How To Easily Make Your Own Yeast From Scratch

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Knowing and replacing the staples in the kitchen in some other way than a trip to the store is an important survival skill. One of those things is bread.We will see how to make your own yeast for the bread.

make your own yeast

Ty different yeast procurement methods for new flavors and textures in your baking.

The first step to make bread is taking the time to learn to bake, which, unfortunately, is becoming a lost art in and of itself. The second step is to learn how to obtain the components of bread, such as flour, water and yeast.

If you are ready to go beyond the basic sourdough starter, try these yeast procurement methods for all new flavors and textures in your baking.

Feeding the Starter

Whether you are talking about a standard sourdough starter, or one of those listed below, you will see many recipes talking about “feeding” the starter. This means adding 1 cup flour and 1 cup water to the mix so that the yeast can keep growing. You will need to feed the starter daily if it is at room temperature, or weekly if it is in the fridge. If you don’t bake bread that day, you will also need to toss out one cup of the starter so that the ratios stay the same. This is an important step—and can be a great motivator to bake regularly so that none of your hard work goes to waste! Yeast starters are one thing you will not want to throw in the compost pile, as the bacteria can grow out of control and give you a very unpleasant result.

Grape Starter

Grapes, along with many other types of fruits (such as apples, oranges and grapefruits to name some examples), contain natural yeast spores in the skin or peel of the fruit.

For grapes, stem them (do not wash them, as this will wash off the yeast that you are trying to grow), crush by hand, and place in a container covered with cheesecloth. Leave undisturbed for three days. You should start to see the liquid bubble, indicating that the yeast is growing. Strain the liquid (which now contains the yeast), and stir in 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

Leave your grape starter at room temperature for 24 hours. Save only one cup of the mixture, then add another cup of flour and a cup of water. Do the same thing for another day or two. You should have a very bubbly starter at this point. After this, just keep feeding it so you will always have some ready for your next loaf of bread.

As you experiment with different fruits (and even tomatoes!) you will find that each kind of starter has a bit of a different flavor. Find which ones you like best. Just remember, you need to use homegrown or wild fruits, since the store-bought ones will be covered with pesticides, wax, and who knows what else—probably not much yeast left to be found there. And don’t wash it off before starting.

Potato Starter

It is amazing the things that we throw away that are more useful than we know. In this case, that water you boiled potatoes in for dinner is one of the fastest ways to make a starter for your bread. Simply take a cup and a half of the potato water, add a tablespoon of sugar, and stir in flour until stiff. Cover and leave overnight in a warm place. If it is nice and bubbly the next morning it is ready to use. If not—start over.

Alternatively, if you do not usually boil your potatoes, or just want to try something different, cheat a little.Use one packet of yeast (1 tablespoon), mix with a cup of water, a half-cup of sugar, and three tablespoons of instant potato flakes. Let it stand for 24 hours, then put it in the fridge. Feed every four days, but instead of the usual flour and water combo, use the same amounts of sugar, potato flakes, and water that you used to create the starter.

Drying Your Yeast for Storage

One practical challenge is to make your own yeast, store and transport it. We see this in one very practical example, when Israel left Egypt in a hurry during the Exodus, and did not have time for their bread to rise. Jews to this day commemorate God’s deliverance by abstaining from products with leavening during Passover.

If you want to be able to bake bread the instant you arrive at your bug-out location (if you ever need to take your own personal Exodus), then you will want to dry some yeast for use later

Take any of your starters, spread very thin on a cookie sheet or baking stone, then dehydrate as you would anything else. If you live in a hot and dry climate, you may just be able to cover it with a cheese cloth and place in the sun. Otherwise, put on the lowest temp in your oven and dry it that way. Once the yeast is dry (not cooked, if it cooks the active yeast will be killed and rendered useless), you can crumble it and store in an air tight container.In this way you can make your own yeast at home. Just like store-bought yeast, it will last longer in the fridge or freezer.

Make your own yeast and play with your recipes

Play around with amounts you use in recipes once your yeast is ready, as the potency of homemade yeast will be a little different than the store-bought version .You will probably need more of it for the same amount of bread (typically about a cup of starter in place of 1 packet of yeast, if using wet starter. If you’re using dry yeast, try just doubling the amount to start).Make your own yeast at home and feel the benefits of it.
What you lose in time, you may find you make up for in flavor and fun. Make your own yeast and there is nothing quite like the smell of fresh baked bread to make you feel at home.

Editor’s Note: This article is included in the newly released offering from Off the Grid News, The Big Book of Off the Grid Secrets. This is one reference book you will definitely want to keep handy! You can find this latest book at offthegridsecrets.com.

For additional reading, check out our Off The Grid News article, How To Make Butter In An Emergency!

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Sourdough Starter Made Simple – Create Your Own Heirloom Culture

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sourdough starter

Sourdough bread is the oldest form of leavened bread in the world.

Sourdough Starter Made Simple

Sourdough bread is the oldest form of leavened bread in the world, dating back to ancient Egypt. Sourdough uses a lactobacillus and yeast culture rather than cultivated yeasts as a leavening agent. The lactic acid created as a by-product of the lactobacilli gives sourdough bread its distinctive tangy flavor, while the yeast provides the leavening and digests the byproducts of the lactobacilli.

Unlike cultivated yeasts, sourdough “starters” with homegrown lactobacilli are very easy to start and maintain at home. Once begun, sourdough starters can live for years or even for generations. Many bakeries or other restaurants that bake their own bread keep the same sourdough starter for as long as the restaurant remains open to ensure that their bread keeps the same unique flavor. Sourdough starters have even been passed down from grandparents to parents to children as family heirlooms.

How Does It Work?

While it may sound off-putting, the truth is that all sorts of microorganisms naturally live in flour, including the two that are important to a sourdough starter. When a starter is nurtured properly, the yeast and lactobacilli will eventually grow a strong symbiotic colony and kill off any other bacteria in the process. It can take several days for the right bacteria to take hold, and until that time your starter may give off an unpleasant smell and generally resemble something you don’t particularly want to use for cooking.

Your skin also contributes some bacteria to the process. This is one cooking activity for which you do not want the most sterile ingredients and tools possible. Whole grain flours are better since they naturally contain more bacteria, and you do not want to sterilize your flour before you begin or your starter will not go anywhere.

Growing Your Sourdough Starter

There is both a simple way and a more complicated way to grow a sourdough starter, although in truth neither way is immensely difficult. The complicated method mostly involves a great deal of time and patience, and possibly some trial and error.

The first method involves taking a small amount of unbaked sourdough for your base since this dough will already contain live cultures of lactobacilli and yeast. This dough can come from a sourdough that you purchase, or from a starter or dough that you snitch from an acquaintance. With healthy cultures already at home in this dough, all you have to do is keep feeding it.

To start a new culture you will need to make a brand-new dough out of a flour and water base and wait for a culture to begin to form. You should be able to grow a good culture in about a week’s time if you keep your dough under the right conditions.

While there are many different methods of beginning a sourdough starter, I have found that this method detailed on the website Sourdough Home is a great resource. The website also has a couple of other methods that sourdough bakers can try, but the Professor Calvel recipe is a tasty and reliable place to start.

This method takes about two and a half days to grow a sourdough starter, and bakers will need wheat flour, rye flour, salt, water, and dried malt extract. Do not use distilled water for your starter, since the minerals naturally found in water are important for helping your starter to grow. If your tap water smells or tastes funny, use bottled water for your starter.

This particular recipe uses both whole wheat and rye flour, and most starter recipes you will find also opt for rye, wheat, or a combination rather than white flour. However, you do not need to use the same type of flour to bake your bread as you used for your starter; for example, you can make a white sourdough loaf using a starter fed with rye.

Starters need time to grow and to eliminate unwanted bacteria, so you should only bake with starters that are at least one week old – preferably older. Starters should also be healthy, as demonstrated by their ability to more or less double in size each time you feed them.

Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter

Keeping a sourdough starter is not unlike keeping a very low maintenance pet. In fact, your lactobacilli culture is alive and needs some of the same care that you would give to a more traditional pet. It may seem bizarre to carefully cultivate a strain of bacteria when we work so hard to eradicate bacteria in most areas of our homes, but these little cultures are special. Keep them healthy and happy, and you will have the key to great bread for as long as you choose!

Your sourdough starter needs food and water and must be kept at an appropriate temperature. There are a couple of options for your starter during the first few months: it can be kept in a relatively warm place and fed twice a day, or you can choose to start keeping your culture in the refrigerator after the first week, in which case you only need to feed it once every two to four weeks. Keeping the culture warm at first is the recommended method, but those who can’t or won’t put that much time toward their starter should still be able to create a decent starter in the refrigerator.

When you feed your starter, you want to give it the same amount of flour as you have starter. In other words, one cup of starter should be fed one cup of flour. At the same time, you want to add approximately two-thirds that amount of water: 2/3 cup for one cup of starter. If you are using weight measurements instead of volume measurements, add equal parts flour and water.

Since the goal is for the starter to double in size after you have already doubled it with the feeding, you can imagine how quickly a starter would grow in size if left unchecked. To avoid an exponential explosion of starter, it is best to discard a portion of your starter each time you feed it. You may choose to keep one or two cups of starter at a time.

If there are periods of time when you will not be using your starter, or if you are wary of the amount of flour it takes to feed a hungry starter twice a day, it is possible to store your starter in the refrigerator, or even in the freezer. As we have already discussed, it is highly recommended that you do not refrigerate your starter until it has had time to mature over a period of one to three months.

Before you use your starter again, you will need to remove it from the refrigerator and revive it. Feed the starter and allow it to return to room temperature. Once it has reached that temperature, resume the twice-a-day feeding schedule until the starter had regained the ability to double its size after a feeding. Keep in mind that you do not need to revive your entire starter in order to have some to use. You can take a relatively small amount of starter – say, one teaspoon – from your starter container while leaving the rest in the refrigerator. You can continue to feed the bulk of the starter on the two-to-four-week refrigeration schedule.

You may also like to read How to Make Butter in an Emergency!

 

 

©2018  Off the Grid News

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Fermented Foods Can Be Key Factor In Cancer Fight

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fermented foods

Studies show that lactic acid in many fermented foods acts as a powerful detoxifier.

Researchers at the University of Illinois were curious as to why Polish women who go to the United States of America were more prone to develop breast cancer than their relatives who remained in Poland. Possibly one of the primary dietary changes linked to their move has been a lower rate of eating fermented foods, mainly cabbage. Scientists found that deficient concentrations of extracts from these vegetables exhibited anti-estrogen effects. Moreover, when purified and separated, these anti-estrogenic compounds differed from anything seen before.

Cancer has commonly contributed to a decrease in the production of hydrochloric acid and enzymes. When a significant reduction occurs, improperly digested food overloads the liver and also other systems with metabolic toxins. Several doctors, including the noted cancer specialist Nicholas Gonzales, MD, have discovered that the act of increasing the enzymes and digestive capabilities of cancer patients often assists the whole body in ridding itself of cancer.

Additionally, lactic acid increases production of the B vitamins by intestinal flora and increases cell metabolism. Also, the acid behaves as a detoxifier, which can be considered “beneficial” to the cancer patient. Dr. Johannes Kuhl of Germany has reported using lactic acid in fermented items to treat colon polyps. He indicates that these kinds of pre-cancerous growths in the whole colon can disappear after 4 to 6 weeks of treatment. During this time, the subject must ingest a massive amount of lactic acid through fermented vegetables. If they do so, the growths may not recur providing the person eats the vegetables on a regular basis.

Within the past one hundred years, we have practically eliminated possibly the most beneficial fermented foods in our diet. A big part of the explanation for this is related to the process we now employ to preserve foods, mainly vegetables. When fresh vegetables weren’t as readily available through the entire year, many people had often preserved them through fermentation. Nowadays, due to improved transportation and storage techniques, we can easily buy vegetables year-round. Freezing and canning have come to be the approaches that many people have liked for preserving. While these techniques retain vitamin content and they are convenient, they undoubtedly have little to provide regarding beneficial bacteria for one’s system.

In this country, the sole fermented food that we consume with any regularity consists of pickles produced from fermented cucumbers. Nevertheless, most companies produce commercial pickles with vinegar as a substitute for just salt and water. After that, workers pasteurize them, which kills all of the lactic acids and produces bacteria. This technique, as a result, renders this product nearly useless for improving health.

Many individuals buy the majority of their fermented foods from stores, which can include pickles, yogurt, and sauerkraut. Notwithstanding, this commercial produce has few or none of the benefits that these foods possess in their unprocessed forms. Alternatively, you can typically make your own yogurt, fermented vegetables, and sauerkraut.

Another essential thing to keep in mind, which is critical when it comes to eating fermented foods, is not just to devour a big helping maybe once or twice every week. Instead, you usually should have a small portion. In fact, a couple of times daily with meals is optimal.

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Simple And Easy Cheese-Making For Beginners

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Simple And Easy Cheese-Making For BeginnersAfter visiting with a friend, she convinced me to try making my own cheese.  Doubting my ability, I asked her if there was a cheese-making for beginners class she could recommend to me.  She smiled and said she would be happy to teach me.

Think it’s too difficult to make your own cheese? Think again!

Making cheese can be quick, easy and inexpensive. In fact, some cheese can be made in just three steps. Below are three recipes that you can make at home. Even if you’ve never made cheese before, you can make these simple cheeses to save money. And they’re much more nutritious and taste better than the store-bought versions that are full of chemicals and preservatives.

Cottage cheese

There’s something filling about eating cottage cheese. It has lots of protein and makes a great breakfast or snack. But the cottage cheese that you get from the grocery store doesn’t always taste good. If you want delicious cottage cheese, why not try making it yourself? It just takes a couple of minutes to make and is a great recipe for those of you who feel like you are a cheese-making beginner!

Homemade cottage cheese

Makes 2 cups

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ cup half-and-half

Directions:

  1. Pour the milk into a large saucepan and cook over medium heat. Check the temperature with a candy thermometer and continue cooking until it reaches 120 degrees F.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the vinegar and continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Pour the mixture into a colander lined with cheesecloth or a tea towel. Allow to sit and drain for 5 minutes. Gather up the edges of the cloth and rinse with cold water for 3 to 5 minutes. When it’s cool, squeeze the curds dry as much as possible. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine. When ready to eat, stir in the half-and-half. If not, transfer to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator. Add the half-and-half just before serving.

Farmer’s Cheese

Farmer’s cheese is a great cheese for beginners. So if making your own cheese sounds intimidating, try this recipe first. And it tastes great in lasagna, tacos, salads and even cheesecake.

Make “Off-The-Grid” Super Foods Secretly In Your Home

In fact, that’s my favorite way to use farmer’s cheese. And now that it’s fall, try this pumpkin cheesecake; it’s my favorite cheesecake to make!

Homemade Farmer’s Cheese

Makes 1 pound

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Juice from 1 large lemon
Homemade cottage cheese. Image source: Preparednessadvice

Homemade cottage cheese. Image source: Preparednessadvice

Directions

  1. Pour milk into a large kettle. Add a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
  2. When the milk starts to boil, turn off the heat. Stir lemon juice into the milk. The milk will curdle. Wait 10 minutes.
  3. Line a colander or strainer with cheesecloth or a tea towel. Place a large bowl underneath the colander to catch the liquid. Pour the milk through the cloth. What is left in the cheesecloth is the farmer’s cheese. And the liquid that is leftover is the whey. Gather the cloth around the cheese, and squeeze out as much of the whey as you can. Wrap in plastic, or put in an airtight container. Store the cheese in the refrigerator; it will keep for a week.

Mascarpone Cheese

Homemade mascarpone is just as good as the store-bought version. It’s also quite simple to make, and is cheaper than buying it.

Mascarpone cheese is too rich to eat by itself, sort of like eating a spoonful of butter! But it’s delicious to use in savory and sweet recipes alike.

Homemade Mascarpone

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Directions

  1. Pour heavy cream into a large pan. Simmer over medium high heat until a thermometer reads 190 degrees F. And stir often to avoid scorching.
  2. Stir in the lemon juice and continue to simmer at 190 degrees F for 5 minutes. The cream should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to let cool for 30 to 45 minutes, or until room temperature.
  3. Place a strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth or a tea towel over an empty bowl. Pour the cream, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. Keep the cream for 8-12 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Next, discard the whey and put the cheese in an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Don’t buy expensive cheese that is often full of chemicals and additives. Instead, make your own cheese! By following the recipes above, you’ll become an expert in making cheese in no time. But there’s only one drawback to making cheese — it won’t last long! And if you do run out, don’t worry. These homemade cheeses are so simple and easy-to-make, that you’ll be able to whip up some more in no time at all!  With a little practice, you’ll no longer be a just cheese-making beginner, you’ll be an expert!

Have you ever made cheese? If so, what kind? Share your tips in the comments section below:

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A Tomato a Day Keeps You Healthy… and Full!

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When you’re living at the mercy of nature, (whose bounty can be very fickle), you need access to smart foods.  You’ll want to keep some foods around that are not only nutritious, but that will also make you feel full on a modest portion.  If it also happens to ward off a myriad of dread diseases, so much the better.  Say hello to what might be a survivor’s best friend: the tomato.

Evidence is emerging that suggests our plump red pal contains a mystery compound that suppresses hormones that trigger our appetite.  Preventing those pesky snack attacks has a lot of obvious advantages for us, whether we are living under normal circumstances or under the austerity of survival conditions.  Staying slim by not overeating may be a great benefit now, but think of those longs days and nights of rationing out a diminishing food supply, and nothing seems to satisfy your continual hunger.  A filling bite of a tomato to take the edge off would be heaven sent.

A French study compared the filling effect of sandwiches made with a tomato-enriched bread, carrot-enriched bread, and plain white bread.  Women of average weight between 18 and 35 were the subjects.  Amazingly, the fiber-rich carrots were not the winner.  Only the tomato bread kept the women satisfied and full.  So, if you only have a slice of cheese or a share of a can of tuna for today’s rations, a couple slices of tomato might be just the thing to turn those few precious bites into a fulfilling meal.

The results are incomplete, and it remains to be determined if tomatoes lower the level of the hunger-producing hormones, like ghrelin.  The part of the tomato that curbs the appetite has not been isolated yet either, though some suspect that it may be the red pigment, lycopene.

Regardless of lycopene’s connection to appetite, it is another reason to plant plenty of tomatoes in your survival garden.  Lycopene is linked to a reduction in a host of cancers including prostate, breast, cervical, skin, pancreatic, and even lung cancer—plus it slows down the progression of some cancers that have already occurred as well.

But wait!  There’s more…

Tomato juice and ketchup have been shown to significantly reduce levels of cholesterol, thus promoting heart health as well.  Tomatoes also keep skin healthy and looking young, and actually help to minimize sunburn.  They have a ton of vitamin C, which has healing, preventative, and nutritional properties—like warding off colds, promoting wounds to heal more quickly and completely, and allowing the body to absorb iron.  Tomatoes are rich in fiber, and they have lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep you young and energetic.

Tomatoes are easy to grow, and will grow under many diverse conditions. One plant yields many fruits, and one fruit has enough seeds for a hundred new plants.  They can stay on the vine for a long time; they can ripen and survive after picking for a long time; and they don’t require refrigeration.  With all of these benefits, I’m thinking that a good share of my garden will be dedicated to this versatile vegi-fruit.  You can eat it raw, on a sandwich, in a salad, grilled, boiled, or in soup.  You can juice it, make ketchup, salsa, tomato sauce for spaghetti sauce or chili, and it can be sundried too.  Is there anything I’m leaving out?  Oh…and it tastes pretty good too.

