Homemade Jam!

HOMEMADE MULBERRY JAM (2).png

In my backyard there is a mulberry tree and for some reason this year it has decided to fruit more than it EVER HAS and drop millions of delicious berries all over the lawn.  Aside from it being a Snow White -esqe wildlife paradise back there with all the animals coming to eat the berries, it was a sweet opportunity to actually use the berries that we get!

Here’s how I made jam!

I collected the berries by putting tarps and sheets down below the tree and then shaking the tree until enough had dropped down

  
 The ripe berries are the ones that look like blackberries and when they are ripe they fall off the branch easily

Then I collected them into bowls:

After this we sorted through them to get the best ripest biggest berries and got about 8 cups

Then we washed and de stemmed all of them (pinched the stems off with our nails aka I will have red fingers forever)


Then we put all of them in a big pot with a cup of water and boiled for 10 ish minutes (I didn’t measure) while smooshing them with a potato masher

After they look cooked and broken up, I added 1.5 cups of sugar and a half packet of pectin and let that boil for what I wanted to be a minute but was probably another 5-8 minutes, and then left the pot to cool

Then we spooned the jam into 4oz Mason jars and put the ones we wanted to eat soon in the fridge and the rest in the freezer! It set really well! It’s definitely not a jelly type of jam but it’s not runny at all.  And it’s SUPER DELICIOUS! I’ll post a pic of a finished jar I forgot to take pictures throughout the cooking process.  These are supposed to last up to two weeks but I’m sure it’ll last longer than that. And I’m assuming about a year in the freezer is the most you would want to keep it.

This is a totally zero waste recipe (except for the paper pectin packet) and as local as is humanly possible and it’s so delicious and yummy! I’ve impressed my family they were really skeptical they didn’t even think you could eat mulberries until this year.  There are still so many berries yet to ripen and I’ve already made 2 batches of 10 jars each so if you’re in the Boston area and want homemade mulberry jam please come take it!!

Yay backyard foraging!

Happy jam making!!

Herb-tastic

Herbs are great and what’s even better is when you don’t have to buy them! Fresh herbs can be pricey and something that is not pricey is pots from my parents shed and some dirt from the backyard!

I set out on this rare amazing sunny April day to plant some herbs for the summer! Since I’ve moved back to the suburbs as a poor college graduate its come with some perks aka a backyard. I found 8 pots in our shed and went to our compost but not really compost pile to get some healthy dirt.

I shoveled out a big pile and put it on top of our big sieve over the wheelbarrow to get out all of the big rocks and sticks. 

    

I filled the pots with rocks from our ridiculously rocky not yet planted anything garden:

And filled the bottom of the pots for extra drainage

Then filled them up with dirt, placed the seeds either right under the surface of the soil or 1/4 in deep whichever the directions on the back of the seed packet said, and labelled them with old clothes pins

  

And watered them!

I planted oregano, chives, basil, lavender, spearmint, rosemary, and another I can’t remember right now, will update later.

This is in contrast to last year when I urban farmed in my windowsill and planted my herbs in Mason jars with dirt I bought from the hardware store down the street. It worked well for sprouting them but I soon needed to replant them in bigger pots because they stopped growing any bigger.

Oh the difference!

Happy growing!

Homemade Iced Tea

My favorite thing ever is iced tea, it’s so refreshing and delicious, and it’s really healthy if you don’t load it with sugar.

UPDATE I’ve switched brewing methods:

Use 3x the normal amount of tea you would if you were brewing a liter of tea (one tea pot or about 4 cups) (I use from 2-3 tbsp of tea in my teapot depending on what kind I’m making).  Then brew normally and pour over one liter of ice water (mostly ice works best). I think pouring it over ice seals in the flavor well and you can drink it right away! Note from experience, does not work as well if you pour ice water into the hot tea. I have no idea why. Also if you’re going to do this in glass pour the hot tea in slowly or your jar will explode (really it will just crack)

Tea is one of the easiest things to buy zero waste, there are tea stores all over the place now and the ones I’ve been to have been very nice about letting me use my own containers. I like to keep my tea in tins because they will block out the light and air and so loose tea will last for up to a year, instead of a week or so if you keep it in the bags that some stores gives you.  The tea doesn’t go bad of course but it loses its flavor and intensity the longer you keep it out. Which is why tea in bags isn’t as good!

