Archives for posts with tag: DIY

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These videos offer an inspiring introduction to the solidarity work around food in “the Jungle” camp in Calais, and those cooking, distributing and making it possible there for people to do this themselves as well. The refugees are from many places in the world, and it’s clear that most are fleeing terrible violence and have had quite a rough journey to get to where they now are.

Here’s a video showing how volunteers are working with the diversity and specificity of the people in the camp; you can feel the urgency:


This one shows the development of Kitchen in Calais:


This one what your group might want to contribute in terms of food donations:


Lots of people seem to wind up on my blog, say the WordPress stats, looking for information about what Syrian refugees eat.  I have no personal knowledge about this, though I did a while back reblog some information that is now probably pretty obsolete pertaining to refugees in Lebanon.  That’s why you might end up here on my site.

I assume that people who ask these questions of internet search engines (maybe Siri can somehow learn as well) inquire from a place of compassion and concern, and perhaps the wish to contribute, donate, or volunteer.  Hence this post.

Some links: Read the rest of this entry »

Amazing loving solidarity work, feeding people in the refugee encampments in the cold, wet muddiness on the outskirts of Calais. Reblogging from ThatCan’tBeRightBlog.  Please share in your networks.


Pear Kvass: bubbly, light, perhaps the slightest bit alcoholic, totally refreshing– not perry, not pear juice, more like a “Pear Appletiser®”, with cheerful pro-biotic bacteria.  Very natural tasting, not over-sweet but hits the spot that is delighted with sweetness.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve written about Fire Cider as a kind of folk medicine popularised in contemporary herbalism, and that a particular company is trying to trademark– in other words, to claim ownership of — the term. Now this company is suing herbalists for using the phrase Fire Cider, which is essentially a generic term, which is another way to say, common, or something that is held for common, mutual benefit, rather than private ownership. Here’s a site that is raising money to help the herbalists who are being sued. I’m going to give a little money.  And I’m going to write some emails to the addresses in the video linked above. If you are on Facebook, you can join this group to keep informed.

Just learned about this group called Depave.  They de-pave and spread the word.  “Asphalt be gone”: reclaim and reimagine community life; storm water absorption as climate chaos brings record rainfall; play areas; growing beds; “a better urban environment for all living things.” Of course the more soil that is living soil, the better for any hopes for the climate as well.

Sing it, switching the lyrics thus: “Depave parking lot, put up a paradise”

On Bergamot and Blackberry Leaf

Thank you Wikipedia for reminding us that these informative, pleasure-giving engravings are our COMMON heritage, ie, in the Commons!)


This morning on the radio: not enough talk about the IPCC report, Boo Hiss!  Climate and how we are going to shift the destructive ways of society is the most important topic there is!

But good anyway: mention of a new study linking the Bergamot in Earl Grey Tea with effective reductions in heart disease.  I do love Earl Gray, so feel encouraged to indulge.  Read here about all the goodness in Bergamot extract.

A few questions arose–

Do we consider that these studies took place at universities in the regions of Italy that grow the most of these citrus fruits, thus maybe the researchers are not scientifically neutral, or maybe they are, and it’s all ok?

Do we wonder about the life and conditions of the people working on these farms in Italy, much as years ago the Body Shop  tried to promote community / Fair Trade for the bergamot in their cosmetics?    I remember there being an expose of workers in Haiti who picked the oranges for Grand Marnier— is the citrus industry universally brutal?

So many varieties of citrus, and our knowledge of them is really so limited:  are citrus varieties going the way of homogeneity like so much else in the world food supply managed by agribusiness?

And could I grow Bergamot here in mid-altitude, mid-latitude Wales?  Not really.  Turns out the wonderful Monarda, aka Bee Balm, aka Bergamot, is something completely different even if the smell of the flowers is reminiscent.  But I think someday I’ll try to grow it anyway, for all its own wonders and charms.

Ah, I wish I had a nice cuppa Earl Grey with which ponder and research these issues…

In the meantime, I was reminded of a successful experiment last year, making what I saw referred to as Iron Age Earl Grey? Or was it Stone Age Earl Grey? Or….  Ancient Land of the Celts Earl Grey?  You get the picture.

Brambles are everywhere, and the leaves are nutritious and useful from a herbal point of view.  (And for the tannins, they are great stuck in a fermentation of vegetables to aid in keeping the crunch!)  Here’s another concise description — “Blackberry and Raspberry Plants in Herbal Medicine.”

