My inner pilgrim began with ten pounds of green beans

Yesterday, my elderly neighbor was having a little trouble with her back and asked me to pick her green beans yesterday. She is 86, and aside from the remarkable fact that she still tends a substantial garden, I was happy to help. We are often the recipient of her garden goodies and I have been wanting to find a way to repay her.

After spending about 40 minutes plucking beans in the noonday sun, I not only developed a greater appreciation for all that she does,  but filled a bucket with about 10 pounds of plump string beans and carried them into her home.

She promptly took a pound or two out and insisted I take the remainder, including a dozen tomatoes and a few cucumbers. If they had not been a gift from her, I may have simply tossed the beans into the refrigerator and forgotten them, but this gift held great responsibility for me. This is her ministry–she lives with the knowledge that she is blessed by God by blessing others. So, I blanched all the beans, sliced the tomatoes and threw them all into the dehydrator overnight. This morning, they were all bagged and stored in the basement for the winter.

Something about dragging out the dehydrator and preserving the produce ignited my inner pilgrim. Walking to get the mail,  I noticed the neighbor’s pear and apple trees. All are dropping fruit each day and he never uses any of it. Then, for some unknown reason, the chokeberry bushes in our yard captured my attention. Until yesterday, I thought they were poisonous. Thankfully, I did a little research and found that chokeberries, otherwise known as aronia berries–are extremely healthy. In fact, they are one of the newest Superberries.

This little black gems are packed with

  • Antioxidants
  • Polyphenols
  • Anthocyanins
  • Quinic Acid
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Flavonols

Studies have found that they help to prevent colon cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation,  circulatory problems, influenza and urinary tract infections.

Who would have guessed those little gems would be flourishing in our yard? I did my research, snipped the berries, popped them in the freezer so they would be easier to pull off the stems, picked up a hot water bath canner, some jars, pectin, sugar and found some recipes.

Because these berries are rather tart and on the bitter side, it’s best to mix them with other ingredients.
Bright and early, I popped on a colonial style apron to get in the mood and got busy. 

With the advice of friends and relatives who know more about these berries than I do,  a few concoctions were created in the confines of my own non-pilgrim kitchen:

Chokeberry-black raspberry jam
Chokeberry -strawberry jam
Chokeberry-grape-apple-pear sauce
and Chokeberry-apple juice

All in all, I canned about 6 quarts of juice and another 25 pints of the other mixtures. It was a very fulfilling day–and addictive. I find myself thinking about what else to can or dehydrate. Perhaps next on the list is to conquer my fear of the pressure canner. A little accident in 1980, in the Food Science building at UW Madison with an exploding pressure canner might be the reason for my hesitancy……and that’s all I’m sayin’

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