The Beginning of my Processed Food Avoidance Project
With all the talk lately about how bad processed foods are for you, I’m becoming afraid to eat them. I know this is probably a bit irrational; the majority of Americans eat a variety of processed foods every day, and they seem to be doing okay. But I take one look at the ingredients in my store-bought hummus or yogurt, and I realize that I only know what half the ingredients are. The other ingredients are a mystery: preservatives I assume, but to me they’re nothing more than long words with an uncommon number of x’s and z’s in them. Putting that stuff in my body freaks me out a little.
So I’ve started reading the labels on the foods I eat at home, making sure that I know what it is that I am eating. Although buying groceries with only FOOD ingredients can get awfully pricey. And because those foods lack preservatives, they spoil much faster. We’ve thrown out many a loaf of bakery bread this summer after finding grey-green mold on it well before a loaf of Wonderbread would have gone bad.
But I think it’s more important to put good-quality products in my body than to save a dollar or two. (There is a good chance I won’t feel this way next year when I graduate from college and start paying for my own groceries, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes….)
Now jellies and jams aren’t as bad as many other processed foods. I generally recognize most of the ingredients in my jams, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to make jam at home to control sugar content and to make sure that it contains strictly food ingredients (and that it is packed with fresh blueberries and strawberries). Turns out, jelly is especially easy to make, and homemade jelly is definitely tastier than store bought. The next time you are having a special breakfast or teatime, give it a go.
This summer I’m going to keep trying to make the foods that I usually buy processed. I’m curious to see if I notice a difference in flavor or in how my body feels after I eat. Pasta, bread, and hummus are next on the list. I’ll let you know how it turns out! (Noodles seem awfully complicated…Wish me luck! I may need it….)
image by Chelsea Sonksen
Easy-to-Make Blueberry Strawberry Jelly
Chelsea Sonksen, Editorial Assistant
3½ cups blueberries, picked over and washed
1½ cups strawberries, hulled, washed, and sliced
¼ cup lemon juice
4 cups white sugar
Gently smash half of your berries, leaving the other half in large chunks. Bring fruit and lemon juice to a boil. Simmer until the fruit is soft (about 10 minutes).
Remove from the heat and stir in sugar until it is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil until it reaches “setting point.” (At first I had no idea what this meant. Apparently it is when the pectin in the fruit sets. When the big, plopping bubbles start forming, it has likely reached setting point. If you have a thermometer, it should be approximately 221º.)
Pour jelly in a warm sterilized jar. (Note: Sterilize your jar by washing it, covering it with water in a pan, and boiling it for five minutes.)
As soon as you pour the jelly in the jar, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the jelly (so it doesn’t form a skin). Let the jam cool and put a metal lid on it.
Serve on a big piece of freshly made bread, toasted!