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.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Waste not, Want not: Part 1

I just can't bear to throw some things away, especially if it seems as though there is a perfectly good use for it.  My grandparents were aces at not wasting. They saved everything and made the most of it.  I aspire to their ingenuity in that regard. The difference is, I don't want to save everything, just what I can really use.  They had accumulated a lot of stuff that was apparently useless.  Here are a few examples of my more practical frugality in action.

When Mom was finished pitting the sweet cherries, there was a bounty of beautiful pits with bits of cherry flesh clinging to them. The bowl of pits smelled so delicious, with a solid note of almond.  I was inspired, thinking to myself that there must be a lot of flavor in those bits of fruit and pits.  What could I do with them?

Well, I have read that pits and seeds often contain a lot of pectin and that cherries canned with the pits take on a nutty flavor, so it seemed logical that I could boil the bits and pits to create a flavorful juice infusion for making jelly!  I looked online for a cherry stone/pit jelly recipe and was without luck. So, I made one up myself.

Here is the recipe I created:
4 cups cherry juice
4 cups sugar
6 Tsp Ball Flex Pectin, regular
1 tsp. almond extract

I boiled the pits in a few cups of water, maybe 3, and let it simmer a bit to really extract the flavors.  The resulting infusion smelled fantastic as I poured it into a quart jar for storage.  I yielded about 2.5 cups of juice.  The pits looked like they still had a fair amount of fruit on them, so I tried boiling them again in another couple cups of water.  I was skeptical this would be as good, but it turned out wonderfully and I added the resulting 1.5 cups to my jar.  I stored it in the refrigerator for a day or two until I was able to make the jelly.  

When I was ready, I poured my cherry stone juice and almond extract into a pot and brought it up to temperature on the heat.  I then added the sugar and brought the mixture to a boil.  Next, I added the Ball Flex pectin, whisking to mix it in.  I returned it to a boil and boiled for a minute or so, skimming foam and stirring.  I checked for gel point and ladled it into hot, sterilized jars.  Once lids and rings were in place, I processed the jars in the water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Just like that, I had turned the garbage end of the cherries into something delicious!  Once the pits were spent, I tossed them in the garbage, as stones (pits) don't compost well at it.  

 I sure wish I hadn't done that.  I could have used those for something!  For what?  Well, I discovered that after picking tart cherries a week later.  My dear, sweet mother pitted nearly all of the 27 lbs of tart cherries the very same day she spent more than an hour in the heat picking them with me.  Consequently, we had A LOT of pits.  These pitted much more cleanly, disappointing me as I really enjoyed the cherry stone jelly.  I figured there had to be something I could do with them.  

So, I came up with a plan.  I boiled these pits* in water, but not for the infusion, in order to clean them.  There was a tiny bit of tart cherry flesh lingering, and boiling helped to loosen it.  I then rinsed the pits in cool water and rubbed them between my hands to free the flesh and rinse it away.  Next, I laid a towel on a bar pan (cookie sheet) and spread the pits on it to dry a little.

*I boiled all but a small handful that I dried on the windowsill to attempt to germinate for grins and giggles as I love to do that with kitchen "waste."

When I was satisfied that most of the excess moisture was off the pits, I heated the oven to 170 F, the lowest it will go.  I removed the towel and placed the pan with pits into the oven to bake for a couple hours or more.  Every now and then, I stirred them around with a flipping spatula, to prevent any scorch and to allow all sides to dry evenly.  I removed them from the oven and let them cool overnight.  I was not satisfied that they were thoroughly dry, so I repeated the process in the oven until I felt they were no longer harboring moisture.  Once cool, I transferred them to a bowl which I let set on the countertop to further dry for a few days, just in case.  I stirred them with my hands when I walked by if I thought about it.  SO, now that I have a bowl of beautifully dried cherry pits, what I am going to do with them?  Well, I also have scraps of fabric in my sewing room downstairs.  When the garden slows, I will sew a couple little bags and perhaps one larger bag to fill with pits.  They can be put in the freezer to apply as cold compresses, or microwaved and used much like rice/bean packs on sore muscles.  In effect I will have, totally free, totally homemade boo boo bags!  There is one additional bonus; cherry pits smell delicious when warmed in the microwave, which can not be said for rice and beans. I sure wish I hadn't tossed the sweet cherry pits.  I will remember that next year!

There was one other by product of my cherry preservation endeavors, tart cherry juice.  Now, having made more than enough jelly and jam from my cherry haul, I decided to go a different route with this.  As Mom pitted, she put the cherries into a large bowl.  This bowl then came into the house and I hand placed the cherries onto trays to freeze them before placing them in freezer bags.  At the bottom of the bowl was this pretty red, tart juice.  Each time I emptied a bowl, I poured the juice into a mason jar.  I yielded just over a quart of the tasty stuff.  A quick trip to the store and we had a cute little ice cube tray with silicone bottoms for ease in popping out the cubes.

I decided to strain the liquid when it came time to pour it into the ice cube tray.  I wanted the cubes as clear as possible as I worried about the bits of pulp clouding drinks. I don't think this step is necessary, but I thought it would be more visually pleasing.  That was an easy process to do.  I simply placed my canning funnel over a measuring cup lined with damp cheesecloth.  Lesson learned here: don't fill the cup too full, it makes it VERY hard to pour into a tiny ice cube tray without making a mess.  I had to pour much of my strained liquid back into the jar to make it easier to pour with precision.  Having learned something, I poured the juice into the tray and froze it.  These gorgeous tart cherry ice cubes will be a wonderful addition to lemonade, green tea and even cocktails.

These are just a few of the resourceful ways we are adopting in our little "country" life.  Albeit very slowly, we are attempting to move toward self sufficiency in our household.  We are striving to be as resourceful, frugal and practical as possible.  We have a long way to go, but are very much enjoying the journey!  Stay tuned for another helping in Waste Not, Want Not: Part 2.


  1. What a great idea. I always boil down apple peelings and make a cinnamon apply syrup for pancakes and waffles. :)

  2. That sounds amazing Mary Lou! I will have to try that this fall! Thank you for the idea!

  3. I have been saving cherry pits for years waiting to have enough to make me a cherry pit bed warmer. I have about a 1/2 gallon bag saved now. My sister makes fun of me for saving them because it is some work to get all the cherry off the pit, but I do it anyway. :) I first read about the idea in a Mother Earth News book.


    1. Brandi, You are amazing and correct, I have enjoyed your blog. It is so refreshing and un technology related. I would never have guessed someone in your career field would be so earth friendly. Thanks for sharing a little part of your life. I will view often and who knows learn how to do some of these things. Linda :)