Wednesday, 30 July 2008


In an even more exciting development, Emily, friend, adventuress and erstwhile travelling companion, took my yoghurt experiment one step further and made CHEESE! Yes, paneer, which I like greatly in curries, and I had a crack at it this evening:

Heat some milk to almost boiling for a good ten minutes. I used whole milk, and it was slightly on the turn, so began after this time naturally to separate into curds and whey. Apparently, this isn’t usual, so you should add some white vinegar (or lemon juice, I suppose). I didn’t have any so I put in a few drops of balsamic. This causes the curds to separate (they look like white fluffy grains floating in the liquid whey).

Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth or muslin and collect the whey (to use in other recipes) underneath. Tie the bag and leave it to drain for a couple of hours. If you’ve enough mix, the weight of it should naturally press it into a solidish cheese- I only used a pint so it’s slightly bitty.

That’s it! Cheese! Tomorrow I shall make a curry.

I also made whey biscuits with some of the whey- they have a pleasant, cheesy flavour. I’ve saved the rest to make macaroni or some such tomorrow.


Tuesday, 29 July 2008


It turns out making your own yoghurt is one of the easiest things ever and it’s delicious- why’d I never do it before? Also, just after making it it’s still warm and has a slight skin on the top- a toothsome treat indeed!

All you need to do is boil some milk, let it cool to a warmish temperature, mix in a dollop of live yoghurt as a starter culture, and stick it somewhere warm for about 8 hours. I’m using a giant thermos to keep it warm which some very marvellous friends lent me, but you could also put it on top of your boiler or in some warm water.

Nb apparently if you don’t boil the milk enough, the yoghurt will be stringy. This first attempt’s a great consistency- soft curds, not runny.

I have a slight problem, however; viz or namely the starter culture. Once you’ve made one batch, you should be able to make the next batch with a bit of the old one, despite assorted dire health warnings to the contrary. However, it seems quite common for the bacteria to eventually fail and stop making yoghurt. When this happens, home yoghurt makers appear to advise buying some more live yoghurt from the shop and starting up again. Assuming I can’t find yoghurt in metal/glass, I won’t be able to buy any more. You can buy dried starter culture and stick it in the freezer, but I foolishly failed to do this before giving up plastic and I don’t know of any that’s packaged in another way.

Surely it must be possible to grow the yoghurt bacteria at home yourself? Or is this one of these things where it’s easy to mess it up and grow some carcinogenic fungus creation instead (possibly here I reveal my utter ignorance of biology)?


Saturday, 26 July 2008

Day 1: Naysaying and boiled animal bones

It has begun! As of today, I am giving up all new plastic for the next three months. This blog will document the trials, tribulations and all-round FUN (hmm) relating to this endeavour. I intend to address such subjects as:

- Why? Why? Why?
- plastic-free hair care (I have relatively curly hair. The thought of going without anti-frizz serums, etc. is somewhat distressing YES I KNOW IT'S VAIN)
- (in)convenience food
- explaining this interesting choice to new housemates
- making your own yoghurt, toothpaste, etc.
- ridicule

and general talk of the obstacles faced when trying to live a plastic-free existence in a society that is heavily dependent on the stuff.

NB I will not be giving up:
- plastic items I already own. If these break/run out, however, I can’t get any new ones
- plastics used in life-saving medical treatment which I sincerely hope I won't need

When my friend first suggested this idea to me, I thought it sounded quite fun. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to see if it was possible. It doesn’t just mean no more plastic bags and pre-wrapped sandwiches; it makes buying things like cheese quite difficult, and most things in jars either have a plastic lid or have a plastic wrapper round the metal lid. Juice and milk have to come in glass bottles from the milkman, yoghurt has to be made at home (but even the starter culture usually comes in plastic), toothpaste always has at least a plastic cap, wooden toothbrushes seem to use animal-hair bristles, and the only non-plastic-wrapped toilet paper I know of available in Lancaster comes in a little cardboard box and is ridiculously expensive.

Most of my cleaning products are refillable (Ecover, Bio D, etc.), but my cosmetic products aren’t. A trip to LUSH unearthed non-plastic-wrapped shampoo and conditioner bars (though they wrapped the conditioner bar in plastic at the checkout whilst I wasn’t looking- aargh!) but other styling products seemed to come in plastic jars. You can get compostable bin liners but I noticed when I tipped a load of warm baked beans, etc. into one that it disintegrated rather messily. I picked up a compostable cornstarch pen at a Pass On Plastics (see below) meeting but I haven’t yet looked into buying such things in bulk.

Whilst mulling over these interesting conundrums, I decided to share the exciting news with various friends/family members.

My best friend emailed with this:

ele why can´t you just be normal like a normal person and recycle. if you do do that shite you have to not be difficult about it. body shop do a really good concealer stick. i swear by it.

My dad raised a weary hand to his brow and said, ‘Christ, why do you always have to be so difficult?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had lots of responses like this:

Oh Ele, Don't listen to those naysayers, i think you should prove to everyone how easy and fulfilling it is to live in a fantastic plastic free world… As for hair gel i think we've all seen theres something about Mary.

And many unusual suggestions for making my own products of various descriptions, which I plan to experiment with and post the results up here.

I’m going to post another entry with reasons for doing this and some comments on recycling, but for the time being the following might be of use:
Here you can find a lot of information about the harmful effects of our plastic waste, and download the film Hawai’i: Message in the Waves
The Lancaster (where I live!) district Pass On Plastics campaign
Info on plastic and recycling, and some cautions about degradable and bio-plastics

Right, that’s enough for now… Catch me next week trying to decide whether boiled animals bones are an ethical form of glue replacement!*