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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

From Trash to Treasure

Do you remember this past May when I mentioned I'd made crystallized ginger from some aging, wrinkly fresh ginger? I had bought that ginger in mid-January, and with every week, it became more and more unappealing for fresh use. By slicing the roots in a sugar solution, I was able to transform something that looked like it was destined for the compost bin into a "gourmet" ingredient. 

This afternoon I added a few tablespoons of minced crystallized ginger to a carrot and peanut salad. (Carrots and ginger are a natural pair, IMO.) I am out of raisins, so I was searching for something interesting and sweet to add to our salad for tonight. This candied ginger that was near-free to make nudged my ordinary salad up a few notches.

I've mentioned a few times that I make flavored vinegars, here and here. Homemade herb vinegars are a simple method of transforming ordinary white vinegar into something that is gift-worthy. Today I decanted my chive blossom vinegar (which had been infusing since late June) into a couple of salvaged cider bottles. The sparkling cider bottles might have gone into the recycling container, but I could see they had possibilities.

Two winters ago, I showed you our cocoa and toppings bar -- a large container of homemade cocoa mix and several small jars of goodies to add to cocoa, oatmeal, granola, pancakes, muffins, or ice cream.  

Formerly, these lovely, square jars held lemon curd. One of my volunteer jobs was preparing food for charity teas and luncheons. The woman who led our group bought commercial jams and spreads for the scones. At the end of our shifts, I would take home any jars or containers that looked like they had promise for an afterlife. I love these jars and still have the cocoa and toppings bar set up on my kitchen counter.

There's the green mantra to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Perhaps reusing is the best way to both reduce and recycle. For my cocoa bar or vinegar bottles, I could have easily found beautiful new containers in a store like Target or World Market. As well, I could have composted the wrinkly ginger root. But I find it very satisfying to know that I salvaged something that looked like trash and transformed it into my very own "treasure." 

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse.


  1. You are the champion of using old jars for gifts. I save some jars, but mostly for reuse in the kitchen. Do you ever run out of space for the jars you're saving?

  2. I love reusing old jars, tins, etc. I think it gives items "character". Love your cocoa bar-clever idea!


  3. I believe in reusing, as well, although sometimes I take it to an extreme and then I decide it's time to send things to Goodwill for someone else to enjoy. :)

  4. Hi live and learn,
    Jars do make nice gift holders as well as storage containers. You should see one of my cupboards! Of course, a lot of the jars are for canning, but still, there are a fair number of saved commercial jars. We don't buy a lot of jarred foods, so I don't have as many as some may have, though. The problem that I've found with saving jars and reusing is that after a while storing some foods, the lids become gross on the inside. And then if that lid no longer is suitable for food storage, then that jar is left lidless. Buying lids to fit commercial jars is a problem.

  5. Hi Shelby,
    Oh, I love how you put that -- it does give the items some character! Thanks for that.

  6. Hi Kris,
    Goodwill is good. Also, just setting jars out in a box in a free pile on the curb seems to work in my neighborhood. I love it when I find a free pile, so I think others must also enjoy these free goodies left for the taking.

  7. Hi, Lili. Did you have a post where you described how you made cristalized ginger? I have some in the freezer and I would like to try making some. Also, how long did it take to cristalized? By the way, I thought your previous post on mindfulness about your spending was a super analysis! We often need to slow down and think...

  8. I love using old jars. They are great for making homemade gifts. I make labels on the computer and tie with pretty ribbons.

  9. Bonnie said...
    Did you have a post where you described how you made crystalized ginger? . . . how long did it take to crystalized? By the way, I thought your previous post on mindfulness about your spending was a super analysis! We often need to slow down and think...

    Hi Bonnie,
    I thought I did write about making crystallized ginger, but I don't see any sign of that. So, I'll write it up in the next couple of days. It's pretty easy, much like making candied orange peel. After I simmered the ginger pieces in syrup, I allowed them to sit out on a rack for a couple of days. Once dried/crystallized, I kept them in a jar in the fridge, and they have remained crystallized, yet soft enough to mince up. I'll write this all up in the next few days. I think a jar of crystallized ginger would make an excellent holiday gift.

    Thank you for the compliment. I agree, the tendency in our culture is to be reactive instead of reflective. We gain so much by pausing and thinking.
    Have a great day, Bonnie.

  10. Making Cents Of It All said...
    I love using old jars. They are great for making homemade gifts. I make labels on the computer and tie with pretty ribbons.

    Hi Marybeth,
    You're so right -- great for gifts! I do the same with making labels. There are some cute images available for free to make labels look professional, too. Thanks for reminding me of this!

  11. Thank you, Lili. I will watch for your post. One of my uses for catalyze do ginger was for an upset stomach!

  12. Oh yes -- ginger is good for tummy troubles.
    Have a great weekend, Bonnie!


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