Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jars and trying to get back on track with budget

I have been more than lax about budgeting properly for the last few months but have done it half-heartedly enough that it felt like I was doing something and so now feels totally unfair that I have just gotten paid and am stony broke already.  But that's life and I have no-one but myself to blame (although if my brother or my former lodger felt the need to start paying me back some of the money I have loaned them this year I might feel better).  This month is going to be tricky, I essentially need to not spend any more money now and realistically I have enough food to eat so the small amount of cash I actually have should be enough to get me through.  I have made a couple of commitments that I will need to take care of as well.  I ordered two kilos of raspberries for next Saturday to make jam with and am going to go ahead and buy them as they're doing me a favour by keeping them for me - that will be more or less all they have so they're doing me the favour and potentially annoying six or seven other customers by not having any so it seems fair enough to me.  I plan to head to the market from that side only and buy nothing else, tempting as it all is.  I really shouldn't have bought as much today as I did and spread the amount out over the month, making it far easier to process small batches of food anyway but I just have such a sense that I'm way behind.  There were plums today which is generally my cue to start in on the chutneys but I just have to wait.  Thank goodness they don't take credit cards at the market, that's becoming far too much of a habit again.

I've also told a friend who is leaving Germany that I will buy a picture from her. It's a beautiful picture and she was not looking for much for it and as she is giving me some curtains for nothing as well as already having given me a potato/onion storage yoke I don't want to pull out on her. If I had more money I would buy lots more from her as well - she has some lovely things. But I don't so I won't.

And I have invited that friend plus some other people for dinner this week so I have bought the bulk of what I'll need today but I will need to get one or two things fresh on the day as well.

I have made two ebay purchases this past week, two separate lots of jars.  Very good bargains but I know next week I'll wish I had the 40 euro back instead.  Still, in the long run I have saved myself a lot of money.

The first lot was 10 x 1 litre jars - the ones with the glass lids.  I got this for 13.11 and paid 6.90 shipping so 20.01 in total.  I did want to collect them in person but it turned out that she didn't live in the village she had given but 4 km outside it.  Might have been a nice walk there but the walk back with 10 big jars would have been difficult and it was already going to be two trains or a train and two buses to get to the village.  Those jars cost at least 4 euro each new so at least a 50% saving. 

The second lot cost me 20 euro and I was able to pick it up in person yesterday after work.

There are:
5 x 1 litre leifheit jars with two-part lids
6 x 0.75 litre leifheit jars with two-part lids
4 x 0.5 litre leifheit jars with two-part lids
2 x 0.25 litre leifheit jars with screwtop lids
6 x 450ml screwtop lid jars
7 x 340ml screwtop lid jars
13 x 240ml screwtop lid jars

The screwtop lid jars are selling for between 1.00 and 1.20 each this year while the leifheit jars are, I think, 2.95, 3.95 and 4.95 depending on size. I wouldn't re-use most of the lids that came with these, they have been well-used already and I'd rather not take the chance. But even buying new lids I will still have made a substantial saving. Now I need to forget that ebay exists for a little while.

Actually, I had a nice chat with the guy I picked those jars up from yesterday. He was selling them for his mum, who is now 80 and hasn't felt up to doing much jam-making the last few years. I nearly felt bad only giving him 20 euro but that is all he asked and nobody bid against me. I have offered to bring him back a few jars of jam for his mum later in the year though.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Food waste Friday - 30 July 2010

I haven't gone near the fridge yet but as I was sick for two days this week (and still a bit today with a massive craving for junk which I have indulged to the fullest!) I know there's stuff in there that needs to go out.  So, off the top of my head and I will update tomorrow with a picture:

Lettuce (bought on Wednesday a week ago, washed and partially eaten on, I think, Saturday and sitting in tupperware since then - it might still be good but I can't face the thought of eating salad so it's probably going)

Tiramisu - one way or another this made me sick and I'm very glad I didn't bring it to book club as planned.  Either the eggs were bad (they were not great but were new, well in date and smelled okay, just seemed a bit 'weak' somehow and broke up far too easily or maybe I'm just getting too used to really fresh eggs direct from the farmer) and the two spoonfuls I ate to taste test gave me food poisoning that felt like a migraine or the strong coffee I made to dip the biscuits in was far too strong and I'm even more sensitive to liquid caffeine than before and I got a migraine.  Or a combination of both.

