Saturday, June 28, 2014

Additional Salve Making Information


Last Thursday we had a salve making session at our Living Better With Less group.
I have a general instructional 
There were however some other questions and answers that came out of the session that I thought would be helpful to list here.

Our recipe on the night was calendula, rose hip, plantain and chamomile infused oil.

  • It's a good idea to make a diary note when making something like a salve or any kind of preserve because you can go back and reference quantities, date, personal notes on effectiveness of infusion and ingredient preferences.
  •  You can use fresh or dried herbs and plant material. If using fresh make sure they are free from dew or moisture before placing in the oil to avoid your batch going mouldy.
  • We advised researching the efficacies of plants before using them and making your salve with conscious intent. For instance; comfrey is an amazing fast healer BUT you don't want to use it in cases of open wounds as it can heal SO quickly that it may heal infection within the wound and even may hamper the edges of a wound from effectively building a knitted skin repair by healing the edges rather than a knitted closed wound. It can also be liver toxic in large quantities and is not recommended for small children so we would not recommend it in a nappy cream for instance. By all means though, a comfrey salve for strained gardeners' backs or sprained ankles is marvellous and particularly helpful on broken bones. So choose your purpose and then pick your plants to tailor make your salve to suit. For another example; you could add essential oils of eucalyptus, cedar, mint for a vaporising chest rub for colds and congestion.
  • A word on essential oils - go easy! Just because something is natural doesn't make it safe for everyone, for instance lavender is one of the most common sensitivities. The commercial world has convinced us that everything has to "smell nice" but not everything has to be perfumed. Give your nose a break. When you ditch a lot of the chemicals and scented products from your life you will find your nose has re-adjusted and become sensitive to nuances again. Only add essential oils for a specific purpose that meets your intent.
  • Rosehips contain very fine fibrous irritating "hairs". They can be infused whole but I believe it is more effective to chop them. By hand this is a laborious job and I suggest a closed lidded food processor. Adding oil will also keep fibres contained so they don't become airborne.
  • The beeswax will dissolve evenly and quickly into the oil at a low temperature if it is grated. You can source small pelleted beeswax from craft suppliers but I prefer to buy from local honey makers so it is usually in a chunk or a bar and needs to be grated. This is a bit laborious too and I've made just about all the mistakes for you. If you try chopping/grating in a food processor, the spinning blades create enough heat to melt the wax slightly so after a couple of seconds you have a small amount grated and a quantity stuck to the blades stopping them from any further cutting/grating. You could use your microplane but it will blunt the blades quite quickly. I find a grater used for cheese, carrots etc is the best method. Another in the group said she melts her beeswax and pours it into the oil which you would also need to have warmed so the two will mix and blend. Six of one and half a dozen as far as washing up mess goes so I may try the melt and mix method next time as I do make in a quantities that require grating 100g plus.
  • Here in the north of Tasmania you can source your beeswax from The Honey Farm in Chudleigh or The Tasmanian Honey Co in Perth (Tas)
  •  Speaking of washing up. A good rubber/silicon spatula will ensure you get the sides of pots etc really scraped down cleanly and then I advise wiping out the warm pot with a piece of paper towel to remove extra residue before washing up.
If you think of other questions let me know and I will edit and add. If you have anything other experiences you would like to share please add them in the comments below. Please also feel free to add a url in your comment if you would like to direct people to a relevant post you have made about slave making as shared experiences are learned experiences. (Note; any advertising and non-relevant material will be deleted)

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As always, none of my posts are intended as medical advice but merely a description of what we discussed and did. If you have any medical concerns you should always defer to your naturopath or doctor for their advice.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Easy Creamy Yoghurt for a Sixth of the Cost!


Here is the easiest way I know to make good creamy yoghurt without all the sugar and thickeners of store bought.
I learned this when I went to a class at
The perfect time is just after baking the night meal so that you are taking advantage of an already heated oven but you can preheat to 150C.

