Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grapes~ Making Juice and Jam Without any Waste

I have a juicer that is underutilized in our house.  Mainly because of the clean up.  Although it can be put into the dishwasher, the machine does require some scrubbing beforehand.  It's often easier to wash it by hand.  Washing by hand is probably better for the cutting blade as well. 

The juicer makes great juice.  My son really likes fresh grape juice.  With this in mind, I decided to preserve some grape juice and make jam at the same time.  When you juice fruits and vegetables there is pulp discarded.  This pulp can be used in making things such as cookies, muffins, soups, and salsa, to name a few suggestions listed in the manual.  I have generally given the pulp to the chickens.  In the past I have juiced a combination of fruits and vegetables and didn't think the combination would taste well in any recipe.  Therefore, the chickens enjoyed the added vitamins it provides. 

I had bought grapes on sale and was wanting to preserve some of the juice.  As I was cleaning out the pulp I was thinking there had to be a use for this... and it hit me.  Why not make it into grape jam!  So that's what I did.  This is now the second batch I have made.  Grapes were on sale again, so why not make more!

When juicing grapes I choose seedless red grapes so there aren't any seeds in the pulp.  The pulp I then turned into grape jam.  In doing this there was no waste to discard. 

Juicing the grapes
After I finished juicing the grapes I strained the juice through a metal strainer, placed in jars, and processed for 20 minutes in a hot water bath. 
This is the pulp along with some juice.

I heated the pulp and processed according to the directions on the Ball low sugar pectin package
 I ended up with 4 cups of pulp for the jam.  I added a slight amount of juice according to the directions, sugar, and pectin.  Bottled and processed for 10 minutes, shutting off the burner and letting the jars sit in the water bath another 5 minutes before removing to cool.

Grape Jam
Grape Juice

My Shadow

 This is how my shadow appears when I go outside to take care of the chickens.  No matter where I go in the yard, she isn't far from my side.  She has been this way since the death of her look-a-like, Stubby.  Miss Tail Feathers follows me all over the yard waiting for attention and treats.  Mainly treats! 
 She often acts like she doesn't like the attention, but it's all an act.  The other day I was playing with the younger girls taking turns sitting in the chair and holding them.  The entire time she kept walking back and forth under my chair, scooting away when I tried to pet her.  When I got up to put one of the girls back in the kennel I turned around and she had hopped up in my chair.  I picked her up and she melted in my arms.  She even nodded off for awhile while I petted her.   I think she secretly likes the attention, but puts on an act in front of the others.  Each night when I lock them up she is usually sitting close to the door waiting to get petted and told goodnight. 

I almost feel like the Pied Piper leading the mice when the chickens follow me around the yard.  They know where I keep the sunflower seeds, and to them, sunflower seeds are as good a crack.  They go nuts over them.  I think I could lead them around town, if they thought sunflower seeds were at the end of the journey.

When I buy a grain mixture that includes sunflower seeds, they will eat the sunflower seeds and leave the other grains. The little chickens aren't as finicky yet.  The are more picky when it comes to greens from the garden.  They all, however, love tomatoes!  Lucky for them, the volunteer cherry tomatoes are doing well.  Each day I pick the ripe tomatoes to give to the chickens. They usually end up playing what looks like chicken football.  They all run after the quarterback to get the tomato.  It's both comical and yet cruel to watch at the same time.  I often feel bad for them and toss them several so they don't have to fight over them.  I no longer pick any of the tomatoes for us to eat.  The chickens get to enjoy them all.  No wonder they follow me around begging for treats.  They know they are going to get something for their begging.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where's the Groceries?!

When grocery shopping lately do you find yourself wondering, what did I buy that cost so much?  Shouldn't there be more groceries in these bags?  I often wonder if I forgot a bag at the store.  It kind of reminds me of the old Wendy's Hamburger commercial.  Where's the BEEF?

Each time I go to the store, I am shocked at the amount of money we are spending to get the same amount of groceries. I overheard an elderly lady yesterday commenting to a store manager on the price of dairy and how they are having a harder time getting by with the increase in costs.  This is a concern among many people.  Not just the elderly. 
As I was unloading the groceries from my vehicle yesterday, I started to wonder, why is it I rarely see any of our neighbors carrying in groceries? This is something we seem to do on a regular basis.  I have watched them carry in fast food more than groceries.  Is this what main stream America eats, as opposed to cooking at home? 

I have watched documentaries which included low income families stating it is cheaper to eat off the the dollar menu versus buying fresh food to prepare at home.  They claim they can't afford or don't have the time to prepare fresh fruits or vegetables for their family.  One question you should ask yourself would be, what is the price I put on my families health?  Eating fast food at times may be "cheaper", however, is it really?  What price are you going to pay in the long run?

Fast food is something we rarely eat.  For one, I don't care for the food, it's not as healthy, and I have to wonder about the cleanliness of the place and the people working there.  It almost makes me sick to my stomach to watch a worker take your money and then go and prepare your food.   Yes, I am a little OCD when it comes to germs.  Not Howie Mandel freaky, but I do carry hand sanitizer around in my purse and use it often.  Eating out is also costing more.  I can still make a more healthy meal at home for my family that costs less.  It does take time to decide on a meal and prepare it.  Is this why many choose to pick up food on the go?  Lack of time? 

Cooking and baking at home does take time.  You have to plan a meal based on what you have available at home.  I know many people shop according to what they are going to make that day.  I detest going to the grocery store, and making a trip every day or two is not for me.  I prefer to shop once a week.  I would go less if I could get by with it.  I often wish our grocery stores would run sales every two weeks instead of weekly.  I generally shop what is on sale.  I stock up on items that are on sale each week and usually get enough to last until the item goes on sale again.  Shopping this way means you need to have a place to accommodate extra items.  If ketchup is on sale, I may buy 5 of them.  The same goes for meat.  This week hamburger was on sale.  I purchased 5 packages.  I will break the packages down into smaller ones and put them in the freezer.  By shopping this way, I have items on hand to prepare meals at home.  It just takes a little planning. 

Even shopping sale items, I am finding we spend almost twice the amount on groceries when compared to what we were spending a couple years ago.  To make things sound gloomier, there are rumblings that things will get even higher.  Wages for the average person are not increasing, in fact they are moving in the opposite direction.  Utilities are increasing.  The price of gas keeps going up.  We have cut back immensely on driving. My husband drives a motorcycle to work to save gas.  We shop locally when possible.  We often find the added cost of gas to drive to a larger city for an item doesn't offset paying a higher price locally.  How are others coping with the added expense of items?  Are you finding yourself cutting back in other areas?  Are you staying at home more with your family?  I myself, have been spending more time canning.  I think it started out of a need to become more prepared, and now find satisfaction in seeing the jars filled with goodies we will be able to enjoy for months to come.