The Pandemic Pantry – An Experiment

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I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had set the apple peels and cores aside for another project.

In the interests of wasting nothing, I am experimenting with making apple cider vinegar.  I read and consulted several online recipes before deciding on the exact method to use.

But first I needed some suitable fabric to cover the jars.  I found a scrap of white linen from which to cut circles and I overlocked the edges.

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The peels and cores were packed into the glass jars, covered with water and sugar added.  The covers are held in place with rubber bands.  I labelled them with the details and they are now residing in a rarely-opened cupboard above the oven.

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NOTES:

The apples were organic so pesticide residue is not an issue.

Tonight I found this blog post which has recently been updated and indicates that what I am making should be correctly called Apple Scrap Vinegar.

I will let you know how the experiment turns out in a couple of months.

The Pandemic Pantry – A Windfall

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On Sunday evening a friend contacted me and asked if I would be interested in buying some organic celery and apples from a small business which had to close and was now unable to use the amount they had on hand.  I took 2 large bunches of organic celery and a couple of dozen small green apples which are also organic.

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I had a plan so it was out with the large stockpot which lives on the floor of my pantry and I was ready to make a large quantity of celery soup which is one of our favourites. The recipe below is for 1 regular bunch of celery so I actually multiplied it x 3 as the bunches of celery were huge.

CELERY SOUP

1 bunch of celery
2 medium potatoes
2 medium onions, diced
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
Salt and pepper
6 cups (1500ml) water

Wash and roughly chop the celery, including the leaves.  Peel and chop the potatoes.  Lightly saute the onions.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to the boil then simmer until soft – at least 1 hour.  Allow to cool a little then blend until smooth.  Add more water if required to achieve desired consistency.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Here it is divided up and ready to freeze.

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This is a cheap and hearty meal when served with crusty bread or cheese scones.

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Then it was time to deal with the apples.  I peeled, cored and stewed them.  They are now packed away in the freezer for future use.

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I set the peels and cores aside for another project but more about that tomorrow.

 

All About Ants

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We had mushroom risotto for dinner but this post is not about a recipe.  As I was beginning to prepare the meal, I went to the pantry for arborio rice and stock powder and discovered…………..ants!  They seemed to be everywhere on one particular shelf and I quickly traced the source to a sticky patch near the jar of honey.  Thankfully, there were no ants in the honey.

Cleaning out and re-arranging the pantry was on my mental ‘to do’ list but it was hastened by the events of this evening.  While the risotto was simmering I set to work.  Since the pantry is relatively modern with melamine shelves, I just needed a cloth and plenty of hot water.  In order to speed up the drying process I used a hair dryer.

Naturally, a bit of rearranging was required and I completed the 2 affected shelves plus the floor of the pantry.

Here is the result – 2 shelves done.  I still need to tidy and sort the 2 undershelf drawers.  The top one contains herbs and spices and the lower one is various seasonings and other small containers.

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On the floor is a paper bag for storing potatoes, a box of the excess of homemade tomato sauce, marmalade, jam, chutney and worcestershire sauce, the attachments for the food processor (stored on the shelf above) and a large stockpot.

The are 2 higher shelves which the ants had not invaded so I have saved them for tomorrow as well.

Here is a before photo.

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Coincidentally, as I sat down to write this post I decided to check my blog reader and there was a post from my dear friend, Julia, on the other side of the world.  Her post was more appropriately titled, Spring Cleaning the Cupboards and contains some great information about ‘Best Before’ dates.

As we are choosing to curtail our social interactions during the COVID-19 outbreak there will be plenty more posts on jobs I catch up on around the house.

 

 

Mending a Mop

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I have a squeezy mop with a foam head which I have owned for a number of years.  I use it relatively infrequently as sometimes I find that getting down on my hands and knees and washing the floor is the best option.  Nevertheless, the foam head really needed replacing but of course the matching size did not appear to be available.  This would have entailed buying an entire new mop which I find objectionable – both for the unnecessary cost and waste.

So, I bought a jumbo sponge for the princely sum of $1.90 and set about replacing the sponge.  The first step was to remove the plastic backing pieces from the existing head.  These are used to attach it to the mop.  I scraped most of the glue off it.

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The new sponge was quite thick so I sliced it in half to have enough for 2 replacement sponge heads.  Then I used the old sponge as template to trim the sponge to the correct size.

This is the glue which I chose to use to attach the plastic backing plates to the new sponge.  I have not used it before but it was easy to handle and worked well.

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I marked the position of the the backing plate, applied the glue and gently clamped it for a couple of hours.

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After 24 hours I checked the position for the second backing plate and repeated the procedure.

Once the glue was thoroughly set I replaced it on the mop and put it to use.

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The new mop head is working successfully.

What We Have

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Every day there are multiple instances where we simply use what we have and think nothing of it.  Tonight I want to share a few examples of how we use what is available and minimise buying new items.

About 10 years ago I scored a small rainwater tank on Freecycle.  It had some rust spots and was no longer suitable for collecting rainwater but I had other plans.  GMan cut it into 3 sections which we have used variously for small, raised garden beds and compost heaps.  You can see them in some of the photos in this early blog post from 2011.

Over the years they have continued to rust and deteriorate a bit more and when GMan moved one recently, he declared that it was at the end of its useful life.  However, on reflection, we decided that if we cut the worst of the rusted edge off it would be a bit shallower and would make a perfect herb garden.

