Monday, October 5, 2015
For the last month or so, our family has been embracing frugality. We have been trying to cut our food budget, while still feeding our kids local, organic foods. Fortunately, we made this decision in Fall, right at the beginning of our CSA farm share, so we have been busy picking and freezing green beans, peppers, and ground cherries. Brent has also been canning beets, salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, and so much apple sauce. The most surprising thing we've discovered in this journey is that there is a wealth of free food out there in the world, once you start looking. A local museum that is built on an old orchard, invited its guests to come pick apples, so we did. They have a few spots, but they are beautiful, tasty apples, that were just falling on the ground otherwise. They are turning into applesauce, dehydrated apples, apple crisps, and apple muffins. Brent has turned the kids into expert foragers, always with an eye to abandoned fruit.
On labor day, our friend called us early in the morning with a special offer. Members of her family had just purchased an old house and on the property was a well-established grape vine, which was loaded with ripe grapes. Did we want to come and pick them and do something with them? Yes we did. We threw on some clothes, loaded in our car, and set out.What did we find?
An arbor loaded with Concord grapes
We set to picking. Soon we had three giant pails full.
When we got home, Brent scoured the Internet for ways to can grapes. He started out with grape jam, which required squeezing the grapes out of the skin. Kinda fun, kinda gross all in one. Then pureeing the skins and cooking it all down with lots of sugar until it made jam. After two batches of jam, one with pectin and one without, we still had pails of grapes. So then we made Grape Shrub, an old-fashioned 19th drink Brent learned to make at his Preserving the Harvest class at Old Sturbridge Village. It involves cooking fruit, sugar and vinegar together to make a concentrate, which you can then later add to water to make a drink. After the shrub, we still had grapes, so we made canned Concord Grape juice.
It wasn't exactly how we planned to spend our day off. But we were all so proud that when it comes to free food, we are ready to spring into action. Our PB & J's are secure for the winter.