We grow sufficient leafy vegetables, tomatoes, herbs to supplement our purchases from markets and greengrocers. Space restrictions limit the amount of fruit we grow to some lemons, the occasional strawberry although we do have some new plants in.
Subsequently I tend not to be aware of when some crops are at their most bountiful so it may only be when a friend kindly hands me a bucket of fruit or I pass a box of discounted tomatoes in a shop that I become aware it’s a good time to preserve. Having a job outside the home also limits my time so I’ve decided to be more proactive about preserving.
This year I am reading the delightful Sally Wise‘s A Year on the Farm. I like that the book is linear in its exposition — month by month and, within that, week by week we learn what is ready to eat on the Tasmanian farm accompanied by many great do-able recipes from Sally.
I decided that the best thing to do was bring all of these together so I’m now in the process of combining all of these into a Seasonal Preserving Calendar that will be tailor-made for our needs and food preferences. By combining Sally’s recipes and harvests with Rhonda’s recipes, with what is happening locally and considering what we like best to eat and give as gifts I hope to end up with a custom-made Calendar. I’ll share it with you when it’s done.
It would be interesting to know if you have a solid system for managing your preserving?
Rhonda mentions the freezer in the June chapter of The Simple Home as an ideal place to preserve abundance, maybe even stockpile and manage your food resources throughout the year.
I think that in the past, many of us thought of the freezer only in terms of sides of meat or loaves of bread that may or may not have proved to be a saving. The important thing with the freezer is to have it serve you well, to ensure that it makes your cooking from scratch easier, that it offer you a means to manage fresh produce well.
In June of The Simple HomeRhonda discusses food preserving and food storage. Preserving can be a big deal, I think many of us who live simply have a mental image of a lovely huge pantry filled with colourful jars of preserved food but we may not have the time and the resources to produce this. Similarly, food storage can suggest a massive prepper-style stockpile which isn’t my personal goal although it is for some, as always, Rhonda encourages us to preserve and store what is right for us.
Currently my time is limited by my outside job so I preserve less than I’d like, all the same I do make small batches of jams/marmalades, pickles etc. As we don’t produce large amounts of fruit and vegetables my preserving produce comes from buying cheap end-of-season produce at the greengrocer’s or markets, or the bounty of kind friends.
With small batches we can enjoy eating or giving away superb food items, there is simply no comparison between home preserved and bought items.
I also use the freezer as a preserving tool. For us it’s not worth investing in sides of meat but it is worth occasionally doubling a purchase if the price is good (particularly at the fishmonger’s), double cooking also means that I have a meal for another night (no prep!) or multiple single portions for lunches.
A couple of months ago a friend generously gave me a few kilos of black cherries which are still languishing on a freezer shelf as I didn’t have time to make jam then but they are waiting to become a winter treat. Over at the Forum I learned that I could simply pack them tightly in a sturdy plastic bag and flash freeze for future cooking. No blanching!
I have a good dehydrator but am yet to exploit it thoroughly, I’d be interested to know if you have tips in that area.
My stockpile consists of pasta, grain, flours, tinned items that help me to cook well and easily from scratch. I rarely shop for supermarket items more often than fortnightly, sometimes less often, which saves my time, sanity and money.
Rhonda’s May chapter of The Simple Home has all sorts of tips for making your laundry a more pleasant to be in, to make your work in there more streamlined and effective and of course, more frugal ideas. One of the great benefits of the latter is not only do these reduce the number of items needed from the supermarket thereby saving you money, the products are greener so kinder to your family’s skin as well as the environment.
The laundry liquid alone has multiple uses. It is an ideal stain remover, you need simply cover the stain with a little of the liquid, rub it in, then wait 15 minutes before popping the item in the wash. I learned early on how effective it is, I was using a small tea-stained cup to measure the liquid, after two uses it was so sparkling clean I returned it to the kitchen cupboard!
You can create a cleaning paste from the laundry liquid too. To half a cup of the laundry liquid add half a cup of bicarb soda, mix it all to a thick paste-like consistency to use on baths, sinks, taps, benchtops and other harder to clean areas. I have had great success with it removing the grot that accumulates behind the kitchen sink which is on the southern side of the house. When you make up the paste store it in a lidded container as it will dry out over time.
An economical green rinse aid is plain old generic white vinegar. If you are worried that your wash will smell of vinegar — which it won’t — try it for one wash and, unnecessary as it is, consider dispensing a couple of drops of essential oil into your newly opened vinegar bottle to make the wash smell extra good. Lemon, lavender and rose are all lovely.
One tip on buying your vinegar: in my supermarket the “cleaning vinegar” which is exactly the same product as the no-name white vinegar is more expensive. Check the price before you choose.
It is really quite surprising how quick it is to make your own green, economical cleaners for the home. Your basic supplies will last for months, cost way less, be kinder to your skin and far better for the environment.
When I go into the cleaning aisle in the supermarket my nostrils and lungs are assaulted by the smell of chemicals. Our household is not completely chemical-free nor am I asthmatic or particularly “lung sensitive” but I do find that aisle noxious — and obnoxious.
If I were to buy detergent this (below) is probably the sort of thing I’d buy. It appeals to me because it indicates that it is good for the environment as well as people, it’s toxin free and it’s Australian-made. Of course I’d check out these claims but as it’s made by Honest to Goodness I suspect they are true, I’m a fan of many of their groceries.
$12 for a kilogram of laundry powder is certainly a premium price, generic boxes sell for under $10 for four kilograms, brand name detergents of the same weight are around the $20 mark.
However why buy any of them? Homemade laundry powder can be in made up in moments, it costs a fraction of the retail version, it’s good for you and the environment, it’s toxin and sensitiser free.
I’ve found both recipes to be very effective on clothes with all levels of soiling. I make up the liquid detergent in a saucepan on the cooktop, then pour the concentrate into a large bucket to which I add nine litres of tap water. Mum stirs the bucket of liquid every half hour or so for a couple of hours (her choice, I’d do it once or twice), we get a great gel liquid that simple needs a shake before use.
We decant the ten litres into empty two litre vinegar bottles whose contents have been used as rinse aid (more on that next week). This super economical environmentally friendly liquid also doesn’t require hauling home from the supermarket, it won’t make you sneeze and it will clean your clothes.
The avid gardeners among you will be entertained by my hesitant start with The Simple Home Year. Rhonda’s April chapter deals with Food gardening in containers offering a careful guide on how to get started, one that even novices like me can learn from.
For years Tony has worked our small vegetable garden area, he was the obvious choice because he’s the one with “green fingers”. Until now my gardening skills amounted to looking at seed packets, occasionally dropping a seed into soil, harvesting and telling him when the Gardenate email had arrived.
But skills need to be built so, as the relaunch of the blog and my project for The Simple Home Year occured in April, Food gardening in containers is my first blog Simple Home Year project.