A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perfect? Please! Pshh....not so much

Most recipes and canning guides tell you to use ripe, firm fruit, cautioning that it not be too ripe, not under ripe, etc.  It seems like a tremendous amount of pressure for fruit perfection.  I cannot say that I have ever harvested a mess of perfect anything.  My beans, tomatoes, onions, berries, and the like are always less than perfect.  That is largely due to our refusal to use chemicals on our garden.  Consequently, we "share" with the common garden pests, leaving less than perfect produce.  The upside is that ours taste even better and the harvest is always chemical free.

Recently canned peaches
One excellent example of the lack of the need for perfection can be found in peaches.  I have read over and over again about using only the most beautiful fruit.... that just can't happen in my kitchen or I won't be able to afford the peaches, let alone have enough to put up for winter.  I buy "seconds."  That is, I do not buy what they consider to be first quality peaches.  After all, I am going to can them to EAT, not put on a shelf to look at their beauty (although I do love the look of my peaches as they cool and when they sit on the pantry shelves).  I will likely cut up the halved peaches for whatever I choose to use them for when I open the jar anyway. The cost difference is worth the extra trimming work on the fruit.  Seconds ran $8.50/peck this year versus $13.00/peck for first quality. Despite my use of "reject fruit,"  I would venture to say that the average jar of my peaches looks just as good as any!

 Do not be mistaken, I do remove the blemishes and bruises, but I use every edible piece otherwise.  I halve the ones that are mostly intact and slice up any pieces that need extra trimming.  I pack my peaches in an extra light syrup and am never disappointed in the fresh-picked flavor they impart.  It is important to remove those damaged and severely overripe spots to avoid introducing spoilage to the precious bounty.

Mixed red and "Limmony"
 yellow tomatoes
A second great example of how I use less than perfect fruit is when I can tomatoes.  My tomato crop has been far less in quantity as well as quality this year due to the weather we have had.  I began stressing about not having enough tomatoes for my uses.  I make salsa that friends and coworkers are rather fond of, and consequently, there is much demand for.  I wanted to can tomatoes for chili and soups, as well as holding out hope for making pasta sauce, and maybe even some other, more savory sauces.  My plan requires a lot of tomatoes.  I began researching prices for purchasing tomatoes in bulk, early in the season, all the while hoping it would not be necessary.  Much to my delight, a friend of my mother and myself operates a small vegetable stand in the summers.  He is very particular about the quality of the produce he sets out for sale, adhering to strict rules of perfection.  This means there is a tremendous amount of produce that does not make the grade and is never seen by potential customers. Rather than composting surplus tomatoes, he has been graciously sending them our way.  This means I am getting "seconds" of tomatoes to can and make other things from, rather than having to buy them.  What a relief and a blessing!   Again, I would say that my canned tomatoes, made from far less than perfect fruit, look just as lovely as any can made from "perfect" specimens.  Are they as tasty, though?  Oh my, yes, if not more so!  (I might be a touch biased, though.)

As with everything in life, we strive for something close to perfection with the garden.  My definition of perfection is just markedly different from that of canning book and recipe authors.  I do not expect my ingredients to win any awards for appearance.  What I am looking for is a certain standard of health, quality and taste.  If the end product stores well and tastes like it was just picked moments ago, I have achieved my vision of canning perfection.

No comments:

Post a Comment