1 egg - the remaining egg from the packet.  Given the tiramisu fiasco I am feeling neither inspired nor obliged to cook this egg.

There is also some leftover tomato/courgette sauce to be used up but I'll see how it smells and might have it for lunch tomorrow.  I'll have to look back through the blog and see when I cooked it - if nothing else, this is a really good reason to blog!  And I know there is some butter which is past it's date but if it's not actually rancid I'll probably use it to bake something.

And there is chard which I got from the garden last Saturday and haven't yet done anything with.  If it has survived the vegetable crisper I will perhaps steam it and put it in the freezer.

And some whitecurrants which I also got in the garden last Saturday, left sat on the table until at least Monday and were moved into the fridge then.  I wanted to dehydrate them - will have to wait and see how they are.

Food Waste Fridays are hosted by The Frugal Girl

Here's the photo:

As well as the lettuce (lot more of that left than I thought), egg and tiramisu I also had just over a small glass of milk (eeeeww, sour milk stinks!), a piece of baguette so hard it might have broken my magic bullet if I'd tried to make breadcrumbs with it, a few bits of basil and parsley and half an apple.  I picked up my last apple to eat, turned it around and saw this lovely bruise.  It went nearly halfway through but the rest of the apple was very tasty albeit that it made for a slightly smaller breakfast than anticipated.

I was just about to head out to the market when I then found a nasty surprise lurking at the bottom of one of my bags.  I bought extra cider vinegar last week as I know it's around about the time when I'll need to have plenty on hand for pickling and chutneys and completely forgot that I also bought lemons and limes as I intended to get more tomatoes on Wednesday and make salsa.  But of course on Wednesday I was sick.  Two lemons survived okay but I couldn't bring myself to keep this one or the two limes (they weren't terribly green to start with and are now very soft and squooshy - the lemon is the one covered in green mould).  Lovely.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bottling (canning)

As well as sometimes struggling with the different expressions and getting frequently mixed up between English and American terms (I read so many American blogs that I automatically use words now that most people I might be talking to have never heard of so I have to search for the English equivalent, lots of which I don't really know as the whole area of canning really wasn't ever big in Ireland) I also have to struggle with trying to find the right words in German. Germans have at least three words for the American 'canning' depending on whether you've actually cooked what you put in the jars or not and how it has been done. I think. I'm still trying to figure out the subtle differences between einkochen, einmachen and einlegen. So far I think einlegen refers more to pickled things, einkochen is when you cook something first and/or process it in a canner and einmachen is somewhere between the two. And all that on top of having to convert American volume amounts in recipes to metric so I can figure out how much of something to buy before I start cooking. Access to so much information from all over the world is great in many ways but can be hard work sometimes!

Here's some of what I've done over the past week. Excuse the not-very-good photos, my sore shoulder is making my hands a bit shaky if I try to hold still and that on top of my still never having gotten used to a digital camera has caused some blurring. Believe me, I dumped the worst of them.

Three-berry jam just starting to cook. Redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry jam. I used ordinary sugar on a 1:1 basis, it didn't really set and is very sweet. C'est la vie!

Here's a shot of the spice mix gone a little bit wrong for the bread and butter pickles I made for the bio-garden. It's a bit dark but I still like it.

