Archive for Use it Up

It’s In the Bag


An ad from a late 1943 Woman’s Day Magazine reads:
There are two major ways that you can help s-t-r-e-t-c-h the paper supply:

1. By taking goods from stores unwrapped whenever practicable, and by using your own containers when possible.

2. By salvaging all types of waste paper – newspapers, magazines, containers.

Imagine a time when plastic bags were not even an imagined shopping convenience. While it is popular to use cloth bags now, it’s not as widely practiced as it should be. Have you ever stopped to think why it’s necessary to use a bag at all when you purchase one or two items from a store? Why the bag?

I’ve embarrassed my hubby again at the grocery store check out line. I bring my own bags and I insist that nothing be pre-wrapped in plastic before putting it in my cloth bags. The baggers frequently argue with me about the safety of wrapping meat, cleaning supplies, and non-edible items before putting them in my bag.

Here’s where I start to embarrass my hubby: I ask the bagger if he/she notices that the cleaning products are already contained in plastic bottles. And, not only that, but they contain an aluminum-type safety seal under their plastic top. Why would I need to triple-protect them in a plastic bag for the two-mile trip home? Meat is packaged; yeah, I get it – sometimes meat packages get messy from the meat counter it is stored in at the store. So noted. But, everything I buy is wrapped in its own plastic and/or box. It still does not come in direct contact with another item that is not wrapped.

I buy bulk soap. It is often in a rack where you get to cut your own block from a large block. It’s part of the fun of buying it this way. When I encountered a particularly stubborn bagger who was extremely intent to wrap my soap in its own bag, I had to remind her that the soap was actually going to be used on my body. She still protested about it coming in contact with food I eat. Really?

I’m not saying it’s safe to eat soap (in fact, isn’t that a child-protective services violation these days). But, when it comes to waste, particularly plastic-bag waste, can’t we get over it and just put that brick of fine-smelling soap on top of the box of granola wrapped inside wax paper inside the cardboard box? I think so.

Oranges in Your Stocking & Oranges in Your Marmalade

Orange season was getting away from me. Florida and California varieties usually arrive around the second week of November and keep coming through late spring. They’re not great at the extreme ends of the season. February, March and April are the peak months. Late in the season they are likely to be dry, puffy and expensive. Oranges are not a summer fruit.

 

My grandparents and great-grandparents knew what it was like to go three seasons without an orange. And my hunch is that they knew very well the first November oranges weren’t the best and that’s why oranges stuffed in December’s Christmas stockings were considered a wonderful treat. By the time the tradition made it to my generation, my cousins and I didn’t understand it and we didn’t see the sense in using an apple and an orange to take up valuable chocolate space in the stocking.

 

Now knowing that oranges in the winter are the watermelon of summer, things seem very different. Imagine if we weren’t able to go to the grocery store any time of the year whenever we chose to buy oranges and fresh (real) orange juice. Oranges would definitely feel like an exciting gift in December.

 

With prices the lowest of the season, at the time when they are the best-tasting, it was time to buy in bulk even if they were perishable. The WWII answer to perishable bulk was to preserve.

 

Orange Marmalade. Not my favorite, but one of the only peanut butter combinations my husband will eat.

 

In the 1942 Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, marmalade is described as “similar to jellies in texture with small thin slices or small pieces of the fruit appearing throughout the product. They are usually although not always made of citrus fruits.”

 

An orange marmalade takes 10 medium-sized oranges, 2 large lemons, water and sugar.

 

Here’s the recipe instructions: Wash the fruit thoroughly; cut in quarters, then in very thin slices, discarding all membrane and saving all pulp, rind and juice.

 

Cover with cold water in a heavy kettle; let stand overnight.

 

Cook in the same water until the peel is tender; let stand for 5 to 6 hours.

 

Weigh the whole batch and add an equal weight of sugar.

 

Cook until the sirup gives the jelly test. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.

 

Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars and seal at once.

 

The Jelly Test: As the juice-sugar mixture nears the jellying point test frequently. Dip a spoon into the boiling mass, remove and allow the juice to drip from the side of the spoon. As it nears the jelly stage it will drip from the spoon in two drops ¼ to ½ inch apart; when the jellying point has been reached the two drops will run together and drop off in one sheet or flake.

 

A candy or jelly thermometer may be used instead of the jelly test to determine the jelly stage. At sea level the jellying point is reached at 220° F to 222° F; at higher altitudes it is reached at a lower temperature.