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Cilantro’s Amazing Health Benefits

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cilantro's amazing health benefits

Cilantro has so many amazing health benefits it should be in everyone’s 2018 garden.

Many individuals don’t recognize that the herb known as cilantro doesn’t originate from a plant of the same name, but in actuality consists of the leaves and stems of the coriander plant. Because of this, cilantro is related to cumin, dill, fennel, and anise. Additionally, cilantro’s amazing health benefits were discovered long ago.

People have utilized cilantro in cooking for years and years, and it has garnered notoriety for its robust and citrus-like flavor, which pairs well with seasonings. Examples of such would be mint, basil, and turmeric. Furthermore, the savory herb receives acclaim for its medicinal properties, namely:

Alleviates Tension

Cilantro has been found to provide a significant calming effect, so it is a reliable candidate to serve as a conservative therapy for relief of anxiety. The reality is, massive quantities of cilantro extract were found to create effects identical to the renowned anti-anxiety drug Valium®, but without that drug’s numerous and uncomfortable side effects. Some of these maladies include confusion, hallucinations, agitation, and memory-related issues.

Eradication Of Toxic Compounds (Heavy Metals)

The buildup of toxic metals and chemical elements such as lead, mercury, aluminum, and arsenic in human bodies could have severely detrimental health effects, including neurological damage, infertility, heart conditions and hormonal imbalances. Cilantro can assist in countering some of these problems. It has also been found to accelerate the elimination of pollutants. In mice, for example, simultaneous administration of cilantro extract protected against lead-induced oxidative stress.

Prevents Infection

Cilantro’s amazing health benefits make it a powerful protector against a good number of diseases – such as salmonella, cholera, and food poisoning. Cilantro is considerably effective against these ailments as a consequence of its antibacterial properties. Research has revealed that essential oil obtained from cilantro is useful against Listeria.

Safeguards Against Diabetes

In an animal study, cilantro extract was found to help lower blood glucose levels and support healthy liver function where diabetes exists. The researchers involved in the investigation, upon following their findings, have recommended that cilantro extract be present in the diets of diabetics.

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Don’t Kill Those Dandelions! 10 Ways You Can Use Them  

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Dandelions are a versatile herb, not a pesky weed that overtakes your property.

Dandelions have a terrible reputation for being the pesky weeds that pop up between sidewalk cracks. Homeowners spray them with weed killer, but they have no idea what those yellow flowers have dozens of health benefits. Dandelions are a known edible; the greens make fantastic additions to salads. There is no reason to kill them. Instead, pick one of these ways to use dandelions.  

10 Ways to Use Dandelions 

 

  1. Dandelion Root Coffee

Yes, dandelion roots can be used to make coffee. Dandelion is a caffeine-free blend that is similar to instant coffee. It tastes and looks very similar to coffee. You can find directions here to make dandelion coffee from the roots right in your front yard. The process can be lengthy, but it is free and healthy. Save this one for your SHTF scenario!
 

  1. Dandelion Infused Oil

Dandelions have fantastic health benefits such as offering pain-relieving properties. If you want to tap into that property for your sore muscles and aches, an infused oil is the way to go. Fill a jar with dried dandelion flowers and then cover the flowers with your favorite oil such as almond or olive oil. Let it set in a sunny location for several weeks. Then, strain and use the oil on your skin.
 

  1. Dandelion Wine

These flowers make a delicious, sweet wine for cheap. Make sure you only use the petals. You are going to need a lot of flowers, so send your kids out to pick as many as possible. If you use the greens, your wine will turn bitter and gross. The process may take time, but it makes fantastic gifts and a way to build up your homemade wine stash.
 

  1. Dandelion Flower Salve 

The dandelion infused oil you made before can be used to create a salve. Dandelion salve is excellent for sore muscles, achy joints or chapped skin. If you work with your hands a lot, it is an excellent addition to your medicine cabinet.
 

  1. Dandelion Jelly 

You can use those pesky weeds to create a unique jelly that your friends and family will love. The flavor will remind you slightly of honey. You do need about ten cups – yes cups – of dandelion blossoms. That means you only want the blossoms and no parts of the stem. Just like for dandelion wine, the stems will infuse a bitter, unpleasant taste. Once you pick the flowers and snip the blossoms, you will end up with about four cups of petals.
 

  1. Dandelion Soap 

Dandelion soap is a favorite, seasonal choice for soap makers, but you can learn how to make it yourself at home. Honey and dandelions go hand in hand, and it is useful if you have persistent skin issues. Dandelion soap works terrific for eczema and psoriasis.
 

  1. Dandelion Blossom Cookies

The kids will be in for a surprise when you tell them that their cookies include dandelion blossoms. Dandelions are edible and offer health benefits, so why not use them in a cookie form? Give this recipe a try and see what you think! Dandelions are free, so it’s worth a try!
 

  1. Dandelion Tea 

You can make dandelion tea with fresh flowers and leaves. You pack them into a mason jar and pour boiling water over the top. Then, you allow the tea to infuse and cool so you can drink it.  

 Dandelion tea helps to purify and detoxify the blood. It also can help relieve acne and constipation. Be careful if you have any ulcers or chronic health issues. It does have a laxative and diuretic properties, so you don’t want to drink too much too often.  

 If you decide to make dandelion soap, you can use dandelion tea in those as well!
 

  1. Cook Them Up! 

Dandelion leaves can be cooked and added to any dish like spinach. Instead of using spinach in your quiche or scrambled eggs, use the cooked dandelion leaves. Make sure that you select dandelions from your land so that you can be sure they weren’t sprayed with any weed killer.
 You can add dandelions to almost any dish that you want! The leaves can be used as a replacement in fresh salads for spinach or other greens. Be creative and try them in as many dishes as you can throughout the spring.
 

  1. Dandelion Vinegar

Dandelions are a source of minerals like potassium, magnesium, and iron. If you want to extract those minerals, consider making a dandelion vinegar.  

 All you need is dandelion flowers with their leaves and stems. Fill a mason jar with washed, fresh dandelion blossoms and leaves. Then, pour apple cider vinegar over the top until the jar is full. Cover and let the jar and let it sit for four to six weeks. Once you strain it, you can use the dandelion vinegar immediately.  

 You can use dandelion vinegar as a hair rinse or on your bug bites. Try adding it to your bath with Epsom salt to help relieve any sore muscles. You also can mix the vinegar with oil and other herbs to create a unique and delicious salad vinaigrette.  

Dandelions are a versatile herb, not a pesky weed that overtakes your property. Don’t be like everyone else and kill them off! Instead, use dandelions to your advantage this spring. Make several jars of infused oil and dry the flowers for tea. Dandelions are free and useful; what more can you want?  

 

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Morel Mushrooms: Tips For Hunting Them This Spring

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The time for morel mushroom hunting is upon us. The temperatures are starting to rise, and signs of spring are popping up all around us. That means morel mushroom season is here as well.

Morel mushrooms are a delicacy, selling for hundreds of dollars per pounds. They are a treat and only bloom once a year. You can’t walk to your local grocery store and purchase them. The only options are to find them yourself or buy them from someone else.

Luckily, those of us who live in the upper half of the United States can hunt for morel mushrooms in the spring. Here is what you need to know.

When Can I Hunt for Morel Mushrooms?

In most areas, morel mushrooms start to bloom in late April. Their growing season lasts throughout early June. The season will depend on your area.

  • If it is your first year hunting mushrooms, ask local, experienced hunters when they typically find them. Also, start hunting a month or so before you expect to see them to increase your chances.

The best time to find morel mushrooms is after heavy rainfall when the air is warm and humid. Keep an eye on the temperature. Morels tend to be a bit picky about the temperature.

They enjoy the weather when it gets around 60 degrees and above throughout the day. Night temperatures should hover around 40 degrees. Soil temperatures will be between 45 and 50 degrees when morels start to develop.

Where Should I Look for Morel Mushrooms?

In the early spring, southern-facing hills will be the ideal place to check for mushrooms. They receive more sunlight in this area. As the season gets closer to June, morel mushrooms grow more on northern-facing hills.

Here are some other tips for locations that morel mushrooms enjoy.

  • Morels love to grow near trees. Ash, poplar, apple and elm trees are favorite choices!
  • Dying and dead trees are common places as well.
  • Look for loamy soil, similar to what is at the bottom of creeks. Loamy soil drains well, is moist and has a good mixture of clay, sand and decaying matter.
  • Morels love burned sites. Research past wildfires in your area, or look in areas that have experienced wildfires years ago. The mushrooms love the nutrients that burned trees put back into the soil. These sites are more common towards the Western part of the United States. However, anywhere that has experienced a brush or forest fire might attract morel mushrooms.
  • Previously flooded areas also attract morel mushrooms. Check locally for areas that were recently disturbed by water, or even disturbed in the past! That means look near creeks, streams, and

You Found Morels, Now What?

Carry your findings in a mesh bag! As you walk through the woods, the mushrooms will release spores. The spores will increase the chances of mushrooms growing in that area in the future. You are encouraging future growth!

Remember to not pick all of the mushrooms in the area. You might want to, especially after searching for a few hours. However, leaving mushrooms means they will drop spores and allow you to enjoy morels in the following years.

Once you start to find morel mushrooms, it is a great idea to keep a record of where you found them. They tend to pop up in the same areas each year. You will have an idea where to look the following year. Thoroughly check the surrounding areas as well. Where there is one, there tends to be more!

Make sure they are morel mushrooms. Several different poisonous, false morel mushrooms can cause you to get sick if you make them for dinner. Make sure you identify correctly. Real morel mushrooms have these characteristics:

  • Two to four inches long
  • Full of ridges and pits
  • Looks like a sponge
  • Pale yellow to dark gray
  • Cap is attached to stem
  • Hollow from the bottom of the stem to the top of the cap. A true morel is always hollow!

Before you cook the morels, soak them in water. Morels are hollow, so bugs, sand, and debris tend to collect in their hollow stem. Soaking them for a few hours allows all of the nasties to come out. If you found your morels in a creek or riverbank, it is wise to cut them lengthwise and then soak to remove all of the sand.

Enjoy Your Time

Morel hunting is fun; don’t take it too seriously! It is an excellent activity for kids, making it a fantastic family activity. Determined kids, who are lower to the ground, might spot morels better than adults. When they do find them, their excitement will be contagious!

Now, head home and enjoy your morel snack. Sautee mushrooms lightly in butter or cover in a batter for a delicious meal. The earthy, meaty taste is appealing for adults and kids.

The post Morel Mushrooms: Tips For Hunting Them This Spring appeared first on Off The Grid News.

The Overlooked Nutritional Powerhouse You Can Stockpile For Years

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The Overlooked Nutritional Powerhouse You Can Stockpile For Years

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If you are looking to add some powerhouse nutrition, be sure to consider lentils.

Lentils are legumes, and when compared with other dried beans, they are easy and quick to prepare since they do not require presoaking. However, they offer high nutritional content, and they readily absorb other flavors in your soups, stews and side dishes. Even better: They will store for years and years.

Lentils originated in central Asia and are one of the world’s first cultivated foods. In fact, lentil seeds dating back to Old Testament times have been discovered at archeological sites in the Middle East. Sometime before the first century, lentils made their way to India, where they became the basis of the popular Indian dish, dal.

There are dozens of varieties of lentils, and they are classified by size and by color. Although green and brown lentils are the most common types in the U.S., lentils also come in orange, red, yellow and black varieties. Flavors differ slightly among the different types, but each one offers a rich, dense, slightly nutty taste.

The ‘Miracle Oil Maker’ Lets You Make Fresh Nut Oils Within Minutes!

Here are some of the many health benefits lentils can provide.

Manganese. Stored in the bones and in the liver, pancreas and kidneys, this mineral helps the body maintain a normal level of blood sugar. It also offers protection against free radicals. A 100-gram serving of red lentils provides 100 percent of your daily manganese requirements.

Protein. If you are a vegetarian or are just looking to increase your protein intake, lentils are a great choice. A half cup serving of dry lentils provides 26 grams of energy-packed protein. They also are naturally gluten-free. Lentils are one of the best sources of alkaline protein, which means they can help balance the body’s pH level, promoting a healthy gut.

Fiber. If you consume 100 grams of dry green lentils, you will get 80 percent of your day’s fiber recommendation. A high daily intake of dietary fiber can help lower your “bad” cholesterol levels and offer protection against developing Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. High fiber also regulates the digestive system, helping to prevent constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis.

Potassium. Potassium is helpful in regulating blood pressure, and it can help fight the damaging effects of too much sodium in the diet. A 100-gram serving of red lentils offers more potassium content than a large banana.

Folate. Folate plays an important part in heart health, nerve function and the formation of red blood cells. It helps prevent anemia and is very important in helping increase the blood volume of pregnant women and women of childbearing age in general.

The Overlooked Nutritional Powerhouse You Can Stockpile For Years

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Iron. You can take a natural iron supplement by eating 100 grams of lentils, which provides almost half of your daily iron requirement. Iron helps in the formation of hemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in the muscles, both of which help fight against fatigue and tiredness.

Low starch content. Compared with refined grains and packaged carbohydrates, lentils have a low impact on blood sugar levels. Lentils contain about 35 percent digestible starch, and about 65 percent resistant starch, which is the type that escapes absorption in the small intestines. Eating lentils can help curb your appetite, since they are low in calories yet are satisfying.

How to Purchase Lentils

Lentils are available in prepackaged containers and in bulk bins. Look for lentils that are whole and without cracks and without any evidence of damage from insects or moisture.

Unlike many canned vegetables, canned lentils retain most of their nutrition. Check the label, however, to avoid added salt or other ingredients.

Storage

When dry lentils are stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place, they will store for years. Cooked lentils will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about three days in a covered container.

Cooking With Lentils

Spread lentils out on a light plate or surface to check for and to remove any small rocks or other debris. Then rinse lentils in a strainer under cool running water.

To boil lentils, use one cup of lentils per three cups of liquid. For lentils that are easier to digest, place them in water that is already boiling. When the water returns to a full boil, turn down heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Red lentils take about 20 minutes to cook, while green lentils take about 30 minutes.

You can lengthen or shorten this time depending on the consistency you desire. For example, you might want to cook them for less time if you want a firmer texture for a salad or soup. If you are making a curry or a dal, however, you may want to increase the cooking time so your lentils have a softer consistency.

Have you ever eaten or stored lentils? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Here are some recipes for lentils you may want to consider:

http://allrecipes.com/recipes/16982/fruits-and-vegetables/beans-and-peas/lentils/

http://www.thekitchn.com/20-lentil-recipes-for-easy-weeknight-meals-227286

https://minimalistbaker.com/1-pot-lentil-dal/

https://minimalistbaker.com/1-pot-lentil-dal/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/24/lentil-recipes_n_1070678.html

http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/lentil-recipes

The post The Overlooked Nutritional Powerhouse You Can Stockpile For Years appeared first on Off The Grid News.

Eat Those Varmints: 3 Nuisance Animals that Make Tasty Meals

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If you’re a homesteader or small-scale farmer, you’ve likely engaged in varmint battles over the years. How many times have you gone out to your chicken coop, only to find a bloody pile of feathers? Or went to check on your garden, and found your zucchini crop gone, plants and all? Have you watched as all the walnuts on your trees seemingly vanished right before your eyes?

Varmint animals are smart, sneaky and can do a number on your homestead. Protecting your livestock and crops, and keeping local varmint populations under control, is a crucial task for most homesteaders. But maybe you can beat them at their own game, too. Many of the most common varmints are edible themselves and make excellent table fare. Here are three nuisance animals that might be your next meal.

 

Woodchucks

Woodchucks are found throughout the Eastern United States and into Canada. They often wreak havoc on garden beds with their ravenous appetites. Their burrows are a hazard in fields, and they can even undermine earthen dams over time. People often pay exterminators good money to get rid of them. Fortunately, woodchucks are also delicious.

Woodchucks used to be eaten commonly a few decades ago. Their meat is tasty, and it can be prepared much like any other small game animals. Woodchuck pie is a hearty meal worth trying on an autumn day. Wash it down with a glass of fresh cider.  Woodchucks are also great in stew as well.

Dispatching woodchucks is not particularly hard. You can trap them, or use a small caliber rifle to shoot one. If you plan on hunting them, be prepared to shoot quick, and from a distance; they are never very far from a burrow entrance they can duck in to.  They are straightforward to butcher, too, although you need to remove their scent glands before cooking.

 

Squirrels

Chances are you have squirrels where you live and do battle with them from time to time. They can threaten fruit and nut crops, as well as garden beds. They sometimes gnaw their way into your home and nest in attics, making a real mess. And they’ll certainly take more than their fair share at your bird feeders if given half a chance. Fortunately, squirrels are easy to kill and tasty to eat.

Squirrels don’t fear humans too much, especially when they’re in trees. You can often shoot two or more with a small caliber rifle before they get the hint. They’re also quite easy to trap as well; a squirrel pole is simple to build, and one of the most effective traps out there.

It typically takes a few squirrels to make a good meal. Fortunately, they aren’t too hard to hunt or trap. Once you have killed a few, try serving your family some baked squirrel.  Squirrel is also terrific base meat to use in a slow cooker recipe as well.

Crows

Depending where you live, crows can be a real nuisance.  They can descend on your garden en masse and tear it apart. They will steal food from your poultry, and at times will even kill baby chicks. Fortunately, despite the old idiom about eating crow, they can be quite tasty.

Hunt crow in your fields like you would kill any small game bird. It’s best to use a 20 or .410 gauge shotgun. Crows are smart and often get out of range before you can shoot them. However, sometimes they get complacent when they’re living around humans for a while. Most crow recipes call for using breast meat, which is relatively small. Like squirrels, you’ll need to shoot a few crows to get enough for a meal.

Once you’ve shot and dressed a few crows, try cooking them up in a delicious blackbird pie. Alternatively, you could make a crow and mushroom stew as well. Pair either of these meals with a wine made from berries these crows would have eaten up in your garden had you given them the chance.

Parting Shots

Make sure you check your local hunting or trapping regulations before you go after these or any other nuisance animals; always be a safe, courteous hunter, too. Once you’ve ensured that you’re okay to hunt these varmints, have at it! It is quite satisfying to make a tasty meal out of nuisance animals that would have terrorized your crops or livestock if given half a chance. Happy hunting!

The post Eat Those Varmints: 3 Nuisance Animals that Make Tasty Meals appeared first on Off The Grid News.

30 Easy-Storage Garden Foods You Don’t Have To Preserve Or ‘Put Up’

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30 Easy-Storage Garden Foods You Don’t Have To Preserve Or ‘Put Up’

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Food preservation skills are an important part of homesteading. It’s wonderful to pop open a jar of home-canned tomatoes or enjoy your own frozen peaches when the garden and orchards are buried under two feet of snow. But let’s face it—there are only so many hours in a day, and food preservation is time-consuming!

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could grow foods that store themselves? You can. There are plenty of foods you can grow that store well without going to the trouble of canning or freezing or dehydrating. You might be growing many of them already! But just in case, here are a couple of handy lists to use when choosing crops that can help reduce the workload at harvesttime.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Here are some foods that store themselves right in the garden. Depending upon climate and specific cultivars, these vegetables can either overwinter or last partway into winter.

Kale. I leave mine in the garden until it is literally buried under snow. As winter encroaches, it becomes less appealing to eat fresh, but is still great for smoothies, soups, and calzones.

Collard greens. These are hardy in cold weather, but do not last as well as kale in my garden.

