Erin's self-sufficiency blog

Dedicated to sharing my efforts in radical homemaking, self-sufficiency, simplicity, and general craftiness on a very, very small budget.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mustard and stock, with developments in laundry detergent

My big canning project this week was mustard. I used this recipe:

I chose it because I wanted to be able to can it, so I can share some as gifts and also keep it shelf-stable as long as I needed it. I don't have a pressure canner so I needed a recipe with vinegar. Anyways, it was loads of fun, and pretty easy to do. I omitted the horseradish and onion powder, because the recipe said it was okay to play with these. I don't like my mustard too hot and the vinegar made it plenty tangy. The recipe made three cups of mustard, which I canned in one-cup jars. Exciting!

I also made stock this week. I make stock frequently so it didn't occur to me to share it earlier, but I realized that many people don't know how to make stock. If you can boil water you can make stock! I gather scraps from vegetables and chicken bones in a one-gallon plastic bag that I keep in the freezer. When that gets full, I dump it into a large pot that I fill with water and I add a couple of bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns, if I have them. Then I bring the water to the boil, then reduce it to simmer and let it do that for about an hour. Then I cool it and strain it. I usually use most of the stock I just made in soup that evening, with a little bit set aside in a two-cup container for rice pilaf, and a few quarter-cup containers for Chinese food. I freeze these containers until I'm going to use them. So you can do all this for basically no money because you are using what other people consider to be garbage. Seriously. The only thing I wouldn't put in it are fruit scraps and the peels of russet potatoes, which are kind of dirty. (You can dry citrus peels in the oven and use them for mulled wine and such, and the rest of your fruit scraps you can use to make vinegar. Vinegar!) So if you do nothing else, you should make stock. Soooo easy and it saves you a lot of money over storebought stock.

I am learning about making your own laundry soap. Holy crap! It's so easy and cheap! You need borax, washing soda (soda ash, which I use for dyeing), and bar soap. The best type of bar soap to use is fels naptha, which is really cheap. I'm going to check my nearby hardware store. You only need 2 tablespoons per load. It doesn't have nasty chemicals or scents and is much better for the environment and allergies. If you need fabric softener, you can use vinegar in your rinse cycle, but I don't usually use fabric softener and I think it would be a pain in our commercial machines.

We have been doing a bit of low cost decorating for the Advent/Christmas season. I made an advent wreath with floral wire and evergreen branches. We threw evergreen branches on some surfaces and made popcorn garlands to decorate the tree with. It's been very exciting. I have made a present for my husband (more on that later, once he's opened it). I'm also doing my Christmas baking now. I've made banana bread and will also make butter tarts, peanut butter cookies, and popcorn balls. Maybe oatmeal raisin cookies too if I have enough time and butter.

Happy holidays everyone, and happy homemaking!

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