Thursday, September 3, 2015

On gratitude and making the most of what we have

I've been reading and seeing a lot of stuff lately which is really hammering home the message that I am so, so privileged.  By modern American standards, I really am not.  I'm over 30, unemployed (temporarily--I had a job interview today!), and living with my parents.  "A loser" by most of my society's standards.  But when I look at the standards by which most of humanity is living, I have a freaking decadent life.  Recently, I read the book "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind".  I won't summarize it here (it's really, really good and inspiring--you should read it) but it's relevant because the boy it was about talked about a famine his family lived through.  Just the fact that they lived through it was rather amazing, but they were down to just a few handfuls of food each day by the end, scrounging for whatever they could.  He chronicled how he and a cousin cooked and ate a goat skin for Christmas, just so that they could taste meat again.  It really brings home the fact that we waste so much good food in this country, even if I didn't have John Oliver telling me so.
Then there's the Syrian refugee crisis, which really doesn't have much to do with food except that I know many of those people are probably starving, or don't know where their next meal will come from.  As a mother, my heart breaks every time I see parents carrying their children in the hope of a better life, or a life at all, considering the violence they're fleeing.  Those poor babies, and I have no idea how to help them.
All of this is making me realize that I should be grateful for everything that I have, because it's a lot.  And part of being grateful is to make the most use of what I have.
When our friends gifted us all of the apples from their tree the other day, HusbandX and I started planning out how we would make the most use of it.  The first thing he wanted to do was to make hard cider.  My dad and brother had made a sort of cider press a few years ago, when the apple tree they had was ridiculously prolific.  Unfortunately, the tree was too prolific and killed itself by splitting in half due to the weight of the apples.  They've got a new tree now, but it's young and doesn't produce as much yet, so they only got to use the press once before now.

Apples from our friends.  The worms got their share first.

The apples are untreated, so the first thing was to cut out all of the wormy bits.  Then we chunked the apples so that they could go in the food processor for shredding, then into the cider press.  It was a lot of work, and we wouldn't have gotten it all done in one day if not for the fact that the Munchkin took a nice long nap today.  Three hours of cutting apples and now I have a blister on my finger.


The shreds, the homemade press, and finally the cider in the carboy, starting its ferment.

The pressed fruit at the end was, unfortunately, pretty useless to us.  If we knew someone with chickens we would have gladly saved it and given it to them, but as it is it all went into the compost.
The cores, on the other hand, are perfectly usable.  Any that weren't wormy were saved.  Some of them went into jars to become scrap apple vinegar.

Scrap apple vinegar, fermenting in the pantry alongside all of my already-preserved items.

The rest of the cores were thrown in a pot to make apple jelly.  Unfortunately, I didn't have quite enough peel in there to have it gel (the peel is where most of the pectin is) so I'll peel some of the other apples and re-heat it, then finish canning it.  (Update: it didn't totally gel, even with the few skins I added, but it made an amazing apple syrup!  As a replacement for maple syrup, this stuff is pretty damn good.)

The start of apple jelly.

We still have a giant bag of apples left, and the same neighbor who gave me the plums has offered me as many wormy apples as I'd like to pick off her tree so I think I'll take her up on it.  What we have left will be made into soft (non-alcoholic) apple cider, applesauce, and apple butter.
Naturally, we will be sharing the fruits of our labors with the friends who've helped us and given us their apples.
We went out with an aunt this evening and when we told her what we'd been up to she remarked, "Well, at least you'll eat very well this winter!"  It's true, and I'm so thankful for it.

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