One Year Of Jam

Home-made jam || by marion

Wild blueberries || by marion

Raspberry and blueberry jam || by marion

Raspberry bushes || by marion

Wild blueberry and raspberry jam || by marion

Wild blueberries in the forest || by marion

Blueberry, raspberry & plum crisp || by marion

Blueberry picking forest view || by marion

Little jars, big milestone!
Last August, I made jam. August is there again: here in the north of Sweden, raspberries and wild blueberries are ripe and delicious. There’s still a jar of jam left from last year, and now I’m making more. Full circle!

On this journey to growing & foraging more of my own food,  the most important lesson I’m constantly learning is to lower my expectations and set reasonable goals.

Making one year’s worth of jam was my goal for last year. It was reasonable: raspberry bushes grow on their own in our garden, requiring zero maintenance except one yearly trimming. As for blueberries, well, the forest all around is full of them.

We’re celebrating the new berry season with Natalie’s fruit oatmeal crisp. Let me tell you, it’s delicious. After investing in a berry-picker comb, we set a new reasonable goal for this year: make another year’s worth of jam, plus freeze some fresh berries to enjoy next winter.

This is nothing like self-sufficiency, but there’s something so deeply satisfying about seeing those jars pile up. Not too little, not too much, just what we need plus some to give as gifts. Growing our own food, one little step at a time.

My super simple wild blueberry/raspberry jam

  • Servings: about 3 jars
  • Print

This is how I make my summer berries jam. I don’t even use any special jam sugar or additional pectin, but usually it sets just fine. I reuse peanut butter jars (such as pictured above) I save all year long. While I cook the jam, I sterilize the jars by putting them in the oven at 100°C for about 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 800 g crystal sugar (I use organic white sugar)
  • 1 kg fresh berries
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a large pot. While stirring, bring to a boil, boil until a foam forms, rises on the sides of the pot and falls again. Reduce the heat and boil for a 5-10 more minutes while stirring. Pour still hot into sterilized jars. Close the jars and put them upside down to cool. The jam will seem liquid but will set as it cools.

 


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Frugal Wintertime Habits: This Year’s Progress

wintertime-bymarion-text

With spring coming next week, I thought it would be nice to recap all the frugal wintertime habits we put into practice this year. Most of them were inspired by other bloggers I have been reading these past few years, for example here, here, here or here. Even though I don’t believe that individual actions alone can change the world (I think we need some serious thinking, political debate and action too), I have found it very useful and inspiring to read about other people’s progress toward a greener and simpler life. It has helped me realize there were many changes I could make in my everyday life that would benefit both planet and people. Last year, inspired by zero waste ideas, I stopped buying tea bags and started using handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues. It wasn’t difficult, it was a change of perspective. And it saved me some money, too. For me personally, every new penny-saving habit is precious because it gives me time I can spend away from a job that made me unhappy, building something I find more meaningful instead. Here’s the progress we made this winter to save even more energy, labor, and money:

We’ve stopped buying canned beans and peas. We cook dried ones instead. We found that it’s not so time-consuming if you’re well organized: we make a big batch every two weeks or so. We soak them overnight, cook them on the wood stove (which is also our main heating source), and freeze then in small glass jars. It’s very quick to thaw them as we need them by filling the jar with boiling water. This way we have plenty of balanced, delicious and quickly prepared vegetarian meals. Whenever we run out of homemade houmous, for example, we grab a jar of chickpeas in the freezer and make some more. We also save the broth when cooking kidney beans. It makes delicious minestrone soup.

Last fall I wrote about being a vegetable freak and learning to love winter vegetables. I’m happy to say that the love affair has gone quite well all winter long, and we’ve almost completely replaced arugula and lettuce by carrots, parsnip, cabbage and celery.

There’s nothing like a good cup of tea to keep warm or fight a cold (in the event of which I use the handkerchiefs I sewed last year!). We’ve stopped buying tea bags when we realized that using a infuser was just as good and generated less waste. Last year’s harvest of peppermint and nettles made delicious tea for several months. I hope to harvest enough plants and herbs this year again to make tea all winter long.

Whenever we use the oven, we try to bake several things in a row. We often bake a cake after we’ve made a loaf of bread. If we don’t eat it straight away, we slice it and freeze it so that we always have something ready in case someone turns out for fika.

Our fridge/freezer is old and it’s noisy when it goes off. But since it works ok, we’re reluctant to throw it away and get a newer one. Luckily, we live in a cold climate. Everything we need to freeze cools down (often even freezes) outside before going into the freezer. Whenever it’s below zero, we also rotate a couple of water bottles or ice packs so that there’s always one freezing outside and one in the fridge to help it a little. We might be over-optimistic, but we’re pretty sure it goes off less often when we’re doing this.

