The pear and apple harvest is becoming positively ridiculous. Yesterday morning The Girl employed her new, patented pear harvesting system by parking the trampoline under the pear tree and climbing up into it and shaking the branches. Of course, what mostly happened was the pears bounced onto the trampoline and then right off again, but it was quite fun. I employed the more traditional method of balancing a basket precariously on top of the ladder, and I am pleased to say that I have sustained not a single broken limb.
Yesterday I borrowed a friend's Vacola kit and preserved some apples for the very first time. I have stewed and frozen fruit before, but this is the first time I have messed about with my quite extensive Fowler's jar collection (I always knew I would get into preserving, just hadn't worked up the nerve yet, hence the jar collection..).
Look at these babies with their dear little clips still on:
I was lying awake in bed in the early hours of this morning convinced I'd neglected an important step and that I will inadvertently kill the family due to careless preserving.. but I followed all the steps in the book religiously (for once - I am nothing if not adventurous with recipes..).
I do have some advice for beginners though - starting a day's preserving at 4.30pm is just silly. Four hours of peeling and chopping went into those seven bottles of apple preserves. I kept having to pop back out into the garden to pick more apples. It is extraordinary how they just disappear into the bottles. But it does keep the neighbours on their toes. My apple trees hang over the front fence, and I can tell you now, people just don't expect to see a middle-aged woman ten feet above them picking apples while they are walking their dogs.. I think this is possibly the main benefit of growing fruit trees - they remind you that climbing trees is not just for ten year olds, but a perennial joy.
At the same time that I decided to preserve apples, Rosy decided to sew another pencil case, which entailed bringing all the tubs of fabric down from the shed. Posy had a friend over and they were running up and down the hallway chasing the dog and The Girl and I were cutting up apples. Every surface in the kitchen and dining room was covered in fruit or fabric, the sewing machine was clattering away, the children were shrieking with laughter, and the whole house smelled like apple, cinnamon and cloves, and suddenly I thought, 'This is exactly where I want to be, and exactly the life I want to be living.' All it takes, it turns out, is a severe case of RSI of the wrists and a lot of loud children to make me perfectly happy:)
This week has really been all about food. Preserving it, stretching it, saving it, making do with what is in the cupboard. Our post-divorce stringency measures include a food budget that is actually the food budget. Always in the past there has been plenty of wiggle room, and I pretty much always went over what I had planned to spend, but really, it didn't matter. Now however, there is an amount on which we can spend on food, and that is it. No wiggle room, because everything else is allocated as well. I hasten to add that we are not going to starve or go short of food in any way, we just have to be careful. There is no room for extras. Again though, I am finding that an imposed parameter on shopping can actually be a good thing. Each Monday I spend the week's grocery money, and then it is gone. I cannot pop out to the shops during the rest of the week just to pick something up for dinner, or for some arcane ingredient that the girls want to cook with. That has to wait until next week. And it is fantastic, because I HATE popping out to the shops. We get to eat what is in the house, and that is making us into more creative cooks, which is a good thing.
Yesterday, after I had cut up the daily quota of pears for drying, The Girl made a double batch of crumble topping which we popped into the freezer to top the endless parade of stewed fruit that issues from the kitchen these days. Hint of the week - add fresh grated ginger to your crumble mix. Oh my, yum. Then The Girl made chocolate syrup to make milk shakes and pour on pancakes with cream. Then I made pikelets for the little girls for afternoon tea. It does rather look like we have fallen off the 'no sugar' band wagon, doesn't it? It's OK, we still get our once-a-week treats and dessert, and my, don't we appreciate them..
Last week in the comments, Heather said I had inspired her to save some nasty apples from their composting fate, and stewed them to top her oatmeal instead - well, I was inspired right back yesterday, and instead of tossing some sad and bruised oranges into the compost, I cut up the nice bits for fruit salad with some slightly wrinkled grapes and lots of pears and apples. My in-laws were beekeepers back in the day, and introduced me to the excellent tradition of anointing fruit salad with a spoonful of honey. Rosy was very happy to find fruit salad in the fridge, and I was very happy to feed her a 'rescued' afternoon tea. I am thinking of it as dumpster diving in my own fridge. There is a scary statistic that we waste up to 40% of the fresh food that we buy, and it is my mission to get this down to 0% at our place.
Have you been dumpster diving in your own fridge at all this week? What did you create with your left overs, and how are your autumn harvests going (if you are having autumn or harvests at your place at the moment)?