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I'm not someone stocks up on food very often, unless it is hot sauce. I have an entire cabinet devoted solely to hot sauce, and there is, in fact, a right hot sauce for every meal you eat. Save for maybe cereal.
Anyway. I’m not the type to go to the store and buy a whole bunch of one thing. I feel cluttered and anxious about using it all. Costco gives me hives for this very reason. Who needs a truckful of kale? WHO?
There are some things I will stock up on, however, even if it makes me feel like a food hoarder because they actually HELP me prevent food waste when I get buck wild at the farmers market and take home 8 crates of strawberries. When you’re trying to eat local and organic, it helps to pinch pennies which means buying what’s in season and cheaper but also using every single bit of those veggies and fruits. Which is exactly why we’re delving into the 5 food items that can be used to help you preserve your perishables and eliminate food waste and how to use them.
Vinegar is probably my favorite item on this list because it gives you so many options. From DIY cleaning products to a quick pickle, vinegar should be your new best friend as you start to go zero waste in the kitchen. It's important to keep several nice vinegars on hand, as well as several bottles of the cheap stuff. I'm personally partial to a nice white wine or champagne vinegar, so the minute I see it on sale, I like to stock up.
Chutneys: From mangoes to kumquats, from tomatoes to onions, this is a quick, easy way to extend the shelf life of food for up to a month. Sugar also plays heavily into chutneys, and they're ridiculously easy to make. Give it a shot with my Delicious Kumquat Chutney recipe - it’s addictive.
Shrubs: Also known as a drinking vinegar, this is another area where vinegar and sugar shine together. They're fun to keep on hand both in alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms, especially for friends who aren't drinking. Great way to put fruit and herbs on hold for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. I did an addictive Mulberry Basil Shrub this year that was a nightly addition to my sparkling water.
Quick Pickles: Quick pickles are a staple at Moore Manor, especially during the years when the garden produces an excess of banana peppers. It's a 10 minute way to let you enjoy your favorite garden fresh veggies way beyond their season.
Hot Sauce: As mentioned above, I have a hot sauce problem. This means I grow more spicy peppers than I could possibly use, and DIY Texas Pete is my favorite way to use them for up to 6 months... though I've stretched that as far as 1 year without issue.
Infused Vinegars: I've got two recipes in my back pocket that I make and give for Christmas presents, and they're addictive. The Lemon Tarragon vinegar will change your world, and my Spicy Table Vinegar is the only thing I want on my pork, beans, or chili.
DIY Cleaners: When it comes to zero waste cleaning, DIY vinegar cleaners are a crowd favorite. Infusing citrus peels infused into some vinegar makes for a safe, cheap, and eco-friendly cleaner, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, remember there are a lot of fun scent combinations to play with.
Salt is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and keeping some on hand is key. It's also a natural flavor enhancer, and one of my favorite adjectives. Who isn't a little salty from time to time?!
Broth: This one is getting its own post at some point, but veggie scraps and water can easily be transformed into a pretty much free broth with some simmering and salt.
Quick Pickles: As with the hot sauce above, vinegar and salt make powerful allies.
Fermented Pickles: With a little care, a salt brine will allow you to ferment most veggies into delightful pickles with some patience and some spices.
Salt Preservation: I do love a preserved lemon. But this technique can also be applied to beans and even some fish.
Another of history's most famed preservatives! Probably the crowd favorite, who doesn't love sugar?
Jams and Jellies: If you're dealing with a fruit naturally high in pectin, sugar and water are the only additional ingredients you'll need. I keep pectin on hand anyway, but I'm still swimming in marmalade so it'll be a while before I make more jam. Though they advise jellies and jams only last for 6 months to 1 years, I've never had any go bad before I've used them.
Ice Cream/Sorbet/Granitas: Sugar and fruit are best buddies in all three of these frozen foodie faves, but they’re exceptional in that kumquat ice cream I made last year!
Shrubs: I've explained a bit about shrubs or drinking vinegars up above, but sugar is vinegar's more tastebud-friendly partner in crime.
Candied Fruits: I actually don't have much of a sweet tooth, but those who do might want to try munching on candied oranges and ginger for a healthier option than your favorite snack foods.
Ah-hah! You say. This one, I can get down with.
Liqueurs: You've probably noticed this is one of my go-tos. It's quick, it's a crowd pleaser, it will store for virtually forever in the fridge or freezer. I've done multiple takes on limoncello, a potent "Loquat Tea" and I once almost killed some friends with a habanero vodka. (You can actually infuse some ingredients for too long, apparently. One friend managed to spew the fire-vodka into his own eye.)
Extracts: I hate buying any sort of vanilla, lemon, or orange extract. They're expensive as all hell, and I'm not much of a baker. Once I realized how easy they are to make, I decided I am for sure making these myself from now on.
Room Sprays: In a pinch, throw some water, essential oils, and vodka in a spray mister (though as I mentioned in this post I do personally prefer rubbing alcohol). The vodka will keep the mixture from getting moldy and help it evaporate away as you spritz your stinky abode.
Last but certainly not least!
Marinated Vegetables: Depending on your recipe, oil and vinegar will let you stretch your veggies for up to a month, and marinated veggies are one of my favorite things to chop and throw in an herby orzo salad.
Infusions: You can also infuse oils, which everyone loves. Whether jazzing up roasted potatoes, a salad dressing, or a dipping sauce, there's no need to hurry your extra garlic and herbs into the compost bin when you keep oil on hand.
Pickled Shrimp: I personally haven't done this one, but next time I have shrimp and lemon on hand, this recipe is going down. It will give you an extra week in the fridge.
Pesto: Though you can get creative with pestos, my personal theory is why mess with a classic. In the summer months, pesto is one of my favorite Moore Manor Homegoods. I love it so much, I will proudly breathe my garlic breath in the face of each and every hater. Consider yourself warned.