Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category

Learning to brew

When you “make” honey (after you extract the honey from the honeycomb), you are left with a sticky mess of wax and honey. I then wash this wax mixture so I can then refine the wax from the propolis and other bee related items. It feels so wasteful to then throw away this honey water (honey washings), that I tried several times to make mead. But each time, I made vinegar. I then went out and bought a bottle of mead to see the end product that I was aiming for: and I did not like it .

Oh dear.

Now what?

Then up popped an ad for a beer brewing workshop at the cornersmith picklery. Sold!

The beer brewing kit that is readily available in Australia is kind of like mixing cordial. Add substances A, B, C to water, let sit (brew) for 7 days then decant into your bottles, adding a carbonation ‘drop’ (dextrose sugar tablet) to each bottle.

The brewing method at this workshop was the next step along, where you might select the hoppiness of your brew by selecting the type of hops, and how long your brew your mixture for.

We were guided by Chris Sidwa of Batch Brewing in the method of extract brewing, which is a little more hands on than cordial brewing.

He ran through the importance of sterilisation, the difference that the type of hops makes to the flavour profile, as well as how long it is boiled and when it is added to the mixture.

Working in groups of 3, we got our 3 litres worth of water per person boiling, before adding the light malt extract, stirring to prevent the sugar burning on the bottom, or the foam exploding out of the top.

malt:

Malt

Cascade Hops:

Cascade Hops

These hops were developed by Oregon State University, and is one of the few freely available non-trademarked variety of hops. We added these at the -30 minute mark, and at the -5 minute mark. Everything is measured in terms of “time from ending the boil”.

You pack your hops into a double muslin bag, so that you can remove it from the brew when you put into the fermentation vessel.

Wrapped in muslin:

Hop bag

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble:

Brew

The process of boiling is to drive off unwanted flavours and remove bitterness. The reason the second lot of hops is added is to add the hoppy flavour back into the brew.

After adding the second lot of hops, we divided the mixture into our brew buckets, and enjoyed a small taster of Batch Brewing’s American Pale Ale, sourdough, cucumber pickles and capsicum (sweet pepper) relish.

We got to take our fermenting buckets home with us, and issued with a second set of instructions.

I didn’t think this one through:

Public transport

After carrying my brewing and decanting buckets home on the train (Luckily I didn’t have my pushbike, unlike one of the other attendees), we were instructed to add 3-4 litres of cooled boiling water and let brew for 7 days.

Recipe (makes approx 5 L):
3 litres boiling water
840 g malt after the ‘hot break’
1 x 30g hops @ -30 minutes
1 x 30g hops @ -5 minutes
Place mixture into your brew bucket.
Cool to approx 20 C
3g yeast (US-05)
3L chilled boiled water*.
Let brew for 7 days in a constant temperature environment, about 20 deg C, away from sunlight
35g dextrose into sterilised bottling bucket
Decant from brewing bucket into bottling bucket, leave yeast cake behind
Decant from bottling bucket into each bottle – gently – you don’t want the yeast to get all excited and foamy
Leave a little headroom (equivalent to your bottling wand)
Cap the bottles.

I had trouble capping the bottles with the supplied ‘hand capper’.

I left the lids on top of the bottles for a day to keep contaminants out, whilst I looked around to borrow someone else’s bench capper. I ended up buying one second hand.

Capped (L), Uncapped (R):

Capping

Considering the amount of force required to push the cap onto the bottle even with the benchtop capper, there is no way that I could have made the hand capper work. No wonder they are known as the deathstick in the industry!

Buy one bench capper, receive microbrew kit for free, BOGOF:


Bench capper


This was not my intention, to gain the equivalent of three home brew kegs in the space of 8 days! I’m going to have to try this recipe again, because instead of the second lot of chilled boiled water, I added honey washings which I had boiled (pastuerised). Note to self – if you do this, the beer may need to ferment for a longer period of time. This style of beer is called a braggot.


