It all started the other day, when on my way home, I stopped at our local produce stand and got a box of cast off produce to feed to our chickens. Many times, the cast off boxes are full of fruit and vegetables that aren’t fit to be eaten, but many a time, we have found things that, except for a slight bruise, are still perfectly edible. When I got home, I discovered the two boxes of berries that I was about to feed the chickens, for the most part, looked edible. So, with the help of my 8 year old brother, Kyle, we sat in the back of the truck and picked out the very good berries (un-smashed), the good, but a bit smashed from being in the box, and the berries that really were not fit to eat. After about an hour of sorting, we had two of our big kitchen bowls full of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and black berries!
Because we had such an excess of berries and they had cost us nothing, I proceeded, with the help of Kyle, to make two huge berry pies. Because hey, normally I would have felt guilty using so many berries (that are expensive) for just a pie. Using my “French Pastry Pie Crust” (gluten free, of course) I made up the crust for the pies and put it in the fridge to chill. A day or so later, after getting home from Swing Dancing at a friend’s house, I realized I needed one of the pies the next morning for a pot luck I was going to. So, out came the berries and the pie crust and off to creating pies I went. In fact, I was up creating my wonderful pie “masterpieces” until nearly 12:30am.
While making the pies, I had skeptics worried about whether or not my berry heap would hold! Happily, my crust behaved and actually rolled out and was then placed atop the berries with an ease that even surprised me! The next day, golden, heaped high with berries, I was known at the pot luck as “the girl who brought the berry pie.”
With the more smushed berries, mom and I made freezer jam the next day. This was also a great success and we added only honey to sweeten the jam. The vibrantly colored jam we made had blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and peaches and did not contain outrageous amounts of added white sugar, in fact it didn’t contain a single grain of it! Actually, I think the jam actually turned out better. Without being over sweetened, we can still taste the scrumptious zingy flavor of the fruit.
I suppose, ever since I read about a girl’s aunt, using bruised fruit during the Depression to supplement her family’s diet, I have liked the idea of making less than perfect produce work. So, over the past couple of years, since we began getting cast off produce for our chickens, I have always checked to see if there were things in the box that I could use. This year, my family got jam and pie out of the deal. Last year I planted about 50 green onions I found in the box…. Let’s just say my family was a lot happier with berry pies than they were with a greenhouse overgrown with green onions (I had to dig most of them out this year). So, next time you are near a local produce stand, check and see if they have any cast off produce you can have. You never know if your chickens, or even you, might find something delicious to eat!