Cookbooks are there to teach, but when the typical ingredients of a modern diet, white flour and sugar, no longer fit into your idea of a healthy diet you must pluck, stir and preserve your own path.
As self-reliant homemakers we have come a long way in becoming creative in the kitchen. When you cook three meals a day at home you quickly realize that pasta and potatoes are just not going to cut it. And slashing out gluten for good?! Well, better learn to cook from wholesome natural ingredients that are more filling than fluff. Don’t use cups and spoons to measure what you have, focus on training your intuition, your eyes and your hands to tell you how much is enough.
All criticisms aside, knowing how to use what you have on hand and what grows in your garden is a wonderful skill to possess. If you haven’t acquired it yet never fear, it may just find you one day when you run out of milk and eggs and guests coming before noon…
Since we dropped processed sugar from our lives more than a year ago, we haven’t missed it and its negative side effects one bit! Instead we focus on locally produced honey or in the case of preserving fruit we may use nothing at all. Waiting for the fruit to be ripe takes patience, but come those long winter days, it is heart warming to have so many jars on the pantry shelves.
Apples are in season and they are falling with the wind, which makes them a little bruised here and there, yet perfect for applesauce. No honey, no preservatives, just 100% apple. Can’t get more simple than that.
Apples will act differently when cooked, so choose the right one for the job. These summer apples fall apart in the hot pot, perfect for sauces and chutneys. For compotes choose a later ripening and harder variety.
Plum season is coming up next and you only need one ingredient for that jam too!
When multiple fruits are ripe at the same time, get a little crazy in the kitchen and work on those eye and hand measuring skills:
Don’t worry about weights just keep in mind proportions and if at first you don’t get it right, try again. And then the next year and the next year. Elderberries are tricky to find a good flavored partner, but we think these cherry plums Prunus cerasifera accomplish the act.
Boil the cherry plums till they are ready to burst, drain the water and put through a strainer to end up with an orange base (removing both the seeds and skins) that will be boiled for longer once the elderberries are ready.
Make sure that both jams are hot and ready to go in the jars, elderberry on the bottom because of its density and relative dryness (seeds were not removed to give the jam both unique texture and flavor).
When we open up a new jar we give it a stir and add a few tablespoons of honey to taste.
Preserving self-reliance. That’s what we are up to this summer, like every year.
How about you?