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The 1942 cookbook goes on to describe the next steps of filling and sealing the glasses: Skim the surface of the jelly and pour immediately into hot sterilized jelly glasses, holding the pot close to the glass while pouring to avoid incorporating air bubbles. Fill the glasses to within 1/8 inch of the top; the jelly shrinks as it cools.

 

Pour a thin layer of melted paraffin immediately over the surface of the jelly. Allow the jelly to cool thoroughly, then cover the glasses and store in a cool place.

 

I used the thermometer method. Actually, I tried both, but the jelly test method left too much room for error. It’s one of those things I feel need to be shown, not read about, to fully understand. The next easiest thing would be to YouTube the jelly test method and watch/listen to a stranger through my computer explain it – I think I’d much rather find someone who learned from their mother or grandmother to show me.

 

All told, for a very short amount of time and for roughly 23¢ a jar (uh-huh!), I will likely not buy marmalade from the store ever again.IMG_20160221_145029298_HDR

An Apple (or Bushel) A Day

August and September brought an abundance of apples. Off of our two little trees planted only two years ago, we harvested 21 pounds of Miniature Red Delicious and Wolf River varieties. I specially planted the Wolf River to honor my Great-Grandmother Mabel Crook who wrote in a family heritage narrative to describe the many types of apples growing in their apple orchard in Green Lake Wisconsin, “There were Snow, Talman Sweet, Jonathan, Wolf River, Greening and Macintosh.”

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In addition to the apples we picked from our yard, a friend gave us all the windfall apples they could pick too. Needless to say, we had enough apples for lots of WWII style creative storage!

 

First up, washing everything. I used a sink full of water mixed with a cup or two of distilled vinegar to rinse the apples.

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I started out with canned Apple Pie Filling.  It’s best to start by making the syrup. While it cooks you can core and peel the apples…lots and lots of apples.

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When I had the jars stuffed full of the apples, I poured the syrup into the jars and then processed.

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This recipe will need cornstarch added when I open the cans and use them. Cornstarch is not canning stable, according to the USDA.

 

Once I had finished a full kettle of Apple Pie Filling, I switched over to Applesauce. I added brown sugar to the apples and boiled them down. Next, I put them through my mill and added a little bit of leftover syrup.

 

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Even after all of the canning, I still have leftover syrup. I’m saving it in my refrigerator to add to apple juice in small batches to make spiced apple cider.

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Recipes:

Apple Pie Filling

  • 4 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 pounds apples, peeled and cored

In a large pan over medium heat, mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Add 5 cups water and mix well. Cook and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved.

Stir frequently, boiling until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.

Fill jars  halfway with sliced apples. Then pour liquid into jars to about one inch from the top of the jar. Ladle the syrup over the apples, then add more apple sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of room between the filling and the jar top to allow for a little expansion.

Slide a thin plastic, silicone or wooden knife around the sides of the jar to remove air bubbles, then put the lids and rings on the jars.

Add a few cups of cold water to your boiling water bath to equalize the water temperature to the temps of the filled jars and place jars in the boiling water, making sure there is enough water to cover the jars with at least a 1/2 inch of water.

Bring canning water to a rolling boil. Once the water is at boiling, let the jars sit for 25 minutes.

 

Applesauce

Put about six cups of cored and peeled apples into Dutch Oven. Add about a cup of water or apple juice. Add juice of one lemon. Add 1/2 cup of brown or white sugar and about 1 T of cinnamon (to taste). You can also add ground cloves, allspice, or ground nutmeg — whatever you like! Stir the pot well and then cover for about 25 minutes.

At this point, you may be done! Or, you may want to put your apples through a mill or blender…whatever you prefer. Decide if you’d like to eat it right away or in smaller batches throughout the next year by processing in a water bath.

You Say Tomato…I Say Sauce

Another week has gone by and the counter has filled up with more good things from the Victory Garden.  IMG_20150828_143714529

I planted two types of tomatoes in the spring — Better Boy and Cherry. Both types were planted from seed, something I haven’t tried before because it takes an incredible amount of patience to wait for tomatoes to come up while the ones in the store are about to turn red even before frost is over and all you have to do is plop them in the ground. But, the funny thing was the seeded tomatoes I planted were ready to pick the same week as the store-bought in other people’s gardens.

Now that the sun is baking the yard every day, I am picking about three Better Boys and a dozen Cherries every day.  Every. Day. That’s about 2 dozen large tomatoes by the end of one week and let’s just say roughly a million small ones in the same time.