And this is what it went towards making. Bread and butter pickles on the left. On the right of the picture in the jars with the screwtop lids is the cucumber conserve from Mary Norwak's vegetable cookbook - 2 kilos cucumber, 2 kilos sugar, 50g fresh ginger and 48 hours later. Everyone agreed it was far too sweet although one nice lady suggested maybe a spoonful in a spicy dish might be nice. I had a tiny taste as well and if even I couldn't taste the cucumber I think someone else's verdict that it's an awfully complicated way to make honey might not be far wrong. Still, it was fun to try an old recipe and it did get rid of 2 kilos of cucumbers.

This is the cucumbers, onions and chili mix before being processed.

And the dilly beans that I made yesteday. That was a bit of an adventure as I realised I wouldn't have enough for two litre jars or even one and a half and so the beans weren't packed all that tightly. Which means of course that the space had to be taken up with more brine but I'd only made half the amount in the recipe as I only had half the amount of beans. So I had to really quickly make up some more brine. I did process these in a waterbath but I think just to be on the safe side I will probably eat them fairly quickly. I also left more headspace than necesary in the large jar as this is only the second one I've used of this lot, which I bought off ebay at the end of last summer. The lid of the jar actually gives you that kind of headspace so it isn't really necessary to leave a lot in the jar itself. But all the jars have sealed so far (actually two of the leifheit jars from the first batch of bread and butter pickles had to be processed twice but that's because I managed to put two lids on one jar and the other one seemed to have a celery seed trapped on the rim although I know I wiped them carefully. But obviously not carefully enough and it's good to know that something as small as a celery seed can make a difference and learn that lesson in person (as opposed to just reading about it) at an early stage of my preserving career). I do like those traditional German glass jars though as the glass lids can be re-used and all that might need to be replaced is the rubber ring. And the rings can be re-used as well, just not indefinitely. But all in all it's a more economical option than the leifheit two part lids. I've just gotten another ten of those big glass jars for 13.11 on ebay and if I had a car I would have been able to get far more for far less but again, c'est la vie. Maybe one day I'll have someone I would be able to convince to drive somewhere to pick up 200 jars at a time (this mostly seems to happen when someone's granny dies and they are clearing out her cellar and I like the idea that I would be continuing to use jars for putting things up in rather than them being dumped).

And finally, here's dinner for this evening. Got this idea from someone at the garden on Saturday, had a large courgette, some wild garlic cream cheese that needed to be used up and remembered to stop at the supermarket on the way home to buy some puff pastry. They even had fresh so I didn't have to buy frozen and then wait for it to thaw. And I was fine with using the nice garlicy cheese I had instead of trying to find goat's cream cheese, which is what my friend from the garden had used. First I grated the courgette and mixed it with the cream cheese then spread it on the pastry.

Then I rolled it up, brushed with milk and pricked it with a fork (did that last bit two minutes after putting it into the oven when I actually read the packaging so that's how I discovered that the light in my oven actually isn't bad for taking photos with).

And here's the finished thing. I have to say, it's quite delicious and with some fried potatoes is making me a lovely dinner. Which makes up for the very disappointing olives I had as an appestiser. I should know better than to go into the expensive mediterranean food shop for anything fresh as I've been disappointed there a few times now. I'm just so excited to have finally acquired the taste for olives. But this dinner is definitely making up for it. Once I've settled down I will read my book club book for a while and then make the tiramisu I've promised to bring to book club tomorrow (we're holding it in someone's house for a change). I had great plans to make the tiramisu as soon as I got home but I'd forgotten again that you have to have cold coffee. If I had thought about it I could have filled my water bottle with espresso from the machine in work this afternoon but as it is I've just made some very strong coffee and it's cooling on the windowsill now. I'll get to it all in good time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


My thoughts are with all affected by the tragedy at the Love Parade in Duisburg yesterday. Stupid, senseless way for people to die!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New blog

I've been thinking for a while about setting up a separate blog to track my eating and for whatever reason just decided to randomly start it now. Much like what happened when I started this blog I hadn't really put much detailed thought into it beforehand and so I've just decided to stick with the type of name I came up with before - thorougly descriptive and with no literary merit :)

Tracking the Food I eat is where you'll find it just in case anyone is crazy enough to be interested in that.

