We all have good intentions. We go to the grocery store, smell the fresh fruit and think about how healthy our family will be when they consume nature’s bounty. We pack up some apples, some seasonal goodies like peaches and blueberries and purchase them while trying not to cringe at the price.
But what happens when we take that produce home? Do our families cheer and sing accolades about how wonderful we are for bringing them such nutritional goodness? Do they devour the goodies right from the bag (after washing them thoroughly, of course)?
Not by a long shot.
The fruit goes into the graveyard drawer in the refrigerator, never to be seen or heard of again until it is time to move it to the trash. That hard-earned money used to purchase the goodies might as well have just gone there first, right?
Wrong. You don’t have to throw everything away just because the apples are bruised or the blueberries begin to get fuzzier than the peaches. What we need to do is take a page from our great or great-great grandmother’s and bake them into something new.
Last week, despite having done a vinegar/water wash on my blueberries to cleanse them while lengthening their fridge-life, they were beginning to morph into bad Halloween decorations. Some had shriveled without the nearness of other berries while others had taken on white fuzz that would be better suited for a science experiment. I decided that I wasn’t going to throw them away but instead change them into something I could save and use in other recipes.
I cleaned the blueberries with produce wash, made sure there were no stems left and took any that were completely mush out to toss for the birds (only about five or six out of a sandwich-size container had this fate). I dumped the rest into a small saucepan, added 1/4-cup honey and some lemon zest. I also considered adding cinnamon or ginger as both do a great job of seasoning and preserving the fruits of my wallet. Since I didn’t know what my later purpose would be for the berries (pancake topping? oatmeal mix-in? cheesecake?), I decided to leave those out. You can also use 1/4-cup white sugar and a 1/2-cup squeezed lemon or 1/4-cup orange juice if you don’t like the honey. I like honey because it draws the juices out of the berries better and only lightly sweetens it. Simmer this concoction (covered) over low for about 30-45 minutes or until the berries have mostly popped. If you’ve ever made cranberry sauce, you know just what I’m talking about. Store it in a container in the refrigerator for about two weeks or the freezer for up to three months.
Another two items that have been neglected in my house are apples and peaches. The apples are brown and bruised and the peaches just don’t look very cheerful. I like to use both of these as pie filling. If you have any really bad spots (caved in and moldy), cut them out. Clean the produce again, peel the skin off and slice or chop (depending on your preference) for pie filling. I toss them in lemon juice to help keep them from turning brown(er), 1/4-cup brown sugar, one-tablespoon honey (and two-tablespoons cinnamon for the apples). You don’t feel like making a pie right now? No problem, mix them with the sugars and then spread them out on a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour (do not go beyond two hours or you will dry out the fruits) before putting them in a freezer container, sealing it up and saving them for later. Again, they are good frozen for about three months; they lose their integrity after only a few days in the refrigerator.
Another use that I have for those apples, as well as pears that are going bad, is to make sauce. I suppose it may work for other fruits, but these are the only ones I’ve tried to date. Follow the same directions as though you are making pie filling but instead place the fruit in a slow cooker or a pot on simmer. I add about two-tablespoons of butter as well, but that’s optional. On the stove, bring the fruit to a boil at medium before reducing the temperature back to simmer and cooking for about four hours. In the slow cooker, I cook the fruit for about five hours on low. You may wish to add time if you are looking for smooth applesauce or pearsauce. I like to cook them enough that I could mash it with a food processor if I wanted, but I like the chunks of fruit. This will keep for about two or three weeks in the refrigerator or three or four months in the freezer.
Most fruits will survive just fine if you cook them once they are no longer peaked; just find your own uses for them — smoothies are great, too.
Oh, and one more thing: You know that lemon I kept using for zest or juice? Throw what’s left in your garbage disposal and give it a whirl. It will clean and deodorize it for you! So much better than running out and spending more money on a cleanser, right?
Happy saving, and don’t forget to compost those scraps.