Braggot

A few months later, I did try my beer. I was left with 1/4 in the bottle, as the other 3/4 ended up all over the kitchen walls, floor and counter. Yep, it was still fermenting in the bottle. I was lucky it didn’t explode! The result was very tasty, but highly alcoholic.

The class was attended and paid for anonymously by A Sydney Foodie.

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Crop and Swap Feb 2017

I haven’t attended a crop and swap in quite a while; one because they’re an 80km round trip for me, and secondly – I’ve run out of honey! I haven’t harvested honey since November 2016. The season has been a bit odd and a lot of colonies have failed around the Sydney basin due to infestation of small hive beetle overcoming them, or not enough pollen/nectar due to the funny weather.

Up until now, I have just been doing one-on-one swaps, and racking up an incredible number of kilometres on the car.

But for the last crop and swap for February 2017, I figured that I would make an effort to head to the proper event in Lane Cove.


Crop and swap – out:

Crop and swap - out

This is what I brought with me to the swap event. Two pots of thyme. Two jars of preserved guava – from 2015. I didn’t think it would be safe to bring or subject anyone else to my jars of unset seville marmalade (5 years ago), or various guava jams and guava jellies, made even longer ago! Two jars of kombucha scoby “jerky”.Two packets of native frangipani seeds, collected from my own tree. Beeswax (of course), some rendered as cupcakes, and some as it had come out of my solar wax extractor.

Crop and swap – in:

Crop and swap Feb 2017 - in

1.5litres of worm wee. Kale. Warrigal greens. Genovese Basil. Armenian cucumber. 2 cloves of garlic. 2 finger limes. 1 lime. Lemon balm (plant). 3 chilli peppers – one of them was a scotch bonnet. I love getting chillies, I love their shape, but I can’t eat them!

I had put in a special request for bee friendly plants, so I ended up with several kinds of salvia cuttings (black knight, hot lips, something with bluish flowers, one with lilac/blue flowers); Fruit salad sage cuttings and indian borage. There was a shopping bag filled with chocolate mint. I was debating whether or not I could try and and get a curry leaf branch to take as a cutting (since I had failed earlier in the month), and then another crop swapper offered me a seedling from her garden, I just had to pop past on my way home.

For the seeds I got some for crookneck squash, kohlrabi, dill, and ‘warpaint watermelon’ – which were a wonderful iridescent blue colour. With a name like that, I thought the watermelon would be similarly coloured, but a search for information on the seeds says not.

My drive home was in a scented lemon-ish, chocolate mint haze.

I then spent the afternoon potting my newly acquired cuttings in the glorious, glorious sprinkling rain, and playing “identify this cutting”.

I stir fried the warrigal greens as a side dish to dinner

I turned the fruit salad leaf cuttings (which I had had taken off to reduce transpiration loss) into a iced tea tissane:

Herb infusion

Harvest Monday

I have had 1-2 tomatoes so far, all with grubs, but this was the first time I harvested a big lot of them. Ok, so there was a caterpillar munching on one, and evidence of more caterpillar breakfast on another but here is 800g of grosse lisse:

Monday harvest

I had three of them in a slow cooked ‘shakshuska’ breakfast, except that I was so distracted, I forgot to add the egg.

I’m thinking of bringing out my inner wog, and turning the rest of the harvest into my very own passata.

Add various harvestings of thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary and mint.

The cucumbers (300g) are from my neighbour, she’s such a gem!

I don’t know if this is an old wives tale, but she says that if you harvest them in the full heat of the day, it makes them sour. Thoughts?

Monday Harvest, Late November Edition

Not quite a harvest, but a garden update. Yes I know its December, but the photos were taken in November (and the post was started then too)… and so it’s kind of a late spring planting edition.

Native raspberry:

Native Raspberry

It looks like I’ve killed only one cane, but there’s a teeny tiny leaf poking out of the second one. Looking at the leaves, I think it is rubus moluccanus.