I do find it useful to write down what I eat, it's one of the guiding tenets of weightwatchers and does work. I haven't gone back to ww since the beginning of December and I know I have put back on a bit of weight (although I am still wearing trousers that I couldn't fit into when I first moved here so I haven't slipped back too far I don't think) but I do need to get my eating under more consistent control. It's hard to talk to people about it because when their response tends to be "but you always eat really healthily" but that's mostly because they obviously only see the good stuff. Compulsive eating doesn't really tend to happen so much when their are other people around to distract you. I'm not planning on going back to ww at the moment - I can't afford it and the classes are difficult to get to (there are lots of different ones here but every one of them is at a time or in a place that just makes it awkward to get to every week) but I do always semi follow the plan anyway and getting back to tracking properly will be good for me. I am back to work on Monday, hating the fact that I need to go back there and it's better to be pro-active in controlling my eating a bit I think.

So my plan is to post menus/meal-plans every week (we'll see how long that lasts!) and then update every day on what I've actually eaten. I've done similar before on this blog but found that then I didn't blog about anything else and if it's even boring me, then it must surely be boring for anyone else who comes across this blog. I want to (need to?) start blogging about lots of other things, ideas, thoughts etc. so it might be time for me to start paying a bit more attention to this part of my life. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Waste Friday - two weeks later catch-up post

No food waste this week as I only got back from holidays on Monday evening, didn't shop until Wednesday and have been home all week. However, I did end up having to throw out the leeks and beets I had in the bottom of the fridge before I went away. I did try to use them and took them out on the Sunday after my last food waste post. But the beets were already growing something white and furry and as they were leaning on the leeks (which weren't looking great anyway) I just dumped the lot. I have tupperware fridgesmarts I could have kept them in but after having cleaned my fridge out I decided maybe it would be a good idea to use the vegetable crisper at the bottom to keep vegetables in. Back to using tupperware from now on unless I know I am definitely using something within a day or so of buying it. Which should avoid things like this happening:

In the true spirit of food waste friday though I did take a look in the freezer today as well and remembered that I had frozen two portions of pastry a few weeks ago when I made too much so I have taken one of those out and will make a quiche later to bring to the garden tomorrow - maybe it will go with all those cucumber pickles. I really wish I had someone to taste them for me, I'm not at all sure they've worked out properly.


Oh how I hate the stink of cucumbers. Still, only about two kilos left to get through. Will do them tomorrow. Got over the major hump today by bringing up one of the water bath canners I have from the cellar and cleaning it as well as opening up the boxes of jars that I bought on ebay late last year.

I've just put the cucumber conserve on for it's almost final 10 minutes boil and realised that actually I now need to leave it to stand for 12 hours before boiling it for another 16 minutes. So I won't need to be doing any more late night bottling now.

As well as that I made some bread and butter pickles based on this recipe - I thought it was going to make about twice what it did, I got four half-litre jars. Still, it was my first time being properly able to process something in the water bath canner as well as using my jar-picker-upper thingy for the first time. And actually between the vinegar, the spices and the onions this actually does smell really good (despite the cucumber). Hopefully it'll taste okay too.

And for me, just to get away from all the cucumber, I made some jam using up the raspberries I didn't manage to finish yesterday, some redcurrants and two-thirds of the strawberries from yesterday (I ate the rest over the course of this evening, the last of them with some ice-cream. Yum.) - all of that made 1225g so I just added the same weight of sugar and, once the sugar was all dissolved, the juice of three lemons (just short of 150ml). I also realised that my new copper pot, although perfectly flat when cool, seems to warp when the heat is on so I spent a good part of the jam-making time holding the two handles so that it was more flat against the electric ring of the cooker. I did use the thermometer this time but it never quite got exactly up to the magic setting point and I lost patience with waiting/was afraid it was going to burn if I kept it on the heat any longer. And I was getting fed up of holding down the pot and getting little hot jam splashes on my arms. So I have some more runny jam. Thank goodness for jam tart recipes.

