Welcome to One-Quarter Acres

Here's a chronicle of life on a plot of land right smack in the suburbs in Minnesota, whose owners would much prefer to be in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's grrrrrrrrrrrrrrape!

A couple of years ago, one of my friends and I raided the grape vines growing all over the fence she shared with a neighbor. I'm not sure of the variety - maybe Red Swenson - but the jelly I made from these grapes was decent enough. Better than the usual storebought, of course, but maybe a little too sour and definitely not the deep, rich purple we know and love from Welch's.

IMG_2796I was informed that her new neighbors ripped out the grape vines. Panic set in! Then I resolved to find a new source of grapes. Enter Craigslist. Now, if you haven't used Craigslist to source local produce, eggs, meat, and the like, you've been missing out. Almost everything you could possibly want is being advertised on Cragislist.

In this case, I found a very nice gentleman not very far away from me who has multiple varieties of grapes for winemaking, jam/jelly, and eating. Someone swooped in and picked the wine grapes, but there were Bluebell grapes enough to pick about 10 pounds (plus 2 pounds of table grapes) in less than an hour. The scent of the grapes was intoxicating, and sent me right back to my childhood. Our neighbors had a grape arbor covered in concord grapes and we kids would go over and pop them into our mouths at every opportunity.

Those ten pounds of grapes yielded 2 gallons of destemmed fruit to work with. Half of that has been turned into the most delicious grape jam one could possibly consume.

IMG_2813I was introduced to grape jam via a jar from another friend. At first I was reluctant; who wants to eat those skins? But one taste had me hooked.

Using the recipe from the Ball Blue Book, I set to work, and one batch of 7 half-pint jars took about 3 hours from start to finish AND I was wrangling two young children at the same time. Another batch done that evening took even less time.

After what happened with the apricot jam (darn near eating through it in record time), I may just need to turn the other half of the grapes into jam as well, though I might want to do jelly instead to skip the whole "acid from the grapes eating away at my skin and making it itch like crazy" thing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Canned fruit army

Hear me, o peaches and o pears! Thou are not safe from me! I shall turn you all into an army of perpetually preserved produce.

Yet another thank-you to Amy of Crazy Boy Farm for organizing the second round of bulk buying of the most gorgeous fruit my palate has ever laid into. I bought two boxes of pears and peaches, which weighed about 22 pounds each.

Here are the results of my can-stravaganza, peach-and-pear style:

4 pints, 4 half-pints, 1 quart, and a quart-sized container that is living in my fridge of peach salsa; 8 quarts and 3 pints of sliced peaches (one of which did not seal)

15 quarts of pear halves

I've also got three gallon bags full of sliced peaches in the freezer because I ran out of jars and had a bunch of peaches that needed tending to before they'd get overripe.

Peach salsa
The basic idea came from this recipe. I ended up with enough to fill the equivalent of 10 pints.
16 peaches, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 large red pepper, finely chopped
The zest and juice of 3 limes
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
6 banana peppers, finely chopped (note: please don't wimp out and use these peppers; get yourself some jalapenos)
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
  1. Throw all of the ingredients together in a large pot and bring to a boil for five minutes. Take pot off of the heat and let everything sit another five minutes.
  2. Process in sterilized jars.


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