My absolute favorite tool in the kitchen is this: a broken spatula. I broke it one day when I got a little carried away with mixing. I figured I’d finish using it, then throw it away after. Then I found (who knew?) that it worked sooo much better with the top half gone. This is now my go-to tool for stirring anything thick or resistant. Saving the planet? I think so…One less piece of plastic in the dumpster.
I got a good deal on lemons. I love going to the Haymarket, where I can get 5 (or 7 or 8) lemons for a dollar. They don’t get used as quickly when I’m busy. Sometimes I grate all the zest, and let it dry. I can add it to recipes later. The juice goes into the freezer- same deal. Saving the planet? Maybe not; but always nice to have some lemon juice and zest on hand.
I love to make jams and jellies. My hubby loves to have apple pie. I’m saving all the apple peels and cores. I’ll toss them in the freezer for now. Later I’ll add them to some unripe apples and extract the pectin from them for jam and jelly making. Saving the planet? Maybe not, but if the planet runs out of packaged pectin I’ll still be making jam!
Did you ever go to make potatoes and find this? I hate that. It doesn’t happen often anymore, as most potatoes are sprayed with nasty chemicals to prevent the eyes from budding. Rather than gouge out those eyes, and making do with old spuds, you can plant them. There’s still time, even if you don’t have a garden. My garden is mostly containers this year. I decided to take advantage of my clever spuds by planting them in some cardboard boxes that were going to be recycled anyway. I planted them in the bottom, and continued to add soil as the plants grew. I’ve added some extra cardboard to stabilize it. These plants will grow some nice potatoes over the next 2-3 months. Saving the planet? Well, taking some old spuds and turning them into several more new ones…Yes! I’m saving the planet from evil eyed spuds. That qualifies. Sort of.
I have this bottle of wine that makes me crazy. It was a gift from a lovely friend. She meant well; but it’s really not good. And she’s really, really nice. She just sucks at buying wine. I mean, there’s a meter on the label that places it somewhere just this side of cotton candy. It’s really not my kind of wine. I’d feel guilty throwing it away. I’d have thought that somewhere in the last couple of years I’d have found someone to drink it. Instead, it sits on the rack. The bottle of red that I forget about. There must have been a dozen times in the past year when I’ve gone to the rack, pulled it out thinking it was some wonderful, overlooked treat only to see that Banty rooster on the label. I like chickens, and roosters even. You wouldn’t think so if you heard me the other night when I pulled out the LAST bottle of Merlot only to find- Banty Red. Then it occurred to me: why not cook it up into jelly?
The only real problem was the sugar. There was already sooo much in there. I thought it would be okay if I tamed it with some spices. Maybe a spicy-wine-jelly to serve with cheese? I knew that peppercorns were needed. Then, after searching the pantry for possibilities, I settled on allspice and star anise. Do you see how these are packaged? They came from the “international” section of the market. These spices are normally way too expensive to buy on a whim. Like $5 for a tiny little jar. In the foreign food section, though, they run about $1 a bag. It’s like we’re the dumb American tourists paying too much for everything, only it’s in our own town! Anyway, do you know why I picked allspice? Me either, but it sounded good. And star anise: I picked it because it’s pretty. I’ve been wanting to open the bag just to play with those perfect little flowers. And the cool little seeds inside. How cute is that thing? So, first I followed the advise of America’s Test Kitchen and reduced some of the wine (about 2 cups). While it was reducing I simmered the rest of the wine with the spices. After about 20 minutes I increased the heat, added 3 Tblsp of (low sugar) pectin, 2 Tblsp lemon juice and brought it to a full rolling boil. Then I stirred in another cup of sugar, returned it to a boil for one minute. I added the reduced wine, strained out the spices and somehow an entire 750ml of wine plus sugar only added up to 2 cups of spiced wine jelly (plus about 2 ounces that we used for tasting). Do you see all those jars lined up? What was I thinking??? That bottle had seemed like such a big, annoying thing and now it’s just two little jars of jelly. It’s still a bit sweet for my taste- it needs a sharp cheese to tame that sugar. My son PJ, who’s 11, thinks it’s just delicious. Don’t worry, the alcohol cooked out.