My favorite place to get tea is Upton Tea. They sell the best tea I’ve ever had. It’s an online/catalog company so unfortunately you can only get it mailed, but you can pay a little extra for your tea to come in a tin instead of a bag, and the next time I order tea I’m going to call them and see if there is a low waste way for them to send me my tea. Usually it comes in silver sealed plastic bags. My favorite teas from upton are their super grade rooibos, it’s incredible and makes really good iced tea as well as hot.  All of their black teas are amazing and they have a really good hibiscus tea.  They have a deal where you can buy sample packs of any of the teas for about a dollar so it’s great for trying teas you wouldn’t normally order, since most stores won’t sell you anything less than 2 ounces which is a lot.

I found a place called David’s Tea in Chestnut Hill and I really like the shop! They have a lot of variety of herbal teas. I bought a tea called magic dragon to mix with my hibiscus, and this is how I made it!

I have a teapot from Teavana that I use to make 1 liter of tea at a time.  I put in about 2 tbsp of the magic dragon into the pot and pour a liter of boiling water over it. I don’t pour the water directly over the tea for any other tea besides herbal teas because it will make them bitter and release too many tannins.


 

After I’ve let that sit in the boiling water for about 10 minutes I add in 1 tsp of hibiscus flowers


And I let that sit for another 7 minutes or so and swirl the metal basket around a little

And then I pour it over a pitcher of ice water, and that’s it!

Yay iced tea! I also sometimes mix this with some good apple juice from whole foods, or you can add some lemonade! But it’s also pretty amazing solo.

Happy tea making!

Zero Waste Powdered Sugar 

I love to bake and one thing that I haven’t been able to find zero waste yet is powdered sugar.  I use it to make frosting and icing.  So I figured out how to make it myself! It’s actually ridiculously easy.

One cup of sugar makes one cup of powdered sugar, and since I was using it for frosting I added 1tbsp of corn starch to each cup of sugar. If using powdered sugar for dusting or covering donuts or something, you don’t need the corn starch unless you are going to store the sugar. The corn starch keeps it from clumping.

I put one cup of organic cane sugar that I bought from whole foods into my blender cup with one tbsp of corn starch


I screwed on the big blade and let it run for 30 seconds at a time until it looked powdery enough.


Here’s the final result! I stuck my finger in so you could see how fine it is.


With this powdered sugar I made a blackberry buttercream frosting!

Except I did not blend the sugar enough and it was a little crunchy, still ridiculously delicious but definitely not smooth so make sure you really blend the crap out of it.

The recipe I used (I kind of made it up based on a couple other recipes):

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (softened a little but it’s not hot here so it was still pretty solid, I melted it enough so I could push it into the measuring cup)
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), room temp (trick to softening butter quickly: put wrapped stick in microwave for 5 seconds, the turn it over and repeat until it feels soft
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tbsp blended blackberries (estimation)
  • A little bit of water if it’s still not soft enough
  • Blend the coconut oil and the butter until mixed and smooth
  • Add vanilla extract and blend until mixed
  • Sift the powdered sugar into the blender 1/2 cup at a time and mix on slow until blended (powdered sugar will poof into the air!)
  • Take about 5 frozen blackberries and microwave them until thawed and juices have released. Put them in the magic bullet in the small cup and blend. Pour into bowl and blend.
  • If still not a frosting-like consistency add about a teaspoon of water into the blender cup and swish it around to get the rest of the juice and pour in a little at a time until desired consistency.
  • Place in the fridge to set for about 5 minutes and frost!

