Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Slow and Steady...

After that first day with this new challenge, have to admit I'm slowing down. It does not do to attempt too much at any one time. 'Slow and steady wins the race' as I think I mentioned before, and although trying to attempt to make at least one 'deliberate' saving each day, it really is becoming more difficult to find what else I can do.
From comments sent in, others seem to have the same problem, but no reason to be concerned, for (as I am now telling myself) anything we make that other people would normally buy, as long as the over-counter price would be higher than the cost of our ingredients, then that is a true saving, deliberate or not.

Myself managed to make one saving yesterday, and this was the candied peel and even then had been taking more than one day to complete this task. Below you can see the orange peel I'd been collecting over several days and put into a bowl to soak in water. This was drained and refreshed twice. A pint measure of cold water was put into a pan with a pint measure of granulated sugar, and when this was heated, sugar dissolved and began to boil, then the peel was added. No pith had been removed.
The peel was boiled for 15 minutes, the heat turned out, lid on and left overnight. Reboiled in the syrup the next day until the syrup was well reduced and then the peel was left again in the pan. Following day brought it back to the boil (to slacken the syrup) then poured the lot through a colander set over a bowl and left to drip. Late the bits were spread over a wire rack to dry out slightly at room temperature. Next day (yesterday) popped the rack of peel into a very cool oven (with door slightly ajar) to dry out a bit more. When satisfied with the texture (dry but soft enough to be eaten, not like leather), brought out the tray of peel, then tossed the peel with a little caster sugar to give a coating. From the photo below you can see what it looked like.

The peel had shrunk slightly, but still made loads - just enough to pack into a large (300g) Nescafe coffee jar (always save these for storage - I now have loads, all filled, lining my larder shelves). You can see peel below with the bright pink plastic Vanish tub (labels removed) at the side that I mentioned yesterday. Not sure whether pink fits in with my personal colour scheme, but am sure a young girl would like it in her bedroom to hold her 'pretties', and - in my opinion - far too good to throw away.
Have compared the cost of making my own candied peel found (as expected) it worked out much cheaper than bought mixed peel (Tesco price: 57p for 200g), even though I was making this more to use up the peel rather than make a deliberate saving (you know how I hate throwing things away). The peel (as seen on the wire rack - above) was weighed before putting into the jar and came to 486g, so allowing for the several pieces I ate during the drying/sugaring process (had to check the taste/quality for research purposes you understand), the full amount made would have been well over 500g. Any expense was purely for the sugar (estimated to be less than 50p) - and we'll ignore any fuel costs of course) and MY peel tasted much, MUCH nicer than that ready bought in a tub.

Some of yesterday was spent cleaning the conservatory windows, firstly tidying up the few geraniums in flower on the windowsills. This was a mistake as later in the day had a flare-up of my 'allergy' and despite taking the extra anti-histamines this morning my face is still swollen on both cheeks and around my lips. As touching geranium leaves seems to coincide with an allergy attack am sure this was the cause for the attack yesterday, although my face does swell up at other times when I've never been near a plant of any kind.

Also have ended up with a bit of a bad back due to my having to strain round the very large and heavy table in the conservatory to reach some of the windows. But that's life. At least the windows are now sparkling and the geraniums can be left to their own devices (as long as I water carefully and wear gloves when I do!), once the danger of frosts are over they can go outside when I hope rain will fall to keep their soil moist.

From comments sent it it does seem that all of you are still up for making 'deliberate' savings, but finding it difficult to discover any new ways. As I said before, it doesn't really matter, for we all seem to be cutting costs most of the time, whether by canny shopping or 'make do and mend', maybe even making for others - as Lisa says she is doing with 'Nutella'. Please let us know how you make this Lisa, also how you make your own 'laundry detergent'.

Thanks for writing in Alison, hope you have a good holiday in the South-West, and the weather is fine for you.

Did grow quite a lot of that Aloe succulent you mentioned Campfire, but not the Aloe Vera variety (the juices from these leaves known to be good for burns), but the stripey 'zebrina' type. This used to have small 'offspring' growing around the base, and would always pot these up to grow on and give away. These Aloes will flower, but take a few (often many) years before they do, and then throw up a very long stem with small flowers at the top. Not the most attractive flower in the world. Believe this might be their 'swan song' and after flowering they tend to die off.

I have tried using the juices from the 'zebrina' variety of Aloe and this also seemed to remove the pain from a burn.

Must give a mention to something I discovered once, many years ago and only told now for interest, not to suggest you follow my example. Had it been a chilli pepper I would have ended up running down the road screaming my head off!

What happened was this: I'd been slicing a ripe red bell pepper when my hand slipped and I cut the end of my finger with a very sharp knife. I went over to the drawer to get my box of plasters, and by the time I got back to the table discovered the juices from the pepper (which were still on my hands) had dried over the cut and sealed up the wound. There was no real need for a plaster, but put one on anyway, and when I removd it the next day there there was no cut to be seen at all, it was as if it had never happened.

Another day, when I cut myself again (this time even more badly), dripping blood etc, wrapped my finger in a paper hankie, then got a very ripe red bell pepper (that I'd grown myself and was saving for seed), and scraped away some of the soft flesh from inside the pepper and spread this pulp over the cut. Then wrapped it in a big plaster. Next day the wound had again healed perfectly and only the barest sign of a cut at all. Considering the cut was fairly deep, maybe bell peppers have a healing 'chemical' within them.

