Thursday, July 9, 2009

How (Not) To Preserve the Fruit Harvest

If we lived further south, someplace where we had an extended growing season, things might be different, but we don't, and so we have to make our small space produce as much as we can in a very short period of time.

In an ideal world, we would be able to grow everything we need on our tiny lot, with the only inputs being stuff we foraged. Our very nutritious, all natural food would consist entirely of stuff we could grow or forage ... (and we'd be happy because that's all we'd know ☺).

Unfortunately, *we* don't live in an ideal world, and we end up buying a lot more of the food we eat than we grow.

And because we have to pay to get the yummy things we want to eat and preserve, we can't really afford to waste any of it. After all, the more money we have to spend, the more we have to work, and the more time we take away from the things we really want to be doing.

One of our favorite summer activities is PYO strawberries. We always pick so many, but we never have enough. Usually, they end up as strawberry jam, with a few going into the freezer, when I get tired.

Last year, we decided to try making strawberry wine.

Which would have been okay IF ...

** It didn't cost $2.00/qt for strawberries, and we used about thirty quarts.

** Anyone else in my family (besides me) liked (or could drink) wine.

** We hadn't ended up dumping all of it when we suspected the process we used harbored bad bacteria (botulism??) rather than making wine.

** We hadn't run out of strawberry jam in January, because I didn't make enough, as the last of the PYO strawberries ended up in the wine.

I have nothing against alcoholic beverages. The cider Deus Ex Machina made a few years ago from our neighbor's apples was outstanding - but free, because our neighbor had no intention of harvesting them, and they'd have ended up rotting on the ground.

I don't have a problem with purchasing stuff to make alcohol, either. In fact, if one is planning to purchase materials for homebrew, I highly recommend True Brew Bavarian Hefeweizen Homebrew Beer Ingredient Kit.

We made some of the best Hefeweizen I've ever had, and having lived in Germany where I had the opportunity to try some really good Hefeweizen, that's saying something.

The problem comes when what we've harvested with the intention of making wine could have gone to a better use ... something everyone could enjoy.

So, for us, from now on, strawberries = jam ... or when I don't cook it down far enough a kind of syrupy, saucy stuff that spreads a little thinner than I would have liked, but is tasty nonetheless ☺.


  1. I think flexibility is the key to food preservation. Often foods I thought would be quite popular weren't the best use of my time, money or canning jars.

    I agree about the strawberry wine. We never seem to et a good batch. But the Blueberry is superb! So each year we try to make just a little more.

  2. I've got an itching to do some canning. And this post isn't helping!! We were just talking about the applesauce we made last year. The two bushels of apples was insanely expensive at the pick-it farm, but it was fun and the applesauce lasted us til December. WE're on the fence as to whether we'll do it again this year or not...

  3. We're going blueberry picking tomorrow. My strawberry jam from last year got mold on top. I threw it all away, I didn't trust it. It made me really sad. I'm working on getting enough wild blackberries stored up to make a year's worth of jam.

  4. The strawberry wine sounds like a tasty idea, but I guess jam is the better use for those luscious luscious looking berries.
    Ah well, live and learn!

  5. woah.... 30 quarts?! Just as a point of reference, James uses about 3 lbs of fruit per gallon. If you're brave enough to give it another go, I'd recommend CJJ Berry's First Steps in Winemaking. He has a lot of one gallon recipes, which is nice if you're just getting started in country wine.

  6. I had no idea you used so many strawberries in the wine. I don't think I used that much to make mine. With all the work we put into it, we got about 8 quarts of wine and 8 quarts of vinegar. I'm trying to get creative with the strawberry vinegar... I marinated steak in it and it was pretty tasty, and using some as salad dressing.

    No wine this year... We're still enjoying the wine we made last year and we're slow winos. :o)

    I'd really like to get a cider press and make my own cider, but first I need to plant my own apple trees. I canned 56 quarts of applesauce last year and just this morning I used the last of it for breakfast! :o( I'll aim for 100 quarts next time!

  7. i'd brew my own beer except tabitha is under the impression it'd be too expensive.