Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Evaporation can be used to keep foods cool. An unglazed terracotta pot can serve as an excellent wine or food cooler. When the water evaporates, the air inside the pot cools down, keeping what is in it cool.
My grandmother spoke of her mother using sand to protect vegetables and keep them cool. While I have not entirely recovered this technique yet, sand is used here in a fascinating way - perhaps this is the long lost technique! Using sand as an extra layer around terracotta pots seems to make this cooling system work better. Find 2 unglazed terracotta pots, one smaller than the other and plug any holes. Place the smaller pot within the larger one and fill the space between them with course clean sand. You can find sterilized sand if you are concerned at many hardware or building supply stores. Pour water into the sand until it is completely wet. This will achieve even more cooling. Put a piece of wet cloth over the top and items within will be cooled shortly. A model such as this can last a few days without needing more water. Keep in a shady place.
I wonder if there is a long history of this technique in many cultures...
Can't wait to try this! Here's a traditional terracotta cooling pot from India.
But I also stumbled upon this idea!! Another thing to try ... heat these rocks up in a campfire, and then make some kebabs.... Once you are done keeping everything cool and have eaten your food!
Friday, March 6, 2009
Drying food can be an excellent compliment to living without a fridge.
It's incredibly simple and can be done with as little as a stainless steel needle and thread.
Take the items that you want to dry - mushrooms are a wonderful way to start - and simply sew them together in a beautiful line. You can then hang the string of vegetables or fruit in a place in your home or in the sun that is optimal for drying.
Not all veggies are firm enough for this method and some could use a drying rack instead which you can easily construct out of an old picture frame and some wire mesh that you get from the hardware store.
Less porous foods such as peppers or cranberries dry much faster and more effectively if you punch or slice holes in them with a sterilized needle or knife. For hot red peppers, I put 4 large sliced holes in each. In something more watery and firm like a cranberry, 4 holes punched in with a pin. You will notice that this dramatically speeds up your drying time and helps to avoid mold.
Natural drying is a great way to use heat that is already working in your house in the winter, or heat from the sun. Find a very dry, warm place such as above a radiator.
To complete this process, you can flash-heat your dried goods in order to pasteurize them. With most vegetables and fruits this is not necessary, however some people who dry mushrooms (for instance) recommend this. This takes a very short period of time and could go with a time when you already need to heat up your oven any way so that excess electricity is not used.
Food dehydrators are also an excellent and easy way to dry food, you can purchase these and they plug in. They can really dry the air out in your place, so keep them far from anywhere where you sleep at night!
But the needle and thread method is beautiful, simple. Picture just keeping this in your pocket and taking a few breaths to string some veggies up that you come across while passing a market, or after a dinner with leftover food.
We are all familiar with photos of European kitchens with dried peppers or tomatoes handing on strings. You can make your house this delightful also. Dried mushrooms on a line look magical.
Here are two recipes:
This method can be used for most mushrooms (except pink mushrooms that are similar to cultivated button mushrooms).
Sort the mushrooms. Using a knife remove grass or soil, do not wash them. Cut them into pieces, and thread them through with a needle and string to make garlands, which you then hang over central heating, wood heating, outdoors in the sun, or in a dry place.
Let them dry for approximately 15 days. Un-thread thread them, and store in tin cans or bottles, tightly sealed all around with adhesive tape.
Peel whole apples at the end of winter when they begin to wrinkle. Core and slice them into 1/4 inch rounds. Thread the rounds onto sturdy string. Shape the string into 1/2 pound necklaces that can be hung in a similar place to mushroom recipe above.
Rounds can take 4 days to 2 weeks to dry depending on heat. Start tasting them after the 4th day to see how dry they are.
When they are still semi flexible you can take them down.
Store in tin cans, bottles, or cloth bags for up to one year.
Enjoy the look of your foods drying in your kitchen. It creates a festive feel.
by Lloyd Alter
Concept spaces by various designers were linked together as an exhibit at IDS, with Toronto's Donald Chong getting the kitchen. And what a gem of a kitchen it is. When one looks at architectural magazines and even TreeHugger, kitchens have become high tech wonders; ads show monster appliances, triple ovens and fridges big enough to park a cow in. When you enter Donald Chong's kitchen you see wood, food and warmth. The fridge is a small, undercounter unit- this is a seasonal kitchen, responding to the marketplace, the baker, vegetable store and neighbourhood vendor. You don't need a big fridge when you are committed to fresh and seasonal. You do need storage; Donald is standing in front of a wall of beautiful objects and ingredients.
It is a combined kitchen/ dining area with center island/ dining table is surrounded Hans Wegner chairs, with depressions carved in for still lives of fruits and vegetables. Lumber for flooring, structure and ceiling is reclaimed from Urban Tree Harvest- local city trees that have been blown down or reached the end of their lives and replaced.
To continue reading, visit the article by Lloyd Alter here.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Some helpful stats from the Ontario Conservation Authority to come - Old fridges (under 1 ton of carbon emitted a year.) New fridges (.25 tonnes), Compacts (.10 tonnes). No fridge - you got it.
Thanks to Peter Love from the Ontario Conservation Authority for passing this on.