Brussels sprouts. The texture changes as the temperature drops, but they are still good to eat.

Cabbage. Like its cruciferous cousins—kale and Brussels sprouts—it loses texture appeal as it freezes, but is still edible cooked.

Parsnips. Around my homestead, April is peak parsnip season. I routinely leave them in the ground all winter and dig them as soon as the ground thaws, with excellent results.

Carrots. Many people leave carrots in the ground all winter. My own success with this method has been marginal, because underground animals—mice and voles, I presume—love to eat them. But for those whose local pests do not love carrots, this is a great option.

Other foods do well in cold storage, harvested and put into a climate-controlled cellar where, ideally, they are kept at just above freezing. As with the list of foods that store well without harvesting, individual success with cold storage techniques can vary depending upon cultivars and the conditions—temperature and humidity—of the storage area. Here’s the cold storage list:

Potatoes. One of the many advantages to potatoes is that they store well for many months in the right conditions.

Sweet potatoes. When well-cured, sweet potatoes last a long time as well.

Winter squashes. This is a category in which types and cultivars vary widely in their ability to last in cold storage. I grow an assortment of winter squashes, and try to eat up the poorer keepers first.

Pumpkins. As with squashes, depending up cultivar, pumpkin longevity in storage can vary.

Leeks. I’ve had great success with leeks lasting well into February, tossed root-down in a plastic storage tote in the coldest part of the cellar.

Onions. The secret to long-term onion storage is to keep them from touching each other. The best way I’ve found to do that is to hang them in old nylon stockings, with a knot tied between each onion.

Carrots. Root-down in a bucket of clean sand, and they’ll last well.

Parsnips. Store them the same way as carrots.

Brussels sprouts. These are easy to store, right on the stalks. Harvest, trim, and keep cold.

Cabbage. It’s a good idea to choose a cultivar developed for long storage, and then just pull them up by the roots and hang them upside down from the root cellar rafters.

Daikon radishes. Any large winter radishes do well in cold storage, much the same as carrots.

Beets. I’ve had good luck storing them in clean sand.

Celeriac. This is another good candidate for cold storage, either just in an open-air basket or in sand.

Garlic. I’ve had good luck keeping garlic for many months, often lasting until scapes begin to form on a fresh crop. The secrets seem to be proper field curing and keeping it in the dark.

Shallots. Like their allium cousins—onions, leeks, and garlic—these store well in open air.

Turnips and rutabagas. These, like most other root vegetables, do well in cold storage, and are not fussy about conditions.

Kohlrabi. Like many brassicas, kohlrabi stores nicely in baskets, totes, or on the shelf.

Popcorn. I have had success drying popcorn on the cob and storing it in a paper bag in the kitchen cabinet—pretty easy!

Apples. Some apples can last in cold storage all the way to March, April, and even beyond. Apples do well in cold humid conditions.

Pears. Many pears last well into winter when kept cold.

Certain herbs. I use cold-hardy herbs like sage and rosemary straight from the garden until they are buried under snow.

Dry beans. When it comes to return on investment, it doesn’t get much better than dry beans. Cheap, hardy, easy, and extremely long-lasting in storage. Beans are happy in cool dry conditions, in screw-top containers.

Many grains. While grains do not exactly store themselves almost straight from the garden like much of the food on this list does—grains do need a bit of processing between the field and storage—they still store without needing to be canned or frozen.

Most nuts. With the outer husks removed, nuts are a great choice for preservation-free food.

Food preservation is an irreplaceable component in the overall diets of most homesteaders. But it never hurts to grow some foods that preserve themselves with little or no effort.

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

How To Make Pancake Syrup … From Birch Trees

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How To Make Pancake Syrup … From Birch Trees

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Birch syrup is an alternative to maple syrup that is commonly grown across the northern United States, Canada and in northern Europe. While other birch products such as birch beer might seem more commonplace, birch syrup is a hot commodity, fetching over $30 per 250ml bottle in some locations. It is high in vitamins and minerals, and even can be used as a tonic.

Best yet? Birch syrup can be easily produced on any homestead with an abundance of birch trees, and if you’re already tapping maples, you don’t need to give that up. The two can be tapped concurrently, and the equipment needed is identical for both.

Tapping

Birch tapping generally follows the maple sugar season, in mid-March to mid-April. This depends, of course, on the weather, as sap begins to run before the buds on the trees change to leaves. Nights must be below freezing while days must rise well above freezing, usually around 40 or 50 degrees. Although this freeze-thaw cycle is the same as what is required for maple trees, maples don’t require daytime temperatures to rise quite as much.

The best birch trees are ones that live in an isolated area. Try not to tap trees that have been exposed to pesticides or other contaminants, such as those that are growing alongside the road. These trees can carry unwanted toxins in their sap.

There is little equipment you need to get started making birch syrup, although, as with maple products, you can purchase more expensive and sophisticated materials as you gain experience. You will need some sort of spile, either handmade or commercial. Spiles used for maple sugaring can also be used on birch trees.

You will also need a cordless drill and a bit that matches the end of the spile. Additionally, you will need a collection container if you aren’t planning on setting up a more sophisticated tubing and vacuum system (again, not recommended until you gain experience after a few seasons). Make sure whatever you use for collection is sterile and has some sort of cover. If not covered, the sweet-smelling sap can attract unwanted insects and collect debris.

Place one tap per tree, ignoring trees that are less than eight inches but larger than 14 inches in diameter. One tap per tree ensures that the tree has adequate resources to heal. In addition, don’t plug the holes after the season has ended, as this can impede healing. If you want your trees to produce year after year, you must take good care of them and not overtax their resources!

The tap should be placed slightly below eye level, around four feet up from the base of the tree. Don’t tap an old tap hole on the tree, and try to stay six or seven inches away from old taps if possible. The best spot to tap is in a shady spot on the south side of the tree.

Make sure all of your surfaces and materials are sanitized before beginning to tap. Using a sharp drill bit, drill upwards into the tree at a 25 degree angle, about one inch into the tree. This will allow the sap to utilize gravity as it moves into your container.

Place your spile into the hole and tap gentle with a mallet or hammer. Sap should begin running from the sap in a light drip once it is placed. If you don’t see any sap, you might want to tap a different tree. Situate your collection container or bucket beneath the tap.

Generally, a birch tree will produce around a gallon of sap per day. Make sure your container has at least a one-gallon capacity, or you risk losing valuable sap as it seeps from an overfilled bucket. Don’t place your bucket on the ground, as this will be easily spilled.

While it may be tempting to collect sap only every few days when your spring chores get the better of you, you need to make this item a fixture on your daily to-do list. If left too long, sap begins to ferment and adopts a strange flavor.

Making Syrup

When you have about 25 gallons of sap, you’re ready to make syrup. This sap is less sweet than maple syrup, so it takes over twice the amount of sap to produce a gallon of birch syrup as it does maple syrup. Twenty-five gallons of birch sap will produce roughly one quart. Therefore, each tree will produce about one quart over a season.

Although sap accumulates somewhat slowly, you must evaporate sap as you collect it. Sugar in birch sap can be easily caramelized if you evaporate it too quickly. As a result, you must evaporate slowly, unlike maple sap which is boiled more intensely.

Unless you have a sugar shack — which you likely don’t, unless you’re already actively involved in making maple syrup — you can make birch syrup right on your stove top. Ten gallons of sap will process down to about two cups. Use a stock pot, and keep the sap cold until it’s ready to be processed (generally within 24 hours).

Filter the sap through a coffee filter before pouring it into a stock pot. Boil the syrup rapidly, but keep a watchful eye on it to prevent scorching. Once it’s reduced by about half, slow the evaporation to a simmer. Keep the temperature just below boiling, and when the sap has been reduced to about a quarter of its original volume, move it to a slow cooker. Leave it overnight on low to complete evaporation.

A hydrometer will help you determine the density of the syrup. While it won’t be quite as thick as maple syrup, it will register a 66 or 67 on the brix scale. If you are slightly off, that’s okay — it might have a slightly odd flavor but is still safe to eat. Filter the syrup through a coffee filter again, then bottle in sterilized mason jars. This can be stored at room temperature, but opened jars must be refrigerated.

Birch syrup is highly versatile and can be used in multiple recipes. It makes an excellent glaze or as an addition to coffee or dessert. You’ll quickly find yourself wishing that you had more birch trees on your property, because once your friends and family get a taste of this delicious nectar, you won’t have much left over for yourself!

What advice would you add? Have you ever tapped a tree? Leave your tips in the section below:

7 Ways The Old-Timers Knew It Was Time To Tap

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7 Ways The Old-Timers Knew It Was Time To Tap

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Tapping trees to make syrup is an annual late-winter-into-spring tradition for many homesteaders. One of the keys to a successful syruping season is timing, and as is true with many homesteading activities, timing is all about the weather.

Nowadays, we have weather satellite information readily available at the touch of a screen, and can easily find charts of predicted weather to determine the best time to set our taps.

But satellite weather reports have not always been available. Old-timers used alternative sources to determine when was the best time for tapping trees for sap.

Here are seven ways they did that:

1. Day length. For the first weeks after the solstice in December, the day length grows so slowly that it’s barely discernable. As the equinox approaches, daylight begins to increase dramatically. Rapidly lengthening days told early homesteaders that tapping season was around the corner.

2. Sun height in the sky. During winter in the north, the sun slides east to west across the southern horizon. As warmer months approach, the sun’s daily traverse reaches higher into the sky. Sunrise gradually occurs more toward the east than in the southeast, sunsets are more to the west than the southwest, and the sun is higher in the sky during the day.

3. Warm days and cold nights. Old-timers could follow the temperature trends with or without a thermometer. It goes without saying that they could tell how warm or cold it was by going outside and feeling the air on their skin, but they could probably also get a sense of the temperature just by looking out the window. They could get a feel for the weather by the way the wood stove and chimney smoke behaved, the way livestock’s breath fogged up (or didn’t fog up), frost on roofs of outbuildings and neighbor houses, and the amount of ice clinging to the branches of trees.

4. Snow texture. When the temperature rises and falls, the snow gets grainy. Some folks may have called it “corn snow” in their day. People who spend a lot of time on snow can easily discern a lot about atmospheric conditions by the feel and sound of the snow, and I suspect our ancestors were better at it than we were. The warmth of the sun on long sunny days turns the snowpack to mealy mush, which then becomes granular when the nighttime temperatures plummet.

5. Dripping branches. Branches that have broken off due to wind or ice, or lopped off by a snowplow blade, will begin to drip when the sap is starting to run. This can be so dramatic that it’s visible driving past in a car, but syrupers in years past probably saw more close-up evidence as they went about their regular chores on the homestead.

6. Sap-drenched tree trunks. Any break in the bark of a standing tree will allow sap to run out, sometimes so abundantly that it looks like someone left a faucet turned on up high on the tree. I’ve often admired the glistening trunks of late-winter maples while on my snowshoe travels, and I expect the old-timers must have, too.

7. Sappy sawblades. Cutting into a live tree while the sap is running will result in a wet sawblade, whether it’s a modern chainsaw or an old-fashioned two-man crosscut.

These are likely to be some of the ways that our forbears could tell it was time to think about setting taps in trees and preparing to make syrup, and might well be some of the sure signs of tapping season that many people still observe today.

For my own small-scale backyard syruping operation, I use a combination of convenient online predictions and old-fashioned observations. However, probably the method I use most is none of the above. When I see lines and buckets up and running in other people’s maple groves, I know the time has come to run home and dig out my tapping supplies! This might sound a little slapdash, but a day or two either way does not make that much difference. And since large-scale outfits often use vacuum equipment which allows them to begin harvesting sap earlier than those relying on gravity, leaving plenty of time for me to get my taps set after noticing commercial operations already up and running.

I always say that one of the best things about homesteading in the 21st century is that we have the luxury to having both old-time practices and cutting-edge technology available. When it comes to setting taps for backyard syrup operations, using wisdom from the old-timers is a great way to start.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

10 Stockpiling Tricks That Will Make Your Food Last Longer

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10 Stockpiling Tricks That Will Make Your Food Last Longer

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Hada

You would think that stockpiling food would be easy, right? Just buy a bunch of food, stash it away somewhere where it won’t be eaten, and you’re good, right? Uh, wrong. Building a stockpile and making it last is a lot harder than it looks.

The basic problem is that food, as it grows naturally, isn’t intended to be stored for years. For that matter, food the way it’s package at the grocery store isn’t intended to last for years. The manufacturers of that food assume that you are going to eat their products within a few months — and they pack it accordingly. So, if you want to keep your food around longer than that, you’re going to have to do something with it yourself and not trust their packaging.

The good news is that people have been hoarding food for millennia. Preserved food has been found in the various tombs of the pharaohs, demonstrating that mankind has been preserving and storing food for much longer than we would expect.

Fortunately, you and I don’t need to make our food stockpile last for thousands of years. It behooves us, though, to make sure that we store our food as well as possible, ensuring that we will have something to eat when everything suddenly goes wrong.

Here’s 10 ways to make your food last as long as possible:

1. Rotate Your Stock

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your food stocks last is to borrow a page from the stores you buy your food in. They have a rule called “first in, first out.” This merely means that they sell the oldest first. You should use the oldest first. If you are stockpiling a year’s worth of food and you always use the oldest can, box or bag of a certain item, you’ll never have anything in your stockpile that’s more than a year old.

This is especially useful for things you use all the time, like spaghetti sauce. To ensure that you’re actually using the oldest first, make a habit of marking the month and year of purchase right on the label. That way, you have a quick reference and don’t have to try and remember which style label is older than which.

2. If It’s Wet, Can It

Canning is one of the most effective and long-lasting means of food preservation out there. So make good use of it. The basic rule of thumb is that if a food item is wet, it can be canned. So, start canning meat loaf, extra produce from your garden and the fish from your latest fishing trip. If canned, it can stay usable in your survival stockpile for years. Some canned foods that are over a century old are still edible and nutritious.

3. Salt Does More than Flavor

Salt is nature’s preservative. So is sugar for that matter, although we use salt for preserving more than sugar. Other than fruit, just about anything you are trying to preserve probably needs salt added. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about canning food, dehydrating it, making your own cold cuts or smoking a ham; salt is the key to ensuring that bacteria don’t spoil your food.

4. Overdo it With Oxygen Absorbers

If you’ve heard about packing dry food in aluminized Mylar bags and five-gallon buckets, then you’ve probably heard about oxygen absorbers, too. These are added to prevent food from oxygenating and losing its freshness. But oxygen absorbers also make an inhospitable environment for bacteria and insects, both of which need oxygen. So, when adding oxygen absorbers to dry foods that you’re packaging for your stockpile, go for a bit of overkill. Don’t just use the minimum recommended; step it up a bit and ensure that the oxygen has really been absorbed.

More than anything, this is about ensuring that insect eggs can’t hatch, creating a population of insects inside your preserved food. Any insects which did manage to hatch from their eggs won’t be able to survive without oxygen.

5. Don’t Forget the Silica Gel

Few people mention it, but adding a packet of silica gel to dry foods when packaging them for long-term storage can help ensure that they stay fresh. These foods turn stale when they absorb moisture. While you probably already try to make sure that there is no moisture in the container, when packaging those foods, things can happen. The addition of a silica gel package can ensure that any moisture which does get into the package is absorbed by something other than the food.

6. Keep Track of it All

Make sure that you develop and keep a good spreadsheet of everything you’ve got in your stockpile. This should mention package size, quantity and the location or locations you have it stored. Always be sure to update your list. Don’t just have that spreadsheet on your computer, either. Print a hard copy and keep it in a notebook.

7. If You Use it, Replace it

This is one I have to keep after my wife about. It’s easy to just dig into your stockpile if you need something and pick an item without realizing it’s the last one. Make a note so that the next time you’re shopping, you can pick up a replacement and put it in your stockpile.

8. Keep it Cool

Heat will cause many foods to alter while stored. It speeds up chemical reactions and in extreme cases can slow-cook the food. Always try to keep your food stored in cool, dry places rather than in hot ones. The attic really isn’t a good place for food storage for this reason. You’re better off hiding it under the bed or putting it in the basement.

9. The Tougher the Better

When it comes to packaging, the tougher the better. Never settle for “just good enough.” Go for something that’s overkill. I can show you five-gallon bucket lids which have been gnawed through by rodents. Bacteria and insects aren’t the only things that want to eat your food stockpile; there are plenty of mice and rats in the world that would love to have a picnic at your expense, too.

10. Spread it Out

Whatever you do, don’t store all your food stockpile in one place, or even all of one type of item in one place. Let’s say that your basement is your main food storage area. That’s probably pretty good. But if your basement floods, you aren’t going to have access to that food. So, make sure that some of it is stored under the bed or in the upstairs hall closest.

For that matter, you should have one or two food caches off-site, as well. You never know what could happen. The people of Southeast Houston probably weren’t expecting to have to abandon their homes before Hurricane Harvey came along.

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28 Survival Foods The ‘Mountain Men’ Ate

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28 Survival Foods The 'Mountain Men' Ate

The American Mountain Men of the early 19th century are one of our country’s enduring heroes. Men like Jim Bridger, Hugh Glass, Jedediah Smith, Andrew Henry and Kit Carson were the first people of European descent to explore our western regions.

They drew maps, discovered travel routes, and offered input on economic activities settlers should pursue in different regions. Clad in buckskin clothing of their own manufacturing, they traversed the continent using only the store-bought goods they obtained once a year. Everything they couldn’t obtain at a rendezvous came aux aliments du pays, or from “the nourishment of the land.” These days, we would say they were living off the land.

One fascinating area of the mountain men life is their diet. Obviously, finding food was a major issue these men faced each day. They couldn’t just amble down to the supermarket and pick up what they needed. These weathered men generally had to glean their sustenance from natural sources they found in the wild.

At times, the land offered periods of abundance, and at others it would appear to be a wasteland. Today we have grown accustomed to three meals a day. We likely would have a hard time adjusting to this cycle of feast and famine. This cycle was a way of life for the trappers.

One Mountain Man worth studying is Rufus Sage. Rufus Sage was a Mountain Man who headed west in the early 1840s. For three years, he crisscrossed the American West on a grand adventure certainly deserving a place in history. After his journey was complete, he compiled his deeds, experiences and thoughts into a journal titled “Rocky Mountain Life.” This journal provides us with a great insight into his life.

One area Sage detailed was his diet. Although the journal doesn’t dedicate tremendous energy to the topic, he is thorough enough to give us some insight into his diet. He records many of the wild foods he enjoyed as a Mountain Man.

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The following list is a record of the foods eaten by Rufus Sage, as noted in his journal. They are listed in the order they appear in the journal.

Buffalo. This was a mainstay, as the large majority of his meals consisted of this grand prairie grazer. As tradition teaches, when time permitted, the men ate all parts of the buffalo, including the meat, tongue, liver and intestines.

Dog. He noted the taste was not inferior to pork.

Elk. During his time, many elk were still living on prairie regions.

 

Pomme Blanc (White Apple): This root was eaten by the men. He mentioned that at times the root gatherers were better at providing sustenance than the meat hunters.

Commote: Another root they gathered.

Wild Cherry Bark Tea: Very common drink by the sound of the journal. He noted the positive effect the drink had on health.

Deer: Another common meat eaten. Deer were speedily consumed by a band of hungry hunters.

Prairie Dog: This small rodent also made the journal and was described as tender and palatable.

Serviceberry: Gathered when ripe.

Box-Elder Sap: Noted as “not inferior to that of maple.”

Bear: Mentioned several times. Bear also provided men with fat which they rendered.

