Fresh Concord Grape Freezer Jam!

Yummmm, have you ever smelled fresh concord grapes?! The smell is just amazing. So when my husband and I were at a local farmers market this past week I just could not pass up getting some fresh and delicious concord grapes. Of course the first thing I thought of making was a fantastic jam 🙂 Heres the recipe!

What you’ll need:

5 lbs of fresh concord grapes (you can always adjust the proportions to your liking)

A blender

A sieve

Freezer safe jars

One pot for boiling and one bowl for the grape skins

1 small bowl to mix sugar and pectin

1/3 cup water

2 Tbs of instant pectin

1/3 cup sugar x2 🙂

Fresh concord grapes :)

Fresh concord grapes 🙂

First wash your grapes, then de-skin each grape. The easiest way to do this is to detach the grape from its stem and pop the grape out. After you have the “naked” grape place the grapes in one bowl (I used the pot I boiled them in) and the skins in another. This is the most tedious and time consuming part of the whole recipe. This might be a good time to invest in some child labor, or husband help 🙂

Naked grapes...ohhh la la.

Naked grapes…ohhh la la

Grape skins

Grape skins

Cover the grapes (not the skins) in about 1/3 cup of water and boil for 5 minutes.

While the grapes are boiling place the grape skins in a blender or food processor and get them as smooth as you can, once they are smooth add 1/3 cup of sugar to the skin mix and blend just a tad more and set aside

In a small bowl mix together the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of instant pectin and set aside

Mash the boiled grapes through a sieve so the meat and juice of the grape separate from the seeds. Toss seeds when you’re all finished.

So you have your grape juice, your sugar/pectin mix and your skin puree, right? Ok…so now mix them all together and place into freezer jars. Let them cool a bit before putting the caps on, otherwise pressure will blow them right off…no one wants exploding grape jam all over the place right?!

And there you have it friends….concord grape jam ready to freeze 🙂 Enjoy!

Hot diggity concord grape jam :)

Hot diggity concord grape jam 🙂

Canning? Don’t Waste Those Tomato Skins!

I LOVE tomatoes and luckily this year we got a really great yield from our garden! We planted san marzanos, striped romans, and blueberry tomatoes (seriously a variety you must try if you love sweet goodness)! This year my husband decided to can a simple sauce instead of making something fancier. It made more sense to do something simple that we could open and add stuff to as we used it. He also froze the san marzanos whole and as a result we had a bunch of skins leftover. This got me thinking…what could we do with the skins? Well, read on to find out!

photo 2

A mix of our san marzano and striped roman yield.

So what did I do? I dried them and made tomato flakes! These flakes add a deep, earthy and sweet flavor to anything they are sprinkled on. I’ve heard they taste amazing on ice cream adding a subtle sweetness and helping to compliment flavors such as vanilla. Read on for step by step instructions…..

Step One: Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. After the sheet is lined place the tomato skins on top. Don’t add anything else just the tomatoes.

photo 3

Step Two: Place the tomatoes inside the pre-heated oven and use a dishtowel or oven mitt to prop the oven open to help in the evaporation process. Make sure none of the towel is dangling in the oven otherwise you risk it catching on fire. Keep tomatoes in the oven for a good 90-120min checking the crispness every so often.

Step Three: Take out the tomatoes 🙂 When the tomatoes are done they will be very crispy and crumble to the touch. Taste one, you’ll be surprised at the sweetness!

photo 4

Crisp and crumbly tomato skins.

Step Four: Crumble!!! This can get messy…but its fun. You can put gloves on if you don’t want tomato crumble all over your hands. If you want the flakes to be more like a powder you can put them in a food processor to your desired consistency.

Tomato flakes!!

Tomato flakes!!

Step Five: Package them up to enjoy later! 🙂

Finished tomato flakes in a simple canning jar.

Finished tomato flakes in a simple canning jar.

Thats all, till next time….!

A World Of Chemicals. How You Can Limit Your Exposure.

Lets face it, everyday whether intentional or not our bodies are exposed to dozens and dozens of unique chemicals. Some are avoidable, some are not. When I think about my own personal life, sadly I start every single day dosing my body with chemicals. Unfortunately, this I cannot avoid and I’m ok with it. These chemicals are my lifeline and without them I would eventually die. They are my thyroid replacement pills and because I have no thyroid to produce the needed hormone I do not have an option. While there are some things  that are out of our control there are many things we can control. Listed below are some common chemical exposures in everyday life that can be modified to limit the amount that inevitably make it into our bloodstream. Yes, I said bloodstream.  Any chemical inhaled, slathered, eaten, touched etc…eventually makes it to our bloodstream and organs. While researching for this post what surprised me the most were “off gases” particularly the whopping 275+ chemicals that continually off gas from the plastic components of new vehicles 😦 

“Immediately after delivery, new vehicles have been found to be universally contaminated with very high concentrations of a large number of chemicals that diffuse from interior vehicle materials. Over 275 different chemicals have been identified in vehicles interiors, including chemicals associate with birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer. Automobiles are unique and harsh environments for plastics. Air temperature extremes of 192 F (89 C) and dash temperatures up to 248 F (120 C) have been observed in vehicles. These extreme temperatures can increase the concentration of VOCs and high levels of sunlight producing breakdown products which can also be harmful to human health”.  Source:http://www.healthystuff.org/findings.021512.cars.php1. 