I used this recipe for the cupcakes and for the idea for the frosting (but not the frosting recipe) the cupcakes were AMAZING and I highly recommend everyone makes them because I feel like a world class baker

http://bakerbynature.com/lemon-cupcakes-blackberry-buttercream/

Happy baking!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Warning: this is not a 100% zero waste recipe

Thanks to my Mom I have been baking my entire life and it brings me so much joy. Zero waste baking is not easy! Bulk baking materials (baking powder, baking soda, butter) are not easy to find (well you can’t find zero waste butter anywhere I’m pretty sure).  And I’m also still struggling with how to give my baked goods to other people without using packaging or giving away all my tins and jars (any advice would be appreciated!).

One thing that you’ll always find in packaging is vanilla extract, and finding organic vanilla beans (reasonably priced) not in plastic has been really difficult. I found a glass jar with one small vanilla bean in it at a local market for 13 dollars which is not something I was willing to do on my limited budget. And everything online is packaged in shrink wrapped plastic. Also, im really not so sure about the origin of most of the beans you can find online.  These are certified organic and fair trade. So, I settled. At an organic market in somewhere Maine on my way home this weekend I found two large bourbon vanilla beans in shrink wrapped plastic. (More on this market later).  The two beans cost me 6 dollars and I couldn’t resist the price.  I am going to recycle the plastic and hopefully it can be recycled properly. However, I live in Massachusetts so I doubt it.

 These vanilla beans are huge, so I cut them lengthwise, opened them up to free the beans a little, cut them in half and put one bean in each flip top bottle.  

Look at those beans!  

 My parents had a bottle of sky vodka they never opened in the cabinet they let me use (glass bottle, plastic top) and I filled the bottles up. (Whoops used most of the bottle!) I gave them a shake and put them in a drawer. I’ll shake them every couple of days and hopefully it will be delicious vanilla in about 3 months! I’ll post an update when it looks more like vanilla. Homemade iced tea as my companion

I’m bummed that I resorted to using plastic, however even if I did manage to find unpackaged vanilla beans online, my individual order would have to be shipped to me, and that takes a toll on the environment. Let alone the packaging that would have come with it. Is this tiny piece of plastic going to pose more of an environmental cost than the cost of shipping it from the factory to my local post office and then having that be driven to my house? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this, which one is better? In this case I think choosing the packaging was the better solution. If vanilla beans are something that could be bought locally it would be one thing, but they would have to be shipped no matter what. And I chose to choose the packaging over the further shipping it would have to go through to reach my house.  I am going to do more research on this question in the next couple of months, and I will write a post on it when I have more answers.
Should I give up vanilla in favor of a zero waste lifestyle? Since this is clearly a product with a lot of environmental cost? Eh probably not. Baking is too great!

Happy baking!

Homemade bags!

To get my zero waste shopping goals underway I set out to make some reusable drawstring bags. Here they are!  

I used organic unbleached cotton muslin that I got from Joann fabrics. I wanted to use any old fabric that we had around the house but the only extra unused sheet set we had was a really stretchy tshirt fabric from my freshman year.  Super comfy sheets but would be really hard to sew and crumbs would stick to that fabric like crazy, so I settled for new. However the fabric comes in bolts and they just cut you a piece off, so I got it totally zero waste except for the receipt! Which I recycled.

I used 2 yards of fabric and probably around 10 yards of the rope, and I used different thread colors to make them prettier and got 23 bags. I made 3 sizes

Small (9)

The medium is shown above (7)

And the large (6):

And I accidentally made 2 large ones that are shallower but it will be perfect for veggies.  I wanted to make mesh bags but I haven’t found a fabric I like yet so I’ll keep you updated! For now these will fit about everything I would want to  buy and I’ve written the tares right on the bag (on some of them, not shown)

I’ve already put them through the wash, I just pull them inside out and throw them in with the rest of the laundry!

  Juju stars from whole foods (my favorite)

 With the tare (this is just temporary with the pen at whole foods) 

If you buy small foods you can tie it off to make the closure more sealed

Happy zero waste shopping!