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Sodas

I have long wanted a Soda Stream to make my own fizzy water for soft drinks and, more importantly, mixers for gin -the best of all spirits. For now I am buying tonic in tins (but they of course come plastic lined), or bottle (plastic-lined, metal cap and very expensive!).

But it has to be a SodaStream Crystal Sparkling Water Machine ( see one here) because these take glass bottles rather than plastic.

Until now there have been 2 drawbacks to this scheme. Recently I have been traveling… a lot. No fixed abode means no large kitchen appliances. Extended travel also results in limited income and those things cost around £110.00 pounds. Yes I am sure I would make the money back in the long run but in the short term I simply don’t have the cash.

Recently however the planets have aligned. I now have a kitchen and I got a bargain on Ebay. A new Soda Stream machine in original packaging for less than half price. Given my gin drinking habits, I will soon make that back!

Yes the machine is plastic but I consider this to be plastic that ultimately cuts my plastic consumption. And of course it is cutting my consumption of  disposable plastics while it is a reusable item.

Packaging

The Soda Stream itself was well packaged. The box is shiny cardboard (maybe plastic coated) with one little plastic carry handle. Inside it was all brown card protective units. Yay!

The Ebayer I bought it off sent it wrapped in bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard and plastic tape.

If I had got it from a shop it would have been almost plastic free… but when you are skint you often have to compromise. Sigh.

Bottles & Gas

It was so cheap because it came without a bottle. At least that is what I understood the blurb to say. So I bought some gas and a glass bottle from Amazon. I know it was wrong of me and I wont do it again but they too were bargains.

The Amazon packaging was cardboard with plastic tape and the original soda stream gas and bottle packaging were (plastic coated?), shiny cardboard.

The gas bottle itself had a plastic cap and a seal. And a plastic sleeve with information printed on. I see no reason why this could not be paper.

Not In My Bin….

The tape had to go on my monthly plastic tally but the boxes I free-cycled. There’s always Ebayers who need packaging.

Syrups

To make fizzy drinks you need to mix the carbonated water with concentrated cordial. You can buy a range of Soda Stream mixers to make all manner of beverages from cola to tonic. They come in plastic bottles and while this represent a massive cut in overall plastic consumption, I think it is avoidable.

You can buy cordial in glass bottles from most supermarkets but it is really easy to make your own and you get to control how much sugar and other nasty additives go into them. I find commercial soft drinks, even tonic, to be way too sweet.

To date I have made raspberry fizz and ginger and lemon sparkle. Both taste great with gin!

Raspberry Fizz

Go to Bently Grange PYO fruit farm and get some raspberries. Boil them up with some sugar. Strain. Add fizzy water. Yay!

Ginger & Lemon Sparkle

Boil ginger pieces, lemon juice and sugar. Strain. Add fizzy water. You can save the ginger to flavor other stuff with. Goes great with melon!

Grapefruit & Lavender Blush

Juice of the grapefruit, few heads of lavender the last dollop of jam. Add some sugar, boil.

Storage

If you put enough sugar in I guess these cordials would last a long time. I don’t use much sugar so I make small batches and keep them in the fridge for a few days. If I make a lot I  freeze the cordial as cubes of icy flavour.

Find more recipes in the plastic free cookbook

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Truffles made with plastic free cream

Yes I know you need cream to make truffles and being plastic-free we don’t have any. Cue squeaks of joy when I bring you this ….

How to Replace Cream in Truffles

Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a small saucepan. Add 3/4 of cup milk and bring to a boil to replace 1 cup of heavy cream in your favorite truffle recipe.
Add three cups of good-quality dark chocolate and you can have chocolate truffles.
Thank you Livestrong. You can find the full recipe here.

And plastic free ingredients here…..

Find more recipes in the plastic free cookbook

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Pancakes & Pancake day

To make plastic free pancakes in a plastic free non stick pan …
you will need:
Eggs in a cardboard box. (If you buy them from Queensgate Market Huddersfield you can reuse the box and get a discount.)
Milk in a glass bottle from a milk man. Find one here
Flour in a paper bag
Unpackaged lemons bought in a cotton produce bag
Sugar in a paper bag
Butter in paper

Plastic free frying pan

Make

Make your batter. The BBC cookery website have a great range of recipes and
exciting pancake related information.

Heat the plastic free frying pan
Add a knob of butter
Swirl in the batter
Flip
Serve with lemon juice and sugar

More

Here is some exciting pancake related information.

Check out the plastic free cookbook here

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Bramble Jelly

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday’s action is to ‘share it’. 80% of people in a Cooperatives UK survey said that sharing makes them happy. By sharing our skills, time and stuff, we can improve our wellbeing and reduce demand for limited resources.