Mountain Sheep: Seemed to be a favorite of certain mountain men.

Mountain Fowl: Difficult to discern from the description, but possibly a ptarmigan.

Bilters: Juice made from the gut juice of a buffalo. Sage described it as “exhilarating.” He also mentions that the drink caused vomiting, but after a few attempts the stomach would accept it.

Bald Eagle Fledgling: Noted they made “a fine meal.”

Waterfowl Eggs: Enjoyed while on a river.

Antelope: Another bountiful prairie meat supply.

Greens: Although not much description is given, the notation of greens is another indication of how much gathering the Mountain Men did.

Prickly Pear Cactus: He described the practice of eating boiled prickly pear as not uncommon.

Turkey: On several occasions Sage noted they hunted turkey on the roost. In this manner, they shot them by the dozens.

Salmon: One of the few fish he notes having eaten. These were consumed while spending time in Oregon.

Wolf: A man named “Chance” threw Sage and his companions a wolf while they were starving. The writing makes it seem like predator meat was saved for extreme situations.

Horse/Mule: It was not uncommon for Mountain Men to eat their pack, or riding, animals when faced with starvation.

Crow’s Eggs: He gathered and ate six to 10 dozen!

Catfish: On one occasion Sage notes having caught many catfish. Besides for this, and the one entry about salmon, fish do not have appeared to have been regularly eaten.

Prairie Potato: Better known today as the prairie turnip.

Nothing: One item too often on the menu for Sage was nothing at all. Throughout his journal he notes stretches of three, four and five days without food. Hunger was an enemy he was certainly familiar with.

As you can see from this list of wild foods, the Mountain Men would have had a very diverse diet. They not only consumed huge quantities of meat, but also gathered wild roots and berries along the way. In order to survive, they had to take what Mother Nature threw their way. At times, that was a hearty meal of buffalo ribs, and at others it was a straggling wolf.

It is tempting to view these American heroes clad in clean buckskins and riding into the sunset. However, we shouldn’t over-romanticize their lives if we are to truly appreciate their accomplishments. Their hardships paved the way for waves of settlers that were to come. It was the nourishment of the land that kept them going – and that can keep us alive, too.

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The Simple, Traditional, Off-Grid Way To Ferment Vegetables

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The Simple, Traditional, Off-Grid Way To Ferment Vegetables

Photo by Steve Nubie

The fermentation of foods likely was accidentally discovered by our ancient ancestors. Certain foods that were left unattended or ignored actually developed unique properties that not only accented their flavor, but lent them unique preservation properties.

In this article, we will cover some basic foods that can be preserved by fermentation and a bit about the science of fermentation.

Fermentation 101

Fermentation occurs in a variety of ways. The most common is alcohol fermentation and lactic acid fermentation. Alcohol fermentation is common in beverages like beer, wine and spirits. It’s when sugar and yeasts interact to convert glucose into alcohol. The other primary type of fermentation (and there are others) is lactic acid fermentation. This is a common fermentation method with vegetables and certain dairy products like cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese and yogurt.

Vegetable Fermentation

We will focus on vegetable fermentation and review some standard recipes. This includes:

  • Cabbage fermentation resulting in “sauerkraut.”
  • Fermented garlic.
  • Fermented radishes, which are very popular and common in Japan,
  • Fermented carrot sticks,
  • Korean Kimchi

The Concept

While alcohol production from fermentation depends largely on sugar, vegetable fermentation or lactose fermentation is often triggered by salt. Sea salt is the salt of choice, and it naturally draws liquid or water from vegetables to trigger the fermentation process.

One of the key steps in fermenting vegetables is to keep them submerged in their own juices, with sometimes the addition of a little water. Typically, a plate is placed over the immersed vegetables and a weight like a canning jar filled with water is placed on the plate to make sure everything stays submerged. This creates an anaerobic or no-oxygen environment which causes good bacteria to grow and ferment the food. The result is a release of carbon dioxide, which is often visible in the jar as the food ferments.

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Once the process is complete, it’s best to put the fermented vegetables into cold storage, either in a root cellar or refrigerator, or you can process them in a hot water bath and store them in the pantry. I prefer the root cellar or refrigerator. I like my fermented vegetables cold.

Don’t Forget to Burp the Baby

When you ferment food in a sealed jar, the release of carbon dioxide will build up pressure. This will eventually cause the jar to leak or could even crack it. You should gently release the lid to allow the gas to escape at least once a day. I would suggest you take the jar outside, because in addition to the carbon dioxide there will be a strong aroma. This is particularly true for more aromatic vegetables like cabbage, garlic and radishes. I actually like the aroma, but my wife has told me otherwise on many occasions. Most fermented vegetables take about two weeks to ferment, so don’t forget to burp the jars or you might have a mess.

Basic Equipment

You really don’t need much to ferment vegetables. A cutting board and knife plus some Mason jars or a small crock. Most of the recipes call for 1-quart jars. If you use a crock you might need some plastic wrap to tightly cover the top to create an anaerobic environment (oxygen-free) in addition to the plate and weight to keep the vegetables submerged. The standard ingredients include sea salt and the vegetable you’re going to ferment. You can also mix vegetables if you like, just make sure they’re washed and cut up as the recipes indicate.

You also can add some seasonings. This is especially true with Kimchi, but caraway seeds are often an accompaniment to sauerkraut and I always add them during the fermentation process. Other accompaniments could include turmeric for fermented radishes and mustard seed or coriander for fermented carrots. That’s up to you. I’ve added peppercorns to fermented garlic cloves and they give the cloves a nice bite and finish.

Let’s Get Started

Here are some traditional fermented vegetable recipes that are easy to make with ingredients that are easy to grow, or bought at the grocery store.

Sauerkraut

A traditional recipe popular across Europe, sauerkraut is fermented strips of cabbage.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1-quart Mason jar

DIRECTIONS

Chop the cabbage into thin shreds and place into a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt, and using your hands incorporate the salt into the cabbage shreds. If you’re going to add caraway seeds, add them before you mix and blend the salt into the shreds. Press down and squeeze the cabbage as you go for about 10 minutes. I’ll often use a potato masher to really compress the cabbage. Slowly, the cabbage will release liquid. Press the cabbage down firmly into the jar and if you don’t see enough liquid covering the top, add a little water until the cabbage is immersed. You obviously don’t need a plate on top when using a canning jar, but make sure the lid is sealed tightly and that the jars have been sterilized.

Let the cabbage shreds sit at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks. If it’s cooler, it could take another week or two. Burp it every day and after two weeks, give it a taste. If it’s too salty you can always rinse it, but not too much or you’ll lose some of the flavor. When it’s done you can either process it in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes or keep it refrigerated or stored in a root cellar. Fermentation will help preserve the food, but processing or refrigeration is a good cautionary step.

Fermented Radishes

The Simple, Traditional, Off-Grid Way To Ferment Vegetables

Photo by Steve Nubie

Fermented radishes are very popular in Japan and are often used as a palate cleanser between courses or a bite of particularly pungent fish like Mackerel.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bunches of radishes
  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 4 cups of water
  • Small crock or 1-quart Mason jar
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric and/or dill, mustard seeds, peppercorns (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Slice the radishes into thin slices and toss in a bowl with the salt and optional seasonings until they are thoroughly covered.  Add the water and stir until salt is dissolved, and put into the jar or weigh down with a plate in the crock. If using a crock, cover the top with self-cling plastic wrap.

Ferment at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 weeks. Taste to evaluate flavor and either process, cellar or refrigerate.

Fermented Garlic

Another personal favorite, this is a great way to have instant garlic on hand for recipes or you can chomp on them until someone tells you to stop.

INGREDIENTS

  • One dozen heads of garlic
  • Brine made from 1 quart of water and 2 tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1-quart mason jar
  • Herbs or seasoning of your choice. I like peppercorns but you can improvise

DIRECTIONS

Break the heads into cloves and peel. Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with the cloves up to 1 inch from the top. Add the seasonings and/or herbs and pour the brine into the jar. Ferment 3 to 4 weeks at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit before processing or cellaring or refrigerating. As they sit in cold storage, the flavor will increase, so don’t eat them all at once.

Fermented Carrots

The Simple, Traditional, Off-Grid Way To Ferment Vegetables

Photo by Steve Nubie

I have carrots coming out of my garden for months, and fermenting them is a great way to preserve them. They’re great as a garnish or on a relish tray and make a tasty snack as well.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 quart canning jar
  • 1 quart of water
  • 3 tablespoons of sea salt
  • 3 pounds of carrots julienned into sticks

DIRECTIONS

Dissolve the salt in the quart of water. Julienne the carrots into thin sticks about 3 inches long. If you want to add any herbs or spices, put them into the bottom of the jar. Place the carrots in the Mason jar and pour the liquid over the top.  Make sure you leave some headspace in the jar so the carrots are totally submerged. Ferment for 2 to 4 weeks at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Taste as you go and when they suit your taste, put into cold storage. They’ll continue to develop their flavor while in storage.

Kimchi

Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, but variations are found across Asia. I lived and worked across Asia for two years studying Asian language, culture and cuisine. It was while I was in Seoul, Korea, that I discovered my unending love for Kimchi. This is a hot and spicy fermented dish made with Chinese or Napa Cabbage and slathered in a rich and robust mix of garlic, hot Chile peppers and other ingredients to create an inferno of flavor.

INGREDIENTS

Step 1

  • 2 heads of Napa or Chinese cabbage
  • 1 ¼ cups of sea salt

Step 2

  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 6 green onions chopped
  • Small onion minced very fine
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced or mashed
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground or finely grated ginger
  • 5 tablespoons of red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

This is a two-step process. The first thing you must do is cut the Napa cabbage into 2-inch squares. You then toss it with the 1 and ¼ cup of sea salt and place it into plastic bags or a large plastic bowl or crock and let it rest for 6 hours. This will tenderize the cabbage and soften it. You then rinse the cabbage and put it into a large plastic bowl.

You then combine all the ingredients left on the ingredient list and toss them together to blend. I wear rubber gloves from here on out for the rest of the process and jam it all into canning jars or your crock.

Make sure you crock is covered. Burp daily and in 2 weeks at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit you’ll have wonderful Kimchi. Reduce the pepper flakes or increase depending on your tolerance for spice and heat. Store in cold storage and don’t eat it all at one sitting like I have sometimes done.

Fermenting Doesn’t Stop There

There are numerous recipes on the Internet for fermenting everything, from fruits to vegetables. The important thing is to understand and respect the concept and experiment as you go. Our ancient ancestors figured this out long ago, and it’s nice to know we can enjoy a taste of the distant past with something growing in our gardens today.

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10 Wild, Off-Grid Foods You Can Forage For Each Fall

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10 Wild, Off-Grid Foods You Can Forage For Each Fall

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From backyard gardens to large-scale farms, fall is often viewed as harvest time. But “nature’s garden” is in full yield in the autumn, too, as the trees begin to lose their leaves and heavy frosts set in.

Following are a few of the highest-yielding, nutritious wild foods that are ready for harvest in the fall. You will need a good plant ID book to make sure you get the right plant. As with foraging at any time, do NOT eat anything you are not 100 percent certain is the correct plant.

Root Crops

Many plants begin to bring their energy into their roots in the fall to wait out the winter underground, in preparation for a growth explosion in the spring. Most root crops can either be dug up with a shovel, or pulled up after loosening the soil around them with the garden fork.

1. Burdock (Arctium species): a variety of burdock has been eaten in Japan for centuries, and with a delicious sweet flavor and a delightful crunchy texture, it’s well worth trying. Burdock should be harvested the fall of their first year (before they produce along central stock with flowers) and can be dried or eaten right away.

2. Chicory (Cichorium intybus): known as an excellent coffee substitute, chicory is best harvested once the top of the plant mostly dies, sending its energy to the roots. It can be roasted and ground into a powder for a delightful tea high in nutrients.

3. Dandelion (Taraxacum species): another potential coffee substitute, dandelion roots are known as a powerful medicine and can be roasted much the same way as chicory. Be careful not to confuse them with chicory, since the leaves look similar.

Nuts

Many nuts are available in the fall, and they are available from year to year under two categories: mast year nut producers, and annual producers. Mast year nuts produce nuts irregularly from year to year, with some years being “mast years” of high production, and other years yielding few or no nuts at all. Many nuts can be harvested simply by waiting until they fall to the ground, particularly after strong winds around the time they are ripe. One can put a tarp under the tree to catch the nuts during windy periods, knock the branches with a long stick, climb a ladder and shake the branches (or shake the whole tree if small enough), or get a good, solid throwing stick and chuck it at the nuts to dislodge them. Nuts keep longer once dried for two weeks either in a cotton sack (e.g. old pillow case), or on screens, and then roasted. You may also choose to purchase specialized “pickers” for your nuts to pick them up off the ground, which can be purchased online.

4. Acorns (Quercus species): With mast years every 2-3 years, acorns fall when they are ripe in early- to mid-fall, especially during wind events.

5. Walnuts (Juglans species): Irregular mast producers, walnuts may still produce at least some nuts during low-production years. They are both delectable and nutritious, though some species such as black walnut (Juglans nigra) are more difficult to shell, with relatively little nut meat, while others, such as English walnut (Juglans regia) have much bigger nuts with thinner shells. Depending on the species, they ripen throughout the fall. The hulls can be removed by stomping on them and rolling them with your feet, or they can be cut off with a knife by cutting a line around their diameter and removing by hand with a good, thick set of gloves (the hulls will stain your hands). You can then put them in a bucket with a lid, some gravel, and a bit of water, and shake the bucket vigorously to remove hull remnants, followed by a good rinse before drying (old pillow cases hung indoors away from sun work well). Dispose of the hulls by spreading them across the landscape away from gardens, as black walnuts especially can damage soil life and inhibit plant growth.

6. Hickories (Carya ovata, Carya laciniosa, Carya palida, Carya tomentosa, and Carya ovalis): Closely related to pecans, but often sweeter tasting, most hickories produce annually, ripening in the early fall, or late summer. Once dry, husks are easy to remove.

7. Pecans (Carya illinoinensis): Another irregular mast producer, they are usually ready in November, when they fall consistently from the trees. Some trees may have very small nuts that are difficult to remove from shells, though as with other hickories, husks are fairly easy to remove.

8. Hazelnuts (Corylus species): Ripening from late August through September, as with all nuts, you’ll have to beat the squirrels to hazels. Nuts can be found during mast years under the leaves and are easy to remove from the shell.

Other Fall Forage Crops

9. Apples (Malus domestica): There are many wild or untended apple trees growing throughout North America and elsewhere. Once you start looking in the fall, they shouldn’t be hard to spot in a good year. Similar to nuts, many apple trees don’t produce a heavy crop every year. Lower quality apples can be used to make apple chips (simply by cutting and dehydrating), or apple cider.

10. Hackberry / Sugarberry (Celtis species): There are several species of hackberry, many of them containing a delectable and sweet date flavored dark, light brown or orangish berry ready in mid to late fall. One way to harvest them is to wait until the leaves fall from the tree, put a tarp under the tree and shake the tree or branches vigorously. Due to their low moisture and high sugar content, the berries keep quite well without any processing and can be stored in paper bags or simply in a bowl or container that allows excess moisture to escape.

Although there are many other wild foods available for harvest in the fall, this list of higher-yielding foods is a good place to start. Other wild foods to look out for in the fall include rosehips, elderberries, watercress, amaranth seed, ground nut and many others. Fortunately, most plant ID books give a good indication as to the season that a given crop is available, so hopefully this will only be the start of your journey to find the best foods nature has to offer in your area.

If you have your own favorite fall forage crops you like to harvest in the fall, please share in the comments below!

8 Wild Nuts You Can Forage For Each Fall

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8 Wild Nuts You Can Forage For Each Fall

Hazelnuts. Image source: Pixabay.com

If you enjoy foraging, nuts are one of the easiest ways to harvest a lot of protein in a very short time. Many other foraged foods contain mostly sugars and complex carbohydrates, which provide good fuel, but are not enough to sustain us in the long run.

Unlike meat, foraged nuts will keep at room temperature for months without deteriorating. In a survival situation, knowing which nuts are available in your area could help keep you nourished through the winter months.

1. Black walnuts

Notoriously difficult to crack, black walnuts hide a valuable prize. You can literally harvest them by the bucket full in the fall. (But wear gloves!) Start by de-hulling the nuts either by hand, or by driving over the nuts to pulp the hull off the outside. Nuts tend to hull easier when they’re a few days old, so if you can’t get them off, take a break for a few days.

Once the hull is removed, wash the nuts with a hose and pressure nozzle and allow them to dry in the sun for a few days. Black walnuts, like most nuts, store best in their shell to prevent oxidation. Keep them in a cool, dark place or if you have the space, they can be stored in bags in the freezer.

Properly prepared, black walnuts can be just as tasty as commercial walnuts. Try them fresh out of hand, or get creative and bake them into a black walnut pie.

2. Beechnuts

Though they produce every year, once every 3 to 5 years is known as a mast year for beech nuts and they’ll produce extraordinary harvests. Individual nut masts are inside a husk that cracks itself open when they’re ripe and fall from the tree.

It’s difficult to husk beechnuts when they’re fresh, but they easily come from the shell once they’ve been roasted. Roast them in a low oven or over a fire until they’re toasted and then rub them between two towels until the husk comes free.

3. Acorns

If you know a thing or two about history, you know that acorns were a staple food source for Native Americans for centuries. They’ve fallen out of favor as European nuts and grains came to America, but acorns are still plentiful if you know where to look. They’re especially high in omega fats, and they’re commonly touted as a survival grain for making tasty cookies in the absence of modern grains.

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8 Wild Nuts You Can Forage For Each FallAs any squirrel will tell you, acorns keep well all on their own. Just keep undamaged acorns in a cool dry place until you’re ready to process them.

But before you eat acorns, you must remove the tannic acid. The fundamental process involves either a boiling water bath or cold-water bath (perhaps multiple times). This process can take a couple of days up to a week or more, depending on the amount of tannins in the acorns.

4. Hop hornbeam

Often overlooked as a food source, hop hornbeam tree produce hop-like catkins that contain edible nutlets that are about the size of a sunflower seed. Though each individual seed is small, they’re produced in papery husks containing many seeds in a group. In heavy production years, trees produce large amounts, meaning that they can be a meaningful food source.

Hornbeam tends to grow in the understory, and in areas with wet soil that are not suitable for oak trees. If you don’t have acorns in your area, you may have hornbeam. When foraging hop hornbeam, look for the green hop-like seed clusters anytime during the summer. They’ll be ready for harvest around October.

Store the dried catkins in a cool dark place until you’re ready to husk them and eat.

5. Butternuts

Buttery and mild, they’re the perfect substitute for pine nuts in a pesto or eaten straight out of hand. The butternut canker is causing the trees to decline, but tolerant trees and resistant hybrids still linger on in the wild throughout the northern latitudes.

They’re easier to crack than black walnuts, and well worth the effort to find. They keep best in the shell in a cool dark place all winter long.

6. Hickory nuts

The nuts of shagbark hickory and smooth bark hickory (pignuts) are tasty and sweet. The trees are common throughout the northeast, and bear heavily, especially when they’re along roadsides in full sun.

As foraged nuts go, hickories are relatively easy to crack. Leave them out in the sun for a few days to allow them to dry a bit so that the nut meat pulls away from the shell easier, and then they should come apart with a nutcracker, or lacking that, a moderate blow from a rock.

