Monumental peach jam?

My boss dropped over a bushel of peaches on me yesterday. The texture was off on them, so he asked me if I’d want to try to make anything out of them.

I had to send out a call for help, because there was no way they’d survive the day in my truck in the Texas heat, so I radio’d Mr B.  His sister lives near my work, so she agreed to put them in her very well air-conditioned house until I headed home.

Sunshine just shook his head as he helped me get them in the house.

I don’t blame him.

This morning,  I’ve been getting my shit together to do something with all of these peaches.

I’ve got plans for some peach syrup, some vanilla peach jam, and possibly some canned peaches.

Mr B was gracious enough to come help me get the peaches peeled and sliced.

We got through about half of them before we started running out of containers and counter space. I need a real kitchen desperately! 

I’m now in the early stages of making syrup. After that, jam. Then canned peaches, if I have the energy. I do have a full day of work tomorrow,  after all is said and done today. 

I’m keeping usable food out of the landfill, and I’m using all parts of the peaches. The skins and pits are being used to make the peach syrup.  The small bits and mushy bits are going into the jam. The firm bits will be canned. If I have the energy, that is. This is a lot of fucking peaches. When I’m done for the day, everything unused (or left over) will go into our compost heap.

It’s going to be a long day. Wish me luck!

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Freeganism

One of the perks of my job is the backdoor fruit. One of the perks of living in the buttfuck middle of nowhere is that everybody plants too much shit and we start giving bags and bags of peppers away to random strangers we meet at fourth of July BBQs.

side note: yes, that actually happened. Someone we met at a fourth of July BBQ totally gave us three overstuffed, double bagged plastic sacks filled with various types of peppers. Green bell peppers, jalapenos, and hot banana peppers.

Recently, the boss gave me a quarter bushel of pickling cucumbers and almost an entire bushel of spaghetti squash. There were also some tomatoes and fruits that went out the backdoor over the last week or so.

We also have a pear tree in our backyard and Sunshine recently picked some pears off of it for me because I love pears.

That’s a lot of freegan food to figure out what to do with. I sent my girl Tia a panicked text asking her to please help me figure out how on earth to preserve a bushel of spaghetti squashes. That woman is a fucking wizard at finding simple solutions to my random and complicated problems.

So, on Sunday, while I was sweating my ass off trying to keep the shelves stocked on a mad busy day at the produce stand, Sunshine started baking the spaghetti squashes so we could freeze them. I finished the job on Monday in between rounds of canning.

The bell peppers and spaghetti squash got frozen.

The jalapenos and banana peppers got canned.

The fruit I brought home from work wound up getting combined with the tomatoes in a summer salsa recipe I found in one of my Ball guides to preserving food. I was highly amused that there was a recipe that dealt with a significant portion of the random foods I brought home from work. There is a salsa that has pears, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers.

The rest of the tomatoes got diced and canned. The pickling cucumbers got made into Cajun dill pickles.

freegan cucumbers and tomatoes

Slowly but surely, we are filling up those shelves in the community pantry.

final note: I’m a bit nervous about using that pressure canner. I’ll be spending the next few days doing some research on the damned thing so I don’t blow myself to smithereens. Then, hopefully, we can harvest enough of those ridiculous yard long green beans to put that canner to work.

I definitely need help

I might have finally gotten some. 

Mrs B likes organizing. I like organized things. I am tired of playing the never ending game of Tetris that all this food preservation causes. So, Mrs B is going to take charge of the community pantry and store and organize it all. She’s also volunteered to take charge of procurement of supplies for preserving food and inventory management of all of the above.

Side note: she also said she’s willing to help pick beans and shit as she can, but she will have a full time job most of the year because that’s how it works for teachers.

Thank heaven! I can’t do all the things alone. She likes organizing, please organize this stuff! She gets out and about far more often than I do, so she has far more opportunities to drop by a grocer or Costco or whatever and grab a gallon of vinegar or whatnot when needed for canning. She also has friends and family in the region that she’s going to ask for donations of jars because that’s the ultimate in frugality and eco-friendly consumption–reuse Mason jars! 

We’re kicking the guys out of the laundry room. They have to get their shit (tools and nuts and bolts and screws and random pieces of what the fuck ever those metal things are) out of there. Mrs B donated a bunch of rolling shelving units to the cause, and Mr B has already said he’d pay for jars since I provide the labor so it’s perfect that she’s taking on procurement for us since she can access him easier for funds (she does live with him, after all).

