Monday, September 20, 2010

Don't throw out the Empties!

Some plastic containers I do find worth keeping - the sturdy ones can hold foods to defrost, and use to cook peas/baked beans etc in the microwave. Some are very good to place under flowerpots to hold water that may drain out after watering. The larger ones I fill with compost and use to grow Mixed Salad Leaves on the window-sill. If we have paid for something we can't eat (and yes, we always pay for more than the ingredients - once they are wrapped), then make use of it if we can. Even if only once.

Although realising that almost certainly I will be preaching to the converted - decided to give a few examples of cans and jars that have been kept for one reason or another. It goes without saying that most average sized empty jars will be kept to fill with home-made jam or marmalade, larger ones can be filled with pickled onions, pickled cabbage, or used as storage jars.

Last time I ordered coffee, the larger size jars worked out cheapest, so I bought four! For I cannot see the price of coffee going down. Does any price go down these days? This purchase coffee should last us AGES, perhaps more than a year (we like weak coffee and have no more than one or two mugfuls a day each). In the photo below you see one of the empty coffee jars - and this is a very good size to use as a storage jar. So now I will have four, will probably save them for this purpose.
Being quite shapely, can see this coffee jar could also double up as a flower vase. A friend of mine used to ask me for the coffee jar lids as she used to stuff them and cover with material to turn into pincushions that she sold at craft fairs.

In the same photo (above) you see an empty black treacle tin. This rinsed out with boiling water (this sweet liquid can be used in baking) and dried is used as a holder for my kitchen pens and pencils. The larger treacle and Golden Syrup tins are also saved as they can hold small plant pots.
Before I forget - some cream tubs have a plastic lid covering the foil top, and these lids make wonderful 'coasters' that exactly fit under the mugs we use. They also fit over the top of some of our mugs, so that they can be used to cover the liquid (to avoid spillage) when a drink is being carried around some distance - like down the garden path to the someone who is beavering away, digging up dinner. Or perhaps our own cuppa that we can take to the garden seat to watch others do the hard work.

By the way - you can also see at the back of the (above) photo, the bread that Beloved baked yesterday. He hadn't the patience to knead it as long as he should, or wait until it has risen enough (twice), but at least he made a loaf - and I told him that it was better than my first ever attempt (I like to think I lied, but it was probably the truth). Today I hope to sample this as a slice of breakfast toast.

The picture above shows one (empty) jam jar that has been filled with dried thyme leaves, still on their stems. This is much the best way to keep the flavour, and - as thyme when dry keeps its flavour - can remove some 'twigs' and strip the leaves off to flavour casseroles when I wish. The jar with the black lid (as you can see from the label) held the tiny pack of saffron that you can see in the middle front. The wee jam jar on the left is quite large enough to hold this pack, so it will be stored in this smaller jar. showing this mainly as an example of how we shouldn't judge a book by its cover - or in other words expect any container/packet to be full when we buy it. No doubt - once I have soaked off the label - will find a use for the empty spice jar.

Before I move on to other things we can make use of, want to show a photo (taken some years back) of bread that was baked in a very long tin - think this once held cooked meat (catering size). But no reason why small empty and cleaned cans cannot be used as 'baking tins' (large metal biscuit tins can also be used for baking large cakes).. The individual sized cans of tuna or baked beans would make very good 'cake' tins to use for individual fruit cakes (for that Christmas Hamper). If it is possible to remove both ends of a can without leaving sharp edges (some can openers can do this) then the shallow metal rings can be filled with something savoury (or sweet), liked mashed potato (or mousse) to present prettily on a plate as the chefs seem to wish to do these days. Some people find a short length of new plastic drainpipe can be easily cut into these 'cook's rings'. But if we have already bought the tin...
The picture above shows a loaf baked in the tall tin that is standing behind and to the right. A shorter (baked bean) tin standing at the side just to show difference in can sizes. In the forefront is a Golden Syrup tin holding a small Christmas Cactus.

We now come to one useful way to use kitchen foil (other than cooking). If used foil is clean, use that instead of new. The picture below shows a 'bell' made by scrunching up a ball of foil (seen at the side of the bell), placing this on top of the chosen 'mould' to give a rounded top, and then laying over a sheet of foil, pressing it down firmly, then lifting off and neatening the base by tucking ends under. To make a stronger bell, use a double sheet of foil.

Cleaned, empty yogurt cartons (basic shape), make very good 'moulds' for bell-making as they have a lip at the rim that gives a good 'bell-shape' to the completed ding-dong. In the two photos, an eggcup with the ball on top was used as the mould - as you see in the photo below.
Instead of foil, those small foil pie tins (round mince pies etc) could be used instead of kitchen foil, although I prefer to keep these to bake more pies in.

With a bit more careful smoothing, these bells look very good dangling from festoons, or collected in twos or threes and fixed to a wire coat hanger that has been formed into a circle (with the hook at the top) the wire first and first round with red/green tinsel. Two or three bells can hang under the hook, dangling in the centre.
Although a bit fiddly to attach, the scrunched up ball can be speared with a cocktail stick, then threaded up into the bell, the stick going through the top, to give the appearance of a 'clapper'.