Friday, 31 October 2014

When life hands you lemons, make lemon butter!

We still have lots of lemons on the tree even after I made a batch of preserved lemons and since we also have lots of eggs I thought I'd wip up a batch of lemon butter. Some places its called lemon curd and other lemon honey - but they all seem to be a very similar recipe; Eggs, butter, lemon juice and a bit of sugar.

Its really good on toast, can be used in a filling for lemon meringue tarts and is great over ice cream... or with a spoon straight out of the jar.... Yuuuuuuummmmmm!

I like the traditional New Zealand way of making Lemon butter so here is the recipe straight out of the book but doubled so I could make even more yummy lemon butter!

Here's what I did...

In a double boiler or a bowl over a simmering pot of water melt 120g of butter with 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 cups of lemon juice.

When the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted crack four eggs into a bowl... and whisk them before adding to the butter/sugar/juice mixture. Some people add the grated zest of the lemons at this point. My lemons weren't looking so fantastic so I didn't this time.

Stir continuously until the mixture thickens up like a custard. I tend to keep going until it coats the back of the spoon thickly. 

Take the bowl off the pot, add some more water and bring to a simmer. Sterilise your jars by washing them in hot soapy water and then rinsing them before immersing them in the hot simmering water for a good 5 minutes.

Pour the hot mixture into hot jars and seal, making sure there is no sticky residue on the tops of the jar that might break the airtight seal that you need.

I let my mixture get too hot and the egg started cooking before it had incorporated itself into the juice, sugar and butter mixture so keep a close eye on it when you put the egg in. You can see the bits of egg white and cooked yolk in the jars. It didn't alter the taste but doesn't add to the beauty end product either! I'm not sure if it will alter the storage time of the lemon butter either... Ill let you know (if it lasts that long!)

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for making your own preserves with your own produce and recycling some jars! 
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for the above reasons as I only paid for the sugar!!
Time cost: About 1/2 an hour.
Skill level: Stirring... for a while...
Fun-ness: Good Yummy Fun!

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

 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


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!
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