 

Welp….I was considering a new car in the near future. Not anymore. According the environmental working group your best option here (aside from riding horse and buggy style….haha) is to purchase a few year old vehicle as most of the off gases have already diffused. So what are some of the other chemicals, where are they found and what can you do to mitigate their effects on your body?” Heres a list for your reading pleasure. 🙂

1. Phthalates

  • Endocrine Disruptors-Linked with early puberty in females which is a risk factor for breast cancer later in life. 
  • Commonly found in #3 plastics and personal care products. Often disguised as “fragrance” on labels.
  • To minimize exposure never microwave plastics, use glass. Avoid vinyl flooring, PVC shower curtains and piping as well as products containing “fragrance”

2. Bisphenol (BPA)

  • Endocrine Disruptor- Linked with breast cancer development, miscarriage, erectile dysfunction and heart disease.
  • Commonly found in #3 and #7 plastics, canned foods & receipt paper.
  • To minimize exposure never microwave plastics, use glass. Avoid canned foods, use fresh or frozen when possible or better yet preserve your own! FYI Eden organic foods offers BPA free canned veggies 🙂 Wash your hands after touching receipt paper, or have the receipt emailed to you.

3. Chlorine (I admit, this is a tricky one to avoid….) 

  • Commonly used as a disinfectant in municipal water. Its toxic, even at low concentrations. Studies have linked chlorine exposure through drinking with an increased risk of heart disease, allergic reactions, miscarriages, bladder, colon and rectal cancers.
  • To minimize purchase a whole house filter to filter out chlorine and other chemical components in your water. If this is not an option, you can purchase an under the sink water drinking water filter for about $150 and a shower head chemical filter. Activated charcoal filters work too!!

4. Perflurochemicals (PFCS)

  • Teflon, Scotchguard, Stainmaster, Gore-tex are common PFCS. PFCS are also found in fast-food wrappers, inside pet food bags, and microwave popcorn bags. 
  • Associated with low birth weight babies, reduced immune function, abnormal thyroid hormone levels and liver inflammation.
  • To minimize avoid stain treatments on carpets and furniture. Don’t use non stick pans. Pop popcorn the old fashioned way-avoid the bags. Choose natural and organic personal care items. 

5. Pesticides & Fertilizers

  • Known carcinogens. This means they are known to cause cellular changes within the body that are consistent with the development of cancer. Basic rule, if it kills weeds or insects its killing you as well. Children and fetuses are particularly susceptible. In addition, these chemicals seep into our water system and are also highly devastating to wildlife, especially birds. Most birds eat insects and seeds from plants, if these plants have been treated with an insecticide the plant itself is toxic, as well as the insects that have come in contact with the chemical. The birds ingest the seed or insect (or feed it to their young) and inturn they are poisoned.
  • To minimize exposure. Please don’t spray your house, lawn or flowers. If you let nature do its job, it’ll take care of itself in time. This is something I have to repeatedly tell myself (especially when we have spiders in the house) but i’ve learned that its part of a working eco system and I have learned that chemical warfare against harmless spiders is silly.  Also buy organic when possible or better yet- grown your own veggies responsibly 🙂

6. Formaldehyde

  • Commonly found in melamine plastics, cigarette smoke, pressed wood products, and building materials. Exposure increases risk of brain cancers and leukemias.
  • To minimize exposure use “exterior grade” pressed wood products in the home and be sure to ask the retailer about the formaldehyde content in their products (plywoods, paneling, particle board, fiberboard, furniture and cabinets). Don’t smoke and avoid exposure to second hand smoke. Don’t purchase melamine plastics, but if you do, avoid microwaving them. 

7. Parabens

  • We’ve heard much about these lately in the media. Commonly found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Parabens mimic estrogens and measurable concentrations have been found in breast tumors. Also, new research has shown that methyparaben found in some sunscreens reacts with the sun and actually can cause cellular damage to the skin. 
  • To minimize exposure avoid products that contain the word “paraben” (usually at the end of an ingredient like methylparaben). Use mineral based sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) avoid sunscreens with chemical components such as oxybenzone. 

8. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) & Polybrominated Bipenyls (PBBs).

  • These are two of the chemical off gases i’d talked about earlier in new vehicles. In addition to new vehicles (the most common source) these chemicals are also found in electronics, foam cushions and textiles. They are flame retardants. 
  • These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors that can alter a childs brain development. Research has also found linkages to decreased thyroid hormone levels and reproduction abnormalities in children exposed to off gases.
  • To minimize exposure buy vehicles that are a few years old. Use covers that limit the amount of off gas exposure and avoid using styrofoam. 

Well, as you can imagine this is certainly not an exhaustive list. The main purpose of this post was to alert you to some chemicals that you may not know about and to provide you tips on what you can do to minimize exposure. I hope i’ve enlightened you in some way. I’ve certainly learned a lot myself and plan on making some changes. 🙂

Resources:

http://www.lung.org

http://www.breastcancerfund.org

http://www.healthystuff.org/findings.021512.cars.php

http://www.epa.gov

http://www.ewg.org