Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Weeks Produce

I went to pick up more produce from our freecycle produce people this week. Unfortunately I missed last week when there were tons of great blueberries. BUMMER! However, I am so grateful for what we get that I can't be too upset!

This week I picked out about a dozen pineapples that were in need of processing ASAP, a few random red and green and orange peppers, an apple, a banana, 2 cukes and 5 bunches of asparagus. It wasn't as big of a load to bring home as usual, but the pineapples and asparagus are not something we usually buy so they are a treat. And everything was pretty usable, so not nearly so much ended up in the compost pile.

I took care of the peppers right away by chopping and flash freezing them and putting them into two freezer bags. I use these on pizzas, in soups, in any dish that I am going to saute onions and peppers and garlic and such. When cooked they are not much different from fresh.

The asparagus I took care of Monday evening after work. I cleaned them up good and got rid of the bad spots as some of the tips were a little slimy. Then I snapped them. Did you know that to find the woody end all you have to do is hold asparagus by the two ends and snap? The stalk will break where the tender ends and woody part begins. This way there is no waste of the tender asparagus and there is no tough asparagus in your dishes. So simple and so wonderful! The tough ends went in a bag in the freezer to be cooked down for soups. The tender parts got made into two casseroles of Asparagus and Poppy Seed Chicken from Tammysrecipes.com and one recipe of Ham, Cheese and Asparagus Pasta that is take off of a lasagna recipe I found. One chicken and the ham dishes went into the freezer for quick meals in the future. The other was lunch yesterday and today. The last of the asparagus is waiting to be grilled tomorrow. It is so hot that I think we need to use the grill as much as possible!

The apple and banana were eaten at work. Bad spots were tossed and the rest was enjoyed! The cucumbers are waiting patiently for me to slice them up for dinner.

The pineapple was the biggest undertaking, but it didn't take too long. The biggest challenge is that it is so hot here and I knew I wanted to can it...ugh! My first step was to peel or de-skin or just plain cut up the pineapple. I wasn't sure how to do it easily, so I found a little tutorial on The Pioneer Woman. It went really quickly and was pretty darn easy! As I did each pineapple I tossed the top, bottom, core, skin and bad spots into a big bowl to compost. If the flesh was really firm it went into another bowl and if it was softer then it went into a third bowl. This way I just boogied through the fruit and I do the next part without having to re-sort the fruit. I took all the 'good' pieces and chunked them like you'd get in a can at the store. I put a full bowl of it into the fridge to eat fresh. The rest I put in my big 8 cup measuring cup to can in pint jars.

The soft stuff was what I wasn't sure about. I considered making pineapple jam or just canning crushed pineapple. Can you believe that I couldn't find directions for canning crushed pineapple? And I don't have a food processor, so I wasn't sure how to crush the pineapple either. However, we have a bunch of jam already and I'd like to have the option to use it in other things so I decided to give it a go.

I used my KitchenAid stand mixer with the fine shredder attachment. It worked, but it wasn't exactly clean and it didn't do as good of a job as I'd have like. I'm thinking I should have used the course shred attachment or that maybe the pineapple is just too soft for that. There was sure a ton of juice!

Next step was to boil the pineapple for 10 minutes. I took some of the juice out of the crushed pineapple and put it in the chunk pot. Both pots got put on the stove and started heating up. At the same time I started the canning pot to get the water boiling. I used my 8 cup measuring cup to heat some of the water in the microwave. I figured the less time spent with the burners going, the better. Three pots boiling and the heat index is almost 100...craziness! The kitchen was hot enough and I hated the fact that the air was on and I was heating the house up too. Once the water was boiling and the pineapple was done cooking for 10 minutes I started putting it into pint jars.

I put 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in each pint jar to help with the color, but added no other sugar or water or anything. This is pineapple in its own element! I ended up with 5 pints of chunks and 7 pints of crushed pineapple. They processed for 15 minutes in the water bath.

So exciting to me that I am able to really utilize this produce and that it will be so helpful for our family. I am hoping to be able to find other ways to get produce this summer and fall as well. I know there are people who will have vegetables and fruit that will go to waste and I will be happy to help them glean their gardens!

On a side note I am SOOOOO excited to say that I found a canning colander! I e-mailed a bunch of people on craigslist who had canning items listed with their garage sale. One e-mailed back and had one for me. She wasn't putting it in the sale, but when I asked she remembered that she had her grandmothers. It is different from the one I grew up with, but is perfect! It is going to be loved and used by at least one more canner. I hope her grandmother is somewhere enjoying the fact that her stuff will be enjoyed!


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