The next trick was to find the best location for it.  Ideally, it would be relatively close to the house for easy picking.  After some discussion, we decided to remove the chilli bush in the corner of the vegetable garden area and place it there.  We have two other very prolific chilli bushes so removing this one was not a problem.  I removed all of the ripe chillies and added them to the bag of chillies in the freezer.

With the bush removed, it was time to position the cut-down tank.

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The next job will be to fill it with soil and select what to plant in it.

Barely 2 months ago we had a Himalayan ash tree beside our driveway lopped.  As you will see from the hyperlink, it is regarded as environmental weed where we live in southeast Queensland.  The main tree and its multiple suckers had covered quite a large area and we immediately planted a selection of native shrubs and small trees in its place.  One of these is a lovely grevillea which has grown very quickly but the 3 main branches were drooping badly.  So, we decided that the best course of action was to create an enclosure with stakes that would help to support it until it develops enough strength of its own.

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The straps connecting the stakes are some old webbing from the seat of an old armchair that GMan recently dismantled.  I stapled them to the stakes using an upholstery staple gun that has been lurking in my craft cupboard for many years.

Here is another garden project that made the most of what we had.

I needed a table for potting and planting seeds so we created this one a couple of months ago and it has proved to be very successful.

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We used an old bed frame and the slats which had previously been removed were replaced with some wire which we attached to the frame using fencing staples.  A couple of timer crossbars allowed the attachment of a pair of metal legs.  These had been salvaged from a table that my father had made many years ago.  The wire top allows for easy watering and drainage while the location on the southern side of the house gets plenty of light and some sun while still being reasonably sheltered.

The final photo is not something we had but something we were given.

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GMan planted these 5 new pineapple tops along the fenceline of the vegie garden.  Thanks, Sandra and Glenn.  We are looking forward to watching them mature and hopefully produce some delicious fruit.  It will entail being patient as pineapples take about 18 months to grow.

 

Volunteering

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What do you think of when the discussion turns to volunteering?  Meals of Wheels?  The committee of a local organisation?  Assisting communities in Africa or Timor?  Assisting injured wildlife?  Planting trees?

These are all worthwhile and valid forms of volunteering but there are many others.  There are almost as many forms of volunteering as there are people in the world.  Sometimes we do it while it barely registers.

Yesterday I visited the small retirement village where my mother lives.  I gave a slideshow presentation of some of the photos from our trip to Scotland last year.  Mum had asked me if I would consider doing this as she felt that several of the residents would enjoy seeing them.

The presentation was advertised in the village newsletter, I assembled about 30 photos which I felt best reflected our travels and made some notes with specific details about the various places.

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The armchair travellers assembled and we were set to traverse the ‘Islands and Highlands of Scotland’.

I was delighted with the level of engagement by the audience and thoroughly enjoyed retelling some of the anecdotes of our travels.  However, I was completely unprepared for the overwhelmingly positive feedback and thanks which I received.  I was thanked profusely for donating my time.  I had not even thought of it like that – I was simply having fun sharing my passion for some of the places we had visited.  There may well be more travel slideshows of other destinations in the future.

Today was a completely different story.  A small but committed group of us gathered to print more pockets for the Boomerang bags which are made by our local group.  Boomerang bags utilise salvaged and secondhand fabrics to create reusable carry bags.  These are sold for a very modest $5.00 and we were pleased to be able to make a substantial donation to the local Neighbourhood Centre at the end of last year.  The centre supports disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our community.  The Boomerang Bag project saves fabric from landfill, limits single use plastics and supports our community and I am glad to be a part of it.

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A reminder that you are never to young to be involved in volunteering and making a contribution.

I would love to hear about your volunteering contributions.

 

Ugly Duckling

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A quick Google search will yield numerous results for the term ‘ugly fruit and vegetables’.  I do not know where or how the description originated but it simply refers to that produce which does not meet the consumer’s expectation of perfection.  There is a new wave of consumers who have realised that imperfect shape or non-conforming size do not render produce useless and destined for the waste bin.

While not specifically designated as ‘ugly fruit’ our local fruit and vegetable stall does have less than perfect items available from time to time.  You need to be prepared to chop, puree, freeze or preserve the entire quantity as soon as possible as it generally has a limited shelf life.  You can turn ‘ugly ducklings’ into ‘beautiful swans’.

Although I always write a shopping list for my shopping, including fruit and vegetables, I am always on the lookout for anything extra that I can use.

About a month ago I found a box of ripe yellow peaches that were most definitely seconds.  I decided that I could not go wrong when I noticed they were priced at $5 for the box.  I discovered that there were 6kg of peaches and I only needed to discard 2 peaches and removes spots from a couple of others.  Some were pureed and frozen to go on my cereal in the future and others being dehydrated while more were set aside in the refrigerator to be used fresh during the following days.  My favourite was the 5 jars of peach and chilli chutney made from this recipe.

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Yesterday we needed to replenish our supplies after our holidays and I spied another box for $5 at the fruit and vegetable stall.  This time it was pineapples.  12 small pineapples for $5 was a bargain not to be passed up.  Once again, despite not looking great from the outside, there was only a small portion that I needed to discard.

I did not make anything particularly fancy but I have plenty of pineapple frozen and ready to use.  Some is pureed for use on my cereal and the remainder is small slices packed into containers.  It is quite easy to remove as much or as little as is required for a particular recipe.

This is the haul (after I had eaten a couple of pieces).

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Do you look for seconds or bargains when buying fruit and vegetables?  What have you found and how did you process it?