Heat 1lt of milk to which you have added 50g of powdered milk, quickly to 85C then cool to 40C (another thing you can use your preserving thermometer for).
Stir in 90ml of natural yoghurt and pour into a casserole dish with a lid.
Pop it in the oven which should be roughly 150C and switch off the heat. Leave overnight and in the morning you'll have creamy set natural yoghurt.
Refrigerate and enjoy. I use it as dressing for so many things and it replaces cream and sour cream in many ways.
So for roughly $2.20 you make 1lt of natural yoghurt, saving yourself about $10 if you were to buy the equivalent natural Greek style yoghurt from the shop. So little effort for a big saving.

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PS For the locals
don't forget the Living Better With Less group meets
tomorrow night 7-9pm
at
3 Charles St south, Launceston
(parking Howick St)
We'll be doing salve making
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Ravioli - A Frugal Meal


While the oven was on all day Sunday I also roasted off the cut pumpkin (see previous post here) and a small portion was devoted to ravioli for dinner the next night. And I really do mean small, a little goes a long way with ravioli.
I googled hoping to find something inspirationally different but was confronted with a hundred recipes for sage and burnt butter sauce....and do you know what....
I couldn't think of anything that does go better with pumpkin ravioli, it's like a law!


So I'm not going to give you a recipe like every other except to say that the pumpkin was roasted with a tiny sprinkle of my home grown and incredibly pungent in it's freshness caraway seed. It was then mashed with feta and lemon myrtle leaf and freshly grated nutmeg. You can simply chose your own aromatics and make it your own. After simmering the ravioli for a few minutes, drain and toss in a pan of "burnt" butter. For the burnt butter I add a large knob of butter and a sloosh of olive oil to allow more leeway in temperature and I add slivered fresh garlic and sage leaves and allow to brown. Simple, nutty, aromatic and perfect with pumpkin.

What I will say is that making your own pasta saves you squillions and makes for a luscious meal even if you don't have backyard chickens. If you do have your own chickens then your pasta will have a bright yellow like mine form those gorgeous free range eggs and if you harvested pumpkins from the compost heap like we did, the cost is next to nix, just some flour.


Would I make this with three little ones under the age of five? Probably not. It does take some time in the kitchen but if you are wanting to spend some quality talk time with a partner or older child, bonus!
I use ordinary flour and generally I use a ratio of one egg for every 100g of flour and the flour component is 1 part fine semolina to 2 parts plain flour. 
A pasta maker can be an investment but it can also be a waste of money if you don't get it out regularly, and that's the key; get it out fortnightly or at least monthly and make lasagne or spaghetti and it soon becomes an enjoyable habit. There is no substitute for fresh pasta and when you compare the costing you will find yourself making very tasty yet incredibly frugal meals.

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REMEMBER
NEVER!!! Wash your pasta maker!
Simply dust it off and brush loose pieces free with a pastry brush.
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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tomato Paste for 70 Cents a Jar and Other Savings


My daughter's final weeks of a difficult pregnancy were right in the middle of tomato season so I bottled what I could and made some relish and got the sauce done but the paste had to wait. I turned about 25kg into pulp and then froze it in containers in the freezer till I could devote a day to paste making.

We got a call to say that a sheep was ready and heading for our freezer within the week so it was time to clear it out and defrost ready for the arrival and so the pulp had to be dealt with.
You can read how I make tomato paste here or in the recipe book.
It is a process that takes quite a few hours in the oven so it's good to make economical use of it and bake along.


I had cut a pumpkin a couple of days before and that needed cooking off so I cut the rest up and it went in on trays with the tiniest sprinkle of some of my home grown caraway seed to roast. For lunch we mixed some of the pumpkin with lacto-fermented beetroot (recipe link here) and a dollop of home made yoghurt. The sweetness of the roasted pumpkin goes so well with the salty tanginess of the beets.

After lunch I roasted a chicken which also made space in the freezer. This is one of the young cocks that we raised for meat. We don't raise a lot of chickens but every year Craig gets about 20 day old chicks to raise and usually there is half and half of each sex. We cull the boys at about 14-16 weeks. The meat is amazing and takes me right back to childhood to how birds used to taste. This became dinner and the roasted pumpkin was added to the other vegetables accompanying it.

