Friday, November 19, 2010

The Whole Hog or just the Trotters?

Here are some old ways of dealing with certain household problems. You too may find them useful.

baking tins:
wash and dry immediately after baking, and put them back into the cooling oven. This way they should dry off completely, leaving no damp bits to go rusty or stained.

plant tonic:
don't throw away left-over tea in the pot. When cool, it makes a good fertiliser for indoor plants.

epsom salts:
as well as helping to remove a splinter (just soak the finger in a strong, warm solution of Epsom salts), the salts, diluted with a little hot water, when painted onto a window will dry off to give a 'frosted effect'. Useful for painting Christmas shapes on window glass. Or frosting all over to prevent people looking in.

keeping out flies:
flies dislike the colour blue. In Holland, many stables are painted blue inside to keep flies away from pestering the horses. In hot countries, many rooms (and window frames) are painted blue to keep out flies.

prevent steamy windows:
soak a clean cloth in a strong solution of detergent, then let it dry without rinsing. Wipe this across windows, and the film of detergent deposited will break down the steam and prevent them steaming up for hours (useful to keep a similar cloth in the car to keep the windscreen clear).

caterpillar prevention:
an infusion of elder leaves poured over plants is said to keep away caterpillars.

home-made gravy browning:
put 9oz (225g) demerara sugar and 2 tsp salt into a frying pan with a very small lump of dripping. Stir well over medium heat until a dark brown colour, then add half pint (300ml) boiling water. Stir until dissolved and simmer for five minutes, then bottle up, seal and use to brown soups and gravies.

burnt on food:
to remove burnt on food from a glass (ovenproof) dish, fill with hot water and drop in a denture cleaning tablet, then leave overnight. Next day rinse off and all the stains will have disappeared.

storing dried herbs:
keep the unused little mesh bags provided with some laundry tablets. Fill with fresh herbs and hang up to dry. When ready to use, either hold the bags over a sheet of paper and rub with the fingers so all the dry herbs fall out (and can then be stored in small jars), or just rub enough out enough needed. The coarser herb stems will remain in the bags and can be disposed of (or blitzed in a blender to make a herb 'powder').

'stock'ing up:
dont' throw away peelings. Bag up carrot peel, onion skins, celery stumps, parsley stems, mushrooms stalks and peelings, for use in preparing vegetable stock. Likewise, separately bag up fish trimmings, prawns shells, chicken and meat bones etc. and freeze to make stock later.

removing odour from hands:
after preparing garlic, fish, onions and other highly flavoured foods, to remove the smell simply rub the hands over stainless steel - could be the inside of a sink, a bowl or just the taps, and the smell should disappear.