe books and a pad of paper and made some lists.

Apples : make into cider
Cucumbers: pickle them
Zucchini: shred and freeze
Plums: unknown (I don’t care for plum jam/jelly. What else is there to do with plums?)

As you can see, I had some research to do. I finally decided to make plum butter amd a plum bbq sauce. But first we gotta go pick the plums!

Fist on the agenda for the day was to make the pickles since they are best when the cukes are fresh and they were already 4 das old.

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I’m not going to give a tutorial on how to make pickles. There are already a million of them out there, and I followed the instructions from the Ball Blue Book (one of my go-to canning guides). The only thing I changed is that I left out the sugar. I mean, really. Dill pickles do not need sugar!

However I did want to mention one tidbit that might be handy. The instructions say to tie the spices in a bag. I’ve heard that you can use a tea bag (the kind you buy empty and put loose leaf tea in to steep). But I don’t have any of those lying around, besides, I don’t like to use disposable if I can help it. You can tie the spices up in a square of cheesecloth or fabric, but that just seems awkward. What I’ve done for years now is use panty hose.

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Yep, I purchased a cheap pair specifically for this purpose so they had never been worn. I gave them a good washing. Snipped off the foot portion and tied a knot in the end. Then I just fill the tube with the spices and knot the other end.

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Because the fabric is so stretchy, when it is time to clean, it is a simple task to unknot it, turn it inside out over the compost bucket, and then rinse and wash. And since it is nylon, it dries almost instantly, too.

So once I had the pickles all canned, it was time to deal with the apples. The Hubby and Princess Girl helped cut them up. Because they were so wormy we only got about half of each apple for the pot. The wormy parts went into a bucket to be fed to the chickens. No waste that way.

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I put them on the stove to cook a bit and while they were heating, Princess Girl and I attacked the zucchini.

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I shredded, she packed. We put approximately two cups into each bag since that’s what most of my recipies tend to call for.

We did not blanch the zucchini. I have seen directions that call for it, but in my experience, it has never made a difference in the end product.

I got called away to help Mom with some stuff and when I came back I found that the apples on the stove had cooked down to apple sauce!

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I realized I had cooked them too long to make cider, so I changed my plans and decided to make apple butter instead. Unfortunately, all the peels were still in there. I know some people cook their apple butter with the peels on and they eventually break down into the sauce, but I believe that lends a bitter taste to the sauce and resulting butter. So, I strained out the peels.

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(Gotta teach Princess Girl how to take clearer pictures!)

I spooned the peely sauce into a mesh strainer and by tapping the strainer “ears” on the rim of the bowl and stirring the sauce in the strainer, I got most of the sauce separated from the peels.

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Another of Princess Girl's photos

Even though the apples were not real sweet, the sauce is some of the best I’ve made. I think that is because usually I use the Victorio strainer and it mashes the peels up and strains them out. And while the peels don’t end up in the final product, I think some of their flavor does.

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Princess Girl told me I have to keep this picture and post it. 🙂

At any rate, I got all the peels strained out of the sauce (more food for the chickens!) And ended up with 10 cups of sauce which I put in the slow cooker with some cinnamon and clove. I will let it cook over night.

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I have to buy some honey tomorrow to use as the sweetener since we don’t have enough at the moment.

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Princess Girl helped me finish up the zucchini and get the bags ready for the freezer.

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Twelve pints of pickles canned, 6 bags of zucchini in the freezer, and apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. I’d say it was a productive day.

And tomorrow we go pick apples and plums.

I love harvest season and knowing that I am providing healthy food for my family. And it’s especially great when I get that food for free!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

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