Incoming Fruit!

Pear-Grape Jam & Pear Butter

fruitDespite the April freeze, which managed to hit after a March so warm that all the fruit had already blossomed, a goodly amount of concord and muscadine grapes managed to overcome the stress, and the cinnamon pears are falling at easily twice their usual size. And while harvest is a few weeks early this year due to the extraordinarily warm spring, the fruit is super-luscious from a summer of more than ample rainfall.

After the hail got my corn crop and the super-weeds got my tomatoes, it’s nice that something’s coming in with enough abundance that I’ll be able to trade pear butter and jam for all the crops that failed in the lower terraces. Will need another two or three dozen half-pint jars before it’s over, but August is its usual perfect weather (August and September in these mountains are absolutely the most perfect-weather months of the year, though not the most colorful). It’s cool enough to start the indoor processing, so that’s just what I’m doing.

Processing is a several-part ordeal, but will then give me plenty of pear mash and grape mush to construct the goodies. Today I have enough pears to fill my heavy stock pot half full after chopping, about 18 individual pears. Wash and remove the stems. Quarter and then half the quarters. Even bruised areas are good, just be sure to excise any actually rotten spots. Add enough water to keep the pears from sticking (about half a cup), and bring to a boil covered over medium heat for about 12-15 minutes. Stir it a few times to make sure all the pieces get good and soft, remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes to reduce the originally added water. Push the resulting ‘stuff’ through a sieve to get the seeds and skins out, stir in a tablespoon of ascorbic acid (available in the canning section) or two tablespoons of lemon juice, and set the pulp aside.

Then it’s the grapes’ turn. Add a quart of stemmed grapes to a half pint of water and again bring to a boil covered, over medium heat. When it’s been going for about 10 minutes mash with a potato masher to separate the innards from the skins. Continue to boil lightly uncovered until the innards liquify (about 10 minutes). Sieve the results as with the pears to remove seeds and skins. Reserve juice.

Now you’re ready to make Pear-Grape Jam…

Easy, Low-Sugar Pear-Grape Jam

• 3 1/2 cups pear pulp
• 3 1/2 cups grape pulp
• 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary
• 1/2 cup raw local honey

In a heavy stock pot combine the pulps, honey, and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about a cup.

Remove from heat and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary sprig (be careful to not lose any of the needles). Pour or ladle the jam into hot, sterilized half-pint condiment jars, leaving 1/8″ head space. Wipe the rims clean and attach sterilized lids, screw on the caps finger-tight.

Process 10 minutes in water bath canner, cool on a wire rack. Before storing make sure the lids have popped to indicate vacuum. Should fill 6 half-pint jars.
_____

Ball makes very pretty half-pint jars, which are just the right size for gifts or trade. These can be further “fancied” for the purpose of gifting by cutting out circles of bright fabric to place over the lids but under the screw caps. Great hostess gifts for the upcoming holiday parties, and as part of Christmas edible gifts of fudge, cookies, dried veggie crackers and jam.

If you, like me, have way more pears than grapes, you can always just make pear butter to gift or trade (or delight your own family with at breakfast time)…

Easy Pear Butter

Process pears as above, then sieve to remove seeds and skin. Return to pot and add [per 3 cups of pulp):

• 1 tbsp. ascorbic acid
• 1/4 cup raw local honey
• 1 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
• 2 tsp. ground ginger
• 1 tsp. ground allspice
• 1/4 cup orange juice

Slowly bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Ladle into sterile half-pint jars. Wipe lips clean and attach lids, screw caps finger-tight. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, remove and cool.

Financial Mistakes that Newlyweds Make

Many couples differ in their methods of spending and when you agree to wed, it may come as a shock to discover that your future spouse doesn’t exactly have the greatest finances. Marriages often revolve around the idea of compromise and honesty. Even so, around 50 percent of all marriages will end in divorce, many of which are caused by lack of communication and money troubles.

In this article, you will have the opportunity to see what kinds of monetary stresses couples face and how they can be resolved with minimal conflict.

1. A spouse loses their job

The problem with losing a job is, for the most part, a lack of multiple incomes for wedded couples. While it is unfortunate, you have to start tightening your budget in order to survive. If you haven’t done so already, make a note of both of your debts, expenses, and account totals. Start with your static expenses such as your rent or mortgage, car payments, student loans, and any other necessities. Next, you’ll want to write down your variable expenses which can change according to your lifestyle and work on reducing them.

 

Designing a budget based upon this information will reduce your chances of requiring emergency cash. Following this method could also help with future finances, even after your spouse returns to work.

2. Separation of church and debt

Though you are now in an equal partnership, the debt may not be equal for both parties. Make a financial plan to get yourselves, as a couple, out of debt. If nothing else, avoid getting married until you can afford it or until you have paid off your negative balances. Sit down with your partner and decide what you can afford to spend on various expenses. Don’t be afraid to compromise when deciding what is necessary and what isn’t. Just don’t sacrifice your finances for things you don’t think you can absolutely afford.

3. No emergency fund

Life is always going to throw those curve balls at you and if you’re financially unprepared for these little hitches, you may find yourself in a hole. If nothing else, this will give you financial security and ensure that you both can sleep at night. By the time you establish a fund, it should be able to support the two of you for at least three to six months of unemployment. Although it may sound grim, looking into getting a will drafted up in the case of you or your new spouse’s untimely death may be wise.

4. Buying the house on the hill

It may sound like the American dream to buy a house after you get married, but it may not be a reality. Before buying, realize your house payments shouldn’t exceed more than 25 percent of your pay after taxes, though you might bump that down to 15 percent if you’re unsure about the future.

5. A baby

It’s important to keep in mind that it costs around $300,000 to raise a child from diapers to college. Babies also require a lot of time, patience, and a definite plan for emergencies so don’t put off saving up money. Keep the unexpected expenses in mind, the cost of college, and the possibility that you’ll be sending them money after they graduate while they work to secure a career for themselves. Regardless of all your careful planning, if you run into an emergency situation you’ll always have the ability to get money.

Conclusion

Marriage is a bond between two people and is the start of managing everything together as a team. One person’s financial problems can quickly pull down the other if you don’t manage it wisely from the beginning.