Saturday, 25 October 2014

Preserved lemons - easy to make at home...!

We had quite a good crop of lemons on our tree at the moment despite the annual stink bug plague! I have been making a bit of lemon butter and the odd lemon drink but we still had plenty on the tree. I had heard of preserved lemon but had no idea how to make it and if I did, how I would use it. There was a recipe on the last bag of salt I bought and plenty of variations on line. I figured it was going to be more of an art than a science - and since I had plenty of lemons, I had enough to play with and see what results I got!

Here's what I did...

 
There is a few ways to cut your lemons for this recipe. I chose the straight quarters but you can just cut the lemon into quarters without cutting the lemon all the way through. I decided that I probably wouldn't use much at a time so I chose small quarters or sixths depending on the size of my lemons.

 
I tidied up my lemons so that my pieces only had flesh and skin. I cut all the pith and ends off. Then I covered each piece thoroughly in salt that I put in a measuring cup to give me an idea of how much salt I was using.

 
As I covered each piece in salt I stuffed them into a jar. I tried to make them sit skin side out and make it look pretty - but that turned out to be harder than it looked. Because I was experimenting, I popped in the odd lime, just to see what they would be like as well.

 
Fill the jar to the top with your salt encrusted lemons and limes.

 
Juice enough extra lemons to cover all the lemons in the jar with juice adding enough salt to make about 1 cup. I used an old Macona coffee jar so that would be about 500mls with one cup of salt in total then filled with the lemon juice.

 
I added a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, cloves and a chilli. I think lots of pickling spices would be nice to use but once I tasted the final product, I decided that the spices etc are for decorative purposes only! I could only taste lemon and salt! There seems to be a lot of salt in this image but over time it seems to have dissolved and there is only a little left undissolved on the bottom of the jar.

 
Depending on what recipe you are using to make preserved lemons, you can leave it on the bench to ferment for a few days before refrigerating or pop it straight in the fridge. I left mine on the bench figuring anything that high in salt and acid wasn't going to go off quickly and also because I forgot it was still there... You don't really need a recipe, just salt, lemons and a jar... maybe a few spices to pretty it all up.
 
However, the lemon needs to be fully submerged or it may grow mould on the parts exposed to the air. I found that they sank if you kept poking at them or left a fork in the jar holding the top ones down.
 
It was easy enough to prepare and letting it sit for a couple of weeks wasn't too onerous, but trying to figure out what on earth you use it for was a bit more difficult! I found recipes that used preserved lemon and they were all quite exotic to me. I was quite cautious with its use at first, restricting myself to dishes that required just the rind cut from the flesh - almost as if you were just using zest.
 
Then last night I made a lemon salmon spaghetti and used the whole preserved lemon quarter and it was fantastic!
 
 
Lemon Salmon Pasta
Serves 2

Ingredients
 200g thin spaghetti
¼ cup light cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon roughly chopped dill
1 tablespoon salted capers
180g smoked salmon fillet, flaked

Method

Cook spaghetti in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Drain and return to the pan.

Add cream, lemon juice and mustard to pasta, toss to coat.

Toss through dill, capers and salmon, and serve immediately.

I used the preserved lemon quarter, skin and flesh, chopped finely instead of the lemon juice and it was really, really good. Next time I would use two or three lemons as this taste really appeals to us.This has given me the idea that if it needs salt and lemon, then this is the product to use. Even though I put pepper corns and chillies into the mix - I can't taste them at all. Its overwhelmingly, just lemon and salt.

When I pull  a piece of lemon out of the jar it is no longer firm but quite jelly like. Its really easy to cut the skin from the flesh and pith if you want to. Some recipes just want the skin, other say use the whole thing. If the salt is too much, you can rinse or soak some of it out by running it under a tap or soaking it in a bowl of water for a few minutes. Depends on what you are cooking. I wouldn't add salt until you have added the preserved lemon in case it is too much.

Something that I thought was interesting was that the limes went yellow! Now I have a jar full of uniformly yellow slices! I'm not sure why. I know that limes go yellow as they age and ripen (but we like them green) so I don't know if it was the acid, salt or time that turned them yellow. So I am unable to tell you what preserved limes are like cause I don't know which ones were limes to start with anymore!

Choose your jar LID carefully. The salt and acid rust lids that have exposed metal on them very quickly. Ones that are lined with food safe plastic seem to handle the acid and salt much better. I moved mine to a "pretty" wide mouth sugar jar and now the lid is rusty and I'm worried that the rust could leak into the jar and do bad things to my lemons... So I moved it back into a more practical but not so attractive jar with a plastic lined lid!

Let me know how you went!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for using excess produce and free preserving jars!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for home grown lemons and reusing a jar. Salt has got to be one of the cheapest pantry items in existence as well!
Time cost: About 1/2 an hour for my first jar. Quicker once you know what you are doing. Two weeks waiting time before they are ready to use.
Skill level: Cutting and packing!
Fun-ness: Yum Fun!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Make your own natural deodorant at home...!

I have been experimenting with making some of my own skincare products and hair shampoo and conditioners for a while now. Recently I came across a post on the Wellness Mama blog about making deodorant at home and thought I'd give it a go and see what I thought.

