Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cold Comfort..

Have not yet seen today's TV news, so the UK could have had quite a bit of snow in some areas, even where we live was in the 'hit-line'.  During the night heard the sound of slushy rain  hitting the window, too soft for sleet, too noisy for snow.  It had turned very cold and this morning no sign of snow, not even frost.  Everything just 'wet'.   Freezing weather on top of the floods could make travel even worse, and they say with more rain and heavy gales imminent, it could be several months before the floodwater has drained away.

Pleased to hear that where you live Granny G. the water had begun to recede, let us hope it continues to do so.
Am doubtful whether B really is that keen on moving, I think it is seeing the lists (in  the local newspaper) of the many properties cheaper than ours that is the dangling carrot.  Property with a large kitchen and two bedrooms would not be low enough in price for him.  Maybe he thinking about planning his future now the doc. has told him he has many years of life ahead of him (without me has presumably crossed his mind, and he would need a smaller place to live). 

Thanks Les for your comment.  As ever you are very precise.  Myself tend to ignore scales when cooking for savoury dishes (and also some sweet ones), and when bagging up for freezing, just grab a handful of (raw) mince, this I've discovered being enough for one portion, or two - depending on what dish I'm cooking (one for Cottage Pie, two for chilli con carne....). Wish I could be more exact as then I might find my cooking improves.
Surely 24 hours cooking mince beef/pork in a slow cooker on Low is three times as long as necessary?  If I wish to cook the mince during the day it is extremely tender after four hours on High, although I generally do it overnight on Low (switching on when I go to bed, and switching off 8 or so hours later).  Maybe the timing has more to do with the quality of the mince,  cheaper mince needs longer cooking than the more tender minced 'steak' that I now always use.

I've also noticed that UHT milk is more expensive than the fresh Margie, but about the same as fresh milk sold in small cartons.  Because there are two of us, and our fresh milk keeps for at least a couple of weeks (often longer) in the fridge, we buy three x 4pt containers when these are on offer for £3 (making it 25p a pint).  During the winter we use all of it due to eating more porridge. In summer I can freeze some away if the weather is hot and there is a chance it won't keep as well.
UHT milk (and fruit juices) should always be used by their best-before date as I've found that keeping them longer the milk will curdle and the fruit juice goes 'off'.  A week (or so) later and they should be OK, but don't ignore the dates (as sometimes is done with b/b's).
We could always freeze the UHT and fruit juices before the expiry date, allowing for the fact the liquid expands when freezing so the packs would split (so put them in bags).

Not sure if Barbara (Manitoba) is a new name to us, so we give a welcome (or welcome back).  Barbara has given us details of lists we can make of our stores, this can be done on the computer or written by hand.  A very good idea and something I have done (often) but so far only with frozen food as with open shelves ( even in a closed larder) everything is always in sight, same items kept together so I can easily see when running short of something. 

Writing the date of purchase is not something we really need to do in the UK as everything has either a 'use-by' or 'best-before' date printed on it, and we use these as a guide.  However, I do keep a marker pen in my apron pocket (along with a small pair of scissors, a tape-measure, a pen and notebook...) and write the price on the tin/packet as this makes it easier for me to cost out a recipe that I might wish to make in the future.  Items that are only part used (flour, rice, pasta etc...) have the price per ounce/gram written on.  Only because - as a cost-cutting cook - I feel this need to know how much a dish has cost me to make, and whether I could make it even cheaper, and it would take me far longer to work it out if I hadn't already done part of the work.

A welcome to Hazel who has given me ideas for using up surplus redcurrants.  I will check out the link re making our own 'ribena'.  Normally I buy a bottle of the blackcurrant concentrate as I like to add this to blackcurrant jelly, they also do a strawberry one (this used for the same purpose).  Jellies today seem to have little natural flavour, hardly any flavour if the truth be told, so I always add more fruit juice (fresh or concentrate) when making up a jelly.
On a recent 'Best British Bakers' prog. saw a baker coating single redcurrants in egg white, then rolling them in fine caster sugar (or was it icing sugar?) so that they crystallised before using as a garnish.   Some years ago I often crystallised grapes this way, also rose petals, but never thought about doing this with currants.  That's the fun thing about cooking, we can learn something new each day.

A thanks to CTMOM  for giving a list of 'survival rations'.  Her comment also shows us how different countries have learned to adapt to their weather conditions.  Being without electricity for a week at a time would cause chaos here.  People would really panic. 

In years past we have had severe weather conditions and - during the war - remember my mother having to cope with no electricity, gas, or water for many days due to the bombs having damaged the supply.  She had prepared for this (filling the bath full of tap water), with plenty of water butts outside to catch (the then) unpolluted rain water that could be used for washing| (hair, ourselves, and clothes), and flushing the loo.
Cooking was done over the coal fire in the living room, things like porridge, stews etc.  Nothing elaborate, just enough to keep us going. 

Like Barb (Canada), in our not too distant past (at least during my lifetime) people used to melt snow if their water pipes had frozen, and it was normal to keep a supply of food in the larder. In recent years when we had snow, people not used to it had frozen pipes and no water and were dashing out to buy bottled water for cooking.  There was clean snow in their garden and it didn't occur to them to fill pans with it and bring it indoors to melt.  In the old days it was common for cooks to add snow to their pancake batter to make it lighter.