So when you are out foraging, in byways and fields or a suburban back garden, and  if you find yourself this spring digging the aggressive vines and suckers that shall indeed inherit the earth (not the meek!)– pick the lovely young leaves off the blackberry stems and let them dry inside.    Beat them a little– crumple, rumple, wear them down….  Then let them live in a moist tea towel for a few days, ferment a little, then dry them out again, for use and for storage.  They will have the most lovely perfume, comparable to the bergamot in Earl Grey, and a slight, enjoyable bitterness in the health-giving, foraged tea you make with them.


There’s a flu remedy I believe in. It’s pretty popular in the US and less well known in Britain, where the long spells of cold and damp certainly require some of the fire offered by this “cider” — really, Apple Cider Vinegar.  Fire Cider is a  nutritional supplement, really.

It’s considered “traditional”– of course it seems to take a multi-pronged approach to “tradition,” –but no worries — and has entered the DIY healing vernacular. I make it, and I take and give spoonfuls when extra immune boosting is needed, a cold or flu coming on,  or an infection rises somewhere in the body.  I often drink diluted vinegar anyway for a certain kidney-ish ache I seem to get if I eat too much cheese, and the discomfort slowly recedes. Fire Cider is extra powerful.

I prepare mine every year by finely chopping, in various relative quantities: onion, garlic, ginger, dried chills, horseradish if I have it (which is rarely), turmeric, maybe oregano– all the famous goodies. This article  has good variations and tells the story well,  with variations and possibilities.  They add honey– I never have, but what a good idea. There’s no need for strict rules.

Steep your concoction in ACV (as the hipsters call it) for as long as you wish (3 weeks or longer), then strain.  I tend to use what I’ve strained out as a marinade for spicy pork dishes.  You can be creative of course — make a soup– add it to anything really — marinate your tempeh, eat it plain if you’re feeling brave.

I’m writing now because there’s a campaign I support, to keep the name Fire Cider in the commons, belonging to all of us, at a time when a company in the US has trademarked it.  That means– taking something that belongs to all of us, claiming it for themselves, and profiting thereby.   For Goodness Sake!  (Or if I’m being English, “The bloody cheek!”  Here’s the petition– please sign it:

And if you are on Facebook, there’s a really fun action page called Tradition Not Trademark with photos people send in of their own homemade Fire Ciders and themselves toasting to the Fire Cider movement, and the plea to let local retailers know that the trademarked brand is stepping on our toes indeed!


Mrs S Minwel Tibbott and Making Yeast the Old Welsh Way

I have borrowed this photo of S. Minwel Tibbot from the website of Amgueddfa Cymru / National Museum Wales and hope the attribution suffices. She is an historical figure I very much admire,  and I intend, when I get my head around how, to begin a Wikipedia entry on her, because she deserves one as an important historian of Welsh domestic culture. She began to work for St. Fagans, the fantastic museum of Welsh culture, near Cardiff, in 1969, learning and writing.  At that point it was called the Welsh Folk Museum and was curated by Trefor M. Owen who writes in the introduction to her Welsh Fare: A Selection of Traditional Recipes (1976):

“The main task of the Welsh Folk Museum since it opened in 1948 has been to collect and record, to study and reflect the folk life of Wales in all its various forms.  The advent of the tape recorder made it possible to record the voice of the informants and also facilitated the building of a comprehensive account of the traditional life of our country…. It is the responsibility of the WFM, having collected this oral evidence from the oldest inhabitants with their generous cooperation, not only to preserve this historical information for the benefit of future scholars [Can I count as one of these? 🙂 ] , but to present it…to contemporary readers as part of their inheritance….  This volume was prepared by Mrs. S Minwel Tibbott, an Assistant Keeper [in the Department of Oral Traditions and Dialects]  …”

“She realised very early on that information [on traditional Welsh foods] would not be found in books,” the website linked above tells us. “Travelling the length and breadth of Wales, she interviewed, recorded and filmed the older generation of women, the majority of them in their eighties. Their memories harked back to the end of the nineteenth century.” She worked in a moment of history when so much was changing- the way people lived, the domestic technologies with which they cooked, the availability of old foodstuffs before the prevalence of new supermarketed foodstuffs….. Even looking at the photos in her book you can see this. Times were changing, and Tibbot’s  contribution is critical.