So I thought I would share the free food I foraged  and took a jar a bramble/port jelly to a ham based dinner party!
Free food, plastic-free, whats not to love?
And though it was late in the year I managed to get enough blackberries to make a couple of pots of jelly.

It is really easy, but then discovering jam sugar has changed my approach to preserves. Before this I found it a complex process needing tons of fruit and lemons  that resulted in a liquid syrupy gloop. However using this ready mixed sugar and pectin has (so far), been fool proof.
Even better you can use it to make really small amounts.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So while I only got a handful of brambles, I could still preserve them and make this lovely looking, tasty gift!

Heres how…. Equal amounts of blackberries to jam sugar
Boil
Strain
return to boil
add cinnamon nutmeg and lemon to taste
Slosh of port

Take to dinner party – garner compliments!

More


Check out the #plasticfree cookbook here.

 

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Tomato ketchup

Today’s action is to ‘borrow it’. How many things do you own which you hardly ever use? We’re asking people to be resourceful by borrowing rather than buying. Whether it’s joining your local library, signing up to a neighbourhood borrowing scheme or even borrowing a dog (yes, that’s right, there are websites that allow you to do this), borrowing is a great way to access what you need and meet others in the process.

So here goes…. borrow it ketchup using yesterdays puree
Got the ketchup recipes from the internet. I used them more as a guide because I was using what I had in and what I could borrow!
So it said apple vinegar but I only have balsamic vinegar and white vinegar. White seemed a bit harsh so I went with WLLM FOOD8balsamic.
I used white instead of brown sugar as I cannot source plastic free brown sugar.
I borrowed the spices and they did have plastic lids BUT I can get them plastic free. I didn’t because  I am on holiday living in a van. To buy a load of spices to make some experimental sauce seemed daft. So…I used those listed below because they were the ones I could borrow.

Here is my ketchup recipe

Splash of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato purée – hand made yesterday!
1/5 cup sugar
25 ml balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon all spice
Salt and pepper

Fried the onions added the spices cooked it up and blended it.
WLLM FOOD12I would be the first to admit that this not quite tomato ketchup. Its the wrong colour for a start! Thats the balsamic vinegar for you.
The texture isnt quite silky enough either.
But it is sauce and it tastes really good! I can’t quite believe it! It is tomatoey and vinegary and sweet.
It will last a month in the fridge apparently but if I was doing it at home I would freeze it in small batches.

So impressed with my homemaking skills.

Find more recipes in the plastic free cookbook

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Tomato puree

Day one of Wasteless live more and I am tackling tomato puree one of the few plastic wrapped products I use. Of course tins ad metal tubes are plastic lined, as is the metal lids of glass jars.  Read about this and other sneaky plastics, here.
So  I thought I would try to make tomato puree and guess what? It is really easy.
I finally understand why, tomato puree! Its a way of storing loads of food in a very small space. The idea is to reduce the tomato to its very essense and remove as much as the moisture as possible. The result is a thick flavoursome paste.

So lets get pureeing…
Cut toms in half remove the white bits put in a pan with a bit of water and steam until soft and pulpy and the skins come away easily.
Peel them
Push the pulp through a seive.
Put in a pan and bake in the oven till it thickensI took it out before it got really thick but it was good enough for me. 10 tomatoes reduced to a small glass.


Cant bear waste tomato soup

Couldnt bear to throw the skins and seeds away so I chucked them in with some lentils and the water I drained off from steaming the tomatos. Cooked and blended.
Ta da!

More

Check out the plastic free cookbook here

More


Check out the #plasticfree cookbook here.

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Tomatos – an alternative to tinned

I learnt to cook out of tins. I don’t mean as a student; I mean when I was growing up we ate out of tins, a lot. One of the staples in the cupboard was tinned tomatoes. They were used for everything. Even when we had a cooked breakfast it would come with tinned tommies.
I don’t know if tomatoes were scarce in Manchester in the 70s, just a seasonal treat or wether we preferred it that way. All I know is that the fresh tomato was rarely seen in our house.
What’s taught is whats known and as an adult I thought tinned tomatoes were an essential ingredient in bolognese, sauces and stews. Consequently the thought of giving up tinned tomatoes as part of our plastic boycott, (Tin cans of food – they are nearly all plastic lined), was scary. But I needn’t have worried…..

Make Passata

When I decided to cut tinned tomatoes I went into compensatory overdrive.. I bought in boxes of tomatoes and cooked up huge batches of passatta to be frozen in case of need.
Heres how
First go buy a big box of tomatoes. Or grow some.
Wash them and pack them in a pot.
1passata04

You can do them whole or half and cut the hearts out first.

