I wasn't sure if I would like The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping, by Erica Strauss, so I requested it from the library rather than buy it. I really shouldn't have been surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it, as I have been following Erica's blog Northwest Edible Life and she always explains interesting and complex concepts with a dose of humour and common sense. Her blog has covered canning, fermenting, eating in season, growing vegetables, backyard chickens and ducks among other things. Also lots of cooking because Erica is a trained chef.
I (incorrectly) expected this book to be mostly recipes. As in food recipes. So I was very pleased to see recipes for cleaning products and body products. Not only does it begin with a comprehensive explanation of kitchen basics, fermentation, canning and making chicken broth, she also goes into detail of how various cleaning products work (and therefore how to make your own) and how personal care products work. Also recommendations on essential oil blends to use. And there are soap recipes based on tallow or lard! I was getting excited at this stage!
I'm sure that the food recipes are lovely too, but I just don't do recipes. We never have in the garden/freezer/pantry/paddock everything required for a particular recipe, so I kind of just mix up what we have and add herbs and spices. It usually goes ok. Erica mentions that good cooks don't use recipes. I'm not sure if I can claim to be a good cook or just a lazy frugal person, either way, I can't report back on the recipes, I only read the chicken broth one and it looked about right.
I have noted down several cleaning recipes that I want to try, including the glass cleaner and the citrus vinegar for the bathroom. I have made that before, but I had no idea (until I read this book) that its actually the limonene from the citrus peels that acts as a solvent to remove grease. I've put a jar of white vinegar next to the compost bin in the kitchen, and I'm tossing in any citrus peels. This is a good idea too if you don't want to put your citrus in the worm bin (I usually do, but I know some people don't), at least use them to make vinegar before you throw them out.
From the personal care recipes I want to try the deodorant and the hair wash that uses honey (as we have so much honey now! although I expect the ants will find it tasty too).
Personally I don't need to own this book, so I'm glad I was able to borrow it instead. It did have lots of useful information, but much of it I already knew or didn't need to know (I'm just not keen on canning, but that's another post! If you want to can, this book has it covered). However, I do think its a lovely gift for friends who are not already into making their own and would like to start. I find people often ask me how to make chicken broth or ferment things and how to make soap or moisturiser. Its all here in this book, beautifully presented and explained with a touch of humour and plenty of common sense.
Do you use recipes? Could you do with some more information about natural cleaners? and chemical-free "personal care"?
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