red, black, and white currants picked from our bushes

Currant Pie

 

Several years ago, when Joe was really into learning about permaculture and increasing the productivity of our little woodland homestead, he purchased about 30 fruit trees and bushes from an online nursery to add to our landscaping.  We spent one weekend planting them all over the place, some of them in the contour beds that Joe installed in the yard to help with water runoff, some of them along the edges where our yard stops and the forest begins, some of them in garden beds next to the house, and some of them in the raised beds in the garden. 

 

Many of the trees didn’t make it – which is always a disappointing and disheartening part of homesteading or gardening – but several varieties seemed to take really well to our rocky soil and our harsh growing environment (cold winters, not much sun, deer munching on everything they can find, three boys running and biking all over everything…).  One of the top performers are the currant bushes, which produce red, black, and white berries at this time of year.

 

3 currant bushes along tree line on our propertyred currants in Julyblack currant hanging on bush in July

 

Some others that are thriving (or at least surviving) are gooseberries and goumi berries.  I haven’t figured out what to do with those yet and, to be honest, we’ve never had enough to have extras after the boys are done harvesting and eating their share straight from the bushes.  But maybe there will be another post about those berries some day!

 

Last weekend, Joe and our oldest son went outside to see how many currants they could find on our 3 bushes and came back with 2 quarts!  And when I asked the kids what we should make with them, they all voted for currant pie!  So here is the recipe that we followed, which is from one of my favorite seasonal cookbooks: Simply in Season.  We chose to use a crumble topping but you could also make this with a second crust on top. 

 

[We were pressed for time and I’m also following a limited gluten diet at the moment so we used a premade gluten-free pie crust for the one in the picture.  When we make homemade pie crusts, we use this recipe from The Prairie Homestead.  We use whole wheat flour and lard from a local pig farmer.]

 

Currant Pie
Print
Ingredients
  1. 9-inch pastry shell
  2. 1 cup cane sugar or honey
  3. 3 Tablespoons wheat flour
  4. 3 cups currants
  5. 1/3 cup water
Crumb Topping
  1. 1 cup wheat flour
  2. 1/2 cup cane sugar
  3. 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  4. 3 Tablespoons butter
  5. 1 Tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Prepare your pie crust (either homemade or premade).
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. In the bottom of the crust, sprinkle a small amount of the sugar. Mix remaining sugar and flour together. Then add the currants and water. Pour mixture into the pie crust.
  4. Either cover with a second crust into which vent holes have been made or prepare crumb topping as described below.
  5. For the crumb topping: Mix together flour, sugar and nuts (if using). Cut in butter and oil using two knives to make a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle crumb topping over pie filling.
  6. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!
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Healthy Eating on Vacation - a romantic dinner prepared in our cabin kitchen

Healthy Eating on Vacation

When we go away on vacation, we naturally want to be able to forget about the daily grind back at home.  And for those of us who are used to preparing food at home, this can include cooking meals.  We would love to go away and have someone else take care of our every need, from cleaning and cooking to scheduling and providing entertainment.  And for some people, maybe that is even possible.  However, if you are someone who requires a specific diet – maybe because of food allergies or sensitivities or just because your body responds best to healthy, non-processed foods – or if you are trying to minimize expenses while away on vacation, it probably makes the most sense to plan ahead and prepare some or all of your own food. 

 

In our family, we’ve gotten to the point where we only look for vacation rentals that have a kitchen available for us to use while we are there.  Then we stock up on our local favorites…meats from our local butcher, fresh eggs from our chickens, raw milk, cheeses and yogurt from a local dairy, veggies from our CSA, fruits from a local orchard, homemade granola and bread and muffins, a homemade dessert or two and lots of our favorite snacks.  I also usually do some research into the area where we are vacationing and map out some local farm markets or healthy grocery stores, as well as one or two farm-to-table restaurants so we can go out to eat at least once while we are away.  [TIP: localharvest.org is a great resource when it comes to scoping out local farms and restaurants at your vacation spot!]

 

True, this can add some extra stress to the planning and packing stages of vacation, and it will certainly take up more packing space in the car, but we’ve been vacationing this way for years now and it’s definitely the best way to go for our family. 

 

A few years ago, Joe and I went on a big getaway to Puerto Rico while the kids spent the week with family.  I had visions of it being like a second honeymoon…care-free, romantic, and relaxing.  Because we were flying so far away, we didn’t pack anything other than a few emergency granola bars in our carry-on bag.  After a few blissful days spent in the rainforest, I started to develop a very uncomfortable stomachache that ended up lasting for the remainder of the trip.  We did nothing but eat out at the restaurants where we were staying both in the rainforest and then later at the beach.  The menu was limited and there were virtually no healthy options to be found.  And my poor digestive tract did not enjoy our vacation at all.  So, from that experience, I’ve learned that romantic getaways must include a kitchen and homemade food. 

 

I’ve found that this can be romantic and enjoyable in itself.  Joe and I love to cook together and rarely get the chance to do so at home.  Cooking on vacation gives us a chance to bring back an old favorite activity and then enjoy the fruits of our labors together.  The picture at the top of this post is a delicious dinner that we prepared together on a recent tenth anniversary trip to the Finger Lakes in NY.  We brought the pork chops and salad ingredients from home, purchased from a local pig farm and our CSA.  Then we picked up the corn and apples at a local farm stand down the road from our cabin.  We grilled the pork chops, apple halves, and corn in the husk on a grill outside our cabin.  And the wine was from a local Finger Lakes winery.  Here are a few pictures of other meals we prepared and enjoyed on our vacation… 

 

 

Healthy Eating on Vacation - homemade omelets and fresh coffee

Breakfast – omelets and fresh coffee made in our cabin kitchen

 

Healthy Snacks on Vacation - crackers and cheese from home served with local grapes purchased at a farm stand near our cabin and wine from a local winery

Healthy Snacks – crackers and cheese from home served with local grapes purchased at a farm stand near our cabin and wine from a local winery

 

Healthy Breakfast on Vacation - yogurt and homemade granola both from home topped with local pears

Breakfast – yogurt and homemade granola both from home topped with local pears

 

So, if you are planning a family vacation or a romantic getaway for this summer, maybe consider looking for a place with a kitchen where you can bring along all of your favorite foods and prepare them in a (mostly) stress-free environment.  You might be surprised how much you enjoy the experience and I promise that your body will thank you!