Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Harvesting Frugally

A few days ago, Homestead Survival (one of my favorite bloggers!) posted a story about a woman who 'repurposed' questionable produce from her local markets.Now, I like the general concept, but I have to admit, I'm not too keen on the whole lying aspect.  I mean, you have to tell the store that you will be using it to feed livestock. (yes, some will be used to feed them, but that's not the point.)  For myself, locally, the stores still sell this produce at a significant cost break. (the article is here, if you're curious:

But it DID get me to thinking.  What do I do, personally, to reduce food waste.  I'm a gleaner, a harvester, a forager of the worst sort.  New neighbors moved in next door, and I've already hit them up to harvest the fantastic crop of crab apples they have in their front yard.

But today's score was a bit more...strenuous. As I've said before, I grew up on a family farm.  My great grandfather had an orchard, and the trees for the most part are pretty well dormant.  There were 2 pear trees left at one end, and in my lifetime, I think I've seen all of maybe 6 pears on one of the trees.

Until this year.  My mother called me down to see it...and the upper story was utterly LOADED with winter pears. (Winter pears are a very hard fruit, meant to last into the winter, and soften as they age and/or are canned. They are supposed to have a firmer bite to them when canned, and don't fall apart, like a really well ripened eating pear.)

Well, I couldn't just let them go to waste, could I?   But as you can see from this picture, it wasn't that easy.
If you're a spatially challenged person, that there is about 35-40 feet up.  Couldn't reach with a bucket loader, or a ladder. So, I posted this picture to my facebook, asking my friends for ideas.

a 20 ft. branch trimmer WHILE in the bucketloader was the most reasonable answer. (The silliest? A really well-trained Giraffe.)

So, today we tried it.

I should state that this would work much better if I was more than 4' 11".

BUT. I managed to get all but 7 of the VERY highest pears.  Yes, it probably would've worked better if I had a basket on the pole, but it was already rather unwieldy, and I had my mother and uncle underneath catching. Only a few of them got mildly bruised in the fall. (Thanks Mom and Dad; who by the way, thought I was utterly crazy.)

So I ended up with nearly a whole bucket of old-fashioned (I suppose I could consider it an heirloom variety, since the trees are ancient!) that have been totally left alone, so they are also organic.
Took them home, and began the process of peeling, and coring and cutting up.

I HATE coring.   I think its a dismal task, and to cut them out is just miserable. When I do apples, I use an old fashioned peeler/corer/slicer.  But as pears aren't exactly round, that doesn't work so well. So here is my fantastic helpful hint.....
A melon baller. The one I have has two sizes to it, which is great because some of these pears were quite small.

First i peeled the pear, and cut it in half.

 Dig down with the edge. If you look at a pear closely, you'll see a slight change in color where the core is. Twist your hand as you scoop, keeping pressure on it (you need to consider if your pears are hard like mine, or soft like a ripe Bartlett pear.)

 The core pops out easily.

I continued to slice them up (halves or sixths, depending on the size of the pear.)

I made an extra light syrup;

5 1/2 c. water
1 1/4 c. sugar

To this I added:
 1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice

 (last time I used fresh lemons, I used my microplane and zested all the lemons, then dried the zest.) and  I put one (small) cinnamon stick in each pint jar with the pears.

This is how they came out:
I have 9 pints so far, and I'm only about half done.  Not bad for foraged fruit, wouldn't you say?

In a few weeks, Chestnuts at my parents' house will be falling...I've never done anything with them, but I would love ideas! I'm starting to look around now!

1 comment:

  1. I used some of the pears in a cherry-pear cobbler. Definitely need to use smaller bits of cinnamon, as the flavor was nearly overpowering.

    Live and learn!