EVEN EASIER: Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar from Apple Scraps

EVEN EASIER: Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar from Apple Scraps

One of my favourites and easiest ways to use up excess apples is making your own ACV: apple cider vinegar. I wrote this post at the start of the year and have since revised how I make my ACV, so here is the new and improved way!

You’ve all heard of the benefits of apple cider vinegar right? All the probiotics and enzymes  in there help balance your blood sugar, increase weight loss, reduces blood pressure…

Apple cider vinegar has been around for centuries and was traditionally made from pressed apple juice. Using apple juice is a great way to make ACV and that’s how I’m making it today,  but don’t think you have to use whole apples on this. This way is still using only apple scraps! (Though obviously, if you have too many apples, by all means use the whole thing!)

When I used to make it previously I would weigh the apple scraps down underneath filtered water, add in some sugar and let it sit. This way does work but you have to make sure all the scraps are held under water and you need to add a little sugar.

Now, all I’m doing is juicing my apple cores and peels. Even just these parts of the apple make a substantial amount of juice. You can add in some filtered water to bulk it out though if you want to make more. This new way needs no added sugar, and you don’t need to hold anything under water. The only maintenance is to scrape off any apple juice scum for the first couple of days as it rises to the top. It’s also a brilliant way to add in different types of fruit scraps for some exciting vinegar flavours such as feijoa, berries, pears, kiwifruit, stone fruits.

Once your scraps have been juiced, let it sit for a while so all the thick fruit scum rises to the top. You’ll want to separate this from the liquid. Scrape off what you can, then pour the rest through a cheesecloth, into a sterilised glass jar.

Now you can bulk it out with some filtered water if you like, don’t add more water than fruit juice though or it will be too diluted. Then you can in some already made vinegar to speed things up (both these are optional.)

Then cover your container with a cheesecloth or paper towels. You definitely want there to be airflow happening when you are fermenting, otherwise, you’ll have an explosion on your hands!

Store this mixture in a warm, dark place for about 3-6 weeks. I keep mine in the cupboard under the stairs. Every couple of days in the first week or two, I’ll check the scum that has risen to the top and scrape it off. If I added in some already made vinegar, the chance of this scum growing mouldy is minimal but if you’re making it completely from scratch, then you’ll need to scrape it off.  After the first week or two, you probably won’t need to scrape it anymore. It may form a white or grey topping,  or a scoby on top are fine to leave.

After a couple of weeks, you can start to taste your vinegar. Once it tastes to your liking you can bottle it. If you added no extra vinegar the process will take at least 4-6 weeks. With vinegar it’s as little as 3 weeks.

*Notes*

  • You may see a white or grey scum forming on the top of your vinegar. This is absolutely normal and is just a sign of the fermenting process. If mould grows it doesn’t mean all is lost. If it’s grey or fuzzy scoop it off before it has a chance to affect the taste of the vinegar. If dark green/black, discard the vinegar and start again.
  • A SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) may occasionally form on top of your vinegar. This is just all the good bacteria combined in this squidgy little disc. (And yes, you can make kombucha from this SCOBY.)
  • Your vinegar will look cloudy and there will be remnants swirling around in there. These may form into another sort of squidgy disc but this one stays under the surface.  This is the vinegar ‘mother’. Both the SCOBY and the Mother of Vinegar are a collection of acetic bacteria (the bacteria that oxidise the sugar and turn it into alcohol) contained in a cellulose structure, but the SCOBY contains yeast while the vinegar mother does not.
    The yeast causes carbonation. This is why kombucha made with a SCOBY is fizzy, while a vinegar with the mother is not.
  • You can absolutely make fruit vinegar with other types of fruit, the possibilities are endless! Apple cider vinegar is mainly so popular because of the abundance of apples. Try pear cider vinegar or plum!

 

A Beginners Guide to Growing Vegetables on a Budget

A Beginners Guide to Growing Vegetables on a Budget

‘Grow your own vegetables to save money.’

This is a common statement made and it does make sense. Growing your own cauliflowers is surely cheaper than buying them for $5.99 each at the supermarket. If you plan and do it correctly, home growing your produce is a definite money saver.

But how do you get started without having to first invest lots of $$ in setting up? Don’t worry, it is totally doable. With a little planning, initiative, and D.I.Y you can set up your own thriving vegetable plot.

Seed Starting 

Let’s start here. Starting your own vegetables from seed is a key part of saving money in the garden. It may seem cheap to buy a $1 or $2 punnet of 6 seedlings at the garden centre but trust me, it’s not. That works out to be around 20cents per seed. If you consider the fact that one tomato can produce about 40 seeds, it does seem a bit steep to pay 20 cents per seed.

What you are really paying for is the time it took for that little seedling to grow. This is where a little pre-planning on your part will pay off greatly.

Obtaining Seeds

So now that we have decided to sow our own seeds, where should we source them? You can buy seeds from garden centres and supermarkets but since the aim is to garden on a budget, let’s not do this. Let’s try these options instead:

  1. Asking around: Join a gardening group and ask if anyone has spare seeds. Social media is great for this. There are bound to be local gardening groups in your area on Facebook. Ask if anyone has any spare seeds to gift and you can pay it forward sometime in the future. I guarantee you, someone will give you some.
  2. Plant supermarket seeds: You can absolutely plant seeds from vegetables bought at the supermarket. You can’t, however, be sure that the variety that grows will be the same as the variety the seed came from. This is because the vegetables and fruits at supermarkets are usually hybrid varieties. (Read more about that here.)