1passata05

Cover them with a lid

1passata08

Bake them in the oven or on the the top of the stove till they go squishy.
1passata12
Sqeeze in innards out, pull the peel off.
1passata29
freeze till needed
Nice additions – herbs when baking and or a dollop of tomato puree when freezing.
NB I reuse my PLA plastic compostable pots as freezer pots. So far only the lids have failed me.

Buy Passata

Passata in a glass bottle (they will have plastic lined metal lids)

Use Fresh As Is

Now while this is a good and useful thing to do, handy to have in and a great way to store a glut, it is not always necessary. Yes, since then I have found that you can add fresh tomatoes to whatever it is your cooking!

I know! This is how I do it
Cut them in half then remove the white bit out
Steam them on top of the frying veg
When the are steamy cooked it is easy to peel the skins off.
Then you can mash them down to make sauce.
Just as good as tinned – honest.

Find more recipes in the plastic free cookbook

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Jam

I try to avoid glass jars with metal (plastic lined lids) so I make my own jam. If you use jam sugar it is beyond easy.

Fruit

You can make jam out of just about anything, so go  find yourself some plastic free fruit, or even carrots.

Don’t forget to  Take your own plastic free bags.

Sugar & Pectin

Bought as one in a paper bag from Tate & Lyle

For the traditional sweetness of jam, our 1:1 Jam Sugar, with its perfect balance of sugar and pectin, brings expert consistency to your homemade jam creations. The ratio of 1 kg of fruit to 1 kg of 1:1 Jam Sugar may be the most common way of making jam, but the result is uncommonly delicious.
Tate & Lyle
Fairtrade,  For a traditional jam, Suitable for vegetarians and vegans, Kosher – KLBD
Our Fairtrade Promise
When you choose to buy Tate & Lyle Fairtrade cane sugar, you are making a difference to communities around the world. With your help, through the Fairtrade Premium, we support thousands of small-scale cane farmers in developing countries.

Make

Add equal weight of jam to fruit.

Boil  till it went thick. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Put it in a kilner jar or reuse a jam jar. Ta da!

 

Porridge

When at home I have a milk man who delivers in glass bottles, but while in the van that is not really an option.

So this morning we had porridge made with water. I had never done this before as I think it sounds simply too workhouse for words. But needs must. So I made it as normal but with water instead of milk. However I added a banana – one per person and cooked it till soft and creamy. They added body to the oats and it all tasted fine.

Banana Porridge with water

Plastic free oats  & bananas bought loose

 

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Yogurt & Yogurt makers

Yogurt comes in plastic pots  and I of course refuse to use one use disposables. So the pots have to go,but who can live without yogurt? Not us, so I had to learn how to make my own.

I had heard of how you could make it in a flask but I just ended up with curds and whey and an evil-smelling flask. Then Husband remembered how they used to make it back in the village  of his birth. He ended up with curds and whey and evil-smelling blankets.

So I bought me an Easy Yo Yogurt maker – – really easy – just mix the contents of the sachet with water – yes that’s right – the plastic foil sachet that came in the plastic packed box. Didnt think it through. Not best pleased – it did make very good yogurt though. If only they sold the mix in a jar – or cardboard box. Ho hum back to the drawing board.

And maybe it might be worth doing some in depth research:

So What Is Yogurt

Milk like everything else is full of bacteria. Even pasteurised milk as pasteurisation only kills a certain percentage of bacteria in milk. After a time these bacteria start to multiply. Some bacteria cause milk to go bad, others can turn it to yoghurt. Depending on which gains the upper hand, the end result can be evil smelling gunk or a tasty snack.

The main (starter) cultures or bacteria needed to turn milk into yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

These are used to ferment the lactose (milk sugar) in milk. This results in lactic acid which decreases the pH, and breaks down the cell membranes so the proteins clump together and form the soft gel or as we know it, yoghurt.
Yoghurt is actually a very soft cheese.

If the yoghurt making bacteria are dominant they multiply and consume the food supply (milk sugars) starving out other bacteria, including the type that makes milk go off

Traditional yogurt has a high acid content, which many bacteria cannot survive in which is another reason yogurt stays fresh longer than milk.

Making Yogurt

The yoghurt making process is one of favouring certain bacterias over the others. This is done by killing off existing bacteria, introducing yogurt making bacteria, the starter culture, then ensuring that conditions suit the growth of that bacteria.