So off I went to track down some good canning recipes. Salsa and Whole Tomatoes made the short list, but I settled on Spaghetti Sauce and Tomato Cocktail Juice.

For the Spaghetti Sauce, I used the Basil-Garlic Tomato Sauce recipe from the Ball Canning website. Key is to use lemon juice or citric acid in the recipe to keep it from spoiling during storage. I also learned I didn’t cook it down long enough. I simmered my recipe for an hour, but I should have gone 2-3 hours. As it cooled in the jars, it separated and became watery; still good, but not nice and thick like the really good stuff.

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For the Tomato Cocktail Juice, I used a trusted recipe from Oscar, a dear family friend of my Aunt Carol. He shared his very best recipes and tips with Carol before passing away a few years ago.

Here’s Oscar’s recipe:

1 Kettle Cut-Up Tomatoes

2 Stalks Celery

1 Bay Leaf

2 Onions

1/2 Green Pepper

Parsley Flakes

2 T Salt

2 T Sugar

2 T Lemon Juice

Cook until tender, about one hour. Put through a strainer and reheat. Bring to a boil again for about 30 minutes. Put into jars and seal. Process in hot water bath for 30 minutes. Keep water hot, but not at a rapid boil.

Carol adds carrots as well.

The best part about this recipe is that it used up both types of tomatoes. I boiled both down really well and then ran through my Omega juicer (one luxury of convenience I wish my grandmothers could have had!!).  The juicer removed the seeds and skins completely, leaving juice and a fair amount of pulp.

While I’m being honest about my shortcut here, I’ll also confess that I did not cook down the onion, green pepper, celery or carrots. I juiced them after I ran the cooked tomatoes through. I’ve never tried juicing an onion or green pepper before, but it turned out fantastic and cut a lot of time off my finished recipe. I had been at the tomatoes for three hours by the time I got to the Tomato Cocktail Juice. So, if you wonder how I could stray off my WWII rules…yeah, don’t ask!

The end result is amazing. I am picky about tomato sauce. The only brand I buy is Hunt’s. The Tomato Cocktail Juice comes so close to the taste of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce that I’ll likely use it instead of Hunt’s and enjoy the added value of the other vegetables.

Drink Their Tomatoes

Waste Not.

Stop WasteAn overriding value of the WWII project is about avoiding waste. Whether the value was learned through the years of The Great Depression, or through government facilitation, it has always been clear to me that people alive during WWII were conscious about waste. Their efforts made them selfless in our minds and to them each following generation seems indulgent and living with a growing sense of entitlement.

 

About waste in general, I turned to a valuable timeline found on the Association of Science – Technology Centers site.

 

1927: John M. Hammes, an architect in Racine, Wisconsin invents the InSinkErator® food disposer in his basement. It is patented in 1935, a year when only 52 models sold.

 

Why is that important, you may ask. Well…think about it. 52 garbage disposals installed; do you know of any modern homes without a disposal these days?

 

There was a real problem at the company ten years later, as their salesforce was still trying to figure out how to sell disposers. They just weren’t necessary for the small amount of kitchen waste produced.

 

After WWII though, 18 competitors of InSinkErator arrived on the scene. Times were changing.

 

In the early 1900s, Americans were estimated to waste 80-100 pounds of food per year, per person. Can you believe we are now tossing 20 pounds per person, per month? That’s 100 pounds in 1900, 240 pounds in 2015.

What has made this change? Availability. Convenience.

Convenience came in the form of several inventions:

1914 – Wax Paper

1928 – Cellophane

1929 – Aluminum Foil

1930 – Plastic (polyvinyl chloride) and polystyrene

1937 – Nylon, the world’s first synthetic fiber

Waste Fat

Before such inventions, we were only able to take what we could eat. We weren’t able to store food easily so we better judged what we really needed. I can give an example. Today I reluctantly tossed out a half full clamshell of grape tomatoes to the compost that had gone beyond their safe ripeness. I don’t do this absent-mindedly. I think about what I did that led to such waste. I realized it’s about size and portions (the American way!). The clamshell held about a 1 ½ pounds of grape tomatoes — roughly 60 of them. Realistically, there’s no way we would have eaten that many grape tomatoes. We have learned to buy for size, without thinking if it’s really what we need…value is in the bigger package, right Sam’s Club and Costco?

