Thursday, September 23, 2010

Drowning in Pears

We have been drowning in bartlett pears all this month and I had said earlier I would share a bit about canning them so here it is.  First I will talk about harvest time.  We didn't think we would get very many pears due to the fact our tree had fire blight (probably because I didn't get the leaves cleaned up right away from last year). Fireblight is not a friend to your tree and does effect your fruit production.  However our tree still produced a ton.  We harvested over three days and since we didn't spray our trees for worms most of our pears were mostly baking pears.  I sliced a lot of them and canned them in a light syrup, some of them I mashed and made something similar to applesauce but we will call it pear jelly, and I also made my first liquer.

First, pears straight off the tree are gross... they need to age a bit...harvest your pears before they are soft and stick them in the fridge for a day, then put them in a paper bag for about 3-4 days and your pears will be aged to perfection.  (you can now put them back in the fridge till you are ready to use them)

To prepare you jars get them together and sterilize them either in your dishwasher or boiling water for 10 minutes.  Put your little self-sealing lids in warm water to soften the rubbery part. The ring lid doesn't  really matter as long as it still screws onto the jar well.

To make basic canned pears:
Take as many pears as you want and wash them, peel them, core them, you can cut them in halves or quarters.
I think I did about 4 cups for my first test batch but do as many as you feel like doing. Sprinkle the pears with the juice of two lemons to add acidity and keep them from browning.

To make the light syrup: lightly boil 6 cups of water and add 2 cups of sugar to the boiling water.

Now add the pears to the water for about 5 minutes (this is the hot pack method, some people just pour the liquid over the pears in the jars).  After 5 minutes scoop out the pears and add them to your prepared jars then pour the liquid into each jar about a half inch from the top of the jar. then put your new lid on and seal the jar snugly but not too tight.

Now I processed the jars in a water bath which is basically a big pot with boiling water that I place the jars in. The water should cover the jar tops by one inch for about 20 minutes.  I don't have a pressure canner and so I use this method.  Processing times vary but altitude and jar sizes though so do a quick search before you take my word for it;)

To make what I call pear jelly: (basically because that's what i meant to make.)
Take as many pears as you want and wash them, peel them, core them, you can cut them in halves or quarters.I probably cut about 6 cups of pears. then I put them in a large pot, sprinkled them with about 2 TBS of lemon juice and simmered them for about 20 minutes. 

When they are soft put them in a blender and blend into sauce. You could take what you have so far and can it like this.

I wanted to make jelly so I needed to add more sugar. So I put what was left back in the pot and I knew from the blender I had 4 cups of pear so I always add 3/4 sugar to fruit for jam. So I added 3 cups of sugar to the pot. Now bring up the heat to medium and stir (babysit it) till it starts to get thick and seem to stick to the spoon.  Usually about 15 minutes.  I test by placing a plate in the freezer and dripping the jam onto to it till it isn't runny on the plate.

When the jelly is no longer runny it is ready to can.  Pour it into your prepared jars and seal it and process the same as before.

I don't think the finished product is actually pear jelly but it's darn tasty and I have been using it as jelly on my toast and it's spectacular.

To make pear liqueur: I haven't tasted this yet as it's still brewing but it smells amazing.

Drop the following in a wide mouth half gallon jar.
1/2 lb of pears sliced
1 1/2 cups of vodka
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 pinch of cloves
2 coriander seeds

Seal the jar and steep for three weeks. Strain and filter. Taste and adjust flavor by adding fruit or sugar syrup (below).
Steep another 3-4 weeks, strain. Ready to use! This yields about 1.5 pints of liqueur.

Make a syrup by adding 1 cup of sugar to 1/2 cup of boiling water. boil together for about 5 minutes till the sugar dissolves.It must be cool before adding it to the jar.

Giving Pears to friends:  Another great way to use up your pears is to give them to friends.  A friend of mine made me some pear baklava with the pears I gifted her and I recieved many fun things in trade for the pears I gifted my neighbors with.  Anyway these are just a few ideas or how I have used my abundance I didn't expect this year!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Food Delivery Day

Today we received our first delivery from Los Poblanos CSA.  I had been told many things and we often buy their produce at the farmers market so I figured I should check it out.  I would tell you about the awesomeness I found online at their site but you should really discover it's greatness yourself.  I will say we will be saving money on produce and are now able to order almost all our food at one place and have it delivered to our home!  Anyway My fridge is full of freshness from the farm and there are only two things I had never seen before.  I will post later about what they are and how I can use them.

On a much sadder note my poor pumpkins seem to be dying and I can't figure out why.  I also found out today Los Poblanos does a u pick pumpkins which is pretty cool.

Anyway made some chai mix this morning so I enjoyed a nice hot cup of chai while I fed the girls some carrot tops...a little known fact is: if you store your carrots in the fridge with the tops on they will drain the carrots of nutrients and so the carrots don't last as long. So chop those tops off and feed them to your chickens!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ash Eru

Well, I was inside blogging when Alf notified me I should check on Ash.

The kids are not allowed to play on the rocks in front of the chickens cause the rocks get pushed down and we have to re-rake till we move them.  So Ash made a sign and decided to protect the chickens from the falling rocks.  The sign translated is supposed to let Aislin know she is not allowed on the rocks.

Goings on around the Stead

So it's been awhile but I finally have a computer and thus I am able to write a bit more and update you all on everything that has been going on lately.
So since I left you last we have built our little coop in the backyard completely from things that we found or received for free from fellow freecyclers.  We had hoped to have a big coop raising party but then we realized we had no money to throw a party and so we decided to wait another week which would have been fine but apparently chickens are sort of like mutants when it comes to growing.  So we went out to check them Sunday morning and found they had all like doubled in size so we had to act fast.
They are enjoying there new digs though and I think it came out just fine for a free coop;)

The garden is doing very well.  We have a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes ready for harvest I have been harvesting pears all week and will be canning a lot of them for the winter.  I will post some info about canning when I start the process since I don't have a pressure canner I will be using the water bath pressure method which is just fine for acidic foods or even foods you add a bit of citric acid to. Overall as the weather is starting to turn a bit I realize that the garden experience this spring and summer has been mostly good.  I have learned a ton.  I now know when is the best time to plant tomatoes.  How to effectively burn a tomato plant to death,  How quickly squash bugs will eat your little squash plant, The awesomeness of the praying mantis, How to effectively freeze a tomato plant, Birds love seeds, birds are smarter than you think, Bees are our friends, good soil is the trick to growing anything, Albuquerque soil mostly sucks.

All together I killed garlic, a potato, 2 large tomato plants and a squash plant, some strawberries, and tons of beans and peas. I later realized something was eating them from underground (still unsolved).

I realized that those cool little snails are my hugest enemy and now pay Ash 5 cents for every one he finds.

Chickens are good for your health I wake up with the sun every morning to let them out and feed them and suddenly I have all this time to enjoy my garden and the nice breezy grey of the morning when I can read my bible or just enjoy the silence.  I have learned that the garden is frozen in the morning like it did all this hard work through the night and is taking in a deep breathe or praise for it's life. The chickens have helped me enjoy that and soon they will help me enjoy a fresh egg with it!

Oh the beauty or creation just passes us by way too much!