Dwarf avocado:
Dwarf Avocado

All the leaves fell off in a recent windstorm. This might be terminal.

Dwarf cherries:

Dwarf Cherry trees

They lost their leaves during autumn. Nothing yet has shooted for spring. Everywhere else in suburbia has done the spring flowering thing, and now has leaves. Also probably terminal. Dang it. I suspect over enthusiastic whipper snippering cut all the shallow surface roots.

So that’s all the bad news.

Harvested.

About 5 strawberries.
10kg honey.
5 Spears asparagus.
Herbs such as oregano, thyme, parsley.

Tumeric:

Tumeric Harvest

I also got about the same amount in ginger. I do like a ‘hot’ ginger, but apparently only old ginger is hot ginger. Does this mean I have to put it in the garden again for another season to make it hot?

Growing:

Banana

Bana-na-na-na-na-na-na-NA-NA-NAH, Bana-na-na-na-na-na-na-NA-NA-NAH.

This was planted in November 2013, and only now, 3 years later, do I get a hand of fruit forming. To quote Big Kev, I’m Excited.

I'm excited

Cropped and swapped.

I haven’t had much chance to talk about crop and swap. I went a few years ago to one hosted in Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains. That has been put on hold for 2016, so I joined another crop and swap group which is Sydney wide. The aim is that if you have excess produce, you offer it up for swap and you decide what the ‘value’ of what you want in return, but no money changes hands.

About the only thing I have to swap is honey. So far, from one 500g jar of honey, I have collected a kobucha squash seedling, cucumber seedling and three dragon fruit cuttings:

Swapsies

Then three jars of honey gave me a fortnight’s worth of homemade granola, made using the honey:

Granola

So there you have it, my late November/late spring garden update!

Plastic Free July update

An update on my plastic free July progress so far:

This has been difficult, as I’ve spent half of the time travelling overseas. When you get takeaway food, the server chucks in a plastic fork without thinking. So I shouldn’t get takeaway food. I have used the disposable forks more than once.

With coffee, I have either been reusing my keep cup, or getting the takeaway coffee without the plastic lid.

I have used two plastic straws.

I bought these ‘zippable’ bulk produce bags for $15 USD:

Bulk foods bags

Then I realised that I generally take my own reusable containers to the bulk foods shop Alfalfa house anyway, but these will be useful for buying loose items like fruit and veg.

Other than that, I have generally continued on my merry way, buying shrink wrapped meat (sorry). However, I did buy some avocados recently: the ones on the shrink wrapped styrofoam tray were cheaper per fruit, but I bought the loose ones because they weren’t wrapped in plastic.

Post-post note: I have found a use for those single use plastic spoons I get from my addiction to gelato. I use them as seedling markers in the garden.

Here is an update from my friend, Paul:

15 July: So far my plastic free living is going ok. I’ve used a total of 6 pieces. It’s not ideal but it’s far better than I was doing previously.

Piece 1: A chicken to roast (Pre-wrapped)
Piece 2: A block of cheese (Pre-wrapped).
Piece 3: Some bacon. The butcher could pick it up with the plastic or use a plastic glove to pick it up. I admitted defeat.
Piece 4: Was a loaf of bread that I bought in paper only to find when I got home the paper was plastic lined.
Piece 5: A shoulder of lamb (Pre-wrapped)
Piece 6: A bottle of Coke. This is the one that annoys me the most I was out at a work lunch and all the drinks they had to offer were in plastic bottles so I had one.

The thing that I am most proud of is that I’ve not used a single plastic bag or takeaway coffee cup. They are the two habits I’m trying to break.

I have now also found a butcher that will give me whatever meat I want by placing it straight into my Tupperware containers. Knowing this before would have halved the amount of plastic I’ve used so far.

I think he has tracked far better than myself!

Plastic Free July

plastic free july

 

 

The pledge this time around is to try and reduce the amount of ‘single user plastics’ one uses for the month of July.

