Posts tagged "cooking"

How can I reuse or recycle parts of a slow cooker/crock pot?

Sorry for the downtime, I’ve had the flu. It has been so much fun.

While I was ill, we had a bit of a frugal-living tragedy in the home: the ceramic bowl from the slow cooker (aka crock pot) was dropped and smashed into two pieces. Noooooo!

We bought it cheaply a few years ago now – I wanted to see if I’d use it enough to warrant investing in a better quality item – and it’s cheap manufacture is probably why it broke so easily now. It’ll also be nigh-on impossible to get a replacement part because it was a cheap shop own-brand item rather than a set model from a well-known manufacturer.

(I do use it so will replace it in some way or another – but not with another cheapy. I will also get a bigger capacity one – I originally bought the slow cooker for making stews etc but it wasn’t big enough for batch cooking. I mostly have used it for making stock. Any recommendations will be gratefully received.)

So anyway, I’ve essentially got a broken heavy ceramic pot (which will probably be broken up further into crocks for big outdoor planters), a metal-rimmed glass lid (which will probably be used as a generic pan lid) and the heater-housing, a bowl-shaped (but not sealed) electrical device that heats things slowly and cheaply over a long time. The heating bit won’t be anywhere near as efficient now – the thick bowl helped maintain the temperature and the lid fits the bowl, not the housing – but my first thought was using it with a different bowl to heat things for craft pursuits – like wax for candlemaking or oil for soap making.

Even on “low”, it’ll be a bit too warm to use as a bread dough incubator and while it might be useful to keep milk at a steady temperature for cheese-making, it just isn’t big enough to be worthwhile.

If I do want to actually get rid of it, I should recycle the heating unit according to WEEE regulations – for me, that means taking it to the electronic goods pile at our local tip, although some councils do doorstep collections. I’d probably offer it on Freecycle or similar first in case anyone is in the opposite situation – a pot & lid with a broken heater.

Any other reuse suggestions though?

(Stock photo by Kowloonese but mine is similar, just not a proper Crockpot. And with a broken dish ;) )

How can I reuse or recycle old kitchen fat?

Since we do what we’re told by our water company, we don’t pour meat fat from cooking down the sink – we scrape/pour it into an old plastic container instead. The gross pot full in the picture is a combination of lots of fat from lots of different meals for the last couple of months, ick.

When we started our collection, we thought we’d use it to make bird feeders this winter – the fat is solid at room temperature, let alone at the minus-something temperatures we’ve got at the moment, so we were going to fill it with nuts and seeds to make fat balls for the local wildlife. But then I read that you shouldn’t use reused meat fat to make fat balls – because it’s prone to smearing and can cause them problems when cleaning their feathers. Does anyone know if this is true?

If it is, shucks, there goes our reuse idea. Is there anything else we can do with it instead? Are any particular fats (eg, bacon fat) more reusable?

(Incidentally, the bird feeding stuff fits into something I wrote about on The Really Good Life yesterday – asking about alternatives to shop-bought bird feed for wild birds — do pop over and read it if you feed birds!)

How can I reuse or recycle microwaved plastic wrap?

Over on Twitter, fairygirl25 (aka Elizabeth) asked us:

how can u reuse plastic wrap after u use it once in the microwave?

We don’t use plastic wrap in the microwave so I’m not sure how it changes it to stop you being able to reuse it like ordinary plastic wrap/cling film/saran wrap again. Could anyone shed any light on that? Do you reuse plastic wrap?

(Instead of plastic wrap, we use lids or off-set plates on top of bowls for steaming/heat retention. That seems to work for everything we do in there – but admittedly that’s not much. If you have a microwave, what do you use?)

As for recycling, plastic wrap is usually hard to recycle as it’s PVC based (resin code 3) but some stuff is now LDPE (resin code 4) so may be accepted in some recycling facilities. Check on the packaging to find out what you’ve got and ask your local authorities for their advice.

How can I reuse or recycle meat that’s gone off?

We’ve had an email from Amy:

Hi. Is there ANYTHING I can do with expired meat? I’ve read you can’t compost it but it’s such a waste to throw it away?

Yes, it is a waste! As I’m sure you know, it takes a whole lot of energy to produce a kilogram of meat, to ship it to your local supermarket and refrigerate it there & at your home – so it really would be better to reduce the amount of meat you buy or which goes off on your watch. One thing to remember is that just because the date on the packaging says it’s off, it doesn’t mean it’s actually off – learn what it should smell & look like (in terms of colour/texture) and judge it yourself each time. Don’t take any undue risks but don’t be a slave to the label either.

Of course even the most organised of us make mistakes and things expire from time to time, and Amy is right, it shouldn’t be composted in most compost bins/heaps in case it attracts vermin. (Some sealed units and wormeries advertise that they can compost it though.)

I suspect this might be one that stumps us but any ideas?

I’ve heard some people using little bits of bait to attract fish or animals – but I neither hunt or fish so don’t know if expired meat would be good for that. Anyone know?

How can I reuse or recycle ham bone and fat?

ham-boneI guess this is more of a straight “reuse” and less of a “recycle” than normal but it’s Monday morning and I’m tired, and I can’t think of anything else ;)

We had a ham the other day and it was the fattiest piece of meat I think I’ve ever seen. There were inches of the stuff.

I usually keep the bone and use it to make a stock/soup but the fat would completely overwhelm said stock or soup. There are some suggestions here for rendering it and some recipes to use it in too – anyone done anything like that or got any other suggestions?

Also, what do you use ham bones for? The stock doesn’t seem to me that it’s as versatile as vegetable stock or chicken stock because it’s pretty strongly flavoured in its own right. I’ve used it, with chunks of the ham, to make ham-centred soups (mmm, hearty ham & bean) and the bone itself in the pot with rice while cooking at add a bit of flavour. What do you do with them?