Some of the pumpkin went into ravioli and the rest went into soup the next days.
THEN,


when I finally turned off the oven I popped in a casserole dish of heated and cooled milk with a couple of tabs of yoghurt to make another batch of fresh yoghurt which was left overnight for a slow ferment and in the morning ready to eat. Yum!

So although I had the oven on for several hours I managed to make economical use of it. It was one of the things drummed into us at school during Home Economics class.
So working on the oven cost of about 35 cents/hour I spent say about $2 for the day but created several meals and ended up with 9 bottles of tomato paste.
I spent a further .30 on water bathing the paste in the bottles and $4 for sealing rings

 so that means I made each 280g bottle of paste for $0.70.
lunch cost about $0.20 for the home made yoghurt
roast dinner cost entirely free except for a tabs of flour and say $0.50 for onions (we didn't grow)
dinner the next night of pumpkin ravioli for 2 was probably no more than $2
Soup cost next to nothing but a few cents for heating
1 lt yoghurt total cost about $2

ALL that food for less than $5.00
and a batch of tomato paste for the pantry that should last us the year through for $6.30


I haven't taken costings to the nth degree like water for the tomato plants and I certainly haven't added a labour cost but you can certainly see how much you save by doing it and growing it yourself. It is without a doubt a team effort with Craig putting in more hours in the garden than I do and while we love making our own pasta I don't know that I could "whip up a family batch of ravioli" if I had a gaggle of young children. You might think it seems like a lot of work but it all unfolded nicely and I had a beautiful productive Sunday. There is nothing nicer than pottering at home, nurturing family, filling the pantry and getting things done. 




Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rhubarb and Vanilla Vodka


I've started my Christmas gifts already.
Seems a little early I know but I had a last harvest of ruby red rhubarb a couple of months ago and took the opportunity to create something for the store cupboard.
We talk a lot about preserving on this blog; bottling, pickling, dehydrating...
well another method is to use alcohol. 
In this instance I've extracted the rhubarb and vanilla into vodka.


After washing 600g of rhubarb cut it into 2cm lengths and place into a stainless steel pan with 250g sugar and a split and scraped vanilla pod. Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar and then cook to soften which only takes a few minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
Place the cooled mixture into a 2 litre sterilised jar and pour over a bottle of vodka (700-750ml) and stir and seal. Shake occasionally.


This is the mixture when it is first put up. Unfortunately I accidentally deleted the progress photos that showed the vodka developing a deeper colour and the rhubarb swelling and jammy.
After a couple of months it should have developed a lovely pink colour and it can be strained and decanted into sterilised bottles for sealing.


The vodka has now taken on the flavours and sweetness and can be drunk neat as a type of liquor or mixed with lemonade or soda over ice or even a dash in champagne and I bet there are other cocktail recipes to be imagined too.
Mine made four small bottles of which I will label and put aside for giving at Christmas. 
The same can be done with many different fruits, you've probably already heard of sloe gin which is gin infused with sloe berries. Lee uses damson plums also in a similar way. 

Shake the pinky gorgeousness to distribute the settled vanilla seeds before enjoying.
One final tip, because of the high oxalic acid in the rhubarb, strain through stainless steel strainers or cloth as it will react with plain metal like wire mesh strainers. Naturally also the pink varieties of rhubarb are what is needed for the beautiful colour.
This takes very little effort and creates a stunning gift. 