I do have one or two photos, which I'll try and post tomorrow. In the meantime here's a video which obviously explains why my food never quite looks like the pictures in the books :-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who can resist tomatoes?

Not me anyway. I ended up buying about 3 kilos. Also got a load of onions to add to the cucumber pickles I will be making shortly. And some salad, some cheese, raspberries, redcurrants, a few apples and loads of strawberries. So now I need to go and do something with all of that.

As for the tomatoes, I got one of each type from one of the farmers and just three from the other (on the plate in the picture the three at the front). The ones at the back of the picture were all 4.50 a kilo, the smallish San Marzano and the organge plum tomato beside it were also 4.50 a kilo while the ordinary red round one was just 2 euro a kilo. Those were tomatoes which are slightly damaged and so are sold for less as 'soup tomatoes'. As well as the one on the plate, that's the tomatoes in the smaller bowl.

I had a San Marzano, one of the green and one of the white tomatoes for lunch. I think I really liked the green tiger tomatoes two years ago and couldn't get enthusiastic for them last year while I absolutely loved the white ones last year. This year I'm undecided. All three were good but none really made me think, yep, that's definitely going to be my favourite this year. Actually, the big beef tomato I got yesterday from the garden was far better than them I think but perhaps it's difficult to judge as I cooked that before eating it. Oh well. Will just have to keep eating tomatoes till I decide which is best I suppose!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Got back from ten days in Ireland yesterday evening. Going back is a bit strange. When I started writing this post I wrote that I got home yesterday after being at home for ten days. It was a good holiday in some ways but awful in others in just that combination that you can only get when you have a family full of complicatd people like I do and are the one who seems to be the only one regularly in contact with everyone else (except for my oldest sister who, for the past four or five years has spoken voluntarily to no-one but the closest in age to her - for no good reason that she has ever told anyone about). So I am glad that I decided to take a full two weeks off work but only spent ten days there and have four days plus a weekend all to myself now. Obviously I have about four weeks worth of stuff planned for those four days but I'm going to try and get that aspect of things under control later this evening when I sit down to try and plan a bit.

I had to get up early this morning to go for a massage and when I got back I just collected my post from my downstairs neighbour, who is kind enough to empty my postbox when I go away and then collapsed in a very warm heap on the armchair to read for a while. I had spent my holiday budget by Friday last week, which is when I called into a second-hand bookshop where I found a couple of good buys, so essentially I have also spent the best part of my budget for the rest of the month as well. Not an unusual thing to have no money left for the month after a holiday but at least this time I knew exactly what I was doing and that I was coming back to a very frugal two weeks.

After a bit of a rest I got up to head to the post office to pick up a parcel that had arrived while I was away. From there I headed to the bio-garten - it was lovely to be able to go for the Tuesday afternoon hours this week as well as looking forward to next Saturday morning and I'm even more pleased that I went as I very nearly didn't. It was hot here today! I weeded the leek bed first with someone else and then she hoed up the earth around the leeks a bit while I was sent off to tie up the cucumbers and harvest what was ready. Of course, the gardener started to show me what size to cut them at but then got distracted by someone else so never finished explaining to me that it was only the first type I should cut small and the rest should be bigger. Still, there were only five of us there, a huge harvest of cucumbers still left over from Saturday and after he got over the initial shock (inlcuding making fun of me for picking so many 'rich man's cucumbers') it was fine. I offered to take home a load of them to pickle or something for people in the garden to use over the coming months (I hate cucumber myself and even proved it to myself by trying it again today - rotten stuff and even freshly picked, organic cucumber doesn't taste much better than any other kind of cucumber. Yuch!). But that's one more thing to do with my week that wasn't quite planned on. I had planned to go to the market in the morning as I'm sure they must have tomatoes by now and I was going to try my hand at bottling some up but I think I'll leave that now until I get paid again at the end of the month. I'll just buy a few to eat fresh. They're likely to still be pricey enough anyway.