Again in the 'old days', I remember we all had a fire of some sort (coal or logs..) to keep us warm, and lucky homes even had a range (pre-Aga) to sit round, cook on, and use for heating water.
Nowadays the modern world has seen a lot of these disappearing. New houses often don't even have a fireplace/chimney, so we rely on central heating to keep us warm, cookers we only have to switch on (and off), and all number of other 'machines' to do our laundry, wash our pots, keep our food chilled or frozen.  We don't even need to cook if we don't want to (just go and buy it ready-made then pop it into the microwave while we lay the table - or just sit and eat it on our laps while watching TV). 

My belief is that school children should be taught all the old skills (cooking, knitting, sewing, carpentry....). Books about how people lived in the past should be prescribed reading, and also films/videos shown of life used to be in their grandparents day.  Then - after some old 'role-play giving hands-on experience this way of life can be put on a back burner so allow students to learn about the more 'useful' things that deemed to be needed today (like using computers).   Once we have learned how to do something, this makes it far easier to cope with problems that may arise in later years, whether due to shortage of money or adverse weather conditions etc.

Not sure whether it is worth a mention, but give me a page of figures that need totalling up, and at my side sits someone with the same details but given a calculator to use, and another doing the same on a computer, and I've reached the total before they've even finished tapping in the information, let alone pressed a button to tell them the answer.  You could say that I might have made a mistake, but then a calculator and computer are only as good as the person who is giving them the info.

Modern life seems to revolve too much around expecting everyone (esp. the government) to do or provide everything for us.  We are not encouraged to think for ourselves any more.  Quite a lot of blame has to go on those who lead us to believe they are doing us a favour by preparing food for us to the level of not needing to do anything more with it than just heat it up. 
We once used to knit and sew many of our own garments, some may still do (this seems to be coming back as a 'hobby'), most of the time we buy these, and more than we need due to the yearly change in fashions (another manufacturing trick - keep nothing in fashion for more than a year).   Us older ladies know that in 25-30 years the fashions then return, so best to just keep the old clothes and bring them out again - if lucky, twice.

The one good thing about us older folk is that we were taught how to cope, and most of us have passed this knowledge onto our children, and can also do this with our grandchildren.  So we feel that at least the could manage a great deal better than some when times get hard.  Maybe they will discover that there is a lot of pleasure to be found when this happens, and carry on doing it when there is no real 'need'.  Let us enjoy the sense of achievement that we rarely get the chance to discover these days.

Not sure what I'll be cooking today - maybe Fish Risotto or perhaps Lamb's Liver (with potatoes, bacon and cabbage), both being B's favourite meals.  He may suggest something else (like chicken - hope it is chicken as I have more of that than any other meat/fish).  Also am intending to make a 'boil and bake' fruit cake as I have a goodly amount of dried fruit in the larder, plus flour and the other 'makings'. 

Although my intentions are always good ones,  I now often decide to wait another day, mainly to make my 'stores' last just that bit longer I suppose.  Previously would make anything that took my fancy (as long as I had the ingredients - after all I could replace with more when I next ordered).  Now I am not ordering, it is a different matter.  But then - I am telling myself as I write - the food is in the larder to be used, and not there for me to sit on the chair - kept in the larder - to admire my 'collection' of gleaming glass jars full of this, that and the other.
Have to say I do get pleasure from being able to see a wide range of 'dry goods lined up', all different colours and textures, and do fret when jars begin to empty, feel the need to refill a.s.a.p.  But food is for eating, not for looking at, so am now going to take more control of myself and begin using up a lot more of the 'dry' goods.  Why do I need a large jar of desiccated coconut?  I rarely use it.  Why not use at least some today? (One coconut cake coming up....).  Why a big jar of mini-marshmallows and another of broken biscuits, a big jar of flaked almonds...? (Rocky Road also will be made today..) Use things up Shirley, use things up!!!

With that thought, and the morning fast moving on, will now go into the kitchen and make a start. With the bit now between my teeth I could be galloping on at speed and fill the table with goodies before the day is out.

The mention of 'bit and gallop' has reminded me to ask Kathryn (or any other horse owner/rider0 about riding side-saddle, because I was watching a TV series the other day (can't remember which) where the people were going off hunting, and I saw one lady riding side-saddle where she sat with legs over the right side of the horse (is that called the 'off' side'?).  I've always believed that when sitting side-saddle both legs were held on the left side (the side used for mounting).  It could be that the film was reversed when shown if the cameraman was on the wrong side when filming.   This reversal is fairly common when the picture (either film or a photo in a mag) needs to give the right continuity, movements always in the same direction. In photos, positions of furniture, food, flowers etc, can often look more attractive when reversed (as though through a mirror), something to do with the way our eyes look at a picture working from left to right.  The way I recognise this reversal is to look at books or anything that has lettering, as then these appear back to front.

Must stop rambling.....hope you can join me tomorrow - this week is going far too fast for me.  TTFN.