Friday, October 26, 2007

Gifts of Produce

Hi Friends!
This week I've spent some time with my grandparents, as my grandma has been recovering from a stay in the hospital. My grandparents are two of my favorite people in the whole world, and even under disappointing circumstances, I always feel happy and blessed to spend time with them.

My grandparents have a huge and wonderful backyard garden - apples, figs, oranges, tangerines, green beans, kale, asparagus, plums, tomatoes, and the list goes on and on. When I came by on Wednesday, my grandpa was especially happy to see me. Their grapes were almost past the limit, and they couldn't stand to see such yummy food go to waste. Now, that's obviously something I inherited from them - I hate wasting any food, but most especially produce! So my grandfather and I went out and pruned all the grapes off the vine. We filled two entire 5 gallon buckets:

The one on the right is a little empty because I had already started rinsing them before I remembered to take the picture. These are the amazing & flavorful Concord Grapes. Have you ever had them? They have thick, dark skins with a bitterish flavor, filled with super sweet light green insides - and lots of seeds. It took quite some time to rinse all these babies off - and it was no small feat of veganhood to escort all the spiders from my kitchen out into the backyard. There must have been at least 12 in each bucket. Mostly they were sweet little harmless critters, so I didn't mind at all.

My mom came over on Wednesday night and helped me make my way through the first bucket. We picked all the grapes off their stems, set aside the wrinklies or yuckies, and then got to work mashing the grapes up! I wanted to make some grape juice. All you have to do is mush up the grapes, and then bring it all to a boil, and then simmer for 10-15 minutes. The straining is a bit of a job ( and messy too! watch out for your clothes!). Pour some into a strainer (placed over a big pot or bowl) and then use a big spoon to start pressing the juice through. I also found it useful to press into the strainer with a bowl.

I did the second 5-gallon bucket last night, put it all in the fridge, and then jarred up the juice tonight. I saved 5 1/2 cups to make some jelly, and then also jarred up 5 quarts of fresh Concord Grape Juice. Isn't it beautiful? So dark and it's soooooo good! Full of flavor. So fresh tasting. There's actually another quart in the fridge, that I didn't bother canning since we'll drink it right away. So that's 6 quarts of juice + another 5.5 cups... from 10 gallons of grapes!

After I made the juice tonight, I washed out the pots and made some grape jelly. I always use the "reduced sugar" variety, although it's still got 3 cups of sugar (to 5.5 cups of juice). Whoa! I got 7 jars of jelly (only 6 pictured here... one had a white lid which I found to be aesthetically unpleasing - ha!). It's really great. So fun to make jelly too... I love canning & preserving and would like to learn even more about it.

In addition to all those grapes, my grandpa also gave me a some GIGANTOID butternut squash. Butternut squash are one of their bumper crops, year after year. This year they harvested 141!!! So, you can see why he was feeling generous enough to spare some. I put a quarter in that picture so you can see how big they are.

Also this week, one of my lovely yoga students (hi Andy!) gave me a big bag of pears from his garden. Wow, they are really beautiful. Pears are Musty's favorite fruit, and I was hoping to make him a pear pie. However, I'm taking off on a trip tomorrow, and all the urgency of the grapes got the better of me (not to mention packing and all that jazz)... So I'll take some and leave some for him. :)

I'm headed down to L.A. for a 9-day workshop with my painting teachers, who are coming over from Italy. It has been a few years since I've seen them, and I am really looking forward to it. I've already packed up a bunch of car snacks for my long solo drive - carrots, hummus, licorice, homemade apple-hazelnut bread, a vegan cinnamon roll from our local health food store, grape juice (of course!), apples from our tree... And I've also mapped out all the veg restaurants near where we'll be (Cal State Fullerton) - so hopefully I'll have some good stuff to blog about.

Not sure if I'll have a chance to blog while I'm gone, but at least I'll be collecting pictures - I promise!


  1. Lovely produce! This time of year is rich with wonderful stuff, isn't it? I think I have to do a produce post myself soon.

    Best wishes to your grandma for a quick recovery!

  2. Hey Aim -- I loved the report on the grape juice.

    This "raw materials" entry didn't seem to get as many responses as the usual "finished products" entries, but was interesting nonetheless.

    We had everyone over for Christopher's birthday party last night, and missed you. I made a 4-bean chili from Quick Vege Main Dishes -- excellent -- and your snack cake for the birthday cake (sponge bob motif for the decoration.) Used up a bit more of the soy ice cream.

    Hope you're having a good time in LA.

  3. I hope your grandma is feeling well!

    All that produce is beautiful! 141 butternut squashes?? That's astonishing! That grape juice is lovely. So lucky for you that your grandparents like to share! ;-)

    Hope you have a great trip to LA!

  4. Hope your grandma is recovering and feeling better.

    Have fun in L.A.... excited to see the veg restaurant yous visit!

  5. What a wonderful post. Gifts of produce are so amazing. I wish I had friends/family who had a big garden. Those butternuts look lovely, I'll have to grow some when I get my own garden in the future.

  6. I am SO jealous of all the produce you're gaining. I would *love* some fresh concord grape jelly, it's always been my favorite! I hope your trip was fun!

  7. I just came back to this post to marvel at your produce some more. =) I had never known that was how you made grape juice- and it's one of my favorite things in the world! Concord grapes are amazing.


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