Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What I learned processing home grown fruit

This is the first year that I have had enough fruit in my own garden to process.  I learned a couple of things.
When you leave for work in the morning and there are 3 peaches on the ground, and you come home to find 100 peaches on the ground, it is time to pick them all...even if they aren't ripe.  I considered trying to salvage the fallen peaches too, but they were too bad to be salvaged.

I still managed to get about 20-25 pounds (our estimate - I forgot to weigh them).  I learned that the boiling water trick to remove the skins does not work with under-ripe peaches.  I learned that it takes a whole lot longer to peel a basket of tiny peaches from the garden that have bug bites than a basket of perfect peaches from the market.  I learned, belatedly, that I should have trimmed off the bottom branches of my peach tree as the fruit is too shaded to get very big - it's marked on the calender for next spring.  And I learned that 2 1/2 hours of peeling does not result in very many peaches at all.  I had planned to can them, but ended up freezing them in portions that will be just right for with waffles this winter.  I just couldn't add the amount of sugar that was required for canning.  I. couldn't. do. it.
 12.5 pounds of grapes that I picked from my friend's driveway.  If they were my own grapes, I would have made juice with half and jam with half, but the deal was - I would pick her grapes, make jam, and then split the jars between us.
I questioned the part of the recipe that called for peeling 8 cups of grapes, and reserving the skins to add back in.  I'm glad I followed that part of the recipe.  I followed the whole recipe.  From a cookbook.  Because it would be tested.  It failed - miserably.  I ended up with 14 pint jars of grape sauce/syrup.  I re-opened all the jars, poured them into 2 big pots, added pectin (of which there was none in the original recipe) and reprocessed them.  Now I have 14 jars of very thin jam, bordering on sauce.  I questioned the part that said to add 2 cups of water to the 3 cups of sieved fruit (per batch) but did it anyways.  Next time I won't (the joy of cooking says add up to 1/2 cup, if necessary).  I learned that grape seeds really jam up the food mill, so I will try to find something better for next year, however, I also learned that boys really love to peel (squish) grapes, so I will remember that for next year.

I processed some apples too, and learned that my new apple corer doesn't work nearly as well as my mom's old apple corer.  Darn "new and improved" design.  Its just different enough to be useless.  I learned that, like the peaches, the tiny little apples don't go far once you remove the "weird" bits.  I was trying to make a couple jars of apple pie filling but ended up with just one, because once the boys saw the bowl of apple chunks, they wanted apple crisp for dessert (and S actually stepped up to make it), and because I gave up with a third or so of the batch left to peel.  Arthritis is not my friend.
And last but not least, I learned that there is a reason I label everything.  I label the spices, but apparently, someone else in my house does not.  A jar of unlabeled spice that I took to be paprika (because there wasn't one labelled paprika) was actually cayenne pepper (of which we have 2 jars???).  Add that to the fact that little tiny jalapenos are stronger than great big jalapenos and you end up with 10 quarts of salsa that is borderline too spicy to eat.  I did correct one mistake between batches though, and used the plump juicy tomatoes for tomato juice and bought more plum tomatoes for the salsa to save an hour and a half or so of simmering time.  And by the way, juicy tomatoes just have to be roughly chopped for salsa, but plum tomatoes stay in great big chucks if they are roughly chopped.  Another item to note on the recipe for next year.

The biggest lesson I learned:  although I consider myself quite old-fashioned and about the most "could-make-it-as-a-pioneer" person I know in real life (I'm not counting my internet friends), I would fail miserably if I had to support our family on the food that I could put up.  The weekend of canning just about did me in.  I can't imagine having to put up a whole winter's worth of food.  It's not all bad, though.  So far, I have managed to put up a year's worth of dill pickles, sweet pickles, hot peppers, salsa, tomato juice, half a year's worth of jam (with fruit in the freezer waiting for me), and dried all the herbs we should need and a few extra bits here and there. I'm not giving up yet though...I have cancelled my weekend plans and hope to stay home to do round 2 this weekend.

Linking up with: Wildcrafting Wednesday at Mind Body and Sole
                         Homemade Monday at Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity
                         The Backyard Farming Connection - Hop 


  1. I'm so impressed, wish I did more of this. My Mom did some and I used to make jam. I do some freezing, but not nearly what you are doing. Stopping in from What I'm Eating. Kim

  2. Wow, I got tired just reading your post! I am going to make and can some salsa this afternoon - wish me luck!

  3. I know what you mean about it taking more time. I have spent hours and hours processing pears, apples and tomatoes this year for a disappointing number of jars. But last year I put up 300+ jars in what I would guess was 2/3 the time. What I have learned is that each year the crop will look somewhat different, last year we had NO fruit from fruit trees due to a freeze. The year before we were blessed with abundant, large, beautiful fruit. This year we have fruit but it is much smaller, has more little spots that need removed, and it just doesn't result in the yield I expect from what starts out looking like a large basketful. Tomatoes can do the same. Last year I had large tomatoes to put up every day. This year's garden didn't do as well (weather reasons) and the plum tomatoes are only a couple inches top to bottom. So be encouraged - you are certainly going to enjoy those fruits this winter and next year may be a lovely crop to can. Keep up the good work!

  4. 300+ jars?!? You, Kristine, are a rock star! I read an article once that said a lot of Amish families can 800 jars per year. I can't even fathom that. Thanks for the pep talk though...I know it's just a drop in the bucket, but I figure every bit I do helps a little. And the more I do, the more I learn what works and what doesn't. My trees are still young (and we had the freeze last year too), so I do look forward to better harvests as time goes on.

  5. We live in an area heavily populated with Amish and are friends with several families. One of the reasons they need to can so much is because of their many children. One of the reasons they CAN can so much is because of their many children. :) I know a couple of Amish teenage boys who have very good canning skills. (I'd say they were proud of their skills but that would be so un-Amish.) Many hands really do make lighter work when it comes to preserving. I'm having fun exploring your blog further. I came by you on a link-up that first time and didn't have time to poke around. Your tips on setting up your booth are great. I'm sharing that with some craft showing friends stat.

  6. I can not believe that you did that much in one weekend. So many different kinds of fruit!