Once we get a system in place I won’t have to worry about keeping track of how much vinegar and jars and lids and shit I have and I can concentrate on processing the food. The guys have said that they’ll help harvest stuff, she will help when available, I’ll gladly shell peas and snap beans and freeze/can/dehydrate shit all day long, and then I can hand it to her and let her organize and store it for us all. 

Side note: I find a great comfort in the repetition involved in all this processing. I understand the appeal of Catholicism, what with all the repetition of the rosary and all.

It will be nice to have someone else taking on part of the headaches (and TBH it sounds like it won’t be a headache for her once the guys clear their shit out of the laundry room since she likes organizing). It will allow me to concentrate on the processing parts of the equation with the garden (and backdoor fruit from work). 

Thank you, Mrs B, for taking on inventory management and procurement of supplies! It’s nice to have help!

Learning to pickle things

So I decided to try learning to pickle some things. I started with pickled chard stems, which I have now tried two ways. Mr B like both of the formulas I tried, but he said that the second one was even better. Sunshine got to sample the second formula, and he liked it too. Sorry, I forgot to take pictures. Maybe next time, after we grow our fall chard.

The other thing I have tried pickling was turnips. Sunshine loves turnips; however, the turnips were going soft and rubbery before he could eat them all

side note: that’s what happens when you plant as many fucking turnips as Sunshine planted, but that’s a post for another day

so I decided to try a pickle turnip that Tia and I found on the internet.

pickled turnips

side note: here’s the link in case you’re interested

Sunshine and Mr B tried them last night and said that they were really good.

I’m glad I’m finding ways to preserve foods that don’t require a freezer, because freezers are quite electricity intensive, especially here in Texas.

I can’t catch a break

Or maybe I’m just not giving myself a break.

Yesterday, I fell at work. I tripped over something, I’m just not sure what. It might have been the dustpan, it might have been the pig, it might have been my own two fucking feet for all I know. I know that I narrowly missed the pig and landed on my right hip, with my feet on the dustpan. That little pig can run when he needs to save his life!

side note: the right hip is the one that still hurts from the great septic system debacle, which is the same hip that got smashed so hard it bruised bone at an arena gig one night, and the same hip that got all borked in a car accident right before I got clean. That motherfucker is sore today.

My hands are cramped and sore from all of that weeding and grass pulling last week. My fingers are covered in small cuts from fuck knows what (I’m going to guess weed pulling, since the cuts appeared right after that).

And I am covered in mosquito and chigger bites.

I wish I could just sit here and be a couch potato, but there is too much that needs to be done. I need to clean the bathroom, but that is just going to have to wait. I absolutely must pickle these turnips that I harvested late last week before the beets I bought go bad.

side note: the pickled turnip recipe is Armenian, and calls for beets to pickle with the turnips. Because I love Sunshine, I am trying to find ways to preserve some of the three rows of turnips his goofy ass planted (and hasn’t eaten) because he says he loves turnips. Next spring, when we go to plant the garden, if he hasn’t eaten some of the turnips stored in the storm cellar and all of the pickled ones, WE AIN’T PLANTING NO FUCKING TURNIPS.

I’ve got peas and beans to shell and freeze, tomatoes to can or give away, and zucchinis the size of baseball bats to do something with. I’ve got some backdoor fruit that I need to flash freeze. I’ve got laundry to do. I’ve got to make a run to the big box store in town and then go make a deposit at the bank.

I’ve got so much shit to do that I don’t know where to start so I’ll probably sit here all day making lists ad flowcharts to help me decide what to do first.

final note: here’s a picture of the strawberry vanilla jam I made last week, for your viewing pleasure

strawberry vanilla jam

Marathon Jam Session

Not the musical kind of jam session. I’m not that cool.

Jam-making session would probably be more accurate. I brought home a few fresh cantaloupes to go with the back door ones that I cut up and flash-froze. I made this vanilla cantaloupe jam using some of the imported Mexican Vanilla extract that we sell at work. I won’t be providing step-by-step pictures because I suck at taking pictures. I do not live a Pinterest-perfect life. Besides, the website where Tia found me this recipe has plenty of lovely pictures and instructions.