7. Hazelnuts

Growing in dense thickets in many parts of the country, hazelnuts provide a readily accessible food source. They’re easy to pick, and they naturally store longer than any other nut. Hazelnuts can be good for 9-12 months after harvest if stored in a cool place. Pick them by the bucketload, and remember that your biggest risk is an invasion of your stock by rodents, so protect your harvest accordingly.

8. Sweet chestnut

If you’ve ever tried to pick up a chestnut husk, you’ll remember your mistake. They’re exceptionally spiky inside the husk, but those spikes are guarding a delicious high calorie prize.  Immature nuts fall early, but the fully ripe fruit won’t be ready until sometime in mid to late fall.

Score the shells to open them, then blanch or roast them before you peel them.

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7 Reasons Canning Food Is Better Than Freezing Food

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7 Reasons Canning Food Is Better Than Freezing Food

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There are plenty of reasons why people prefer one food preservation method over. But individual choices aside, here are some compelling arguments why canning is better than freezing and other methods, followed by a few notable exceptions.

1. Flexible storage space. When you freeze your harvest, you are essentially using a big box to store your food. And when the box is full, it’s full. The sides won’t stretch and you can’t—or at least shouldn’t—sit on the top and squeeze it shut like an overfull suitcase. When your food is canned, however, you can almost always find a space to store a few more jars … and then a few more. When the pantry is full, there’s probably room for a row of jelly jars behind the cereal boxes or in the cabinet over top of the refrigerator. And when there’s no more room in the kitchen, jars can be tucked into a box under the bed in the guest room or even on temporary shelves behind a living room chair.

2. Storage without power.  Canning food is an obvious first choice for people living off-grid. While freezers are do-able off-grid, the cost and hassle is often higher and space is therefore at a premium. Even homes which are hooked to the grid know that it’s not 100 percent certain all the time. Outages due to storms or accidents can happen anywhere and anytime. Although full chest freezers can maintain integrity without power for many hours, outages are still cause for concern. When a homestead harvest is preserved in jars, there’s no worry about losing food when the lights go out. And either way, buying and running a freezer costs money — and pantry shelves don’t.

3. Ease of use. We’ve all been there, realizing at the last minute that we forgot to take a crucial ingredient out of the freezer in time for it to thaw. Or remembering to retrieve the item and finding ourselves pawing through dozens of packages of what we don’t want to find the one thing we need.

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Rehydrating dried foods takes some time and effort, too. And even when food comes whole from the root cellar, it still usually needs to be peeled, trimmed and seeded. When food is canned, none of that is an issue. Grab a jar, pop the top, and done.

4. Better quality and taste. Certain canned foods are superior to their frozen counterparts. Many people prefer the taste and texture of canned green beans to any other. Others are swept off their feet by the intense smell of canned meats. And some homemade foods—such as potatoes, chutney, ketchup or jam—just do not freeze with results that satisfy everyone. Dehydrated vegetables often lack palatability compared to canned ones. For those times when canning yields the best results, it’s the only way to go.

5. Less waste. Many people use zip-top freezer bags to freeze foods. Bags are often my go-to because they use less space than freezer containers. I wash mine out and reuse them, but the zip-tops wear out quickly. Canning jars last for years and can be reused dozens of times.

6. Processed without electricity. Canning is not the only option when it comes to off-grid processing, but it is easily done on a gas burner. Depending upon the climate where you live, creating dried foods can be limited without an electric dehydrator.

7. Keeps well. Technically, home-canned goods should be consumed within a year. But that can be fudged a little, or a lot, depending upon how picky you are. One drawback for root-cellar storage is that their useable lifespan is shorter than other methods. Frozen and dehydrated foods can deteriorate quickly, too. But food in jars has a good shelf life.

It is true that certain foods yield a better result when preserved in a way other than canning. Broccoli and cauliflower are not considered can-able. Bread, cake and cheese are not safe for canning. Neither are pureed foods such as squash or pesto. Foods such as greens and corn can be canned, but they are so labor- and time-intensive that many folks opt for freezing. Firm berries can nicely but yield a different end-result than freezing or drying, so the ideal way to preserve a bountiful berry harvest would ideally use some of each method.

Overall, canning is a great option for preserving the harvest. It can be done without electricity, yields high-quality and long-lasting results, and minimizes material waste.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

No, Canning Is Not Always The Best Answer

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No, Canning Is Not Always The Best Answer

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Remember the last time you heard someone ask for another serving of that delicious home-canned eggplant or Brussels sprouts? Not likely. There are some foods which are better off being preserved by a method other than canning, and a few that are not conducive to any kind of preservation and are best simply enjoyed in season and let go until next year.

The reasons for choosing an alternative to canning are almost always centered around food quality, ease of processing, or safety.

Quality

Canning can cause some foods to lose flavor, texture, color or a combination. Vegetables such as turnip, parsnips, most greens and perhaps sweet peppers are able to be canned but are less appealing that way than when frozen. Most cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage do not do well canned—with one important exception being in pickled mixtures. The reason nobody cans straight cauliflower but many people make cauliflower pickles is probably due to the canning process required: as a low-acid vegetable, adequate pressure-canning to ensure a safe product would probably result in mushy cauliflower. But added vinegar allows a quick process in regular boiling water and turns out a tasty crisp-tender product. By themselves, the best way to preserve the texture of these crunchy vegetables is to freeze them, but they are also good dehydrated.

Dehydrating and drying are good techniques for many vegetables. Broccoli, corn, carrots and cabbage dehydrate well, store easily, and taste great in soups and stews. Vegetable chips make fun snacks. Dry beans, of course, are an excellent choice. Some foods are almost always preserved by some kind of drying procedure, such as garlic and ginger.

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Many fruits take well to canning, but not all. Strawberries lose color and flavor when canned, causing many people to prefer them frozen or dried. Soft berries such as raspberries and blackberries are often too delicate to survive the canning process. Other fruits such as melons do not can well—except, as with some vegetables, if pickled.

Ease of Processing

Sure, you can spend hours preparing peeling and cubing and parboiling potatoes and pumpkin if you want to—and sometimes it is truly worth it—but it often makes more sense to simply store them in the root cellar.

Storing appropriate vegetables—carrots, beets, rutabaga, onions, leeks, winter squash and cabbage—in a cold dark cellar is one of the easiest ways to store them, and root-cellaring can be combined with other methods for a great alternative to canning. My freezer is usually packed completely full by October, at around the same time my cellar gets cold enough to store vegetables. When the food in the root cellar approaches the end of its shelf life, enough food has been eaten out of the freezer to make room for root cellar refugees.

I do enjoy the convenience and delicious flavor and aroma of canned potatoes, which makes it worth the effort of at least one batch every season before putting the remainder into cold storage. Canned meats are wonderful, too, but labor-intensive canning is a matter of personal preference. People spend their valuable homesteading time on what they consider most important, and canned potatoes or meat may not make the cut for everyone.

Freezing is a relatively easy process for many foods. I keep items like meat stock and applesauce in the freezer as well as on the pantry shelves. If I have just a couple pints, it’s hardly worth running the canner for, and I put them in the freezer instead if I have room. For larger batches, I can process a canner-full and freeze anything left over or the contents of any jars that didn’t seal.

Dehydrating is easy, too, once you get the hang of it. It’s a bit of a learning curve at first, knowing how to dry vegetables until they are dry enough to impede growth of bacteria but not so dry as to lose appeal. But a little practice can produce excellent results.

Safety

Some foods are not safe to be canned. One of the most important things to remember is that adequate heat needs to reach the center of the jar and stay hot for enough time to make the canning procedure safe. For this reason, pureed foods such as mashed squash and pesto should not be processed using home canning equipment. While it is possible that these foods might heat sufficiently to kill pathogens, it is not a sure enough bet to risk your health on.

Cheese and butter should not be canned, either. These and other low-acid foods can provide an environment in which botulism can develop unless tested guidelines are followed. Dairy foods and novelty items such as cake and bread are strongly discouraged by official testing entities, and no reliable guidelines are available.

Just Eat and Enjoy

Sometimes the best thing to do is savor the flavor of the season and let it go when it’s gone by.  Foods like zucchini and summer squash, for example, are foods for which the only tested guidelines call for adding pineapple juice and diluting that wonderful taste of summer we seek to preserve. I sometimes freeze a few bags of zucchini—in slices for sautéing, chunks for ratatouille, and grated for cakes and muffins—but it isn’t part of my vegetable staples for winter.

Cherry tomatoes can be frozen whole for winter soups and stews, but they’ll never be as good as they are straight off the vine. For these and a few other vegetables, it makes sense to preserve only a minimal amount and share any harvest surplus with neighbors, livestock or wildlife—provided, of course, that household food security is not a potential concern.

Should it Be Canned?

Using home canning to preserve the harvest is many people’s go-to, and with good reason. But it is always valuable to first evaluate whether canning is the best option. For a variety of reasons, some foods are better frozen, dried, root-cellared or not preserved at all.

What foods do you NEVER can? Are there any unique foods that you DO can? Share your advice in the section below:

So Many Zucchini, So Little Time! Tips To Use Up Your Zucchini Harvest

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So Many Zucchini, So Little Time! Tips To Use Up Your Zucchini Harvest

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We’ve all heard jokes about gardeners creeping up to their neighbors’ doorsteps in the dead of the night to “give away” extra zucchini squash. There are few garden plants that produce as prolifically as zucchini. Although there are many creative recipes for fresh zukes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the bounty. But, if you have more than you can eat right now, don’t give away all your extras. There are a bunch of things you can do with the squash so that you can enjoy it throughout the winter.

Picking and Storing Fresh Zucchini

Since zucchini is a summer squash, it has tender, thin skin. Unlike winter squash (including pumpkins and spaghetti squash) with their thick rinds, summer squash doesn’t store well. Even in the fridge, zucchini will keep for 7-10 days at best.

It’s best to pick zukes when they’re about 6-8 inches long. At that size, they’re tender and mild-tasting. As zucchini continues to grow, its flesh becomes stringier and less tasty.

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Don’t bother washing them after picking. Just brush off any dirt and put the zukes in a paper bag, or in a plastic bag that is either perforated or left open. Once bagged, zucchini should be stored in the crisper of your fridge. Keep an eye on it — when zucchini starts becoming soft, it needs to be used up quickly.

Eating Fresh Zucchini

For a long time, all I did with fresh zucchini was throw it into stir-fries and chili. As you can imagine, that didn’t make much of a dent in my harvest. Not wanting to foist any more of my zukes on neighbors and coworkers, I searched online for recipes. If you’re not a foodie, you may be surprised at the incredible variety of zucchini dishes.

  • Sliced in thin, long slices, it can take the place of lasagna noodles.
  • Cut in half and hollowed out a bit, it becomes a “boat” that can be stuffed with pizza fillings or other toppings before roasting.
  • Cut into finger-size strips and coated with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and spices, it becomes “zucchini fries” for a yummy appetizer, snack or side dish.
  • Put through a spiralizer, it becomes high-fiber, low-carb, low-calorie noodles, which are a perfect base for Asian- and Italian-style dishes.
  • Used as an ingredient in all kinds of salads.

With so many different ways to prepare it, it’s easy to incorporate zucchini into meals every day without getting tired of it. Do a little Googling or look on Pinterest for recipes.

Baking With Zucchini

If you have the freezer space, you could whip up cakes, loaves and muffins to stash away for the winter. If you already bake with zucchini, you know that it adds nutrients and texture to baked goods, and helps keep them dense and moist. If you don’t already bake with zucchini, it’s time to give it a go. I’m partial to chocolate chip zucchini loaf, but there are recipes out there to suit every taste.

Freezing Zucchini

Frozen zucchini isn’t at its most attractive once thawed. It’s best used as an additive to things like soups, stews, pasta sauces or chili — or in baked goods.

How you prepare zucchini for the freezer depends on how you intend to use it later. If using for baking, it’s a terrific idea to shred it up and stuff 2 cups into a freezer bag, unless you have a go-to recipe that calls for a different amount. To use it later, thaw it, drain it, drain it again, and pat it dry with a paper towel before you add it to the batter.

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While grated zucchini also works well in soups and stews, sometimes it’s nice to have chunkier pieces in your dish. If that’s the route you’d like to go, you can simply chop your zukes into bite-size pieces, stuff them into a freezer bag, and toss them in the freezer. However, if you blanch them for one minute in boiling water before freezing, the thawed pieces will stay firmer than if they hadn’t been blanched.

Dehydrating Zucchini

So Many Zucchini, So Little Time! Tips To Use Up Your Zucchini Harvest

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If your freezer space is maxed out, dehydrating zucchini is a terrific option. Rachel at growagoodlife.com says that four pounds of fresh, sliced zukes shrink so much during drying that they will fit into a pint-size jar! If you have a dehydrator, it’s super easy to do this: Just clean the zucchini, slice it into ¼-inch rounds, spread the slices on the dehydrator trays, and run the dehydrator as instructed. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can do this in an oven set to 175 degrees, too–just keep a close eye on the zucchini so that it doesn’t burn. It should take about two hours to dehydrate in the oven.

Preserving Zucchini

I remember the first time my mom grew zucchini. It was the ‘80s, and zucchini was absolutely exotic in our part of the world. Mom had no idea what to do with her bounty but heard about “Mock Pineapple.” It turns out that mock pineapple is still a thing. Nutshell version: Peel and cube zucchini; stuff it into jars; cover it with a mix of pineapple juice, sugar, and lemon juice; and process in a hot water bath. The zucchini takes on the flavor of the pineapple juice, but as this contemporary recipe points out, mock pineapple is best used in recipes that call for crushed pineapple, and not simply eaten out of the jar.

If mock pineapple is not your thing (confession: teenaged me refused to eat it), there are all kinds of other ways to can zucchini, including in relishes and salsas, and as pickles. That said, it’s not recommended to can plain zucchini. Because it’s a low-acid vegetable, it would need to be processed in a pressure canner, which is not recommended. Further, canned squash gets quite soft, and has limited uses.

There are so many ways to use and store this very versatile vegetable! What do you do with your extra zucchini? If we missed discussing a way to use it up, please let us know in the comments below.

 

 

The Secret To Cracking Black Walnuts (Nature’s Most Stubborn Nut)

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The Secret To Cracking Black Walnuts (Nature’s Most Stubborn Nut)

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Fall is black walnut season in North America, and once you come across a tree you’ll find hundreds of the nuts on the ground. You also can knock them from a tree with a stick, but watch your head. They can hurt.

So, why are they called black walnuts? That’s a good question. If you’re ever seen a black walnut, then you know that the outer shell is a deep, light green. But if you handle one, you’ll quickly discover that they stain your hands black. Thus, the name.

Removing the Outer Shell

Wear gloves when harvesting black walnuts, and gently press the green, outer layer. If it’s soft and your finger can make a dent, then it’s at its peak of ripeness.

In order to get to the inner nut, you must remove the green, outer shell. I usually put the walnuts on either a flat rock or my driveway and gently roll them back and forth with my boots.  Usually the outer green husk will break off, leaving you with the inner nut. This is when you particularly want to wear gloves, as the inner nut will stain your hands.

Other techniques for removing the outer shell include rolling them between two boards or putting them in a burlap sack and forcefully hitting the bag on a hard surface.

Rinsing the Nuts

Soak black walnuts in water to remove the black, outer bits of pulp. Fill a bucket with cold water and dump the shelled walnuts into the water. If any of them float, discard them. Floating means that the nut has either been compromised by insects or the inner nut meat has dried or is spoiled. Good black walnuts sink. Soak them overnight and in the morning, drain the water and refill. Continue to repeat this cycle of refreshing the water until the water remains clear.

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You’ll notice after the first soaking that the water is quite black. Don’t let any of this water get on your clothing; dump the water out of the way, preferably on some black dirt. Black walnuts were used by our ancestors to dye clothing, and any of the black walnut stain that gets on your clothes likely will be permanent.

Drying the Nuts

Once you have sufficiently rinsed the black walnuts, put them on a foil lined baking sheet topped with paper towels and let them dry for two weeks in a dry space. Keep them out of the sun. I’ve found that the garage or basement is a good place to do this. I also found out very quickly that my wife wasn’t fond of staring at a bunch of black walnuts sitting on the kitchen counter for two weeks.

Cracking the Nut

The Secret To Cracking Black Walnuts (Nature’s Most Stubborn Nut)

Photographer: Steve Nubie

If you think you can use a regular nut cracker to crack a black walnut, think again. These nuts are incredibly tough and have a very hard, outer shell. Supposedly there’s a special black walnut nut-cracker, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to find one. Personally, I use a hammer. I’ll wrap a few nuts with a wash cloth or a piece of burlap and gently smash them with the hammer until they open. You can then pick out the nut-meat and discard the outer shells. The reason you want to wrap them in some kind of fabric when doing this hammer technique is to avoid the shrapnel and shattering that could strike your eyes.

Roasting Black Walnuts

Once you’ve cleaned out the nut meat, you can give your walnuts a light roast. I usually rinse them in cold water and dust them with a finely, ground sea salt. I roast them for about 15 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, but taste them after 15 minutes to see if they need more time. I would strongly advise that you do not roast an unopened or un-cracked black walnut.

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The moisture in the nut-meat could cause the black walnut to explode and the toughness of its outer shell could send shards flying in all directions. If you feel you must roast them intact, do it in a Dutch oven with a heavy iron lid. That way, any fragments from an exploding black walnut will be contained.

Storing Black Walnuts

If the walnuts have been shelled, the nut-meat is best stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid or a canning jar in the fridge. They should be good for up to a month. If the black walnuts are still in the shell, there’s good news. They’ll keep for up to two years if stored in a burlap bag or fine-meshed bag in a dry space like a back or front porch or an attic. Don’t put them in the root cellar, as the moisture can cause mold to grow on the outer shells. As always, inspect your black walnuts after they’ve been stored. If they show any signs of mold or have a mildew smell, discard them.

Menu Ideas

Black walnuts are great eaten right out of a bowl like regular walnuts. I like mine roasted and lightly salted and that’s why I toss them in salt before roasting. They’re also great in salads, pressed into cookie dough before baking or as a topping for a freshly baked loaf of bread. I’ve even put them on pizza.

If you come across black walnuts in your neck of the woods, give them a try. It’s a bit of work, but they’re free and they taste really, really great.

How do you crack black walnuts? Share your tips in the section below:

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How To Turn Bitter Acorns Into Delicious Nuts, Butter And Flour

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How To Turn Bitter Acorns Into Delicious Nuts, Butter And Flour

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A variety of oak trees across North America produce acorns that usually mature in early to late fall. The size and shapes vary — and so does the flavor. There are basically two types of acorns: bitter and sweet. What makes an acorn bitter is a chemical referred to as tannins, or tannic acid. Certain oaks, like red oaks, have the highest amounts of tannins, while burr oaks and white oaks have less.

Any acorn should be processed to leach out tannins, regardless of whether they are bitter or sweet. The fundamental process involves either a boiling water bath or cold-water bath to remove the tannic acid. This process can take a couple of days up to a week or more, depending on the amount of tannins in the acorns.

The Hot-Water Bath

To leach the tannins out of acorns quickly, the acorns are immersed in gently boiling water. Only brown mature acorns should be used. Green acorns won’t work, and have on off-taste. The mature acorns are typically found on the ground, while those still on the tree tend to be green. The caps are removed from the acorn and a slit is cut in the side of the acorn. Sometimes you can peel the skin off the acorn after cutting this slit, but usually they need to be boiled for a while before the skin can be easily removed.

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To determine when the acorns have been sufficiently soaked, a simple taste will do. If it tastes bitter, then continue the slow boil and change the water every couple of hours. You’re trying to get rid of the tannins and without this water change you’ll simply reintroduce the tannins into the acorns.

