Before I begin this post, I would just like to issue the following disclaimer: I am not now, nor will I ever be, a Martha Stewart protégé. In fact, on my third date with my now husband, I proudly proclaimed, “I am not domestic, and I’ll probably never be.” And for the most part, I’ve held true to that statement. On the rare night that I “cook” it usually involves heating up a bag of frozen gnocchi from Trader Joe’s.
It should come as no surprise that my husband burst into laughter when I informed him that I was going to make grape soda. While I may not be Holly Homemaker, I am cheap, and it bugged me to no avail that we had a full bag of grapes that was past its peak of freshness and fruit would once again go to waste in our house. I love going to the grocery store in the spring and summer and filling my cart with fresh berries, peaches, mangoes and more, but by the week’s end, half of it invariably winds up in the trash. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, but I decided to get creative with fruit and put an end to the waste.
So I set my sites on the bags of grapes. Why not turn the fading bunches into fresh-squeezed grape juice and mix it with seltzer water. Voila! Grape soda!
After a quick tutorial from my husband on how to use the juicer, I threw the grapes in and, within seconds, had about three-quarter cups of juice. I poured a small amount into a glass with a splash of seltzer, took a sip and was amazed at 1.) the potency of fresh fruit juice, and 2.) how awesome the drink was. I poured no more than a quarter cup of juice and 8 ounces of seltzer in a glass for myself and my husband, who was equally pleased. I have to say I was pretty proud of myself.
Bolstered by my success, I decided to set my sites on some leftover strawberries and set about making “healthy” popsicles for my son. As a kid, one of my favorite treats was orange juice or lemonade frozen in popsicle molds. When I spotted those same molds at Target, I was inspired to do the same for him. (Land of Nod also sells them.) But I have to be honest with you: As delicious as the homemade soda was, cleaning the juicer was a pain (explains why it has sat unused on our shelf). To keep things easy, I decided to puree the strawberries with a hand mixer and thin it with some water. Since it was the end of strawberry season, the strawberries were on the tart side, so I added a little white grape juice to sweeten it up. I popped the mold in the freezer and waited 24 hours to taste.
After dinner the following night, I pulled the popsicles out of the fridge to begin my taste test. I was a little dismayed from the get-go when I had trouble getting the popsicles out of the mold, but a little hot water did the trick. I gave the popsicle to Jack, my tester, expecting a negative response. My husband and I also shared one, and we both agreed that it needed a touch more sugar—the next time I’ll thin it with simple syrup if the fruit isn’t sweet. I expected my son to take one lick and throw the popsicle on the floor—that’s his way of communicating he doesn’t like something—but, shockingly, he ate the entire thing with great gusto. I guess my popsicles received the “kid-approved” stamp.
Nine out of 10 of my kitchen adventures go awry, so I was thrilled that my fruit experiments went over so well. The key, I find, is keeping the “recipe” simple and stress-free. I now have my palate set on freezing fresh fruit-and-yogurt smoothies as a replacement for frozen Go-Gurt.
What about you? What are your solutions for leftover fruit?
Anne Taulane is a mother of one with another on the way, and the editor of Pennsylvania’s Wine & Spirits Quarterly. When she’s not thinking about wine and spirits, she writes about family, health, and pregnancy.