In addition to the cucumbers I also brought home a few potatoes, half a huge courgette, onions, two types of beans and one large tomato plus some basil. It is half-nine now but I am off to cook the courgette and tomato with a bit of onion and then will either have that with some pasta, or more likely, a slice of bread. Love this time of year for cooking (even if I have to wait till late for it to be cool enough to do it).

Right, courgette, onion and tomato are cooking so just a quick update to add a photo (have corrected the date on the camera again - today is the 20th, not the 21st) and totals list.

250g beans
525g courgette (I think since that's only half of it, at 1.5kg a courgette must surely be a marrow?)
200g tomato
375g potatoes
1.2kg onions
4.9kg cucumbers (I think there are just two different types here but it may be three)

Now to hit the books and figure out what to do with all those cucumbers!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


No, have nothing profound to say about llamas but have just come across this piece of silliness and it has had been in stitches laughing for the last half-an-hour.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cherry jam

Out of my just over half a kilo of cherries, I ended up with 375g of fruit to use. Between de-stoning them and throwing out the ones that had little white maggoty caterpillar yokes in them (the joys of getting stuff from a truly organic garden) that was all that was left. I just used from 1:1 jam sugar so all I had to do was add 375g of that, bring to a boil while stirring constantly and let cook for 4 minutes. Well, that's what the packet says. Obviously I cooked it for longer than that because, well, that's the kind of thing I do. At least I didn't burn it. All of that effort for one large jar of jam was hardly worth it but at least I didn't just throw the whole lot out. I had a quick taste and honestly, I think this particular jam tastes mostly of sugar. I'll bring it home with me at the end of the week and let my sister and her kids decide if it's nice or not. If it's too sweet they won't eat it at all.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


I did the hoovering and tidied up some of the crap that has been accumulating in the kitchen and sitting room over the last week or so, including putting away all the dishes that were on the draining board. I peeled what potatoes I had left and cooked them. Will use them later or during the week for omelettes and salad. I felt like I had to cook them now or else I wouldn't use them at all - I am assuming that I won't feel much like cooking after work this week and they won't last until after I'm back from holidays.

Then I watched a parade go past my window - I hadn't known it was happening this year although as soon as I heard the music starting up the road I remembered that I was surprised by it last year too. I really must get around to finding out about what's happening in the area ahead of time soon.

After all of that I sat down for an hour or two to cool down and ate some bread and cheese and chutney for lunch. At four o'clock (okay, it was closer to half-four) I got up again and did the ironing. It felt very good to finish off that big pile that has been gathering for the last couple of weeks. I had ended up just ironing something every morning to wear that day and that just always bothers me. Why I keep letting it happen when it bothers me so much is undoubtedly yet another questions which would require many years of therapy to get to the bottom so for now I'll just be all zen about it and accept that sometimes, that's just the way I am. How easy it is to feel positive now that not only is all the ironing done, it's all put away and the clothes horse and ironing board have been put away as well. I spent nearly an hour and a half doing that but despite being rather warm I didn't just sit down immediately. I washed the floors. Amazing how much dirt can be missed by the hoover and/or gather over the course of a few hours.

So I'm going to read a few more blogs for a while until I have cooled down somewhat and then see where the rest of the evening takes me.


My thermometer is telling me that it is 25.6 degrees inside and 26.2 degrees outside at the moment (it's 10.25 on Sunday morning so my side of the street is still in shadow). That's two degrees hotter than it was an hour ago so we've gotten to the part of the morning where I'll be racing to get some chores finished before it gets too hot.

I decided to check online though and according to google, it's only 21 degrees in Dusseldorf at the moment with 66% humidity. BBC Weather says that it's 23 degrees with 72% humidity. And says 22 degrees with 69% humidity. Weathercity says 21 degrees with 77.9% humidity. Hmmm, the BBC site also says that the last time it was updated was in three minutes time. Looks like I need to check the clock on my pc as well.