Thursday, June 12, 2014

Have A Seat Please


This is a bit daggy but I thought it was worth a mention...
well life is about the ordinary sometimes and it can't all be holidays and pretty things...
Our dining setting is almost puritan it's so functional and there are no soft seat cushions, just good old solid timber. The table is over hundred years old and the chairs at least seventy so they have served well many generations. It's easy to overlook basic maintenance on such forgiving timber colour but every now and then I give them a good going over with the enjo cloth and wipe down thoroughly, especially where hands have been pulling them out and pulling them in. It's amazing how much grime accumulates right under our nose. A couple need a hammer punch on some nails and check that the leg rails are in good order as these help to brace the chair making them strong. A chair that has come apart and been repaired is often a shadow of it's former self so keep them maintained before they get to that stage. Check the bottoms of the legs too, do the felt pads/discs on the bottom need replacing? If you have hardwood floors, these inexpensive pads protect the flooring and make moving the chairs quieter and easier.
Next you'll probably notice some cobwebs and a few daddy-long-legs running for cover. Wipe the underside clean from debris and give a mist with the clove oil and water and wipe over. Just a mist will do and will deter the spiders for a while. You can read more about clove oil here.
Now if you have upholstered seats I don't envy you, you have an extra cleaning step and will need to follow whatever procedure is recommended for your fabric and stain appropriate. Remember a good rule of thumb for an unidentifiable stain is to start with cold water so as not to set any proteins and then go from there. Good luck.
Now excuse me, the chairs are up and I have floors to wash. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ivy On Glenelg - Campbell Town Tas.

(The old stables/wintry drive/gate)

We didn't go far and we didn't go for long but we had a wonderful time.
Saturday lunchtime we set off south and travelled some tiny back roads past very old properties and historic homesteads wending our way till we eventually came out at the township of Ross. Ross is only 78km south of Launceston and is one of the few historic towns reasonably untouched by the commercial gaudiness of tourism. It is very well known for it's sandstone bridge built with convict labour and intricately carved but there is a tremendous amount of history attached to Ross; it's past as a women's prison settlement, it's fine churches of the day and the sandstone cottages on wide tree-lined roads and dry stone walls. I'm still only scratching the surface on my explorations of Ross thus far but they are stories for another day.


We travelled north again just 10km to the next township of Campbell Town and after a quick lunch and a shop we picked up some platter nibbles at the local store and Craig finally revealed our mystery destination for the night
a beautiful B&B just a street back off the main road.
Built in about 1838 you can read more about it's history here. We stayed in the very spacious and luxurious Tuscan Room and our hosts, David and Irene, couldn't have been more attentive and welcoming.
We settled into our rooms with a very special bottle of Tasmanian wine; may I recommend Stafano Lubiano Pinot Noir, divine!


Every need is anticipated and all the rooms cosy and lamp lit oozing charm and atmosphere. Curios, charming period decor and an abundance of books all added to the richness of the experience.

We watched the setting sun turn the hills pink and gold, the winter's day fading fast our noses repeating in the joy of the wine's bouquet. Our hosts telephoned and arranged our booking for dinner at the local cafe Zeps while we relaxed in soft sofas by the fire.
Dinner was delicious even if the cafe was lacking in atmosphere and afterwards we returned to spend the remainder of the evening in our private sitting room with another bottle of wine and a selection of CDs talking and knitting by the fire.
We couldn't fault a thing and had we been staying longer I would have indulged in a leisurely fragrant bath and candlelight. The bed was so comfortable and not a ghost in sight.


 (View from our room/ the breakfast room)

Next morning the continental breakfast spread was so lavish I felt sure we had made a mistake and that other guests must surely be joining us, but no, it was all for us!
Poached pears, compote of apricots and blueberries, creamy yoghurt with vanilla bean followed by freshly baked croissants.
Toast and hot boiled eggs and a platter of soft cheeses, baby tomatoes and pate.
A choice of three different jams and a marmalade served in silver dishes, the table set with blue and white china and crystal glasses.
A breakfast for a king and queen!
Late check out of 11am meant a very leisurely repast.
I didn't want it to end but oh a short break like this can be as good as a week's holiday!
We definitely recommend Ivy on Glenelg 

We are not affiliated in any way with David and Irene or the business and did not receive any payment or discount for the post, we simply had a wonderful time and wanted to share an experience that we thought was value for money and hope it helps anyone planning a holiday in Tasmania.

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