The Cold-Water Bath

Some people feel that the hot-water leaching process removes much of the flavor from the acorn. The alternative is a cold-water soak, but this will take much longer. The acorns are again prepared by removing the caps from the mature acorns and cutting the slits. The acorns are then soaked for days at a time with water changes occurring at least daily if not twice a day. Here again, a quick taste of the acorn will tell you when they have been sufficiently soaked.

Drying the Acorns

How To Turn Bitter Acorns Into Delicious Nuts, Butter And Flour

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After any type of soaking, the acorns need to be dried. This can be done by putting them on a tray in the sun or gently roasting them in the oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Once again, a taste test will tell you when the acorns are sufficiently dry.

Storing Acorns

The best way to store acorns after they are dried is in a canning jar in the refrigerator or a root cellar. The shelf life will vary from a week to months, depending on how well they have been dried and the variety. Keep an eye on them if you have stored them and if you see any sign of mold or notice a mildew smell, discard them.

Roasting Acorns

To roast acorns, I’ll usually give them a quick rinse in cold water and then roll them around in some salt. Place them on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for one hour. Taste them after an hour until they suit your taste and have the texture you want.

Chopped Acorns

Chopped acorns can be used as a topping on desserts, incorporated into baked goods or tossed onto a salad for some added crunch. They can either be chopped on a cutting board with a knife or in a food processor. The size of the chop is up to you.

Acorn Butter

To make acorn butter, continue to chop until the acorns begin to develop a smooth consistency. This can take a while depending on the acorn variety and the amount of oil in the acorns. You can easily combine different varieties to make an acorn butter blend.

Acorn Flour

The best way to make acorn flour is to chop them fine and then run them through a flour mill. You could also try to use a food processor, but the acorns will need to be very dry or you’ll end up with another batch of acorn butter. If you want to make sure the acorns are extra dry, take the chopped acorns and roast them on a baking sheet in the oven at 225 degrees for a couple of hours. Toss them from time to time on the baking sheet to expose as much of the surface area to the heat. You could also put them on a paper towel in a food dehydrator to dry them out for flour making.

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To bake with acorn flour, use it the same way you would use conventional flour but the addition of some regular flours like all-purpose flour or bread flour will help with the consistency and rise.

Competing With the Squirrels

When harvesting acorns, look for the acorns that have no split in the outer shell or any sign of insect damage. It’s okay if the caps have fallen off, but avoid the ones with splits in the shell or green ones. You’ll also have some competition from squirrels when it comes to finding acorns on the ground. Squirrels love acorns, but they also prefer the relative safety of a nearby tree. If you see an oak standing out in a field un-surrounded by other trees, your odds of beating the squirrels will improve. Typically, a squirrel won’t travel farther then 30 yards from the nearest tree. An isolated tree is less likely to have any visits from squirrels and the acorns will be plentiful.

How do you prepare and eat acorns? Share your tips in the section below:

Milkweed Is Edible? Yes, And It’s Super-Easy To Prepare, Too

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Milkweed Is Edible? Yes, And It's Super-Easy To Prepare, Too

Photographer: Steve Nubie

August, September and early October are the prime months for milkweed pods in many parts of North America. The pods range in size from 2 to 4 inches and grow in clusters of 4 to 8 pods.

They’re typically a light green color and filled with a combination of seeds and soft, silky floss. I’ll usually collect about 20 or so pods and head to the kitchen or camp.

In early to mid-summer, the milkweed shoots first emerge, and they taste great when gently boiled, shocked and sautéed in butter or olive oil. We’re going to start with the pods because they’re in season now, and cover the spring shoots later.

Prepping the Pods

Milkweed Is Edible? Yes, And It's Super-Easy To Prepare, Too

Photographer: Steve Nubie

Raw milkweed pods are quite bitter and the white, milky sap is not exactly appetizing. It is also very sticky. They have numerous seeds and a stringy, silky floss inside of the pod. In order to remove the bitterness and the sap, they must be boiled in water and shocked in ice water, and then boiled and shocked again. (The duration for boiling is 10 minutes and then a shock in ice water followed by another 2 minutes in boiling water and a final shock in ice water.) This is done for any milkweed pod, regardless of its size.

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Prior to the boiling water/ice-water shock, the seeds and silky floss need to be removed.

This can be done by gently pulling the seam apart with your thumbs on the curved back of the pod and pulling out the silk and the seeds.

Milkweed Is Edible? Yes, And It's Super-Easy To Prepare, Too

Photographer: Steve Nubie

There is also a tough, inner lining or membrane that needs to be removed. This is easy to do after the first boil and shock by gently pulling the tough membrane from the pod.

Large pods up to 4 inches are the best for stuffing. The best cooking methods involve baking or sautéing.

One thing you’ll notice during the first boil is a lot of bubbles and the white sap floating to the surface.

That’s good news, and you don’t have to skim the surface. The ice-water shock will rinse them.

Milkweed Is Edible? Yes, And It's Super-Easy To Prepare, Too

Photographer: Steve Nubie

After you’ve chilled them for a few minutes in the ice water and you’ve removed the tough inner membrane, boil them again for 2 minutes. You shouldn’t see any more sap or bubbles. You’re just giving them a final rinse and finish to clean the now-exposed inner membrane of the pod, and they’re ready for stuffing.

Baked and Stuffed Milkweed Pods

Larger milkweed pods up to 4 inches are the best for stuffing. You can stuff them with any combination you like, but I prefer a mix of chopped vegetables and a cheese-like mozzarella or cream cheese. However, you can use any cheese. I’ve also tried some variations with chopped fruit. Here’s a sample recipe with the cheese blend and the proportions if you want to give it a try.

Ingredients:

  • 24 to 30 large prepped milkweed pods, about 3 to 4 inches in length.
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese or 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella.
  • 2 tablespoons of onion, finely diced.
  • 1 jalapeno finely diced or two tablespoons of sweet bell pepper.
  • 3 tablespoons of crispy, diced bacon.
  • Bread crumbs or corn meal.
  • Salt and pepper.

Directions:

  • Milkweed Is Edible? Yes, And It's Super-Easy To Prepare, Too

    Photographer: Steve Nubie

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Combine the cheese in a bowl with the diced pepper, diced onion and bacon; salt and pepper to suit your taste and combine everything with a large wooden spoon.
  • Stuff the pods until they’re full, but not so much that you can’t close the seam in the side of the pod. You can either stuff the whole pod, or cut them in half to create a half-shelled pod and simply spoon the stuffing on top.
  • Coat the seam with some bread crumbs or corn meal to help seal the pod during baking if you’re using a whole pod, and you can also sprinkle some on top of the half-shelled pods.
  • Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crumbs or corn meal are browned.
  • Serve warm or cold with your favorite dip, or eat them plain.

Sautéed and Stuffed Milkweed Pod Halves

The large 3- to 4-inch pods also can be sautéed. Prep the pods the same way you would for baking, but break or cut them in half so they’re a half-shelled pod. Stuff them and sauté on the bottom of the pod only in 3 tablespoons of oil and 3 tablespoons of butter. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until they turn a golden brown.

Other Ways to Eat Milkweed Pods

  • Unstuffed small pods. Small pods up to 2-inches in length can be eaten unstuffed with the immature seeds and immature floss. You’ll still need to remove the inner membrane. so gently remove the immature seeds and silk and give the small pods the hot water treatment for 10 minutes before removing the membrane. Repeat for 2 minutes in the boiling water, followed by the ice water shock. Once they’re prepped, re-insert the immature seeds and silk and bake or sauté. The immature seeds and silk actually have a creamy texture. Don’t boil the pods with the immature seeds and silk inside. They’ll dissolve in the boiling water.
  • Salad or soup. Give the pods the boiling water/ice-water treatment and chill them in the refrigerator. Chop them and add them to a salad or soup.
  • Milkweed chips. Chop the prepped pods into larger chunks and sauté or deep fry them for milkweed chips.
  • In sauces. Dice the prepped pods and add them to a sauce like a marinara or chili.

Milkweed Shoots

Milkweed shoots show up in the Spring. They are surprisingly tender and not bitter. They look similar to dogbane shoots which are very bitter, but dogbane has pointy leaves and a smooth surface while milkweed shoots have a velvety leaf like sage and rounded leaves.

The best way to prepare milkweed shoots after you wash them is to remove the leaves from the stem and chop the stem into pieces about 2- to 3-inches long. Boil them for 3 minutes in salted water and then shock them in ice water. Drain the leaves and the shoots and sauté them in butter or olive oil. Sometimes I’ll add a little garlic.

They have an asparagus flavor note and the boiled and shocked leaves and stems also can be frozen for future use. A variation is to sauté them in rendered bacon fat and then top them with crumbled bacon.

Storing Milkweed Pods

Milkweed pods can be kept in the refrigerator and will have a shelf life similar to other produce in the fridge. The prepped pods also can be frozen and should be good for up to 3 months.

Milkweeds are easy to harvest and easy to prepare. Give them a try and who knows — you may really like them and try them again and again.

Have you ever eaten milkweed? Share your tips in the section below:

The Best Ways To Make Peaches Last Longer

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The Best Ways To Make Peaches Last Longer

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At the height of summer, it’s easy to be seduced by the baskets, bushels and flats full of juicy, fragrant peaches. But what do you do with that many peaches when you get them home? If you’re planning to eat them fresh, the best way to store them depends on how ripe they are.

A perfectly ripe peach is firm but yields slightly to a gentle squeeze; it will also give off that lovely peach smell. And, as with other fruit, ripe peaches should feel heavy for their size. Using this as a guideline, check each of your peaches to determine how to best store them.

Unripe Peaches

Although peaches — like all fruit — continue ripening after being picked, it’s best to avoid those that have any trace of green on their skin and/or are as hard as a baseball. Those peaches likely will not ripen properly.

Peaches that feel more like a tennis ball when squeezed, and that haven’t yet developed that rich peach smell, should be stored at room temperature and allowed to ripen. You can even put them in a sunny spot, as long as it doesn’t get too hot.

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Peaches are best stored stem (or “shoulders”) side down, and not touching. If you have to mound them in a bowl, try not to stack them too deeply.

If you want to ripen your peaches, quickly put them in a brown paper bag and leave them on the counter. Like other fruit, peaches naturally release ethylene gas, which speeds along the ripening process. Ethylene trapped inside the paper bag will be more concentrated and will ripen the fruit more quickly. For even quicker results, place a banana or apple in the bag, too.

Ripe Peaches

Peaches have the most flavor when they’re eaten at room temperature. If you have perfectly ripe peaches that you can eat within a day or two, just leave them on the counter. As above, it’s best to store them stem-side down and not touching.

If you can’t eat them all within a couple of days, store the extras in the fridge. The cool temperatures will slow down the ripening process, and give you about a week before the fruit becomes overripe. Take them out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating to enhance their flavor.

If you have a peach that’s already quite soft to the touch, either eat it right away or toss it in the fridge. These peaches will last only a day or two at best, even when refrigerated.

The cool, dry air in refrigerators is hard on peaches, and if they are stored loose in the fridge, they will begin to dehydrate (shrink and get wrinkled skin) within a couple of days. If you expect to refrigerate peaches for more than two days, protect them with a plastic bag. It’s best to poke a few small holes in that bag, though, to allow the peaches to breathe.

If you have too many ripe peaches to eat within a week of refrigeration, it’s time to figure out a way to preserve them. Making peach butter, preserves, fruit leather, or a pie is one way to go, but it’s fairly simple to freeze peaches, as well. Just peel, slice and freeze the slices on a cookie sheet before transferring them to a freezer-safe container or bag. In the depths of winter, you’ll be grateful for the rich flavor of those peaches in ice cream, smoothies or baked goods.

Did you buy a bunch of peaches this summer? If so, what’s your favorite way to make them last longer – even into the winter months?

Apples 101: Which Varieties Store The Longest And Bake The Best

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Apples 101: Which Varieties Store The Longest And Bake The Best

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Apples are perhaps the most well-known and quintessential American tree fruit in existence today. They can be found on produce shelves from coast to coast—not to mention around the world—and are available year ‘round in most places, are widely enjoyed, and complement many types of cuisines.

It might be a little surprising to learn that apples are not indigenous to the United States, or even to the western hemisphere. The roots of the modern-day American apple tree, Malus sieversii or  Malus sievestris domestica, have been linked by DNA research to wild apples in the mountains of Kazakhstan.

Apple trees are said to have been in existence for thousands of years, and were brought to this continent from Europe by settlers. New cultivars were created—as many as 2000 today by some estimates. Appetizing varieties were used by early Americans for fresh eating and baking, while more bitter results were used by resourceful settlers for cider, vinegar and livestock feed.

Johnny Appleseed Was a Real Person?

Was Johnny Appleseed real, and was he really responsible for distributing apple seeds across the continent? Yes. While legend and hyperbole may paint him larger than real life by some accounts, he was indeed an actual person named John Chapman. He did travel across America in the early 1800s with the intent to establish apple orchards—perhaps at least in part as a commercial venture in hopes to make money in his nurseryman profession—and was fairly successful at that endeavor.

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As with nearly all plants grown for food today, modern apple varieties have been bred for constant improvements and new varieties continue to be developed. There are a many types of apple choices available, both as ready-to-eat fruit and as tree rootstock for planting to grow your own.

Apples can be grouped by seasons: summer, fall and winter. Summer apples are ready as early as August, even in northern climates by the end of the month. They are generally sweet and crisp, but only fleetingly. It’s tempting to start stocking up on apples as soon as the earliest varieties come available, but don’t do it. Buy just enough summer apples for fresh consumption, because early varieties do not keep well, even in the refrigerator. There are many varieties of summer apples, including popular choices such as McIntosh, Gala, Zestar and Lodi. But remember that there are regional differences when identifying apples seasonally—McIntosh, for instance, is a fall apple where I live in northern New England, but a summer apple in much of the country.

Most apples in northern growing zones are fall apples. These are the classic, crisp, flavorful fruits that comes to mind for most people when they think of apples, and include many favorite cultivars, from classic supermarket choices like Red Delicious and Fuji to heirloom varieties like Grimes Golden and Blue Pearmain.

There are so many fall varieties, in fact, that further classification is useful. Apples that are bursting with fresh flavor and best eaten out-of-hand are often called “dessert” apples. Other types with a meatier texture and/or larger size are considered to be “baking” or “pie” apples. Apples which offer a twinge of bitterness are called “cider” apples.

Apples 101: Which Varieties Store The Longest And Bake The Best

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Within and among those classifications, apples can be described by the degree of “russeting” they have, which is determined by a rough skin and sometimes a granular pear-like flesh. They are also often characterized as either sweet or “subacid”—meaning they are tart. Apples come in a wide assortment of sizes, from the enormous Wolf River which can be the size of a softball to the tiny Lady Apple, and every size in between. They ripen into colors from yellow and green to bright scarlet red to a deep plum color, and vary greatly in shape, from round to oblate.

These Keep Best in Cold Storage

Winter apples are those which keep well in cold storage. Many winter varieties, such as Ben Davis, Fireside, Honeygold and Fuji, last in home root cellars and refrigerators until Christmas and beyond. What’s more, many winter apples actually improve in flavor and texture after they are picked.

It may seem daunting to figure out which apples are best for what purposes and how long they will last, but there is a lot of help and advice to be had. If you buy from a local orchard, the sellers are likely to be very knowledgeable and willing to help you choose. Apples, after all, are likely their passion. If you do not get satisfactory advice at the orchard, you may want to reach out to your local cooperative extension service for advice about what apples grow best in your area. And if you are not buying local apples, many big chain supermarkets keep a handy reference book right in the produce department for use by customers. If all else fails, remember that the best keeping apples are typically the firmest, just about any apple can be used for baking whether it is marketed as a pie apple or not, and even those which turn out to be less palatable for fresh eating can be improved with a dab of peanut butter or a slice of cheese.

Whatever you buy, look for fruit of uniform texture—a soft spot could signify an unseen bruise or other irregularity—and free of other surface blemishes. Mostly ripe is good, too, even though apples will continue to sweeten after picking. Many people say apples keep better if the stem is on the fruit.

Apple orchards in many regions offer a “pick your own” option, a fun family activity which is often more economical than buying apples already picked. In addition to being cheaper, it affords the buyer the opportunity to choose exactly the apples they want. The orchard I go to usually has several different varieties ready to pick at any given time, all the same price, so it’s possible to mix-and-match.

Some pick-your-own—also known as “you-pick”—places provide containers, and others require you to bring your own. Some sell by volume, others by weight. If you are new to apple picking, it’s wise to call ahead or check their website before you go.

While apples do grow in most regions of the country, different apples thrive best in different climates. If you are fortunate, you live in an area which grows your favorites and can buy them locally without having to compromise on choices. Either way, there is sure to be an apple somewhere to please just about everyone.

What advice would you add about apples? Share your thoughts in the section below:

How To Store Potatoes For 20-Plus Years

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How To Store Potatoes For 20-Plus Years

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Extending the shelf life of root vegetables like potatoes has been practiced for centuries as a method to enjoy the harvest year-round. Traditionally, potatoes grown for storage are a variety bred specifically for winter storage, since not all varieties keep well long-term. Thicker-skinned potatoes such as russets will store far longer than thin-skinned red potatoes.

The traditional method of winter storage using a root cellar is to dig the potatoes when the potato plants have died down. Then, brush off dirt (without washing) and cure them before storage. Curing the potatoes in temperatures ranging from 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit (or as high as 80-85 for sweet potatoes) and high humidity (90 percent or more) gives potatoes a thicker skin that prolongs their storage life and lessens spoilage.

Curing should occur in the shade or in a darkened indoor location like a barn. Green potatoes have been exposed to excessive light and should be discarded, as it is frequently a sign that solamine is present in the potato; solamine is toxic at high levels. [1]

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After curing them, store potatoes in a humid dark root cellar at approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit, packed in bushel baskets or burlap sacks or in several piles. Storage temperatures below 45 degree Fahrenheit may increase the sugar content of potatoes. Higher temperatures can lead to shrinkage or rot, reducing storage life by half. Potatoes should be stored away from any fruit that gives off ethylene gas (such as apples and pears). Frequently, people will wrap apples and pears individually in paper to store them in a root cellar so as to reduce the ethylene gas they emit.

Storing for 20 Years

If 20 years sounds like a long time to store potatoes, then it might surprise you to know that “fresh” potatoes in the grocery store are often 11 months old when you buy them. [2] Modern developments in commercial food storage allow growers to store produce with a chemical (1-methylcyclopropene), which extends the shelf life of vegetables.

Of course, fresh potatoes won’t last 20 years, but you can dehydrate them to get that kind of long-term shelf life while maintaining nutritional value. [3]

Some conditions: 1) The shelf life will be longer if your storage location has a moderate temperature and reduced light. A cool basement would be ideal, while a hot attic or room which fluctuates in temperature will shorten the shelf life of any stored food. 2) Botulism can grow in low-oxygen moist environments. To avoid this, you must reduce the moisture level within the potatoes to 10 percent or less in order to store long-term with an oxygen absorber packet or to safely store using a vacuum sealer that removes air.

Here’s how to do it:

  • A dehydrator with an electric fan is recommended.
  • Wash the potatoes (peeling is optional).
  • Slice ¼ inch or less, or grate.
  • Drying temperature for potatoes is generally 125-135 degrees Fahrenheit. Drying time will depend on the humidity and your dehydrator. Dried potatoes will be crisp and brittle.
  • Once dry, let them cool for an hour or so, and then place temporarily into gallon-size Ziploc bags to “season” the dried slices for a week. Seasoning accomplishes two things: 1) It distributes any remaining moisture evenly between slices, and, 2) It alerts you if there is too much moisture in your dried potatoes. If you have too much moisture, you will see condensation on the inside of the sealed bags (in which case you need to dry some more).
  • Pack into airtight glass containers or cans.