 

Speaking of packaging, I’m having trouble with the local grocers. They have a real problem with me not allowing them to wrap household items in plastic before putting in my bags with my other items. Never mind the fact that most of what we buy is wrapped in heavy plastic, slid inside a cardboard box. In the case of most household items (shampoo, soap, moisturizer, cleaning supplies), that are put on our bodies or countertops where we serve food, what is the problem if it comes near my food on its way home from the store?

Waste Paper

Anyway…back to waste. In 1947, J. Gordon Lippincott, an Industrial Designer of the time, made a comment on an observation he had made: “Our willingness to part with something before it is completely worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society in history. It is soundly based on our economy of abundance. It must be further nurtured even though it runs contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity – the law of thrift.”  That said in 1947, long, long before Apple phones are replaced every two years for the newer version with cooler features! Mr. Lippincott was actually referring to inventions such as disposable Bic pens and disposable Gillette razors. This type of waste just didn’t make sense.

 

Sadly, things only became worse as Americans became increasingly focused on consumerism.

 

1953: The American economy’s “ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods”. – Chairman of President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors.

 

“It is our job to make women unhappy with what they have.” – B. Earl Puckett, Allied Stores Corp.

 

1991: “Our economy is such that we cannot “afford” to take care of things: labor is expensive, time is expensive, money is expensive, but materials — the stuff of creation — are so cheap that we cannot afford to take care of them.” – Wendell Berry

 

1993: “We’re reminded a hundred times a day to buy things, but we’re not reminded to take care of them, repair them, reuse them, or give them away.” – Michael Jacobson, Center for the Study of Commercialism

 

By latest claims, Americans throw out 230,000,000 tons of trash (4.6 pounds per day) per person annually. Less than ¼ of that amount is recycled.

 

And back to food waste — it’s too much. 20 pounds per person, each month of food. Roughly 15% – 20% of what we buy we throw out.

 

Think about the additional waste of resources involved. According to author and food waste expert Jonathan Bloom, food waste is not just a moral issue, but also an environmental issue. “A tremendous amount of resources go into growing our food, processing, shipping, cooling and cooking it,” said Bloom. “Our food waste could represent as much as six percent of U.S. energy consumption.”

 

It comes down to winning the modern war against overabundance and consumerism.

 

Stores overstock. If the shelves or produce displays look empty we think there is something wrong with what’s left. No one wants to take the last head of broccoli.

 

Any produce slightly subpar is tossed before it even goes to market. The USDA standards of grading produce puts a farmer at loss. If something is a Grade 2, two-thirds of its market value is lost, even though taste and freshness is identical to a Grade 1. It’s all about aesthetics.

 

91% of consumers have tossed food for the reason it is past its ‘sell date’. There are no USDA health or safety standards on food expiration (except in the case of baby formula). The dates you see on food in a store is determined by manufacturer — someone who would have an interest in you tossing to buy again.

 

So, here we are in 2015…70 years since WWII and the food rules. ‘Living Green’ is popular…reduce, reuse, recycle feels like a hip concept to us. Don’t be fooled. The trend was a way of life, not a trend, until the end of WWII and we’re not even close to mastering it the way our grandparents did. This is one of those lessons we must hold on to.

 

Don’t buy more than you need. Use what you buy. Reuse or recycle what’s left of packaging, if you can’t avoid packaging completely. Or, as they use to say – Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without!

Food Waste

The Six Month Mark of the Project

Today marks the halfway point for the WWII Food Rationing Project year. The starting day was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, which was the event that sent the United States into the war and rationing.

So, how’s it going?

IMG_20150607_125024429_HDRIn the first month of the project, I was able to manage the weekly meal prep according to the Meal Planning booklets from 1943/1944.  It would take an entire day to prep the food, which is okay since I like that kind of mindful working. The recipes were good, though notably scaled back from what we were eating prior to the project. One problem though was keeping sandwich bread fresh and soft through the week, especially if I made lunches ahead of time for the week, wrapped in wax paper. By Friday, we felt like we were eating celery/egg sandwiches on toast. Preparing lunches for the day during the morning rush proved too complicated in my routine without losing an hour’s worth of sleep that made me functional for the day. I say it over and over – I don’t know how they did it!