Before we finished installing the wood stove, hot water bottles were a must. We simply repurposed empty glass bottles. We still use them whenever it’s really cold. We sleep much better in a cool room, but we’re not (that) crazy either!

As our neighbors recommended, after the big snowfall in January, we piled the snow against the walls of the house. We really noticed a difference in terms of insulation, especially on windy days.

We don’t have a tumble drier. But in the cold season, we don’t miss it at all. When it’s below zero, the air is very dry, and laundry dries quickly. We hang it outside in the sun, or next to the wood stove (keeping fire safety in mind, of course!). Our drying rack is a repurposed metal bed frame.

repurposed headboard drying rack

I’ve learned a lot more about knitting this winter. Thanks to very helpful YouTube videos and my grandma’s detailed explanations, I learned how to make hats, cowls, mittens, and socks. I’m really happy to be able to make these myself.

And, last but not least:pillows-bymarion-text

Making pillow cases from old shirts is really fun. Spring or not spring, I’m looking for more fabric to practice. If you have old shirts you don’t use, email me! I’ll be happy to make you a pillow case.

Finally, I must say that everything on this list felt much more like a satisfying change of perspective than like a painful sacrifice.

Now for frugal spring plans: we will take advantage of sunnier and warmer days to complete our pallet furniture projects, and prepare our first vegetable garden around our tiny red house.

How about you? What new frugal habits did you form this winter? What frugal plans do you have for spring?


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on neighbors and apple cake

apples-small

My neighbor is almost 90 and we don’t speak the same language. In his garden, he has a beautiful apple tree.

When I first moved to Scandinavia, I landed in a big city. I rarely stammered anything in my new language because all my neighbors spoke English very well. In my green, tidy, fancy neighborhood, every garden had its own beautiful apple tree.

The apples, though, remained largely unpicked. They fell, and rotted. Sometimes, a few remained on the trees after the snow came, dressing them with red dots, looking like Christmas bulbs. It was beautiful, and stupid.

This fall, just a few days after I ended up in this tiny village here up north, my 90 years old neighbor, who doesn’t speak English, told me that he had too many apples and that I could pick as many as I wanted from his tree.

I stammered, in my new language: thank you, thank you so much, that is so nice of you.

I’ve spoken different languages and lived in neighborhoods with apple trees before, but this, you see, had never happened to me.

———————–

The apple cake of good neighbors

Ingredients

3 dL flour
2 dL sugar
1 ts baking soda
1 dL sour milk or yoghurt
2 eggs
1/2 dL neutral vegetable oil (I use peanut oil)
1 pinch of vanilla sugar

2-3 of the neighbor’s apples. (If your neighbor happens to have a plum tree instead, grab a bunch of plums. It’s delicious too)

Instructions

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add liquids/eggs and mix well. Pour in a buttered pan. Slice the fruits and arrange them on top of the batter. Place in a warm oven (200°C). Bake until the top is golden (about half an hour). Lower the oven temperature to 150°C and continue baking for another half hour or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

on growing food and carrot greens soup

last-harvest-small

That’s about it. The last harvest of the season. Not pictured: a nice bunch of salads, a bunch of peppermint, and the last blueberries from the forest. The herbs and flowers, we dried and saved to slowly enjoy in cups of tea and sprinkled over pizza through the winter. The vegetables, we savored – every last one of them. Picked about a month ago, and now, long gone.

I was pretty sure that I had never wasted much food. But growing my own – or, more precisely, growing only a tiny little part of it – I’m learning my lesson: there’s still room for improvement. Before growing carrots myself, I had never wondered, silly me, if you could eat carrot greens. I’m glad I know that now, because they make a delicious soup.

Here’s to growing, what? A week’s worth of carrots?
Next year, hopefully, we’ll grow some more.


Carrot Greens Soup
adapted from this recipe

Serves 4 as a starter, or 2 as a main meal with home baked bread and cheese or hummus.

Ingredients
– The greens from a bunch of carrots (about half the carrots pictured above). I removed the stem-like parts and kept only the leafy parts.
– 3 potatoes, pealed and diced
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 clove of garlic
– 3 tablespoons of oil
– 1 pinch of fenugreek, or 1 cube of stock
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 liter of water

Instructions
Sauté the onions and garlic in oil. Add the potatoes and carrot greens and brown for 4-5 minutes while stirring.
Pour the water and add seasoning. Bring to a light boil, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Blend and enjoy. Never
EVER again throw away any carrot greens.