My friend Gill has an aspidistra of some size Sairy, she must have had this 40 years and it is still going strong. Not sure if she splits it or not to grow others, but it certainly is one of those plants worth having if we wish to grow more (at no further cost) to give away.

Our usual welcome with group hugs go to Claire who is a new reader/commenteer. We hope you enjoy this site and look forward to hearing from you again.

One thing I forgot to mention was that after draining the orange peel had about a quarter of a pint (5 fl oz/150 ml) of 'orange syrup' left. This too was a 'freebie' I suppose as it can be used in place of golden syrup etc.

With this in mind am giving a gluten free recipe for cupcakes that needs an orange syrup, so even if not making these cakes we now have found a use for home-made 'orange syrup'. We could use it as the 'drizzle' over a full-size orange-flavoured cake (in the same way as when we make 'lemon drizzle cake').

Although 'gluten-free', as you can see it is the basic 'same weight of flour, sugar, fat to eggs' as we used when making a sponge cake. So we can make it using normal flour, butter or soft-marg etc.

Half the orange is best grated finely - this to be added to the cake, and the rest in very thin strips (to use as a garnish). If we have our own 'orange syrup' then we could add 1 tblsp orange juice to the cake instead of using water.

Gluten-free Orange Fairy Cakes: makes 8

4 oz (125g) gluten-free plain white flour

1 level tsp gluten-free baking powder

4 oz (125g) dairy-free spread (do they mean marg?)

4 oz (125g) caster sugar

2 medium eggs

1 tbsp water

grated rind and juice of 1 orange

extra tblsp sugar (may not be needed, see above)

Put the flour, baking powder, spread, sugar, eggs and water into a mixing bowl and add half the orange zest. Beat well until mixed then spoon into 8 paper cases sitting in a muffin tin.

Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 15 minutes, then remove the cakes from the tin and place on a cake airer to cool.

To make a syrup, heat the orange juice in a small pan with a tablespoon of sugar and boil until syrupy. Pour this over the hot cakes then sprinkle with the remaining orange rind. Leave to cool completely before serving/eating.

Here is another recipe that could make use of both my 'free' orange syrup and the candied peel (finely chopped). The peel I would use in place of some of the apricots/ginger. Use the recipe as given, but keep in mind my suggestion just in case you do decide to candy your own peel.

Oaten Fruit Cookies: makes 18

6 oz (175g) butter

6 oz (175g) demerara sugar

4 oz (100g) golden syrup (or 'orange syrup')

3 oz (75g) plain flour

half tsp bicarbonate of soda

9 oz (250g) porridge oats

1 tsp ground cinnamon

5 oz (150g) no-soak dried apricots, chopped

4 oz (100g) stem ginger, chopped

3 oz (75g) sultanas or raisins

2 tblsp boiling water

1 egg, beaten

Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a large pan and heat gently until the butter has melted, then add the remaining ingredients, adding the egg at the end. Leave to cool until able to be comfortably handled, then using wet hands, shape mixture into 18 balls, then flatten each and place on baking-parchment-lined baking sheets (you may need to use more baking sheets or bake in several batches), leaving room to spread.

Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15-20 minutes if you want a soft and chewy cookie. If you prefer a crisper cookie, continue baking for a further 5 - 10 minutes. Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then finish off cooling on cake airers.

Store in airtight tins, but to prevent them sticking together, layer singly between sheets of baking parchment or greaseproof paper. Will keep for up to a week (and probably longer).

Despite a lovely sunny start to yesterday, it rapidly clouded over, and has remained so ever since. Still fairly warm and I hear that bluebells are already in flower (down south?) although it is usually early May before we see them. The bluebell flowers in our garden have still to appear although in full leaf. Our crocuses are over and the container tulips flowering profusely. Everything seems a month early this year, so what that portends I don't know? An early winter - starting in July? We'd better make the most of what good weather we have, but am sure those in our drought areas are praying for rain and even more rain.

Of course if the water companies would repair their burst pipes with more speed, then we wouldn't now be having to cut back on the domestic water we use. Here in the north-west we have had rain to spare, so no hose-pipe ban as yet. Again (of course) it is the 'modern way of life' that causes many of our problems today. Concreting over flat lands near rivers to make car-parks and build industrial sites prevents flooded rivers from having land as 'soak-aways', and having a shower a day instead of a bath once a week (as was normal half a century ago), also uses multi-gallons more water than we ever need to keep us clean. So perhaps we should begin altering our 21st century life-style back to something like our grandparents were familiar with and then we would stop this incessant wasting and wanting.

Anyway enough finger-wagging for today and myself must get on and try the old 'routines' like continuing to clean windows, wield my feather duster, and polish a few bits of old oak around the place. Think I prefer cooking any day. Might do some of that as well and have already lined up a number of empty preserve jars ready to fill with more home-made marmalade. As that almost makes itself once the MaMade (or similar) is put into the pan with measured water and sugar, boiled for 15 minutes then potted up, it really is easy enough to make enough to keep B happy for six months toast-spreading without any thought of it being 'hard work'.

Which reminds me - need to make another loaf of bread! Looks like today the Goode kitchen will see at least some activity, and I haven't even thought of what to cook for supper tonight.

Tomorrow - no doubt - you will find out. Do hope you are interested enough to log-on, and if so, will see you then.