Every site forecasts up to 29 degrees today. It'll be interesting to see what the high on my thermometer ends up being. As the outside probe is partially in full sun in the late afternoon I know that it records very high temperatures.

But generally my thermometer seems to be not too terribly unaccurate (when you buy something like that for 8 euro you can never tell). I different of about between 3 and 5 degrees with the various online sites is okay I think. I can assume it's probably a degree or two out (which seems to me to be okay for such a cheap piece of kit) and that part of the difference is the difference in location in the city. I assume at least one of those online readings comes from the airport, which is on the outskirts of town. And a fourth floor apartment on a main street not far from the centre of town is going to be warmer than the wide open spaces around the airport most of the time I assume.

Better get on with the hoovering (which I'm not supposed to be doing on a Sunday but hopefully my downstairs neighbour won't mind too much).

Preserving herbs

This is actually a post about Saturday but it is just about one o'clock so the date will show up as Sunday. I wouldn't normally be up this late but it has been so hot this past week (especially Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) that I have been awake till all hours of the morning. Today was looking set to be more of the same given that it was already 30 degrees at half-eight this morning. But the tentatively promised storm arrived around four o'clock and the rain actually seems to have cleared the air a bit. I got home from the garden around six o'clock and when it came to a choice between doing some of the things I haven't gotten around to doing this week due to the heat (like hoovering or ironing) or catching up on some sleep, sleep won. I lay down on the bed with a damp towel across the top of my face (cooling me down and shutting out some of the light as well) and although I didn't sleep very deeply (all the windows are open and the second world-cup match was on as well as the celebratory car-horn beeping after the German win earlier so plenty of noise coming in). However, I did sleep and for far longer than I anticipated. It was after half-nine before I woke enough to check the time and then I had to jump out of bed and run out quickly to the supermarket before it closed at ten. I only needed milk and eggs so it was a very quick trip. But the few hours sleep have done me the world of good and I feel somewhat human again.

Once back, I cleaned the trays from the dehydrator, which have been sitting there waiting to be cleaned all week. I did do the rest of the washing up at about midnight on Thursday evening when the temperature dipped below 25 degrees finally but didn't manage to finish the trays. Once they were done, I washed the salad that I got at the garden today (not going to let the slugs get anymore stuff but luckily there weren't actually any in it this week) and also shelled the peas and blanched them and got them into the freezer.

This kind of a haul from the garden makes me even more glad that I didn't put myself under pressure to go to the market this morning. After sleeping for so long I knew I wouldn't be bothered about eating a big meal so I decided to just blanch the peas for the freezer. It will be nice to be able to just grab a few to add to an omelette or similar in the winter (if they last that long). There were 150g worth of peas once I had shelled them. I'll do the broad beans tomorrow. The salad is washed and ready to be eaten. That's fresh garlic you see in that photo as well. That is mostly what I did this morning - someone else was digging the garlic out of the ground and I was getting rid of the clumps of earth around it and laying it out in the sun to dry a little bit before stacking it in the crates. I was asking the guy I was helping if they braided it but he didn't seem to have any idea what I was talking about. I'm still not sure if he just didn't understand what I was trying to describe or if they just don't do that here. At any rate, we got eight crates full of garlic and it has been stacked under cover but we took out the few small ones and everyone got one to bring home today.

I also got just over half a kilo of cherries. I don't like cherries (yes, I realise I'm in a minority on that one) but I reckoned I would be able to make jam or something. Will have to go and check out my books now to see what can be done. So I probably will end up making jam tomorrow after all.

After the normal work was done in the garden, everyone else went home and I stayed behind to do the preserving herbs course that was being run. It was really interesting although for the first 45 minutes or so we had a walk around the garden being shown the different herbs growing there and talking and asking questions about them. And it was really, really hot so it was kind of hard to concentrate.

