Six Uses for Utility muslin on the Homestead

Utility muslin, a cheaper grade of muslin than that used in crafts and sewing, has been in use on our homestead for decades and as such has been a valuable addition to my fabric stash. So much so that many years ago I bought a whole bolt of it. Why buy so much? Here’s six uses for utility muslin on the homestead.

Utility Muslin Ready to be Cut

Utility Muslin Ready to be Cut

Six uses for Utility Muslin

Utility muslin has many uses around the homestead. I’ve used it to make casings for large homemade sausages such as bologna and salami. I’ve used it to make small bags for straining fruit for jelly and large bags for straining fruit juices. I’ve also used it to make large bags for storing country hams we’ve cured and smoked as well as home cured pieces of bacon. We’ve used large squares of muslin to hold apple pomace for pressing for apple cider as well as using squares of it to cover buckets containing fermenting sauerkraut or curing hams and bacon. Finally I’ve used it to fabricate a greenhouse blanket to cover the glazing on cold nights in an attempt to keep the greenhouse warmer.

Sausage Casings

Muslin Meat Casing with Funnel to Aid Stuffing

Muslin Meat Casing with Funnel to Aid Stuffing

The sausage casings are essentially tubes that can be made any size you wish, but I like to make mine at least big enough so my canning funnel will fit in the open end to facilitate stuffing the fabric tube.

Once I’ve stitched the tube, I dampen it with water, put my canning funnel in the open end and start spooning the sausage mixture into the top of the funnel then down into the casing. Using my fingers and hands on the outside of the casing, I push and maneuver the meat mixture down into the tube to pack it in. You don’t want to use so much muscle you burst the seams of the casing tube but you do want the mass to be free of air pockets. Leave enough room at the top of the fabric tube so it can be tied off with a piece of string. The sausage is now ready for simmering in a large kettle of water, smoking or air drying for storage. These sausage casings are a one time use and are then discarded.

Muslin Meat Casing Ready for Stuffing

Muslin Meat Casing Ready for Stuffing

Juice and Jelly Bags

I make cranberry, blueberry, strawberry and currant juice by boiling the fresh fruit with water then straining the whole mess through the big bags I stitch together.

Muslin Juice Bag

Muslin Juice Bag

To make the juice bags, I usually cut across the grain, letting the fold form the bottom of the bag with the selvages at the top. I double stitch the 2 sides that are the cut edges with ¼” between the 2 lines of stitching. That way if 1 seam gives way I have a second one as insurance.

The bags can be made any size you wish. Just be aware the bigger the bag, the more cooked fruit it can hold thus the heavier the bag will be. This may be problematic depending on what set up you have for hanging the bag to strain. I generally measure 18” along the fold and cut.

To use the juice bags, I dampen the bag with water first then pour the hot juice and fruit that I’ve boiled into the bag and tie the top of the bag with a stout string that has a loop on 1 end. To drain, I put the loop over a hook in the kitchen ceiling and let the juice drain into a large bowl.

Once cool, the bag is squeezed for greater yield. Often I’ll simmer the bag and its contents a second time in about a fourth the amount of water I used the first time around to extract as much flavor as possible. This time, since I’ve boiled the fruit while it was still in the bag all I have to do is lift the bag out and hang it up to drain then let it cool enough to squeeze.

At that point the juice is ready to can or drink and the pulp left behind in the bag is ready for the compost heap. I rinse the bag well to remove bits of stuck on pulp and wash it the next time I do laundry. Unlike the sausage casings, the juice bags are reusable until they become so threadbare they start to rip and tear. Because the bags I make are much larger than a standard jelly bag, I’m able to cook and strain large quantities of fruit enabling me to make gallons of juice at a time.

Speaking of jelly bags, a smaller version of a juice bag can be used to strain cooked fruit for jelly making. Follow all the same steps, just make it a smaller size.

Meat Bags

Muslin bags for storing cured and smoked hams and bacon are made the same way as juice or jelly bags but are sized to accommodate the meat being stored in them. Once filled, the open end of the bag is secured with heavy string with a loop at the end for hanging. I double bag these food products prior to hanging them in a cool place for storage.

Apple Cider

Production of apple cider is different than other fruit juices. Fresh apples are ground up as finely as possible then pressed to extract the juice. A press of some kind is required for this job.

But we needed some way to confine the pomace (ground up apples) prior to pressing. A large square of utility muslin was the answer. We dampen the muslin with water prior to pressing the first batch. After placing a load of ground apples in the center of the square we fold over the sides so no pulp will squirt out, then press the bundle. Once pressing is complete, we unfold the sides, clean off the pomace, load up the muslin square again and repeat the process.

Once all pressing is complete, the muslin squares can be washed and reused countless times unless they rip or tear.

Bucket Coverings

If you ferment large quantities of vegetables such as cabbage for sauerkraut or cucumbers for pickles you’ll need to cover your crock or food grade plastic bucket with a cover to keep out dust, unwanted microorganisms and other debris. A large square of utility muslin is perfect for the job. I always secure the fabric around the circumference of the bucket with a piece of string tying the ends together so the cloth stays in place. Tying the string with a bow ensures it’s easy to undo for daily checks of progress.

Greenhouse Night Blanket

Many years ago I wanted a night blanket to cover the greenhouse glazing on cold nights in an attempt to keep the greenhouse warmer. My bolt of utility muslin came to the rescue. I took measurements of the area I wanted to cover, bought enough polyester quilt batting for the job, then cut and stitched the utility muslin in such a way that I had 2 pieces the appropriate size with the quilt batting sandwiched in between. I stitched through the 3 layers with my treadle sewing machine. By attaching “D” rings to the top and sides I could hang the blanket up and presto my greenhouse had a homemade night blanket, That blanket is at least 25 years old and is still usable although I admit it’s showing signs of wear.

Other Uses?

Undoubtedly there are other uses for utility muslin on the homestead besides the six uses given above. It’s an invaluable product to have on hand. My fabric stash wouldn’t be complete without it. What uses for utility muslin can you come up with on your homestead? Let us know in the comments below.

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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