As a culinary anthropologist / historian, her books are compelling and wonderful. Welsh Fare is my favourite of all the old-timey collections of Welsh recipes. (First Catch a Peacock, by Bobby Freeman in 1980, is also great and one of the best.) I am in the middle of an experiment with a traditional Christmas tart, which I’ll soon be blogging, and this is why she’s come up for me now.

But I remembered reading Welsh Fare a few years ago, in the height of my sourdough bread-making, and being really inspired to recognise alternatives to store-bought yeast as well as the method I’d developed from reading the book Wild Fermentation. The sourdough culture/ starter I’ve had now for five years was formed by simply mixing small amounts of flour and water and a few raisins, and waiting, and then adding more flour, a little bit a day, until a living starter, a collection of wild and sundry yeasts, was formed, a “culture” that could be fed and nurtured and used as leavening in breads and doughs.

It’s such an easy method that it’s startling to read what Tibbott documents in Welsh Fare, but in the interest of Yeast and Bread Studies, and considering the book is out-of-print, I share it here.  If you’ve ever started a sourdough culture, you can understand how easy it would be to play with and vary the ingredients– you could certainly experiment with excluding the wheat flour in order to be gluten-free:

Burum Cartref–Home Made Yeast

four ounces hops
six potatoes (unpeeled)
one and a half gallons water
one cupful sugar
one cupful flour
quarter pint yeast reserved from previous lot

Boil the potatioes and hops in the water until the potatoes have disintegrated.Strain the infusion into an earthenware bowl and allow it to cool in blood heat. Mix the sugar and flour with a small quantity of this liquid, pour it back on to the remaineder in the bowl and then add the old yeast. Cover the bol and allow to stand in a warm place for two days. Now strain the liquid yeast into bottles or earthward jars, cork tightly and store in a cool place.
Pennant, Montgomeryshire

Liquid Yeast prepared a home in this way was known as burum total or burum direst (temperance yeast) in Cardiganshire. Its strength was not equal to that of the dried yeast and this accounted for the custom of preparing the dough in the eve night s and leaving it to rise in a warm place overnight.
Rhydlewis, Cardiganshire

Home made liquid yeast was prepared in large quantities to augment the family income. Known as berman direst or berman total, it was sold to the neighbours for approximately a penny per pint. It was also possible to buy liquid yeast (berman tafarn) from the local inn; this brewers’ test proved to be stronger than the home made variety. –Pen-prysg, Glamorgan


I look forward to making this someday– perhaps not in the huge quantity, though one could also experiment with thickening then dehydrating the liquid to attempt a dried yeast.  Whenever I buy ready-to-use yeast in a shop, in a can or a packet, I’m reminded that it’s a kind of industrial-laboratory product, something so different from the force-of-nature that wild yeast cultures feel like.  Store-bought yeast of course performs predictably in modern recipes.  But as always, it’s fun, informative, and maybe important to understand how to get ever closer to the basics of our food.

Local, Seasonal DIY Potato Starch, Because Why Not?

Ah, what is that disgusting grey sludge in the cute vintage sugar bowl, you may ask?

I celebrate Hanukkah with my children every year, hoping to keep them somehow connected to traditions that are about history and community, So every year I make latkes, fried potato cakes of shredded potatoes, generally, with onion and egg and S and P and a binder like matzo meal if possible, flour if not. (You could make them fancier of course.) Simple but a bit labour intensive, and yummy with sour cream, sauerkraut, and home-made applesauce.

(To my “blog followers”: this use of apples is another kind of apple-as-savoury on that list I am generating 🙂 )

You can never make enough latkes– people and yourself will always eat more.

There’s something every year I look forward to when I grate the potatoes: letting the shreds sit in a colander, to release the excess fluid, then letting that fluid sit so the starch settles into powdery starchiness. For years I wondered what it was, then I realised in its obviousness: Potato Starch. The liquid on top oxidizes and gets darker, and this year was especially black because the potatoes were so fresh, I didn’t peel them first. You pour it off. The fluid wants to escape to the top, and you keep pouring. Eventually you have powder dry enough to store.

I like this starch. From my latke making it forms  maybe two inches in a jam jar and will be used as a sauce thickener in gravies and Chinese stir-fry sauces, in place of cornstarch (or corn flour, as it’s called in the UK).  A by-product, therefore a little bit of a don’t-have-to-buy product, which is a good theme for Black Friday/Saturday.  And, a minor self-sufficiency, home-steading skill!

If I ever had lots of green potatoes (inedible) I might try this starch making as a salvage- operation.  I wonder if any of the alkaloid toxins would remain?

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