Operation Reduce Kitchen Plastic – Ork Pee!

Hello! We’re back from winter vacation – We trust the holidays were good to you and yours, as they sure were to us – Family, food and fun are three of our favorite F words. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

In any event, here’s what’s up in our kitchen. I researched, tested and chose some new non-stick pans – A thing I didn’t like very much until I got my paws on these new ones, which I think highly enough of to include on our essential Cookware page. What? You don’t see that page? Well truth be told, no, you don’t, yet – But that, along with some other fresh Essentials pages, will be appearing soon, so please do stay tuned! Then finally, Santa gifted us with a home sous vide unit, so expect some process and execution thoughts and recipes from that in the not too distant future as well.

We’ve also been working diligently on Operation Reduce Kitchen Plastic, (ORKP, or Ork Pee, if you prefer), and have an update on that worth sharing with y’all –  Here then are a few considerations for you.

The focus for this phase of ORKP is elimination of single use plastics, arguably the heart of the kitchen problem. While we tend to think of this in terms of ziplocks and such that we employ at home, the trail really begins at the store. There, everything from bags for produce and bulk foods to the bags our stuff gets stuffed with really adds up over time. The solution is simple – Reusable bags to replace all that – And those work great, if you can remember to get them out of the trunk when you arrive…

For big grocery bags, there are a lot of options. We went with a set of Earthwise cotton canvas whoppers. With hefty fabric, larger size than typical, double-stitched and machine washable, they hold up really well to hefty, regular use.

Earthwise canvas shopping bags

To replace produce bags, we got a great set of 10 solid and mesh bags made by Colony. They’re sized just right for the stuff we usually buy, and they’re machine washable cotton, well made, and hefty enough for a decent lifespan. Added bonus, the flip side of each name tag tells the cashier the tare weight of the bag, so you’re not paying for stuff you ain’t buying.

Colony bags are perfect for produce, and even show tare weight

More and more stores are offering reusable cloth bags for bulk foods too – They’re light and rugged, and just right for stuff like nuts or coffee beans that we buy regularly.

lots of Store snow offer reusable bags of their own

In house, we’ve replaced plastic bags with glass containers with air tight nylon lids – Here again, we’ve tried all glass and found the breakage rates excessive for our needs. We continue to employ canning jars as well, for freezing broth, soup, stock and such. As long as you don’t fill past the tapered neck, you’re generally good to go, (albeit you must be more careful, because they will indeed break with rough handling.)

And finally, there’s plastic wrap – Super useful, but super wasteful, so it’s house made waxed cloth wraps to the rescue. There are a bunch of these offered for sale these days, but the prices sure gave us pause, so we decided after some research to make our own. 

House made food wraps - Pretty and practical

There are a bunch of recipes out there, some that use everything we did and some that don’t. The bottom line is this – you can make wraps with just beeswax, but what you won’t have with that formula is much of a tacky quality to them – they won’t stick to themselves very well. For that, you need to add pine rosin, and since cling wrap is what everyone is trying to replace, using it made sense to us. The third ingredient we went with is jojoba oil. It helps to keep the wraps supple over time, and also imparts some antimicrobial properties to the mix – Not a bad thing in our book.

There are a ton of step by step recipes out there, so rather than repeat that, we’ll show y’all some pics of the basic process, and add some caveats that we did not see very often covered in the stuff we researched – Here are our bullet points.

1. Use new, 100% cotton fabric of a fairly lightweight weave. A lot of sites talk about something about like a bed sheet,but to be honest, we found that too far too light – We went with 100% cotton duck, and washed it first to get the sizing out, (which is important, says M.)

2. Think about the kinds of things you cover commonly, and size things to achieve that. We made a set of small, medium, and large in square, rectangular, and circular shapes, and that seems to cover most of what we ask of them – Too many sites talked about very specific sizes, and that may not be what you typically use, so measure your stuff and go with that.

DIY food wraps - Fun and pretty easy too

3. Contrary to what almost everybody says, it’s damn near impossible to get this stuff out 100% of a nice cooking vessel, so don’t use your nice Calphalon set, (right, Babe?). Go find a cheap double boiler insert and dedicate that to this process – It’ll be well worth the eight bucks it costs you.

Pelletized beeswax is super easy to work with

4. These things do NOT wear out when they start to show lines and creases – They can be reheated and recoated easily, and should be! You will get many, many moons of service from them.

The waxing is is first painted on, then baked in to fully impregnate the fabric

5. Use parchment when you bake the wraps to avoid contaminating a baking sheet.

The production process was easy and fun – In essence, you’re going to cut fabric to size, melt the ingredients, paint that onto the fabric, and then bake them for a spell to fully impregnant the sheets, and that’s pretty much it. Just be careful with it – Hot wax, rosin, and oil can and will get everywhere if you’re not paying attention. As stated, the end results are very satisfactory, and a joy to use – You might even call them the bees knees.

NOTE: As with everything we test and report on, the times described here in we’re not received in any kind of a deal with the maker. We buy them, test them, and use them, just as you would, with our very own money – Guaranteed!