Anything that gets a long cooking time can have extra flavors added during that cooking (yes, beans but also soup, or even poached fruit). Veggie and herb trimmings give a huge flavor boost, but their texture is usually rather unpalatable. Wilted, spent cilantro stems: your slimy residue is not welcome in my refried beans, thank you.  Easy solution: throw trimmings or whole spices in a cloth bag and ditch the soggy contents after cooking.  There are a number of places to buy cloth cooking bags… but, the DIY version is so cheap, easy, and useful I thought a tutorial might be in order.

I wanted a bag that was simple to construct,  yet still durable enough to hold up to repeated machine washing (no raw fabric edges). You really don’t need to be an expert sewer to throw these bags together. I made a bunch in different sizes and wash them with my dishcloths. You could even use the same pattern to make reusable bags for buying produce or whole grains. For an infusing bag you want to select a thin, unbleached and undyed cotton. For storage bags, you can pick something a little sturdier.  I give directions for this pattern using a sewing machine, but it’s also a small enough project that you could sew a few by hand. Enjoy!

Decide how big you want your finished bag to be. Cut your fabric so it is one and a half inches taller than you want your finished bag and twice as wide plus one inch. 6″ wide by 8″ tall is a good size for veggie scraps, 3″wide by 4″ tall works well for spices.

Fold over 1″ of the top two corners. Press.

Fold the top edge over 1/2″ . Press

Using a very short stitch length, zig-zag stitch along edge of fold. Stitch back and forth at the intersection of the fold to reinforce. Cut a length of kitchen twine 4″ longer than the top of your fabric. Use the darning needle to string the twine through the fold. Knot both ends.

Fold the bag in half, keeping the strings on the outside. Sew along the side leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Trim a little off of the excess fabric from the outside of your seam. Turn bag inside out. Sew another vertical seam along the same edge, again with a 1/4″ seam allowance. (This will completely enclose the raw fabric edge you just trimmed.)

Rearrange the fabric (it’s a tube, at this point) so that the seam is in the center. Sew a seam along the bottom of the bag.

Trim a little of the excess fabric from the bottom seam. Turn bag right side out. Sew a seam along the bottom of the bag.


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