Here's what I did...


This recipe, from Wellness Mama's Blog, is for a bar or stick type deodorant. I didn't have any Shea butter but it mentioned that I could add more coconut oil and arrowroot to thicken it up.

 
So I used what I had and melted it all together in a pan of water.
 

I let it cool slightly and then poured it into some used commercial twist up deodorant stick containers that I had cleaned out.

 
The big disappointment was that once reassembled with the new deodorant inside, it wouldn't wind up... Somehow I had jammed both of them, or more likely, they were never made to be reused, which is a shame on so many levels.

So then I decided to try making a more liquid deodorant that I could put on using my fingers rather than a stick/bar that glides on. To melt the coconut oil - just leave in the sun for a few minutes!


I put about 200mls of melted coconut oil straight into the container that I wanted to use and thickened with about 2 tablespoons of arrowroot. Then I added a large tablespoon Bi-Carb and mixed it in. Some people find the bi-carb to be an irritant so start with a smaller amount and increase it if you don't react. You need to find a balance between the activeness of the Bi-Carb and its potential to irritate! The Bi-Carb makes the solution alkaline and makes it harder for the bacteria to grow and multiply. The Bi-Carb is the more active ingredient in this recipe. The coconut oil is the carrier and is also a mild anti bacterial. The arrowroot is a thickener. Without the arrowroot the mixture will be too runny to apply, although I have read that some people just use coconut oil and nothing else as a deodorant.

 
I popped in a few drops of clove oil and fragranced it with sweet orange oil which makes a really nice combination. The clove oil is also meant to have anti-bacterial properties and so will also help with controlling the bacteria that grows in your armpits!


 
And once it hardens up a bit, its ready to use. I just scoop a bit up onto my fingers and smooth it under my arms. You don't need much, maybe a thumbnail size blob.

So far, I have had a very small amount of itching on really hot days but the rest of the time I don't even remember that I'm not using a commercial product. Not everybody tolerates the bi-carb so you need to test it for yourself to see how much you need and/or can tolerate. I have had some pretty full on days at work and so far, it seems to be working for me. I have made about three batches of it and I'm finding it great. I love the scent! My husband used it for a while and finds it ok for warm days but not so good for days when its very hot. I think different body chemistry reacts in different ways to this deodorant - just like any other product I guess.

I have found this mixture to melt a bit in the heat of the day and to be quite solid at night or when its cold so I think I'll make it thinner in the winter and thicker in the summer by increasing or decreasing the arrowroot.

This is a deodorant not a anti-perspirant so you will still sweat, but hopefully you wont smell and if you shave your armpits, don't use this mixture straight after as the Bi-Carb can sting!

I also found this website that did a review of three home made deodorants that was very interesting. Have a look and if you do make your own, let me know how you went.


Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for using totally natural ingredients that you probably have in your pantry.
Frugal-ness: Clove oil isn't expensive but
Time cost: About 3 minutes!
Skill level: Mixing and stirring!
Fun-ness: Great fun - especially as it works for me!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Another apron from a pillow case!

Here is another apron that I made from pillowcases. This time as the material was quite thick, I didn't need to line it with another pillow case. I wanted to make a full apron for this person rather than a half or waist apron, so I had to make this one differently from the other one.

Here's what I did...


I cut off a strip off the long side of the opened pillow case for the neck strap and apron ties.
 
 
Then using an apron I already have as a template, I cut a segment from the end for the top.
 
 
Check that it is bigger than the apron before you sew it together.
 

And then turned the pillow case to its longest edge and sewed the square bit to it, right sides together.
 

 
 
 
Then put the material for the apron underneath...

 
leave a seam allowance - and cut around the apron shape.


Using the left over part from where I cut the top out, I cut two strips to use as a ruffle along the bottom and the rest became the pocket.
 

 
Hem the bottom of the ruffle. Find the middle of both the bottom of the apron and the top of the ruffle. Pin the right sides together in the centre. 


Pin equal tucks in the ruffle so that it fits the width of the apron.


Then sew the ruffle to the bottom of the apron.
Then hen the whole apron starting at one side of the ruffle and going up the side, across the top and down the other side. I find it easier to iron the hem in place before I start to sew. Id the curves where the arms go are too steep to sew easily, a few very short cuts around the curve can help.
 


Then fold and iron the apron ties and sew into one long ribbon.
Measure the neck strap against the original and sew into place, checking that its not twisted as you do it! I backstitch along it a number of times as this is an area that will get a lot of tension on it.
 


Cut the remaining tie in half and attach to the sides of the apron - again back stitching to stop it from coming off easily.
 

 
Find the middle of the top of the pocket and the middle of the apron. Pin these points together.
 
 
I placed the pocket on the line where the two pieces of material were joined to make it harder to see that there was a join there.
 

Iron the edges of the pockets over. Pin and sew!
 

 
And that's it! You're done!
(maybe cut off a few threads and tidy up anything that needs it though!)

This was a fun and pretty apron to make. It was much quicker than the last one as it wasn't lined. The pillow cases were Ikea ones according to their label and I think, quite high quality.