We moved back to the pavilion eventually though and after a short instructional part about the different methods of preserving herbs - drying, in vinegar, in oil - we moved on to the practical part of the afternoon. What made the course really interesting, I thought, were the questions from the other participants. And the samples of different vinegars that the two trainers had brought with them were lovely as well. There was one rose vinegar which smelled absolutely gorgeous. Hmmm.

The practical part of the afternoon consisted of each person making their own herb vinegar. There were a selection of herbs available (picked fresh just before we started) as well as some of the fresh garlice, some dried chillis and various peppercorns. Rather than trying to put everything in one bottle and ending up with some ungodly tasting mixture, I decided to keep it very simple. I used a couple of red peppercorns, one small dried chilli, some basil leaves, some rosemary and a few borage flowers. They all went into a bottle and the whole lot was topped off with some cheap clear vinegar (I really have to start making my own vinegar though). The bottle needs to be left in the sun for three weeks, being shaken occasionally and then it should be moved to a cool, dark place for storage. You don't need to strain out the herbs. The beautiful blue borage herbs had already turned pink by the time I was leaving. Very interesting to see.

When we had done that we also had the chance to put some herbs to another use. One of the trainers had a load of majoram with her that she had cut from her garden this morning to try and get the plants a little bit under control again. She had some lavender as well and we made small wreaths with them. That was quite fun - I had no idea what I was doing but the woman ended up finishing mine for me (which was sort of mildly irritating, she could have shown me how to it properly instead of taking it out of my hands like that but I know she meant well so I just decided to let it go) so my somewhat sparse looking not quite a circle ended up much nicer than it might otherwise have been. I'll take a photo tomorrow as I think it will look much better in natural light.

All in all it was not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And since the thunder and lightning started about an hour before we finished up, the last part of the afternoon was particularly enjoyable. The temperature rose a little bit again in the evening but from about half-ten or so it has been faling so that now there is a lovely cool breeze coming in the windows and I think if I go to bed now again, I will actually sleep properly.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Food Waste Friday (on Saturday)

A day late with my food waste photo but I'm blaming the weather. We've been having a heatwave (because it wasn't hot enough already, you know) so I stayed in work until after eight last night (there's air conditioning in work or home to an apartment that has the sun shining in all evening when it has been over 30 degrees all day) and then went and sat in the beer garden out the back of one of the Irish pubs and had a pint before heading home at ten o'clock. That was an impromptu decision but walking out of the office felt like walking into a sauna and I just couldn't fact going home. I tried to go to bed and sleep more or less as soon as I got home but it was just too hot to do anything but lie there sweating. Probably managed to sleep by about half-two but managed to completely forget to set the alarm so when I was half-awake again this morning and not wanting to move because as soon as I did I knew I would start sweating again, I was trying not to look at the clock. Eventually I thought it seemed like the alarm should definitely have rung by now and looked at the clock to discover that it was already half-eight! So I decided that rather than putting myself under pressure I would skip going to the market today, which also takes the pressure off for tomorrow a bit as I won't need to make and jam or otherwise process anything from the market. I'm heading home for a week at the end of next week so it's better for me anyway to use up what I already have rather than adding more to the pile.

Not much to throw out this week, I'm quite proud of myself for having eaten all the leftovers of what I cooked last weekend as lunches. Which means that the only thing I needed to throw out this week was the rest of the salad. This is the head of lettuce I bought two weeks ago and which was sitting in my tupperware spinner with a little bit of water in the bottom until last Sunday, when I washed it and put it back in the spinner basket. Ate half of it on Monday evening for dinner, was out for book club on Tuesday, had cold leftovers for a snack before choir on Wednesday and a bowl of cornflakes on Thursday evening. Yesterday I didn't eat a whole lot of anything much, it was just too hot.

I do still have one courgette, a couple of leeks and those three beets left from a couple of weeks ago as well but they're not quite dead yet and since I didn't go to the market today, I will just have to come up with something to do with them tomorrow.