Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Pantry Fridge... A Very "Mini" Tour

On my last post I showed you a picture of my pantry refrigerator; a dorm size ice box with a mini freezer inside. I actually purchased this last year when our kitchen fridge broke down and was out of commission for over 4 weeks during the summer. We were very blessed that it happened when the produce was actually coming out of the garden and we soon realized our only need at the time was a cold space for the goat milk. (Seriously, I was considering ditching the big fridge altogether and go totally "off grid" as I was so completely frustrated trying to get it fixed at a reasonable price, but that's another story for different day).

But back to the little fridge...

I had to keep the milk cool, so I picked up the small dorm size ice box thinking I could resell it if necessary once the big fridge was repaired. Instead, I found it was just right for all the new endeavors I had embarked upon in the last year or so. Cultures, rennets, herbs, seeds... just to name a few. Things that were taking up so much space in the main refrigerator... Okay, so perhaps I don't REALLY want to chuck the electricity completely. Not yet, anyway. There just really isn't a viable alternative to refrigeration for us at this particular time.)

So if I am going to keep most of these things in my all-to-warm pantry, the dorm size ice box seems to be the ticket for keeping them both dark and cool, which is what most of the items must have in order to stay fresh. It frees up space in the kitchen where I keep the fresh food and allows me to group things together based on use. Here's a little tour of what I keep in the smaller unit...

• Seeds

All my seeds are organized in two containers that fit nicely in the back of the shelves. This helps preserve their integrity so that the majority of them sprout the next season.

• Cultures

Any kind of culture starter is kept in the bottom drawer until I'm ready to use it, whether it's for sourdough or kefir or anything in between. I can also store my starters that are "resting" in this fridge.

• Pectin

I use natural pectin and sometimes I don't use the entire packet. Either way, I always keep it in the refrigerator just to keep it from getting too hot. The Pomona's Pectin requires you to make a calcium water mix, so this can go in here, too. It's nice to keep it separate since family members may mistake it for something else if I don't write on the jar what it's for. They don't venture in this fridge much (if ever), so things are kind of protected in here.

• Rennets

All those little bottles of rennet for cheesemaking... they go in here, too. I TRY to remember to write the expiration date on top so that I can keep an eye for when I need to replace it.

• Yeasts

I'm hoping to move away from conventional yeast altogether, but occasionally we are still using it. So I keep that on hand as well.

• Ginger Ale

I don't get sick too often, but I do occasionally get an upset stomach. And it's always around 2 a.m. To keep my husband from having to make a late night run to the store, I keep non-alcoholic ginger ale (a.k.a. ginger beer) on hand to settle my stomach. This particular brand (Reed's) is a natural ale that really does the trick (has an extra strong ginger flavor due to it's real ginger ingredients) and I'm not getting a lot of the bad stuff with the good. They actually make a "Nausea Relief" brew and a Kombucha, but I haven't found either locally yet.

• Herbal Remedies

This is a biggie... I have all my herbal mixes in here. Like the seeds, they need a cool, dark location and this makes it particularly quick for making up the daily doses for the animals (and humans!). As you can see in the top photo, the jars are starting to take over (I have even more since these pictures were taken!)... I hope I don't out grow this space soon!

• Probios

Probios is my "go to" item of choice for any animal with just about any medical need.... it's basically probiotics for the goats, chickens, etc. It just gives them that needed boost, so I keep it on had at all times, although I usually give herbal remedies in conjunction with it.

• Ice Packs

Having an ice pack ready to go is always helpful. You never know when you'll need one. Plus, I usually have a friend do my goat's blood draws for annual testing, so I use these for shipping blood samples.

So there you have it... the mini tour of the Pantry Fridge. If we ever get the barn built, I'm sure we'll move this out to the milking area so all the herbs are on hand for dosing where we need it, not to mention, I can chill the milk if I need to stay in the barn longer, tending to needs out there. Of course, the seeds, cultures, and starters will have to find a new home at that point, but this solution works really well for the time being.

I suspect there's a lot of dorm refrigerators out there just sitting in garages taking up space... perhaps a few of them can find a new life in the pantry?

How do you store your herbal remedies, cultures, and such? Is anyone blessed with a root cellar and if so, how does it work for these kinds of things?


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