I’m making this jam (and some strawberry jam) to go in my Christmas gift baskets to our families. His family really gets into that sort of thing, and my family just kind of goes along with my homemade gifts these last few years. These jams are NOT for the community at large here (although there will be enough that they can certainly have some); these jams are for Christmas gifts. We will be gifting our friends some stuff too, and I paid for this fruit and these jars with my own paycheck.

side note: If it was grown here (like the blackberries), I’m more than ok with sharing. All of the vegetables we’ve grown, all of the freegan fruit I’ve brought home… All of that is fair game. But I didn’t go and order up all this fruit from my boss for people to just eat it indiscriminately. I’ll be packing up and storing a lot of the jams made this week to safeguard them for Christmas gifting.

I bought a lot of fruit for this jam. Perhaps more than I needed. There are several days worth of jam sessions happening this week. I’m making good progress, though.

vanilla cantaloupe jam

With Sunshine out of town for work, it’s the perfect time to have a marathon jam session. I don’t have him bitching about how hot it is in our house because of the stove going on high trying to boil these giant pots of jam mix and jars full of jam. However, it also means that I have no help lifting this heavy ass pot full of jars of jam and boiling water. Good thing I don’t work again until Friday morning.

Sunday night, when I got in from work with all that fruit I had the boss get for me, I immediately began cutting it up so I could get it in the fridge over in Biff’s RV.

side note: Biff is awesome about letting me encroach on his living space. I’ve got fruit in his fridge and jars of jam in his cabinet. Everybody pretty much knows which jars they better not touch (the 12 ounce cut crystal looking ones) and which ones they can take and eat (the plain old pint jars) without fear of dying a slow and painful death.

After I got the strawberries cut up, I started in on the cantaloupes. About 1/3 of the way through the second one, Mr B popped over to say hi. Apparently, Mr B is as horrified by watching me with a giant kitchen knife as I am horrified by watching him navigate the roads while also doing endless shit on his phone. He took my chef’s knife from me and proceeded to halve, slice, and chop the cantaloupes while I scooped seeds out and gathered up the chunks he was making, getting them into the storage containers they spent the night in.

side note: I think I’ve mentioned that Mr B is one hell of a cook. He cooks far more than I ever have, and therefore he’s much better at cutting shit than I am. I’ll gladly take the help, because I cut my hands/fingers at least 5 times over that long 4 day weekend at work while the boss was out of town.

Sunday night, as I finally crawled into bed at almost 1AM, my house smelled like a Bath&Bodyworks shop in the spring, with cantaloupe and strawberry scent permeating everything. I can think of much worse smells to have permeating my home LOL. The vanilla cantaloupe jam smelled rather like cake as I boiled the fruit/sugar/pectin mixture, and it was pretty close to divine. Mr B popped in and helped for a few minutes and pre-cleaned the empty jam mix pot by scraping every last bit of goo out of it with a spoon. He looked like an overgrown kid while doing it, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Making jam is sweaty work, and when one has a kitchen the size of most people’s stovetop it requires that most of the house be rearranged to facilitate jam-making. I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer to do marathon jam sessions rather than have to rearrange the entire house multiple times. It’s just less work that way.

 

final note: I have fallen into a rabbit hole on the internet. Did you know that corncob jelly is a thing? There’s also cotton candy jelly, Mountain Dew Jelly, sriracha jelly, Root Beer jelly, honeysuckle jelly, and a whole host of other interesting flavors of jams and jellies. I am thinking that Kool Aid jelly is a must try. Yes, that’s really a thing and I really want to make some purple koolaid jelly.

New Skills

Yesterday, my neighbor came over and taught me to can jam. We made blackberry jam using some of the wild blackberries that I picked.

First we heated the jars and lids.

water bath pot

Then we started boiling the blackberries.

cooking berries

Then we added sugar and pectin.

cooking jam mix

Then we put the jam in jars.

jars and utensils

This weird little tool is a lid lifter, to help me lift the lids out of the boiling water.

lid lifter

My first batch of jam, hiding in the cabinet that Biff so graciously allowed me to take over in his RV.

my first jars of jam

I’m making more today, because I need to get some fruit out of the freezer so that I can freeze some more vegetables. I’m starting to think I’m not going to get some proper lazy/rest time until after Christmas.