This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 topic is water. Water is the universal solvent so it is no surprise that water plays a huge role in cooking. Fresh water is taken for granted with the only time missing it is if the main water supply is shut off for even a short period of time. Water is something we simply just assume is always going to be available. As useful as water is for cooking it presents a few problems but first let's consider the benefits.
Benefits: The biggest benefit to using water is it is in most cases a very inexpensive ingredient. It's abundant and easily used to cook foods in or stretch sauces.
- Fresh water is not as abundant as it seems and in fact there have been reports of Canada running out of fresh water. An incredible amount of fresh water is used for other activities besides cooking so it is imperative that everyone practices water conservation in any way they can and that includes cooking.
- Some municipal and well water can have an off taste to the point it may render it quite undesirable for cooking.
- Most municipally treated water has both chlorine and fluoride in it. These are two chemicals many are trying to avoid due to health concerns. It has been shown that chlorinated water in the presence of dishwasher detergent and even coming straight from the shower faucet releases chlorine gas into your home.
- Water takes a fair amount of energy to heat. In fact the term calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1ºC from a standard temperature at 1 atmospheric pressure.
- Water adds no flavour when cooking!
- Water conservation is a must which means when you are cooking with water use the least amount of water possible. Rather than boil vegetables steam them. Not only does this use less water and less energy to heat the water and it gives better results.
- If you have a problem with an off taste or smell from your water, use a filtering system for drinking and cooking water. In some cases you may need a whole house filter as well. A good filtering system will also remove residual chlorine and fluoride.
- Anytime you are cooking always substitute water with another liquid that adds flavour if at all possible. Think fruit or vegetable juices, stocks, broths, coffee or tea. All of these can be used to cook pastas, rices and vegetables in and they make wonderful substitutions in baking.
- Think outside the box. Is there another way you can cook that particular food without using water? For example I very seldom boil potatoes or carrots. They are either baked or steamed.
- Every household should store several gallons of water per person in water safe containers. This water is meant for drinking and cooking in the event of an emergency. If you home can save any test batches consisting of water only as this will give you a bacterial free source of water. However, canning water is not quite practical for larger storage so pick up at least 1 - 20 L (5 gal) portable water container per person in your household. These can be found rather inexpensively in the camping supplies section of most department stores. Fill each container with clean water and make a point of rotating your water stock.
- Water can in emergency situations be collected through rainfall, snow and natural waterways. However. you need to purify this water to prevent any water born illnesses. For this reason every household should keep a good supply of water purification tablets in their emergency stores. The tablets will allow you to safely purify any collected water for drinking or cooking.