You will need…

milk 1 liter
starter culture (bacteria) 3 tablespoons of live yogurt or a powdered starter – see below for more details
a way to heat the milk
a food thermometer
A container for your yoghurt.
a way to keep the yogurt at a warm and constant temperature.

Chose your Milk
To make yoghurt you need milk proteins and milk sugars – milk in other words. But which milk?
I use Pasteurized milk from the milk man. Check out this list of people who deliver milk in glass bottles.
Ultra-pasteurized is said to be too sterile(I don’t know why that matters if you are introducing the culture), raw milk I don’t work with.
The milk can be whole or reduced-fat.
Or a mixture of the two.
Adding dry milk powder will increase the amount of whey protein and create a richer textured yogurt. See where you can buy loose powdered milk here.
Cream apparently doesn’t work at all.

Pasteurize the Milk
The milk mixture needs to be heated to 185°F (85°C) for 30 minutes or at 203°F (95°C) for 10 minutes. Which means you warm the milk to just below boiling on the stove, maintain the temperature keeping an eye on it all the while.
Some recipes say for half an hour though many say less time is needed.
This serves 2 functions:
First it breaks down the milk proteins resulting in a more stable yoghurt
Secondly it kills off any unwanted bacteria already present in the milk.
N.B. Even Pasteurization of milk only kills a certain percentage of bacteria in milk.

Cool Milk
Put the milk into your containers.
Allow the milk is cool to 108°F (42°C) the ideal growth temperature for the yoghurt making bacteria, (starter culture).

Add bacteria
Now add your Starter Culture. This usually a dollop of live yogurt though you can buy starter culture in other forms. more on this below.

Mix well

Allow To Ferment
The mixture now has be kept at 108°F (42°C) until a pH 4.5 is reached allowing fermentation to take place. Fermentation results in the soft gel known as yogurt. This process can take several hours. Too hot or too cold and your bacteria won’t work.
You have to find a reliable way to keep your mixture warm and at a stable temperature.

Ways to keep warm
an electric yogurt maker,
an insulated container or flask
an oven with just the light
a food dehydrator
Lots of blankets

To check the yogurt is ready, try tilting the pot. If it moves as one you have made yogurt.Yay. If it separates into liquid and solids the bacteria has run out of food.

The longer you let your yoghurt ferment the more acid it becomes and the more tart the taste.

Cool
To stop the fermentation process cool the mixture to 7°C.

Starter Cultures

The yogurt starter can be made from live yogurt bought from a shop. make sure it says “live cultures.
You can  use your own homemade live yogurt as a starter culture.
You can buy starter cultures as a powder. These are from Amazon. Obviously the packaging contains some plastic but so does a pot of yogurt.

Trouble Shooting

Theoretically you should be able to use your own home made live yoghurt to make more yoghurt indefinitely However we find that after a while our home made live yoghurt seems to loose its strength and we cannot make more using this batch. So every few weeks we need to buy a new container of yogurt for a fresh culture.

This is because the bacteria is weak, possibly dead

One solution is the freeze a fresh batch as soon as the yogurt is made. This keeps your bacteria feisty.

Keeping it warm. If you dont have a constant heat source,  yogurt making can be tricky. I tried putting it in the oven and making it in a flask but the results were too variable. finally got me an electric yogurt maker from Lakeland – mail order. The yogurt is made in a plastic container -BPA free for those of you worried about leaching chemicals. It works really well. So although it is a plastic product I feel it is worth it as it cuts our overall plastic consumption. It does make good yogurt and is very easy to use. If you are busy I would recommend getting one of these.

Update

Trying Homemade Again Since then VB has re-learnt his yogurt making skills and now makes it in a pan which he leaves wrapped in a blanket overnight. Completely plastic free.

Reusing the Easy Yo And if you check the comments you will find out how to make yogurt using hot water and how to use the Easy Yo yogurt maker without purchasing more sachets.

More

Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are the only 2 cultures required by law  to be present in live yogurt.
Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus subsp. casei, and Bifido-bacteria are probiotic cultures. These, it is claimed, help improve  lactose digestion, gastrointestinal function, and stimulate the immune system.

There are yogurts that culture at room temperature, which is even easier!

Find other plasticfree recipes here.

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Candied Peel

Needed for fruit cakes, christmas puds and mince pies but not so easy to get plastic free. Here are your options…

The Nut Shop Leeds

Scoop and Save shops may sell it – there may be one near you- here’s a list 

Make your own – I have never tried this and  possibly never will but the zero waste chef  whose advice I trust if example I cannot emulate, does it so I leave you in her capable hands!

But I do make my own sweet mincemeat – plastic free recipe here.