Friday, 31 January 2020

Ice Cube Trays Economy and Eco

Yesterday I took some time out.  I did some work but then downed tools and did a little reading this time of some books I own and also some research into materials.  Those books have made me think and reconsider some of the ways I actually do things.  I personally learn so much by reading of how other people approach things as it helps refine your own techniques in processing ingredients or cooking something.

I am keen to get "greener" on cleaning materials and also more eco friendly in respect of trying to waste even less than I do so now.  However, this particular post is more orientated to food items that can be very useful if saved.

In respect of food waste have come up with some more ideas on what to do with little bits and bobs of food, which once built up I think could be incredibly useful in my kitchen. The idea is simply to freeze little bits and bobs in ice cube trays using oil or water. You can use different oils and also fizzy water.

I love pretty ice cubes in any event.  When the violets and the strawberry flowers are out I freeze some of these in water, any edible flower can be frozen this way.  Lilac, primroses, elderflowers, rose petals are also suitable. I also freeze lemon, lime and orange slices.   When I am on form for Christmas I create ice bowls or wine containers using water and foliage from late summer.  I use berries, flowers, foliage etc. for these but as they are not going to be eaten and are only holders, I am not as careful with these.   It adds extra colour and interest to a Christmas table. However as ice cubes go into your drink the contents need to be edible.

I have a stack of ice cube trays in the cupboard and it is time to get them working again and in use, freeing up more space in my cupboards. Having some fresh fruit ice cubes to add to drinks in the summer months seriously appeals to me. Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries any soft fruit are all doable.  You can also add little tiny sprigs of mint which would go seriously well with a Pimms or two, of which I happen to be partial to. Would also be lovely in fresh fruit juice or home made lemonade or in a jug of water.  Alternatively you can whizz up the fruit and puree it in a food processor, freeze in the ice cube trays and then once frozen add a couple of cubes or so to a glass of soda water. 

In respect of herbs the oil comes into play. Fill your trays up with your chosen single herb or mixed herbs and then fill with light olive oil on a ratio of one part herb three parts oil and freeze.  Will give you lovely flavoured oil for cooking with.  You just tip into the cooking pan from frozen.

You can in respect of the herbs also make herb butters with any left over herbs; yet again into ice cube trays and freeze.  Ideal for making garlic butter for garlic bread and serving individual portions of flavoured butter with seafood and also with steak.

If you have any leftover coffee in your Cafietiere, pour into your ice cube tray and then freeze as normal.  Fill a glass full of milk and then add some cubes, put whipped cream on top and you have an iced coffee.  Now that is refreshing on a hot summers day.

You can also freeze left over wine in this manner so that you can add extra oompf to that gravy or sauce. I already deal with various stocks in this way.

Such simple ideas, but ones with far reaching rewards which also helps you squeeze extra pennies out of left-overs.  This gives you something available and ready for when you need it, just for a little extra effort here and there.  Small amounts are worth freezing as they build up.  Just remember to make sure that the tray is labelled up with contents and try and keep like with like.  It helps keep stuff out of landfill as well.

Its a simple way of Waste Not, Want Not which all helps the purse strings and provides some nice treats along the way as well.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 30 January 2020

Bottling Bits and Bobs

At the moment, I am slowly wading through the things I have to do to accomplish a general sort out in the house.  It is very slow going.  One of my problems is that I get distracted quite easily from doing something, usually something associated from real life that takes me away from "playing" and sometimes finishing off projects.

As a result, a big pile of UFOs covering a variety of different crafts and projects has amassed and it needs sorting.  Particularly regarding my home made liqueurs that were put for steeping into jars and which have not been strained out of their jars as yet.

All is not lost however and getting these sorted will clear up a little more space and a little more clutter and mean that the bottled liqueur/preserves can be stashed together in a big box until I can strip out the under-stairs cupboard, wash and paint it.  

The cupboard also needs to be re-organised as some of the fittings (i.e. wine racks) need putting in a better location.  The shelves need to be covered/lined in readiness for re-stashing all my home preserved products.

There are a lot of filled jars of different products at the moment that need "homing" as I have been busy.  I tend to have my shelves organised with jams, pickles, chutneys, bottled and canned goods where I can (excuse the pun)!  It is not always possible to keep things organised but there is a rough plan as it were to make things easier to find.  The UFOs have left me with a couple of steeping jars to sort out and strain.  Jars with alcohol and wild fruit, or not so wild fruit and alcohol laced with sugar which need straining off.  There are a couple of jars of Limoncello in there as well.  Yum cannot wait to try that.  It is a good one for packing into a Christmas hamper.  

Therefore, the steeping jar contents need to be liberated and bottled so that my main soaking jars can be pressed back into service for a selection of new goodies yet to be made in this coming year.  In any one year I make Sloe (if I can get them), Limoncello, Cherry Brandy as well as Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Rhubarb and Mixed fruit.  The only downside of that is having a number of large steeping jars to wash.  Because they are wire framed closures on top they need to be hand-washed.  

