Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches

That's what my husband called the 15 pounds each of Asian pears and pomegranates that we "salvaged" from the free produce haul that we receive each week for our animals.

The content varies widely, so you never know if it's going to be an all cabbage week, or whether it's pumpkins and cantaloupes that will be the fuel for this week's eggs. It is a mystery, and it is incredibly interesting and very revealing of our flawed modern perception of food. We first-worlders expect our food to be impeccable looking, perfectly ripe/prime and always available. And when it's not, it's only fit for lowly animals or worse yet, dumped into a landfill. It is insanity.

My chickens will eat pomegranates, if you cut them in half so that they can get in there and gobble up the juice-filled capsules at lightning speed. And I did give them a few pomegranates to enjoy (they're heart healthy!) before deciding to keep the rest for myself. I opted to juice them, as everyone in the family enjoys pomegranate juice and/or grenadine (which was my back up plan in case the juice was blah).

I found out the hard way that juicing a pomegranate with a citrus juicer is quite a bit of trouble for not a lot of yield. We got about a quart of juice from our 15+/- pounds of pomegranate. Not much, but it was free.

Then I was left to ponder the Asian pears. In case you aren't familiar, these are the little guys that look like an apple and a pear had a baby, and you'll usually see them displayed in their own little styrofoam mesh swaddling. They are that delicate and prized. They also tend to cost upwards of three dollars each. (FYI - and average sized pear in my batch was 6 ounces, which means that these puppies can and do go for about $14 per pound.) And I had 15 pounds to work with.

So I did what I usually do when presented with an ingredient that I'm not used to working with, I googled. Try it for yourself. Google "juicing Asian pears" (quotes and all), and you will get precisely one result. That is how insane the idea of having that quantity of this fruit on hand and not having a plan for it is.

Not having had any help via googling, I made an executive decision to steam juice the majority of my pears. A steam juicer is a marvel. It can coax the juice out of fruits that are otherwise hard or messy to juice, like berries and apples. My kids go nuts for fresh juice, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to taste the nectar of the fruit of Emperors. :)