Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vinegar. Don't Cheap Out!!

Okay, I have noticed this recently, and it is starting to bug me. The grocery stores in my area are getting pretty slack in stocking brand name vinegar. I know, they want to sell their store brand, to make a little more money, but is that little bit of extra money really worth forgoing the slotting fees companies pay to have their products on the shelves, and cost to our environment?
How does this affect our environment? Simple, most (if not all) store brand vinegars are made from petroleum. Yep, the same stuff they use to make gas for your car, Vaseline, plastics, and many additives in the food you eat and the medicine you take. Pretty gross, huh?
When buying vinegar (or anything, for that matter) check to make sure it's a natural product. Natural vinegar is made from grains (or apples, in the case of apple cider vinegar). This is the stuff you want. Yes, it can be a little more expensive, especially when all the grocery store will carry are the super small bottles of the natural stuff (for $3.98) and then the gallon size in the store brand only (for $2.00).
I know times are hard, people are out of work, and money is tight all around. But think about what you are really paying for. When you buy synthetic products, you are saving money, but the Earth suffers in return.
Do you want the planet to still be habitable when your grandkids are growing up? If you do, then buy vinegar made from grains (or apples) and when buying ANYTHING, check the label. Do your part (even if it's a small one) and buy natural products!

Peace and love,
from the swamps of the PeeDee

Canned Peaches, 5 months later...

Some of you may have seen my post on my first canning experience. I canned peaches and okra. The okra was an epic fail. I ended up having to call my cousin and tell him to toss the jar I gave him, because I didn't think I did it right, and didn't want him (or his little girl) to get sick. This was so embarrassing. And that got me wondering...did I do the peaches right?
Fruit, and tomatoes, are easier to can, because they are high acid produce. Low acid fruits and veggie's require a little more work. If you are just starting out, I would suggest starting easy, do tomatoes, or fruit. Be careful with these too, though. Some of the newer, hybrid tomatoes do not have the acid content that the older varieties have, so you may need to add vinegar to the mix to bring the acidity up. (Please check you books on this, because I am no expert, and these are not intended to be exact directions.)
Now, on to the peaches. I was a little concerned about it, so they sat in our pantry. Until this past week. Money was a little short, so we were eating from the pantry instead to going to the store once a week for fresh stuff. My girls are fruit addicts. So they kept bugging me about fruit, fruit, and more fruit. So, out came the peaches.
My husband was the guinea pig for this experiment. He knew I was a little concerned, so he did the first test taste. And he didn't get sick! I DID IT RIGHT!! Yay!
One thing I noticed with the peaches is that the ones at the top of the jar started to discolor a little. Not sure if it's because I didn't use a heavy syrup, or maybe I just didn't put enough syrup in the jars. But, discolored or not, the peaches have been a life saver (by reducing tantrums, and saving us some money) and a welcome comfort. Warm spiced peaches on warm bread (either warmed up, or homemade) is a wonderful treat on a cold winter day (which we have had many of this year).
So, my canning advice for beginners is: start with something easy. Do your homework before you begin. And, if you suspect a problem, just toss the stuff. It may seem like a big loss, what with all the produce and the time involved, but it would be a much bigger loss if you or someone you loved got sick from something you canned.
Here is a link explaining the main risk in canned foods.
One of the most powerful natural toxins is botulism. This is the bacteria that can grow in honey (hence, not giving honey to kids under the age 1, a rule we have broken and never had problems with, but we use local honey from a trusted supplier) and in improperly canned food. Read up on it. Educate yourself. And then, start getting your equipment together, because canning season isn't that far away!
Happy Gardening!