The ‘big 4’ single use plastics are:
– straws,
– takeaway coffee cup lids,
– bags, and
– water bottles.

Sounds good in theory, but I can already tell from here its going to be hard. Even if I took reusable containers to the butcher/fishmonger for my purchased goods to be put into, there’s going to be a bit of a resistance from the perception of food handling hygiene and advertising for the shop. I will probably end up a vegetarian.

It reminds me a little of the plastic bag advert produced for the tv show the Gruen Transfer:

If you go to a bar, and order a soft drink; more often than not the bar person then sticks a straw in it for you. Then what, do I hand them back the straw and tell them I don’t want it? Or perhaps I should tell them at the point of ordering: no straw please.

I already have a bunch of reusable shopping bags that I forget to bring along with me to the shops:

shopping bags

I generally a carry reusable bag around with me in my handbag, but then when I go shopping after work, not all my shopping fits in my bag! So then I have to get 1-2 additional plastic bags.

I tend to reuse single use plastic bags to repackage sourdough bread for freezing and for garbage bin liners. Sometimes if I remember, I take the bags back to the shops and reuse them for fruit and veg.

My reusable coffee cups:

cups

You can see that these get quite a lot of use! I think ‘Keep cup’ changed the reusable cup market. They produce cups in “standard” coffee sizes (for Australia), so that they fit underneath the espresso coffee machine group head. It also means that the barista doesn’t have to ‘guess’ the right level to fill the coffee/milk up to when you bring your mug/cup along for your morning brew. And yes, I used to do that too. The sizes that I usually see are the 8 oz (227ml), 11oz (320ml), and the tiny espresso shot 4 oz (118ml). The size in the photo here is deceiving – the patterned (ceramic) cup on the right actually has less volume than the 8 oz cup on the left.

My reusable sandwich wrap:

sandwich wrapper

This one I like, because you’re not just limited to bread of a certain dimension which a lot of “envelope” style reusable sandwich bags limit you to. You can also use it if you make a ‘wrap’ for lunch. It cost me about $6 from a kitchenware supply store.

If I get some time, I’d like to try making my own beeswax wraps. I have a few doubts about hygiene and reusability, but hey, honey is a natural antibacterial, and my beeswax smells *intensely* like honey. Perhaps I would have to use colour coded fabric for different wraps – fruit, veg, cheese.

I think my biggest challenge will be my partner, who loves his cling film to death and wraps any thing and everything in it instead of using a re-usable container.

So, dear reader, will you be giving Plastic Free July a go? Or will you be targeting your consumption of the top four disposable waste plastics?

Buy nothing new month 2015

My normal practice is to see that buy nothing new month has already happened, and then do my own thing for the month of November.

This year, I was about to buy (another) yoga mat. Not because I needed it, but because I couldn’t be bothered carrying my yoga mat between offices. There is a yoga program at the office in the CBD; and there is a yoga program in my main office out in the western suburbs.

Carrying the yoga mat between the two just too much effort; have you been on a sydney train in peak hour?

The document obtained by Fairfax Media shows patronage on the Western Line is expected to increase 4.5 per cent a year until 2021, the fastest growth on the network. This is followed by the Northern Line (3.7 per cent) between Epping and Strathfield and the Airport & East Hills Line (3.3 per cent).
The documents show the average load on Western Line services arriving at Parramatta would be more than 1400 passengers a train. It is difficult to run services on time when trains carry more than 1200 passengers because people take a long time to get on and off carriages in the crush.
Punctuality figures released last week show the Western Line, Sydney’s busiest, is already struggling to cope. The line recorded the city’s lowest punctuality figure last year at 92.2 per cent, just above the government’s 92 per cent target and below the overall rate of 94.7 per cent.

So the existence of buy nothing new month has worked! I checked my desire for a new yoga mat up until the end of October. After that, I’ll have to re-evaluate after seeing if carrying it in between locations is really all that bad.

Did the “buy nothing new month” campaign make you re-evaluate the need for a purchase? What was it?