I therefore need to deal with the "finings/sediment" and strain this off. For any kind of liqueur, I use coffee filters initially to take the thick off the "liqueur".  Sometimes it needs a second coffee filter straining if the sediment is quite thick and then after that I run it through some fine muslin afterwards.  You want it to look its best.  You have to let the drip through take its time as pushing things through can sometimes end up with a cloudier liqueur type drink.

Invariably what happens in my kitchen is that I tend to have "sessions" of straining and the contents are left to strain through a coffee filter in a nylon sieve over a jug on the work top in the kitchen. This is left for a good couple of hours to run through naturally. As soon as everything has gone through and stopped dripping I then set up a separate sieve lined with very fine muslin and strain it again. This should run through far quicker. I then bottle into sterilised bottles, seal and label.  You have to label as forgetting to can sometimes cause quite a bit of confusion.  Something I admit to doing in the past!  It is easier to make your own  "liqueurs" than to pay an absolute fortune for the manufactured or artisan product.  The only time I will consider buying such product now is if I get it on offer.  I am particularly fond of Botanics Gin (this costs about £40 a bottle)!
Because of the trend for Gin and Vodka this has seriously put the price up for said product.  However to make your own you only need a standard cheap Gin or Vodka to start with.  Making your own can give a lot of pleasure and in this way you can have days out foraging for the wild stuff and dream away at the kitchen table preparing infusions from fresh fruit, alcohol and sugar.  And of course the parties and celebrations where the liqueurs are "liberated" and imbibed all add to a wealth of memories, happiness and special people and a good way of living.  

When it comes to any type of preserving most of the containers used are jars or bottles of one type or another for either making product in or storing in.  In the case of wine-making the use of Demijohns and for jams, pickles, canned goods etc. some sort of jar or bottle.  You even store dehydrated goodies in jars.  Because I am so into preserving and have been for many years, needless to say I have an extensive stock of jars and bottles.  I also recycle any suitable jars or bottles that come my way.  I like it this way as it means that if the fancy takes me to make something on the spur of the moment I can just set to and start creating something.

In order not to waste things every so often I look at what I have to hand in the house and what needs using up and set too and make a useful preserve.  At the moment I have dried fruit, some cooking apples and some cans of Guinness.

I have plans to turn this into a chutney as per the recipe here:

Sometimes, if I get a net of onions that is getting past its best, I will turn what remains into an onion marmalade or an onion relish.  I am also thinking about creating my own stock of dried onions although to date this is something that is on the list to do and which I have not yet tried.  We not only like lots of onions, we like garlic, spring onions, leeks, shallots etc. and use them extensively.

Under seasonal rules for preserving there are set periods throughout the year when you make this or you make that.  Usually when that particular item is at its peak and can be cropped readily.  However, due to the availability of goods through supermarkets etc.  It would be a dereliction of duty if you as the "Chatelaine" of your castle and family did not take advantage of any produce that came your way and turned it into something tasty and then "squirrel" it away for when times are leaner and produce not as prolific.  Bargains come in all shapes and sizes and if you manage to find a load of stuff drastically reduced in price then it does not matter that the stuff is not "in season" you have to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.  It is at the end of the day our responsibility to feed our families in whatever way we can.  This year, and as mentioned in previous posts, I am going to (and have been) getting a "wriggle on" with preserving generally across the board.  Putting up stuff for the pantry shelf, using various preserving techniques is par for the course in this household.  Utilising dehydrating, jam making, pickles, chutneys, jellies, pastes, curds, the freezer, canning etc. are all good well trodden methods of preserving.

This year I am going to do more than I have done with the dehydrator.  The more I do the more I am finding to do.  It also saves pennies and fits into my "Waste Not, Want Not" philosophy.  I am lucky in that I have two dehydrators. One a cheap one bought for drying herbs and little bits and bobs in and the other the all singing all dancing 9 tray Excalibur which I am tending to use more for batch preparation.  I am putting stuff away that you cannot necessarily buy on a supermarket shelf.  That is one of my main reasons for having the dehydrators in that you get more for your money by doing it yourself.  I was unable to get the Seville Oranges from the veg shop theother day.  The oranges were not of a good enough quality (that is what I have been told).  In any event I have managed to find another source so I shall in the next few days get the marmalade made.  Sometimes things are sent to try us.

The Vin D' Orange will also be made.  Last night I liberated a couple of bottles of Cote de Rhone Red from the under-stairs store.  I have a couple more bottles somewhere so once I find those they will get made up into a batch of fortified wine ready for Christmas 2020 and other special occasions.  You can also make this with Rose and white wines although it is traditionally made with red.  In any event there will be a couple of batches of preserved Seville Oranges going into the freezer ready prepared in order to make marmalade later on in the year.  

Some busy and happy days ahead and lots of dreaming, plotting and planning as well.

Catch you soon.  


Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)