Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Homemade Tangerine Syrup Experiment

After much deliberation about renting, or renting to own, a house with a good amount of land, or moving back into the house we own, we chose to move back into the house we own, for the time being.  We decided that this was the best deal for us right now, as it was the least expensive way for us to live, allowing us to use any expendable income to rent to own vacant land that we can garden, and eventually build a house on. Our house is a good size, at 1620 sq ft, with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a living room and a family room, and a 2 car garage.  We also have a pool and our land is a double lot. So there is enough room for gardening here.

We also live on a main road, so the kids can't play out front anyway, so the entire front yard, as well as at least one, if not both, of the side yards, will make for garden space.  

We also have a mature tangerine tree!  I must say, I'm really happy to be here. The house is big, and so is the kitchen!  I've even started cooking again.  And so it was the other morning, as I made my kids French Toast, while they sat at the bar and watched me, that my eldest said to me "Mom, we should make our own syrup, like healthy syrup, like apple and grape syrup."

The wheels started to turn, and I got all kinds of ideas.  After all, IHOP has blueberry, boysenberry, and blackberry syrup, why not other fruit flavored syrups?  So I set about doing some research on homemade syrup, and I asked my friend Lee Dobbins, Best Selling Kindle Author of "Healing Desserts" and "Healing Herbs & Spices" what she knew.  She easily found me two sites that show how to make maple syrup and blueberry syrup. 

I decided to start with the tangerines, because I have the tree in the yard and they just happen to be in season right now too.

Here's what we did:

First: We picked the fruit right off the tree.

At first, I thought this was a loquat tree.  The tangerines are very, very small, and I recall a friend of mine from many years ago, showing me a loquat tree she had in her yard, and the size and color were so similar.  But... after picking one and smelling it's boquet, I realized that it smelled, and looked, like a tangerine.  

Step 2:  Peel the tangerines.
I'd guess this to be around 4 cups of tangerines.  I only wanted to attempt 1 cup for now, since we just moved in, aren't fully unpacked and I don't have proper canning tools for preserving.  But the kids had so much fun picking the fruit, that I just let them go.  We all enjoyed picking at the tangerines all day too.  I even made them part of the kids Saturday 'make your own lunchable' lunch-  (Ritz and Saltine Crackers, cheddar and swiss cheese, turkey slices, grapes and our brand new tangerines, fresh from the tree.  

I gave the kids a separate bowl for saving the peels for composting

And then I added today's coffee grounds to it 

(here on the "Nature Coast" of the Sunshine State, we don't have 'soil', we have 'sand', so I have to do all I can to enrich the soil... I'll be using this particular composting formula for my blueberry bushes, since they thrive in acidic soil)

Step 3:  is where I screwed up.  I ran all over town today looking for a blender.  But didn't find one I liked anywhere.  (hours later, after hearing me complain ALL DAY about not being able to find a blender, my darling husband informed me that our food processor was in the garage... <strangles husband>).

I used the bottom of a coffee cup to 'smoosh' the fruit through a strainer and into a bowl under the strainer...

Mistake Part II- I hadn't actually 'read' all the directions on the site Lee gave me

  • I finally put 1 cup of fruit in a large spaghetti pot... (5 qt pot maybe...)
  • "Smooshed" the fruit with a ladel
  • Turned the burner on high, and brought it to a rapid boil
  • Strained in a strainer, into a bowl
  • Poured 1 cup of sugar into the mix
  • Stirred until thick
  • Poured into a creamer cup- (it was handy, and I'm sacrificing my 'creamer' for my coffee for this, so be nice!- I'm improvising until we finish unpacking.)
  • Then I put the syrup in the fridge to chill.

I'm going to make some French Toast slices for dinner tonight, and let everyone try the new syrup.

Once I followed the directions, the process actually doesn't take long at all, mainly because I'm only making small amounts thus not needing any canning equipment or procedures for canning.  I'm sure I will start that eventually, as part of 'prepping,' but for now, it's just fun to experiment with new recipes from fresh foods which we do or will grow ourselves, learning how to be creative with food, especially food that we can and will grow. 

Plus, it's teaching our kids to think creatively and tactically for their own survival.  

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