    It’s also a possibility that the fruits and vegetables have been treated in such a way that the seeds won’t germinate. You can eliminate that potential problem by buying organic produce. Yes, you are initially spending some money, but if you were going to buy the pumpkin to eat for dinner anyway then it’s just a bonus to keep the seeds.

    Let some of your organic garlic, potatoes, kumara and yams sprout and plant away. You will hear that garden centre seed potatoes, seed garlic and seed yams are more disease resistant and hardier but I personally have also had great luck with planting my own organic supermarket-bought sprouted produce.

    Check out farmers markets too, especially for vendors selling heirloom produce. That way you can be sure that what you grow will be identical to the parent plant.

Seed Raising Mix

The seed raising mix found at garden centres is a perfectly balanced mix for growing seedlings in. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot make your own.

Don’t just go and dig up some garden soil though, this is too heavy and compacted for your seedlings to grow in and can cause dampening off and rotting. You can make a perfectly good seed raising mixture with homemade compost, leaf mould and sand.

Leaf mould is 100% dead leaves that have broken down. I did a post on making a leaf mould cage last year (check it out here). It does take a year to become leaf mould but don’t panic if you haven’t set up a leaf mould cage! You don’t need a huge amount to make a container of seedling mix. Look around in parks and walkways for a pile of fallen leaves. Dig under that and find the crumbling dark brown magic that will already be forming. 

As for compost, that’s another one to home make. Anyone can (and I believe, everyone should) make some sort of compost/bin/heap/pile to reduce waste. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Layers of green plant waste alternated with layers of brown (dead) plant waste. Compost can be achieved in a couple of months, even if all of it hasn’t broken down yet, dig under the pile and get the stuff closest to the ground.

If you haven’t gotten round to making a compost pile yet, ask around. Someone will surely give you a bucket of theirs.

Lastly sand. This is added to provide better drainage for the mix. This seed raising mix is made of 40% compost. 40% leaf mould and 20% sand.

Seed raising containers

Loads of things can be used for these. Empty yoghurt pottles, toilet paper rolls, ice cream containers, egg cartons. As long as water can drain out from the bottom it’ll work.

So now you have your seeds, seed raising mix and seed containers it’s time to plant. Here is my guide to starting seedlings from seed.

Building a vege garden

Now that your seedlings are growing, where will you plant them once they are ready for transplanting?

A cost-free, fuss-free no dig garden bed is a great option.

Choose a sunny spot in your garden and pile on layers of newspaper, homemade compost and free mulch (such as leaves, hay, straw etc). This is a perfect garden bed for your seedlings without the need to spend any money or the back-breaking work of digging and building a raised bed. For more details and instructions check out this post on no-dig garden beds.

Fertilising and feeding

Seedlings? Check. Garden bed? Check.

To keep your garden thriving, I have compiled a list of 5 home-made liquid fertilisers you can easily D.I.Y to nourish your plants.

Seed Saving

Once your vegetables have come to the end of their life, if you planted any heirloom or heritage varieties you can now save their seed for next year. Save the strongest and biggest plant of each variety and either let it go to seed (if it’s brassica or a leek for example) or save the seed from the largest ‘fruit’ or stalk of a plant (A pumpkin or an ear of corn for example.)

So now…

So now we have come full circle without spending much, if any, money.

The key is to use and reuse as much as you can of nature’s ‘waste.’ All leaves, all vegetable scraps, all harvested plants are vital for a healthy and thriving eco-system in your garden. Throw in a handful of free wildflower and sunflower seeds for the bees and you’re all set!

If you are a beginner gardener, growing only a select few vegetables and learning to grow them well is a great and easy starting point.

Do you have any budget friendly gardening tips to add? Leave them in the comments below!

Happy gardening!

Christmas in a Jar: Hot Chocolate Three Ways

Christmas in a Jar: Hot Chocolate Three Ways

Time for another Christmas in a Jar post! This one is a goodie (not just because it has mini marshmallows…)

This gift in a jar is for the sweet tooth in the family. It’s homemade hot chocolate powder and mini marshmallows, so all you have to do is add hot milk. Presented in a recycled jar and finished with some festive ribbon. Perfection! You can attach a little label to it too to show the ingredients.

I have three hot chocolate varieties to choose from so you can customise them to suit your friends and family’s tastes: White Chocolate Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread Hot Chocolate and Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate.

Gingerbread Hot Chocolate 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups milk powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cornflour
a pinch of salt
1 1/s tsp ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp  ground nutmeg

Sieve all ingredients together and pour into a jar, alongside some mini marshmallows.

To Serve: Add 2-3 heaped tablespoons to one cup of milk. Heat the milk and hand whisk it while heating to break up any lumps. Take off the heat when it is just starting to simmer. 

White Chocolate Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

150 grams white chocolate, finely grated
1 cup milk powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp cornflour

Sieve all ingredients together and pour into a jar, alongside some mini marshmallows.

To Serve: Add 2-3 heaped tablespoons to one cup of milk. Heat the milk and hand whisk it while heating to break up any lumps. Take off the heat when it is just starting to simmer. 

Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups milk powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cornflour
a pinch of salt
1 1/s tsp ground chilli
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Sieve all ingredients together and pour into a jar, alongside some mini marshmallows.

To Serve: Add 2-3 heaped tablespoons to one cup of milk. Heat the milk and hand whisk it while heating to break up any lumps. Take off the heat when it is just starting to simmer. 

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