Your kitchen cupboards are simply too exposed to light and temperature fluctuations to be useful in storing items more than a year. Dried potatoes in a glass jar will last about a year in kitchen cupboard conditions. This is about the same time as a canned potato product. However, in a cool, dry and dark place like a cellar, these jars of dehydrated potatoes will last five or so years without any detectable change in taste.

For REALLY long-term storage of 20 years or more, put an oxygen absorber packet in the airtight container when packing, or remove air using a vacuum sealer, and again, store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Dehydrated potatoes are tasty in soups, stews and casseroles. Vegetables and starches are an essential component of any balanced diet, and potatoes are a great (and delicious) option for long-term food storage.

What storage advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

[1] http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/tips-keeping-harvested-potatoes-fresh
[2] http://www.mashed.com/71127/old-produce-eat-really/
[3] https://www.lds.org/topics/food-storage/longer-term-food-supply?lang=eng&old=true

Eating Wild Animals You Never Thought You Could Eat

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Eating Wild Animals Without Catching Rabies

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Humans, for the most part, raise and eat vegetarian animals. From an agricultural perspective, that makes sense. A cow fed on grass is a more efficient way of producing meat than raising a meat-eating animal on meat, only to later harvest it for meat.

Animals that would otherwise eat a meat-based diet in the wild, like chickens or farmed fish, are fed corn and soy and labeled “vegetarian-fed” as though it somehow made the meat more desirable. In reality, though, eating corn-raised salmon and chicken deprived of their natural prey (bugs, frogs and even rodents) actually results in meat that’s less flavorful and less healthy, containing fewer omega-3 fatty acids.

Some animals, such as deer, are opportunistic omnivores. Deer have been observed eating birds, which scientists speculate is “a source of protein to help them grow antlers.” Scientists conducting a forensic experiment with human remains actually documented deer eating human meat when they had access to it in the wild.

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Other cultures around the world have a history of eating meat-eating animals. In modern America, it’s a taboo to eat dog meat, but many other places in the world regularly consume dog as a part of their diet without ill health effects. I’m not advocating eating the family pet. That’s not a part of our culture. But when thinking about whether or not there are health consequences to eating meat-eating animals, it’s good to note that it’s common practice in other parts of the world and does not cause harm to the humans eating them.

Bears are popular to hunt in many parts of the United States, and while their diet does include roots and berries, they’re putting on their winter weight with meat. Bears are omnivores, just like pigs. Both bear meat and pig meat tend to taste a lot like what they were eating in the few weeks before they are harvested. Pigs raised domestically are often intentionally fed a specific diet in the six weeks before harvest, such as whey or apples. With bears or wild boars, you don’t have that luxury.

Smart hunters will take wild boar in areas where there’s an abundance of food that will make their meat taste sweet, such as windfall apples. Bears, on the other hand, especially near urban areas, are likely to have been eating anything they can find. Bears near good fishing holes, for example, often have fishy-tasting meat.

Hunters who have cooked coyote describe it as a fatty dark meat that tastes a bit like overcooked duck. They note that made into sloppy Joes or covered in BBQ sauce and served like a pulled pork sandwich, you’d never taste the difference.

In the American South, raccoon is still a reasonably popular food. It’s said to taste a bit like dark meat chicken. Raccoon meat is mainstream enough that the famous chef Alton Brown wrote about how to cook it. It’s become less popular to hunt because of a fear of rabies, but he notes that as a general rule rabid animals will not be out feeding. If you find a raccoon busting into your chicken coop, grab the .22 and you could be eating well tonight.

But what about rabies, you say? Rabies is no joking matter, and it’s a serious disease that can kill humans and animals alike. Obviously, never eat an animal you know to be infected with rabies. Nonetheless, so long as the meat is thoroughly cooked, the rabies pathogen is killed. According to the Louisiana department of health, the main risk is to the person processing the raw meat, especially if he or she comes into contact with the salivary glands, brain or spinal cord. Be careful processing any animal, and use good sanitary practices.

Any hunted animal could potentially be contaminated with rabies. The incubation time is generally 90 days or less from exposure, but 90 days is a long time to carry the pathogen without showing any symptoms. Rabies, in reality, is a rare disease, but one that you could catch just as easily from raw deer meat in an animal not displaying symptoms.

In times of hardship, it’s good to know that meat is meat. So long as it’s cooked completely and thoroughly, just about any meat can provide a meal, be it coyote, bear, wild boar, raccoon or just about anything else. Clean it carefully, cook it fully and enjoy the protein.

What are your favorite wild meats? Share your tips in the section below:

How To Store Apples For 30 Years

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How To Store Apples For 30 Years

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While the taste of fresh apples can’t be beat, extending the shelf life of apples has been practiced for centuries as a method to have fresh fruit available when it is not in season.

Traditionally, whole apples (typically a variety bred for winter storage) are stored in a root cellar or a cool, dark and relatively humid location in order to preserve them for eating during the winter. Canned apple rings, canned applesauce, apple butter, and dried apples are other traditional ways to preserve apples even longer, for a year or more. So how would you store apples for up to 30 years?

If 30 years sounds like a long time to store apples, it might surprise you to know that “fresh” apples in the grocery store may be nearly a year old when you buy them. Modern developments in commercial food storage allow growers to store produce with a chemical named 1-methylcyclopropene, which blocks the ripening agent of apples (ethylene) and can extend the shelf life of other vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce and carrots. The result is a crop of fresh picked apples that can be stored for ten months or more.

Storing Apples for 30 Years

Dehydrated apple rings stored in an airtight container with an oxygen absorber packet have a shelf life of up to 30 years while maintaining nutritional value.

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Some important considerations in storing apples using this method: 1) The apples should be dried to the point that they have 10 percent or less moisture content, so they will be somewhat “crispy.” The reason this moisture content level is important is that there is an increased risk of botulism when you use an oxygen absorber with a higher moisture content. 2) the shelf life will be longer if your storage location has a moderate temperature and reduced light. A cool basement would be ideal, while a hot attic or room which fluctuates in temperature will shorten the shelf life of any stored food.

Here’s how to do it, step by step:

  • A dehydrator with an electric fan is recommended.
  • Peeling is optional; we wash the apples and then slice into one-fourth of an inch slices without peeling.
  • We do not use any anti-browning agents. Without an anti-browning agent, the apple flesh will darken a bit; our apples once dry are usually a light tan or beige color.
  • Drying time will depend on the humidity and your dehydrator.
  • Once dry, let them cool for an hour, and then place temporarily into gallon-size plastic bags to “season” the dried slices for a week. Seasoning is not flavoring in this instance, but it accomplishes two things: 1) It distributes any remaining moisture evenly between slices, and, 2) It alerts you if there is too much moisture in your dried apples. If you have too much moisture, you will see condensation on the inside of the sealed bags (in which case you need to dry some more).
  • Once the apples are seasoned, pack into airtight containers. Sealed plastic bags are not ideal for long-term storage. We use glass jars.

Dried apples in a glass jar will last about a year in your kitchen cupboards. This is about the same time as canned apple product. However, in a cool dry and dark place like a cellar, these jars of dehydrated apples will last five or so years without any detectable change in taste. Your kitchen cupboards are simply too exposed to light and temperature fluctuations to be useful in storing items more than a year.

For REALLY long-term storage, up to 30 years, put an oxygen absorber packet in the airtight container when packing, and again, store in a cool, dark and dry place.

What advice would you add for storing apples long-term? Share your tips in the section below

 

Drowning In Tomatoes? Try Something Different This Year.

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Drowning In Tomatoes? Try Something Different This Year.

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If you’re a home gardener about to drown in tomatoes rolling in off the vines and demanding to be consumed before they go bad, hang on. Here comes a life preserver!

Everyone knows the delectable bliss of cutting up a perfectly ripe red tomato and enjoying the slices simply seasoned with salt and pepper on a plate next to a steak or macaroni salad or grilled cheese or chicken cutlet or just about anything. And we all know the decadent joy of picking sweet little orange cherry tomatoes off the vine and popping them into our mouths like candy.

But what about when it’s time for something different? Here are a few ideas to get your tomato creativity flowing and help you embrace the garden’s bounty.

First, consider them on sandwiches. Not just as an add-on to standard meat and cheese or tucked into a tuna- or egg-salad creation—although they are definitely delicious that way—but on their own, as well. Half-inch thick slices of fresh ripe tomato between two slices of bread with mayonnaise and a few dashes of seasoning tastes like a bite of delicious summer. Add a few slices of cucumber for added cool crunch, or mix it up with some ultra-thin slices of summer squash, onion or peppers. The dressing doesn’t have to be mayonnaise, either. You can experiment with ranch dressing, hot mustard, relish or other condiments to suit your own taste.

Tomatoes are tasty on hot sandwiches, too. Burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches are perfect places for tomato slices, as are hot meat-and-cheese on bun types that go by the name of heroes or hoagies in different parts of the country.

One of my favorites ways to eat tomatoes on hot bread is to grill Italian or French bread slices, spread it with pesto, add chopped tomatoes, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Yum.

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Tomatoes make great salads, too. You probably already include them in tossed salads, from basic everyday side dishes to more elaborate or ethnic concoctions that use everything from feta cheese to walnuts to Asian noodles to corn chips. But tomatoes can be the main ingredient instead of an add-in in salads. Chopped slicing tomatoes or halved cherry or grape types can be dressed up with Italian-style or ranch dressing, fresh or dried herbs such as basil or chives or parsley, chunks or crumbles of any kind of cheese, chopped cucumbers or other fresh vegetables, or bits of bacon or prosciutto.

Tomatoes go wonderfully with pasta. Toss chunks of pasta in with cooked short pasta—I prefer corkscrew types—and your choice of seasonings, dressing, meats, cheeses and other vegetables.

Make a Sauce. Or Eat Them Like an Apple.

Drowning In Tomatoes? Try Something Different This Year.

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Another fun way to enjoy tomatoes and pasta is as a fresh red sauce. I learned this dish from a campsite caretaker many years ago and wrote it down in my little camping journal, and the dish has long outlasted my hiking days. I chop up a small bowlful of fresh very ripe tomatoes, add chopped red onion or scallions, minced garlic, chopped fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.  I sometimes add Kalamata olives. I make this dish in the morning and let it set on the kitchen table all day. By evening meal time, the flavors have melded nicely, and I serve it over hot cooked spaghetti noodles and top it with fresh grated parmesan for an easy meal on a hot summer day.

Tomatoes, either slices or cherry halves, are elegant and delicious mixed with fresh mozzarella cheese—either small balls or slices—and drizzled with olive oil and herbs. Full-sized tomatoes are delightful stuffed with cottage cheese and herbs and served cold, or stuffed with bread stuffing and baked or broiled and topped with cheese.

Don’t forget pizza. You can substitute slices of fresh tomatoes for the red sauce, or you can substitute pesto for the red sauce and add tomato slices on top of the cheese.

Cherry tomatoes can be sautéed or broiled. You can add bread crumbs, soft cheese, olive oil, butter, herbs or black olives to complement the lovely tomato flavor.

Tomatoes work well in scrambled eggs, baked eggs, frittatas and omelets. They can be cooked slightly to soften them before adding to egg recipes or added raw in some dishes. Tomatoes are a staple for many soups and casseroles, as well, providing an excellent way to use up yesterday’s fresh broiled or sautéed tomatoes to make room for more fresh ones coming ready in the garden today.

If somehow not one single tomato-eating idea on this list appeals to you, you can always try it my brother’s way. He has been known to pick a ripe tomato off the vine, rub the dust off on his shirt, and eat it like an apple.

A lot of foods from around the world pair nicely with tomatoes, so there is no reason to succumb to a flood of garden tomatoes in August. Try some of these ideas—along with your own recipes and your variations on the ones I’ve suggested—and you’ll be glad once again that you planted so many tomatoes.

Do you have any unique tomato-eating ideas? Share them in the section below:

A Homesteader’s Shocking Lesson About ‘Added Sugar’

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A Homesteader’s Shocking Lesson About ‘Added Sugar’

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While making plans with a farm apprentice regarding her upcoming move to our homestead and discussing room-and-board details, she let me know that she did not eat any foods with added sugar. She wouldn’t mind fixing her own meals separately, she told me, but I assured her it would be no trouble for me to take the whole household off sugar. I thought eliminating sugar was just a matter of cutting out dessert foods, which didn’t seem like a big deal.

What never occurred to me was that sugar, in one form or another, is added to a great many common foods. While it is no surprise to find sugar in soda pop, candy, pastries, ice cream and other so-called junk food, it came as a bit of a shock to learn how many other prepared foods contain it. Even more so was the shock of learning how much I—as one who considers my cooking style to be mostly from whole foods—use it in meal preparation, as well.

Cutting sugar completely from our diet was far more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Like many Americans, I was so accustomed to using sugar in my everyday cooking that I didn’t even always notice how often I use it. After the apprentice’s arrival, I was amazed to realize how many of the recipes I’ve used for years contain sugar. Just a few tablespoons here or a teaspoon there had never seemed significant, but I began to become aware of how much it really was.

Even foods as basic as breads suddenly presented problems. I make a great homemade corn bread, for example—northern style, with yellow cornmeal and sugar. Most yeast breads contain sugar, too, along with many of even the healthiest muffins.

Homemade soups and sauces usually call for a little sugar, adding just the right touch or bringing out the flavor of everything from pumpkin soup to spaghetti sauce. And while I don’t put sugar in my beef or chevon stews, I do add a little browning sauce that includes—you guessed it—sugar.

One day when I was collecting ingredients in the pantry for a casserole that included store-bought cream-style corn, the apprentice reached for the can and read the label.

‘What?! No Way’

“It has sugar in it,” she told me.

“What?!” I was astonished. “No way.” I checked the label and saw she was right.

Once I started looking for it, I found sugar lurking everywhere. The round buttery crackers I usually crumbled on top of my macaroni-and-cheese are sugar-sweetened. So are canned soups. And all kinds of sauces—from barbecue, which you might suspect, to Worcestershire, which you probably wouldn’t. Ketchup too, along with pickles and relishes and other condiments. Even breakfast cereals billed as “regular” and “plain,” often contain added sugar.

Even simple sandwiches posed challenges. Regular peanut butter is sweetened, as of course are jams and jellies. Mayonnaise and most brown mustards contain sugar, as do some luncheon meats. Perhaps a salad instead—but wait, store-bought salad dressings and croutons are loaded with sugar!

A Homesteader’s Shocking Lesson About ‘Added Sugar’

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Even foods we often think of as healthy alternatives sometimes contain sugar. Items like granola, nutrition bars, fruit-based drinks, fruit rollups, and other foods marketed to children can be sugar-laden.

The Many Names of Sugar

One of the reasons many people use more sugar than they realize is that sugar disguises itself under many other names. Careful label-readers often don’t find “sugar” listed, but will instead see ingredients such as dextrose, maltose, cane juice or solids, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, and dozens of other words that all mean the same thing: added sugar.

By some accounts there are 40, 50 or even more different terms for added sugar. It can be derived from sugar cane, sugar beets, corn, coconut and other plants, and processed in a wide variety of ways into many forms. Often a packaged food label will list several sugar variations, the combination of which can result in an astounding total volume of sugar per serving.

Avoiding sugar can be tricky. It helps to become familiar with all the names it goes by in order to be able to pick it out of an ingredients list. Poring over labels can be tedious, but it gets easier with practice. The more important it is to avoid sugar—that is, the more serious the health consequences of eating it—the more crucial it is to read ingredients lists and know how to recognize sugar in all its various forms. The keys are diligence and determination.

Most people alive today grew up on a fairly steady diet of sugar. Even those of us who are health-conscious may well consume more sugar than we are aware of. To some of us, we are so used to everything from breads to canned fruits to breakfast staples being so chock full of sugar that these foods taste a little foreign to us without it.

Lessons Learned

My homestead underwent a radical change in eating habits when we began learning to accommodate a completely sugar-free person into our menu planning. Some of it was easy. We substituted natural sweeteners such as local honey and our own maple syrup into foods with a great deal of success. With other items, we tried simply omitting sweeteners altogether and learned to like them that way.

Although many people use popular sugar substitutes with satisfaction, we steered clear of them because none of us cared for the taste or didn’t want to add more processed ingredients to our diets. Using artificial sweeteners is a personal choice, but it is worth remembering that some fake sugars pose health threats of their own.

The apprentice was able to eat homemade breads with little or no negative reaction, probably because the sugar used in the dough was processed and transformed by the yeast organisms prior to baking. However, some bread recipes use more sugar than others, and I learned to tailor my bread-making by using less sugar, substituting natural sweeteners when practical, and using more whole grains to offset the sweetness.

After the apprentice moved on, we were glad to return to using sugar in some foods but found that we were perfectly content without it in others. But we now have a better understanding of the widespread pervasiveness of sugar in foods, both prepackaged and homemade, and this new awareness better equips us to make conscious choices to consume it or not.

Do you have advice for avoiding sugar? Share your advice in the section below:

5 Easy-To-Catch Freshwater Creatures That Resourceful Off-Gridders Eat

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5 Easy-To-Catch Freshwater Creatures That Off-Gridders Often Eat

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Check your local regulations for fishing methods, times and limits. Please make sure also to have your fishing license, too!

1. Crayfish

Where to find: On hot days, you can see them gliding across the rocky bottoms of creeks, lakes and ponds. They like to hide under logs and roots that grow along the banks, as well.

How to catch: Crayfish can be caught in a variety of methods: by trap, hook, net or by hand. Put them in a bucket without water or they will drown. I am a fan of looking under rocks. I can get 50 in less than two hours on a good day. Traps seem to work OK if you have a bunch out, but depending where you are, it may not be that successful. With a hook and bait, you can just drop the bait in front of them, and then lift your bait and shake off the “mud bug.” Nets may work if you put the net behind the crayfish and use a stick to tease it into your net.

How to clean: After catching your crayfish, sort through them. You don’t want to eat a dead crayfish — it could make you sick. Then just rinse them 3-4 times with a garden hose. Try to get off as much dirt as possible.

How to cook: Cooking crayfish can be as simple as sautéing in butter, shell and all. Some people like to make a “mud bug boil.” This means boiling your crayfish with Cajun seasonings. You also can peel the tail and use the meat as you would shrimp. After cooking, try tearing the heads off and sucking all the stuff inside. That is known as the crayfish butter. Yum!

2. Frogs

Where to find: Frogs can be found in the day, hiding in tall grasses and under banks. It’s much easier to find them at night. Best time is usually in the warmer months because the frogs are a little larger than in spring. Using a spotting light (red lenses can be used so frogs won’t see it), just shine along the water banks. They will signal you with shining eyes or by guiding you to them with their croaking call.

How to catch: Catching frogs is usually done with a gig. A gig is a spear with points to impale the frogs, then dump them into a covered bucket or net. As kids, we would just take hot-dog pokers and tape them to a long branch. You can buy commercially made frog gigs now. A few more ways to get them are with nets (nice because you can keep them alive to butcher in the morning), slingshot, 22 rifles with shot shell, bow and arrow, teasing with a spinner on fishing line or by hand.

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How to clean: Frogs do not need to be cleaned, just skinned. Up north, we only eat the rear legs.