I enjoyed making bread every week. But, I am currently trying to find a recipe for Potato Bread instead of the typical wheat flour recipes I had been using. I’ve been buying instead of making for two months’ time. IMG_20150607_125238013_HDR

I haven’t purchased sugar in over three months’ time. In the beginning of the project I wasworried about supply and running on fumes by the end of the week. That was also at the time I was following the meal planning booklets closely. We’re not eating desserts at the end of each meal. The worst craving was for Oreo cookies and with their invention in 1912, they actually were on the allowed list.

We have a huge (to our standards) “Victory” Garden. It’s a pain to keep up. During WWII people were encouraged to useIMG_20150607_130141634 every inch of lawn space for a Victory Garden. We’re only using about 1/8th of our yard for it and I can’t keep the weeds down.

Plastic containers have left our kitchen for good. It didn’t take long to switch over to glass. I’m still using freezer bags in the freezer since I IMG_20150607_125310473_HDRcouldn’t come up with a better solution. Utensils were a challenge to replace and I have scrounged around antique shops and estate sales to repurchase non-plastic measuring spoons, cups, and such. One recipe booklet told me to use a rubber spatula to scoop something out of a jar. I was elated! I would easily nominate rubber spatulas as the greatest kitchen invention of modern time. Something so simple, right?

IMG_20150607_125521396It is rare for food to be thrown out. My mother is a master of leftovers and it’s taking me practice to get there, but I’ve greatly improved on food waste. The solution is to not buy things special for a recipe that I’ll only use once and don’t buy anything I don’t need, period. There is always a suitable substitute for ingredients, or you can omit (Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without).

I haven’t purchased cleaning supplies in six months. Yes, I still clean the house! Vinegar, Borax, baking soda, lemon juice/oil all do the job. For everything. When a t-shirt is beyond its wearable lifespan, it is cut up into four rags. Which can be rewashed.

We are eating a lot of chicken. Chickens weren’t plentiful during WWII, they were needed for eggs, but when we started following the recipes we were eating way too much red meat, even under the monthly rationing standards. I categorize this change as “When You Know Better”. It just didn’t feel healthy to be eating that way.

So, what do we eat?

Eggs. Chicken. Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Salads. Fruits. Vegetables – lots of potatoes. Ham. And, nobody is going hungry.

When I bake and cook I listen to the radio or music from the era. This point IMG_20150607_130519694made me realize I had been forgetting that every single kitchen I spent time in as a kid had a radio centered in the kitchen.

Back in December when people asked me why I was going to start the project I told them it was a study in contentment, resourcefulness, and mindful eating. I have to say, it’s been all of that. In very good ways. The next six months will march on; starting today I will make a commitment to shore up some of the edges that have become frayed as far as the rules go and see what else comes along. To Victory!

Use It Up.

“Use it Up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without.” — Mantra of the WWII generation. 

There will be many posts about this topic of wasting nothing. Everything about the home front during WWII involved making sure everything received its full use.

In my kitchen I’m having trouble parting with some things that I have no idea how I’m going to use — twist ties from fruit bags, fruit bags, empty jars (non-canning), frying pan grease (stay tuned for that post soon!). Every piece of paper, foil, cardboard is getting used twice and then composted or recycled.

With all this being said, it’s no surprise that every scrap of food must be used up. The EPA reported in 2012 that the US throws out 35 million tons of food each year. Estimates during WWII are around 4 million tons. How sad!

Of course, people living on the home front during the war were constantly reminded to not waste food. It was a matter of being a good patriot.

While the sentiment about being Food is a weaponmindful of those without enough to eat is still around, a big factor in food waste comes down to convenience – there’s no need to worry about using a ham bone to make broth since you can buy a can of it from any grocery store for very little money. Does anyone now have any idea how to take the giblet bag of a turkey/chicken and make it into a pan of gravy? Again, no…a can or a powder and some water will do the trick.

So, back to my kitchen. You know when you make a pie and there always seems to be more crust than pie plate? What can you do with the scraps?

The problem left me with an idea to make individual pies for lunches. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. You can make “hand pies” by simply folding the filling into the crust and baking or frying (kind of like those Hostess Fruit Pies — warning…do NOT look at the calorie intake on those packages — well, actually – go ahead. Take a look at how many calories you are eating in those things! Spoiler Alert: I’m going to tell you now. 480 Calories per pie! 480!!)

I much preferred the idea of making a mini pie that could be contained in a lunch box. I simply pressed the leftover dough into a small mason jar, filled it with blueberries or apples and put them in the oven until they looked and smelled done.

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Mission Accomplished: No Waste Today!