If you have read one of my recent blog entries, you know my family and I are settling into our new home.
I can't believe we've been able to collect so much stuff in such a short amount of time. However, the new house has plenty of space for it all. The real question I have been asking myself quite frequently is: Do I really need this?
Moving has allowed me to take stock in our possessions and do some well-deserved and necessary "spring cleaning."
In the middle of the madness, a couple of friends stopped by for a visit.
During a tour of "The Duchess," my friend remarked about how she had never heard of how we used some old-fashioned techniques to store pantry items.
"You really ought to write a blog about this," she said. "I've never heard of doing these things before. But you can bet, when I get home I'm doing them."
So here are a few tips passed down from my Grandma Iva and her two sisters, Glenna and Florence "Sis."
Pantyhose and Onions
Our family loves onions, so we go through a lot of them on a weekly basis. If stored properly, onions can stay fresh for up to six months.
You will need a washed pair of used or new pantyhose. Place one whole onion into the feet and then tie a knot in the pantyhose above the onion. Repeat this process until both legs are full with onions. All you have to do is hang the pantyhose in a cool, dry, and dark place, such as a pantry, closet, or cellar.
When you need an onion, just cut one off the hose from the bottom of the pantyhose. Apparently keeping onions separated and dry in such a way that they are able to breathe, extends their shelf life. Mesh bags can also be used the same way, but don't necessarily hold the same amount.
I don't have what you would call a "green thumb," so growing fresh herbs/spices at our house is going to be my husband's job in our new house. (I have such bad luck with plants, I swear that I can hear them beg to not be brought to our house for me to tend.)
I used to not be able to keep the store-bought kind either. It seemed at the end of every month, I'd have to buy new bottles, which can be very expensive. That is, until my grandmother came to visit my house one day.
"Get them away from the stove, Ivella Sue," she chastised me. "Every time you cook, you put heat and moisture in the air and it goes right inside those bottles."
Apparently you need to store dried spices and herbs in a cool, dark, and dry place. Heat, moisture, and strong light can degrade the flavor and effectiveness of your seasonings, even salt.
Don't display seasonings on open racks above or near your stove or dishwasher or anywhere in your kitchen they will be exposed to heat. Now I won't lie to you, we do this at our house. The spice racks are right above the stove, but we usually use the bottles up during a month anymore, so I don't have to worry about freshness that often!
Whole dried spices and herbs can be stored in a freezer for up to three years to keep them fresher. However, only store ground seasonings in the freezer for no more than six months.
Specialty bacon oil
Why pay top dollar for specialty oils that are flavored when you can do that at home.
Use a metal or glass bowl, a few paper towels (coffee filters) and a mesh strainer too next time you make bacon.
Pour the fat into the bowl while it's still hot. Lift the paper towel up by the corners and let the melted fat drain through. The hotter it is when you do this step, the faster it will drain. Let the oil cool for a while before transferring to a storage container, which is then kept in the fridge.
I "go green" and re-use a clean glass jar, such as one from instant coffee, to store the leftover fat. It's great when needing some additional flavor in recipes. I put a couple of teaspoons in the frying pan for fried chicken, or when browning steaks or pork chops.
A Hanging Tree
I love bananas, but they used to always go bad before I could eat the bunch.
"Take them out of that plastic bag so they can breath and ripen," my grandmother said while hanging them from a hook on my wall.
Storing bananas on a hanger or hook is the best way to preserve the quality of a ripe banana as it avoids "resting bruises."
However, store them away from doors, windows, exterior walls, and cold or hot drafts.
If bananas are too green, put them in a paper bag to ripen. Adding an apple or tomato to the bag will help the bananas ripen even faster.
Once the bananas get to the desired ripeness, put them into your refrigerator. The skin turns black, but the banana inside stays perfect for two or three days.
Never store unripe bananas in the refrigerator. They will not ripen properly because cold interferes with the ripening process.