Monday, May 4, 2009

Waste Not Want Not

This weekend my refrigerator went on the fritz and froze everything in my fruit drawer (or maybe some kid, I’m not naming names here, messed with the temperature control). What to do, what to do. Never one to let anything go to waste, especially any expensive, organic, edible thing, I got busy. Luckily there wasn’t much in my fruit drawer this time of year. Not much is available if you’re particular about fruit that is local and organic. There were about 12 apples – the last of the local crop still available at the farm market. There was a bag of organic lemons that had been reduced for quick sale, and some grapes that I was talked in to buying when I broke my own rule and took a kid to the grocery store with me. So the damage wasn’t too bad. Still, I would never throw out good food so….

I thawed out the apples, peeled them and made some fresh apple sauce for dinner that night. The kids were so excited to have warm fresh applesauce, they ate the whole pot. If you’ve never had warm applesauce – try it some time. It’s one of my favorite tastes of fall, but you can make applesauce anytime. A friend stopped by to pick up her daughter while I was in the midst of making the applesauce and was amazed at how easy it is to make. She kept saying, “That’s all there is to it?” the entire time I was making it. She was so impressed that I worry there are others out there who don’t know how simple it is to make applesauce, so here’s the lowdown:

1. Peel and core apples and cut them in to slices (if you don’t like chunky applesauce, you can always pureed the sauce in a food processor after it’s cooked).
Put them in a big pot and add some water – just enough until you can see water amongst your apples, but not so much that it’s covering your apples.
2. Sprinkle a little lemon juice over the apples. You only need a splash, this is to keep it from browning too much and it acts as a preservative if you’re planning to store the applesauce for any length of time. Trust me, if you’ve got kids and you let them have some right after it’s made, there will be no need for storage.
3. Bring the apples to a simmer on med-high and cook until the water mostly evaporates and the apples turn to sauce and break apart easily. Stir the apples frequently so they don’t stick to the bottom, add more water if necessary. This can take some time, especially if you use too much water.
4. When it looks like applesauce, add as much sugar as you like. You won’t need much.
You can also add cinnamon if that’s your thing. I skip it.
Done. See? So easy.
Sweet-tart apples make the best sauce. I don’t recommend red delicious, but mixed with another kind they would be alright. You never need to toss apples – next time they get mealy, bruised, old, wrinkled, or frozen – make applesauce!

Next came the lemons. Not much to do with frozen lemons other than to thaw them out and make lemonade. Which is what my husband did. It was a rainy, miserable weekend so hot applesauce and cold lemonade were both pleasant surprises for all of us. I wasn’t as keen to save the grapes but my kids discovered that frozen grapes are fun to eat, so they didn’t go to waste after all.

Our adventures with the fruit drawer brought home an important part of living an affordable kid-friendly organic life – waste nothing! As much as I love composting, I would never throw something in there for later that I can use now. When the organic free trade bananas get too brown I peel them, break them in to sections and freeze them. Then anytime I want to make banana bread or banana milk shakes, I’ve got the perfect overripe bananas at the ready. I paid a small fortune for those bananas, heck if I’m gonna toss them out over a few brown spots.

When we come down to the ends of our bread or there’s just a couple slices left on the French bread loaf, I make croutons out of what’s left. Croutons are simple to make. Just cut the bread in to crouton size chunks. Spread them out on a cooking sheet. Spray them with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder. Bake at 200 for one hour and 30 minutes, then turn the oven off and let them cool inside the oven. Done. You can also make bread crumbs from the croutons if you need bread crumbs.

Nothing needs to go to waste. You don’t have to grow up in the Depression to know that, although I do think of my mom whenever I’m tucking another plastic container of bananas in to my freezer. She is never one to let anything go to waste and always leaves our house after Thanksgiving with the turkey carcass in the trunk. We let her have it because we know it will come back in the form of her famous homemade turkey noodle soup. Waste not, want not. So true.

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