You could make the apron out of one pattern and the pockets ruffle and ties out of a complimentary colour/pattern. There is lots of fun to be had once you get the hang of the basics!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for repurposing something that may have reached the end of its intended life.
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for only spending a couple of dollars at an op shop (6/5 if you use one from your own collection!)
Time cost: about 45 minutes
Skill level: Pretty basic sewing - cause I'm not able to do much more than a straight line myself!
Fun -ness: Great fun to make something new and fun out of something else!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Making aprons from pillowcases...!

I am making Aprons for various people for Christmas presents and I don't want to buy a big lot of material make them all the same nor spend a fortune on different materials. While I was op shopping the other day I saw some pretty pillow cases and thought to my self - that's the kind of material I need for my apron project, but is there enough to make an apron out of? So I bought a few - they were only a $1 each,

And here's what I did...



The pillow case that I loved with the blue and green flowers was really thin. So I bought a matching pillowcase and lined the apron with it. It just added a bit of weight that I thought would make it wear better.

 

After undoing all the seams of the pillow cases (the rip open very easily and then I just iron them flat into one great long piece of material) I cut off a strip on the long side to become the apron ties. Then I ironed it in half longways and then ironed the seams as well.

 

 I cut the remaining pillow case into three (almost ) equal lengths and then sewed them together as I was after a wide piece that I am going to gather into a nice full apron later.
 

With the right sides together I pinned the blue pillow case (also opened up and ironed flat) to the flower pillowcase and sewed three sides together.


Then I turned it in the right way so I have a giant envelope!


With the right sides out, I stitched all the way along the top of the apron with the longest straight stitch that I had on the machine. Then pulling on the back thread I gathered it in gently until it was the right width to fit from hip to hip. Once you have it right, knot the ends of the thread so it doesn't get bigger again.


Find the middle of both the apron and the tie. Pin the apron inside the waistband/tie starting at that middle point you found on both.


I started sewing the lower part of the tie at the end and kept sewing across the front of the waistband and all the way to the end of the tie. I did go back and forwards as I got to the apron part to strengthen it.


Then I used the same stitch along the top of the apron ties.
 

Then I sewed around the edges of the apron front, just to hold it all flat...
 

And pegged it on the line so I could photograph it!
 

Its very basic and simple but I think its quite lovely!
 

It would have been quicker to make this with a single pillowcase but I like the way the lining peeps out as you walk in this apron. Its a bit retro and the friend I had in mind for this one loves retro things so I really wanted to use this pattern!

If I had just cut the remaining material in half instead of thirds, I could have made a longer, less full apron. But this one works for the person I had made it for!

Patchwork aprons would be fun too if you find several pillow cases that go together. I could have put a pocket or some ric-rac on it as well but I didn't think of that before I had the lining on and the waistband pinned properly - So this one went with out! I think it would be better to do all that before you line it so all the stitching is hidden by the lining. Of course if the material is thick enough and you don't need a lining, then you can add embellishments at any time!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for making something out of things you already have or have bought from an op shop!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for only paying a couple of dollars for a couple of Christmas presents that are chock full of fun and love!
Time cost: about an hour... It took me a while to get the waist band to sit right!
Skill level: Guessing and thinking ahead!
Fun-ness: A nice way to spend an hour in the morning sunshine!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Fixing holes in plastic buckets!

We have had a few fires recently in the brazier in the back yard. Its lovely to gather with a coffee and sit and chat into the evening with friends and family. Some one collected up some twigs in our new (to us) plastic bucket to get the fire going with. The next morning we found the bucket must have been a little too close to the fire as it had two melt holes in the bottom of it...

I wasn't so keen to throw out such a handy bucket and so we had a bit of a think and here's what we did...


The bucket with two decent holes in it!
 
 You can see the burn holes. Too big to patch with a blob of silicone this time...
 
 
We cut the corner out of an old ice cream container that happens to fit into the corner and covered up both of the holes.
 

Perfect!
 


Not the most glamorous look - but its a bucket not a bridal dress!
 

Generous amounts of silicon go around the outside of the ice cream container ...
 
 
Like so...
 
 
A blob around each hole...
 
Hold it down firmly to seal the holes and stick the ice cream container on properly and then...
 
 
Fill with gravel that you have lying around - Sand would have been better we reckon but old gravel from a path was all we had! Something that moulds to the buckets contours will work. You need an even weight across the silicon seal. 
 

 
Leave the gravel in the bucket for at least 24 hours and then empty out. We have got some dirt stuck to the silicon that leaked out from under the ice cream container.
 

 
But it holds water again! Cool!
 
This might not work on all buckets. It could be a bit tricky finding a container that has the same contours as your bucket but you could always make individual patches for each hole if you needed to! We used sink sealer type silicon because it was what was in the garage. I guess as long as its water proof, any silicon would work.

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for fixing and not throwing a bucket out!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for a free fix.
Time cost: A few minutes to get the patch in and stuck. 24 hours to set.
Skill level: Cutting and pasting - like most of my projects!
Fun -ness: Great fun not to have to throw out an almost perfect bucket!
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