A bitter sweet problem

We had a cooking mis-hap… Okay, I had a cooking mis-hap. A spectacular one that only I witnessed but is truly believable of my antics in the kitchen. And now we are eating our way through the consequences. Oh the delicious consequences.


Let me explain.

We hosted Christmas dinner just passed. A wonderful lunch for ten people with a week worth of free time to prepare. We took great care in our planning, counted our potatoes, communicated on who was bringing what, gradually opened the cheeses, followed all our tips from our Christmas tips post and ended up with enough leftovers of entree and main to feed the two of us for two days. #wastejarwinning But the sweets has been an issue, a definite Christmas calorie issue. This is mostly due to my mis-hap in the kitchen and the resulting 4 litres of caramel.


These were meant to be little wrapped up caramels for everyone to take home. The recipe said to put a litre of cream, a kilo of sugar, a stack of egg yolks and a block of butter into the large pot. The measurements of the ingredients were much more specific than this but the description of the pot was not and when everything fit into the pot I chose, I thought I was doing well. Turn on the heat and put in the thermometer and it begins to rise, and rise, and overflow. I grab a jug and scoop some out into a bowl. It still grows. I scoop some more. This won’t work. I grab a bigger pot and pour the boiling caramel mixture in. Gently, gently, no burns. I pour the scooped caramel in too. We’re all in. Literally. But in all the fuss the thermometer is covered in caramel. I can’t see the temperature. I don’t want to try to clean it from fear of cracking it. I battle on, scraping caramel down the slide of the thermometer, squinting to see the measure.  Eventually I take a punt and pour the mixture into the tin.


If you didn’t know, as I didn’t, getting the temperature to the prescribed height is critical to how the mixture will set. Turns out I got it to sauce level. Not quite chewy toffee level.


And so we have a bucket of caramel sauce.


In retrospect, I should have put it it no jars and given them away to our family on Christmas Day. We’ve had guests over since and forced them into dessert. We might do that again yet. But I think this will end up in some form of ice-cream, and a slice, and maybe some cookies, and then we might freeze the rest.


It’s a lot of caramel. A sweet lesson on an otherwise successfully waste-less Christmas.


Tips for a waste free christmas

The festive season is tough for any waste jar-ian. It’s during this time of the year that we become most aware of our waste related habits. Think about all the common phrases we say about food at this time…
“Better to have too much than too little.”
“It is the season of excess.”
“We had to have all three types of meat.”
“We have to stock up because the supermarket will be closed.”
“We ate ham for days and then had to throw the rest out.”
“Mum’s got like five trifles in the back fridge. It’s like a whole fridge dedicated just to trifle.”

… okay, maybe that last one is just my family. Maybe?

It is easy to get caught up and carried away in old habits at this time of year. So we’ve given you some tips below that may help to avoid this tradition this season.

1. Plan.
That old chestnut! (Well you wouldn’t have old chestnuts if you planned.)
This tip is about working towards having the right quantities of food in the first place – real waste jar thinking. It’s also about the fundamental methods of being waste conscious: seeing what’s already in the cupboard first, writing lists, doing more calculations and less guess work.

How many are coming? How many potatoes per person? Not everyone likes peas, so don’t get so many peas. (Who’s going to be upset they didn’t get peas anyway?) I’ve got ice cream from the weekly shop already so I won’t buy more.

2. Communicate.
How many Christmas’ have you been to where two people brought a ham? If you’re hosting and asking people to contribute, make sure they know what and how much of what they are to bring. In fact, go so far as to tell them what everyone else is bringing too. Send an email. Use the old family grapevine.

While everyone may get a little generous during the holiday season, that generosity is no good when a guest thinks they just might bring a Christmas cake, you know, just in case. Communicating who is bringing what stops these assumptions.

The flip side to this, if you’re a guest and you don’t know what to bring, ask your host. They can ensure you don’t look the fool when you rock up with yet another Christmas cake.

Or more importantly, if you’re the guest and you’ve read the email, or heard on the grape vine that Aunty Jo is bringing prawns, maybe make sure you let your partner know too, particularly if they’ve mentioned getting prawns in passing. That’s your opportunity to keep Christmas dinner waste free.

3. Open when you’re ready.
Some types of food keep for longer in their original packaging. Think red wine, cheeses, cream, dips, anything marked “must be consumed within X days of opening.”

If you have a cheese board out, don’t put all the cheese out at once. If you’re serving cream with your pudding, wait until the table has finished the first tub of cream before you open the next.

The host may be worried that they don’t appear hospitable, when on the contrary they are creating more interaction between guests. “Pass me the cream please” and “which cheese should we open next?” are conversation starters and reasons to get up and move about.

This tip is easy and if you can do any of these tips across the holiday period, it should be this one.

4. Don’t be a prepper.
This contradicts the old fashion notion that supermarkets aren’t open until January 2nd and we need to stock up. Sure, stock up on as much canned, frozen and packaged foods as you like. But if you’re concerned that you’ve not perfectly calculated all the potatoes, ham and carrots per person, don’t stress, take a breath, our supermarket giants will be ready for your purchases as soon as you’re ready to make them.

5. Stock up on freezer blocks and esky bags.
So guests can take a plate home! Share the responsibility of the leftovers. No one person or family should be challenged to eat all of the left over ham.

And if all else fails…

6. Eat trifle for breakfast.
Hey, you’re on holidays. There is food there to be eaten and, unless your diabetic or getting married next week, who cares if you’re eating dessert for breakfast.

Similarly, cheese can be dessert. Potato salad can be a meal on its own. Turkey is a snack. Who would of thought saving food waste could be so good?!