  1. Make a shallow slit around the waste.
  2. Use pliers to grab the skin.
  3. Peel down like you’re taking off his pants.
  4. Cut through the spine where you made the initial cut.
  5. Cut off the feet.
  6. Dump the legs into a pail of ice water.
  7. Cook
5 Easy-To-Catch Freshwater Creatures That Off-Gridders Often Eat

Image source: Pixabay.com

How to cook: Most people like to bread and fry like you would chicken or fish. It’s also good in just about any soup or stew. Treat them like chicken wings.

3. Turtles

Where to find: Many people find turtles, specifically snapper turtles, to be a delicacy. You can find these guys in just about any body of water. Ponds are a favorite, so ask some pond owners, who will probably be glad to be rid of them. Rivers and creeks also hold snappers, so give them a try, too.

How to catch: The main way to catch snappers is with 3-inch turtle hooks and line, but you can also build a turtle trap. Turtle traps are just cages with a spring door. They check in but don’t check out. Hook and line is the preferable method. All you need is the 3-inch turtle hooks on the cord (I also use the cheap nylon) and some bait. Bait can be pieces of fish, liver or rotting meat. I know a few people who use road-killed groundhog chunks. I like to take some stocking material, put some liver in it, and then run my hook through the stocking material. This helps keep the bait on the line so fish won’t pick it off.

Basic turtle line uses about 10 feet of cord hook on one end and a stake or piece of rebar to anchor to the ground. In my state, I must tag each line with all my personal information, so check for your local regulations.

How to clean: I always leave turtles to sit in a tub of clean water for a week. I change it daily; you will get rid of that swampy muddy flavor turtle can have. Every time you butcher a turtle, you will get a little better.

Get the turtle out of the tank and on its back. Have someone pull the cord so that its head is pulled out. Separate the head from the body using a hatchet. Then, separate the bottom shell from the top with a hacksaw. Using a knife, separate the meat and skin.

You can find many other ways (air pressure or a water hose) to help skin your turtle. Just check online and you will see many other ways to get that precious meat out of that shell.

How to cook: Turtle can be used just like chicken. Soup is a good way to eat it, but breaded and fried will trick most into believing you are serving them chicken.

4. Eels

Where to find: You can find eels in rivers and creeks. As a child in Pennsylvania, I found them easily, but it’s been harder as time has passed. The Delaware river water gap still has a healthy stock of eel.

How to catch: Eels can be trapped in eel traps (commercially made) with a gig, such as the one for frogs and hook and line. I prefer hook and line with at least 20-pound fishing line. Not many freshwater fish can fight like eels. Once you have one on the line, get it in as quick as possible or it will tangle into rocks or sunken trees. They will eat just about anything from worms to cut-up fish.

How to clean:

  1. Get a 55-gallon drum and let them soak for a few days.
  2. Make sure they can’t get out of the tank.
  3. Take an eel out with the help of a towel for traction.
  4. Hammer a nail through its head into a post or tree.
  5. Put a small slit all around its neck.
  6. Use pliers to just pull down to strip it.
  7. Now you can gut it and use pruners to decapitate it.

How to cook: Eels are fantastic smoked; cut into chunks and breaded and fried is good enough for most people. Just don’t overcook or it will be tough as leather.

5. Water snails

5 Easy-To-Catch Freshwater Creatures That Off-Gridders Often Eat

Image source: Pixabay.com

Where to find: Freshwater snails can be found in most lakes and clean bodies of water. Just look close and you will be able to pick until your heart’s content!

How to catch: Just a hand is needed for these little guys.

How to clean:

  1. Boil them in water for 15 minutes.
  2. Rinse them in cold water.
  3. Repeat two other times for a total of 45 minutes of boiling.

How to cook: Just toss the boiled snails into some butter and garlic till warm. Season to taste using any herbs you like. Enjoy!

What creatures would you add to our list? What advice would you add on catching or cooking? Share your tips in the section below:

Ornamental Edibles: Vegetables That Can Beautiful Your Landscape AND Feed You

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Ornamental Edibles: Beautify Your Landscape With What You Eat

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Busy homesteaders do not have much time to devote to aesthetics. Those of us devoted to raising our own food and leading an independent way of life usually need to stay focused on practical endeavors — spending the warm seasons growing and preserving vegetables and fruit, milking dairy animals, tending other livestock, and shoring up infrastructure. With all that going on around my place, sometimes it’s all I can do to get the lawn mowed, much less plant and tend ornamental plants.

The cost of ornamentals is a consideration, as well. Purchasing flowers, greenery and shrubs—along with the borders and decorative mulch around them—can add up to real money.

But that does not mean that the curb appeal of homesteads cannot be attractive. Instead of carving time and money out of the food-growing budget for beautifying the front yard, why not choose plants that can do double duty?

Ornamental edibles are the perfect solution. While homestead gardeners always see the beauty in a well-tended plot of corn or a field of potatoes in bloom, some vegetables are so attractive that they can be planted in the front yard and admired by passers-by.

Leafy Greens

Some of the easiest solutions to mixing good looks with good eats are leafy greens. Selections like kale and Swiss chard grow quickly and are super hardy to a wide variety of conditions. They can be planted early in the season and grow into large lush plants, making them an excellent option for garden beds up close to the house where people typically plant vegetation adequate to cover the foundation of the house for an overall manicured appearance.

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Swiss chard comes in a variety of bright colors and displays large showy leaves which would rival most ornamentals. Kale, collard greens, and other leafy vegetables grow into large impressive plants, as well, and all are easily planted from inexpensive seed. Another great thing about leafy greens is that they can tolerate—and in many cases prefer—partial shade or limited hours of summer sun, making them the perfect alternative to standard shade-loving plants that are not edible.

Ornamental Edibles: Beautify Your Landscape With What You Eat

Swiss chard. Image source: David Fisher/Flickr / Creative Commons

Most leafy greens will last all season by continuing to sprout new growth after harvesting, depending upon climate and siting. Even in places where leafy greens cannot survive the heat of high summer, careful succession planting can keep greens growing most of the time.

A Few That Might Surprise You

Other types of vegetable to consider planting for their looks as well as their edibility are those which spill out into a large pleasing shape. Think summer squash, which grows quickly into an enormous plant but does not send spreading runners all over. A big beautiful zucchini planting is the perfect choice for sunny spots to cover a lot of bare ground without getting out of control.

And don’t forget flowers. I know that sounds confusing, because I have been telling you about planting vegetables instead of flowers, but you can have both in the same plant. Remember that most of what we call “vegetables” are technically “fruit,” because they come from the fruiting part of the plant. That means that before peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers and peas become food, they must blossom—and “blossom” is another name for flower, of course.

Some vegetable flowers are more visually appealing than others. One of the most stunning is okra, with its deep yellow hibiscus-related blooms. Many eggplant varieties have lovely blossoms, as do most summer squashes. An added bonus to summer squash blossoms is that they can be eaten while in the flower stage; be sure to choose male blossoms so as to avoid diminishing fruit production—along with other edible flowers such as nasturtiums or daylilies.

Don’t Forget Containers!

Containers can dress up vegetables, too. Window boxes are a good place for shorter vegetables, either alone or mixed in with ornamentals, and aromatic selections such as basil or other herbs add an extra pleasing punch. Gardeners can create attractive locations for vegetables by upcycling reclaimed vessels and materials, building raised beds out of cordwood masonry, and using artistic shapes for beds. The sky is truly the limit here, and just about anything is possible. As an example, I was able to acquire a small homemade canoe from a custom boat maker. It was a failed experiment on his part, but it looks wonderful in my yard. I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, filled it with soil, and the summer squash I planted in it is flowing gracefully out over the gunwales.

Ornamental edibles need not be just annuals. Consider highbush blueberries with their lovely fall foliage, miniature crabapple trees, hazelnut bushes, grape arbors, borders of high-climbing hops, and even rhubarb beds.

There is no need to divert precious time and money from food production for the sake of curb appeal. Instead, choose dual-purpose plants for practical eating and decorative appeal.

What edibles would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

It’s The Forgotten Edible They Collected In Bathtubs During The Great Depression.

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It’s The Forgotten Edible They Collected In Bathtubs During The Great Depression.

Quick. What are the healthiest greens growing in your garden? Lettuce? Spinach? Kale? These crops, and others like them, are planted, cultivated and harvested in many gardens around the country. We pay money for their seeds. We often run water to help them grow. And then after a few weeks, our garden greens are ready to be harvested.

There is a possibility, though, that you may be removing a plant from your garden that rivals even kale in its nutritional value. This common garden green has earned many names over the centuries, but is commonly known as lamb’s quarters.

History

Lamb’s quarters is a green with a rich history. The Romans and people in the Medieval Ages readily consumed it. Entire towns actually acquired their names due to the abundance of the plant.

The nutritional benefits of lamb’s quarters weren’t a secret only to Europeans. In fact, people in the New World also were keen of this healthy wild food. Native people across the country consumed the greens and also harvested the seeds and ground them for flour. Even in the more modern world, people have looked to lamb’s quarter to sustain them.

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In her book “Wild Seasons,” author Kay Young tells a story about how people during the Great Depression utilized this green. Her story comes from a retired meter reader who spent his days traveling around Kansas City in the 1930s. During this difficult time, the meter reader claims to have regularly seen bathtubs full of lamb’s quarters being washed and prepared for canning. It also was one of the few edible greens growing in abandoned city lots.

At a recent family gathering, my wife’s grandmother — now in her early 80s — told of commonly eating lamb’s quarters as a child. Although she was surprised to learn how nutritious it is, she wasn’t surprised at all to learn how people during the Great Depression ate it.

Identification

If you have a garden, there is a good chance you have some lamb’s quarters popping up. There are many varieties of the plant, also known as Chenopodium, but the varieties generally consumed have some similarities.

First, the leaf structure of the plant resembles the shape of a goose foot. (Because of this, it’s commonly called goose food.) Another identifying feature is a purplish coloration on the nodes of mature plants. When you are examining it near the stem, you will notice a series of ridges that run vertically down the stem. Perhaps the most distinguishable feature, though, is a white powder coating the plant. This white powder is hydrophobic and repels water. If the “weed” you are about to pull from your garden has these characteristics, it may in fact be the ultra-nutritious wild food.

Story continues below video

 

Recipe

If you have located some lamb’s quarters and want to enjoy it, you can prepare it several ways. One way is to eat young leaves raw. While the plant can be eaten raw, it does contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can cause a number of problems if eaten in high volume. Fortunately, many recipes call for the leaves to be boiled. Blanching your leaves in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes removes most of the acid. It may be wise to limit your consumption early on in your foraging and to blanch the leaves, too.

It’s The Forgotten Edible They Collected In Bathtubs During The Great Depression.

Image source: Pixabay.com

One tasty recipe comes from Kay Young’s book. It was contributed by a Nebraskan who recalled the dish from her childhood. First, gather a few cupfulls of lamb’s quarters leaves. Three cups seems to be a good amount for a single person. Next, drop the washed leaves in a pot of boiling water for two minutes. This not only removes much of the oxalic acid, but it also will tenderize the greens. After two minutes, remove the greens and drain away the excess water. Next, drop the greens into a pan coated in hot bacon grease. Cook the greens until heated throughout, and then remove. Once removed from the pan, you can season with salt, pepper and vinegar to taste.

Words of Caution

With a rich history, high nutritional value and great taste, you may be wondering how lamb’s quarters fell out of favor. It is a good question. While the answer may not be straightforward, here are a few factors that may have contributed to its decline.

Although lamb’s quarters is great feed for chickens (earning it the nickname “fat hen”), it can be poisonous to grazing animals. The problem occurs when the plant is grown under drought conditions, forcing it to absorb high levels of nitrates from the ground.

Another factor that led to the devaluing of this nutrient-dense plant was the introduction of spinach to the European table. Folks swapped out their historically valued food for one they thought was more delicious. Personally, I’ve found the taste of both leaves very palatable when boiled and seasoned.

Finally, the build-up of oxalic acid potentially can cause health problems. One such problem may be the formation of kidney stones. When experimenting with a wild food, it is best to proceed in small doses and see how your body reacts.

Final Thoughts

When weeding your summer garden, it might be worth keeping an eye open for a plant with a leaf resembling a goose’s foot. It could be a hidden boon rather than a dreaded weed. Not only will it add some additional nutrition to your plate, but it may allow you to spend less time weeding, and more time enjoying the fruits of the harvest. More nutritious, less maintenance, less money spent — what’s not to love?

Have you ever eaten lamb’s quarters? Share your thoughts on it in the section below:

Survival 101: The Right Way To Determine If A Plant Is Edible

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Survival 101: The Right Way To Determine If A Plant Is Edible

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When those in the survivalist and prepping community talk about living off the land, the focus tends to be on hunting, with maybe a little fishing thrown in for variety. Being a carnivore myself, I happen to like that idea, but in reality, it’s not a complete picture. Our ancestors, if you go back far enough, lived as hunter/gatherers. We tend to focus on the hunting part, without talking much about the gathering part.

Hunting is all about animal protein, while gathering is about plants. Whether it’s nuts, berries, fruit, leaves or roots, plant life helps to sustain us as much as animal protein does. In fact, those who claim expertise in nutrition tell us that it should be the larger part of our diet.

Yet few of us know enough to gather plants for food, should we find ourselves in a survival situation. That’s dangerous, as it denies us a major source of the nutrition that we’ll so desperately need. Not only that, but last I checked, a plant can’t run away from us when we’re hunting it. So, gathering should actually be an easier way to find food.

For this reason, a good guide to edible plants should be a part of everyone’s bug-out bag and survival kit. If you can find a pocket version, that would be even better. Just make sure that it deals with the plants in the region where you live and not something that’s on the other side of the country.

But what if you don’t have that guide? Or what if you’re having trouble finding the plants listed in it? Can you still eat the plants you find, or is that something to be avoided at all costs?

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Survival 101: The Right Way To Determine If A Plant Is Edible

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The answer to these questions is yes … and no. For every plant that we eat, somebody, sometime, had to be the first to try it. They either found it to be tasty and nutritious, or they found it to be poisonous. In the latter case, hopefully all that happened was an upset stomach. But I’m sure that in some cases, people died with their bellies full of the wrong plants, simply because they didn’t know that they were poisonous.

There is an accepted process for determining if plants are safe to eat. Called the “universal edibility test,” this process reduces the risk of trying new plants as food. If you are caught in a situation where it could be necessary to eat plants that you are unaccustomed to, knowing this process could save your life.

What to Avoid

When we’re talking about edible plants, we need to understand that any plant is composed of various parts. Some might be edible, while others are not. There are even cases where one part of the plant is commonly eaten, while another is deadly poisonous.

These plant parts are:

  • Roots.
  • Stems.
  • Leaves.
  • Flowers.
  • Fruit and seeds (including nuts and berries).

When you’re testing any plant’s edibility, only check one part of the plant at a time. Don’t assume that just because one part is edible, others are, as well. You’ll have to perform the same test for each part, before you can declare it edible.

But to start, let’s look at what sorts of plants to avoid. Plants that have the following characteristics are probably not safe to eat, no matter how much they look like they’d be an ideal addition to your salad:

Survival 101: The Right Way To Determine If A Plant Is Edible

Image source: Pixabay.com

Not Safe to Eat

  • Mushrooms that you are not familiar with.
  • Any plants growing near contaminated water.
  • Plants with shiny leaves.
  • Plants with groups of three leaves.
  • Plants that create a stinging sensation when touched.
  • Plants with a foul odor.
  • Any plants that have a bitter or soapy flavor.
  • Plants that have a milky sap in the stems.
  • Beans, bulbs or seeds which grow inside pods. While some of these are safe to eat, proportionally there’s a greater chance of danger from them.
  • Any grains with pink, purplish or black spurs.

Doing the Universal Edibility Test

Once you’ve eliminated the plants listed above, it’s time to talk about what you can try to eat. Pick plants that are in abundance to run this test. If you’re going to put yourself through the trouble to do it, and take the risk associated with the test, you might as well get the most bang for your buck. Testing a plant that is in abundance will provide you with more potential food to eat.

If you have multiple members in your group, only one should try a particular plant or plant part. Different people can try different plants or plant parts, but there’s nothing to be gained by having two or three people run the same test, but there could be much to be lost.

Avoid waiting until you are starving to run your test. Properly run, the test takes a few days. If you wait, you’ll be tempted to cut corners, increasing your risk. You also want to fast for eight hours before starting the test, drinking only water. This will ensure that you are getting the results of the plant you are testing, not any other food. Likewise, during the test, don’t eat or drink anything but water.

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For the test itself, do the following steps in order:

Prepare the plant or plant part in the manner you expect to eat it. Cooking can eliminate chemical compounds and pathogens which otherwise would be dangerous to eat.

  1. Cool a portion and touch the cooked, but cooled portion briefly, checking for any burning sensation. Wait a few minutes to see if the area that had been in contact with the plant becomes red or gets a rash.
  2. Hold a small amount of the cooked, cooled plant part to the skin, allowing it to sit there for 15 minutes. Once again, look for burning, redness, itching, rash or blistering.
  3. Touch a small amount of the plant to the outer part of your lip, checking for any burning or itching. Wait 15 minutes for any reaction.
  4. Take a small portion (about ½ tsp.) and hold it on the tongue, without chewing, for 15 minutes; then spit it out. Once again, check for any symptoms, such as burning or itching.
  5. Chew a bite of the plant thoroughly for 15 minutes, without swallowing.
  6. If, at the end of 15 minutes, there are no symptoms from contact with the plant, swallow it. Wait eight hours for any reaction. The main symptoms you are looking for in this time are abdominal pain and/or vomiting. If either occurs, drink a lot of purified water.
  7. If there are no ill effects from the bite of food after eight hours, eat a small portion, about ¼ cup and wait another eight hours. If no negative symptoms occur, you can declare the plant safe to eat.

While this process may seem tedious, it is safe. There is no reason to take any unnecessary risk in any survival situation. Using this process reduces risk. Even if a plant is poisonous, by following these steps, there is a good chance that the person who is testing the plant will survive with nothing more than a stomach ache.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Long-Lasting Breads You Can Stockpile For YEARS and YEARS

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Long-Lasting Breads You Can Stockpile For YEARS and YEARS

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Bread is likely the most common food in homes, villages and cities around the world. Every culture has developed their own bread recipes, and some have developed recipes specifically to extend shelf-life. In this article, we’ll cover a range of factors that affect shelf life. We’ll also share some recipes.

Factors That Impact Shelf Life

The primary cause of bread spoilage is mold. Every loaf contains dormant spores, waiting for the right conditions to grow. This resulting fungus or bread mold can actually be toxic. In fact, yeast — a primary ingredient in many bread recipes — is a form of fungus. As warm water, sugar and flour come in contact with the yeast, it feeds and reproduces. This causes the yeast to give off a waste product: carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is what causes a bread to rise and give it a soft texture and larger size.

The good news is that yeast is somewhat benign when it comes to spoilage. Throughout the day spores are drifting through the air in our kitchens and pantries; all it takes is one spore to come in contact with a slice or a loaf, and the mold begins to grow. That’s one reason why it’s so important to keep bread sealed in a plastic bag or at least wrapped in paper. If bread is carelessly put into the bread drawer, bin or pantry without being properly sealed, the spores have free access to the loaf.

But even when properly sealed in an airtight bag, there are other factors affecting bread shelf life:

  • Ingredients such as eggs, milk and sugar create a petri dish environment for the accelerated growth of mold. Any bread made with these types of ingredients should be eaten as soon as possible or stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • The storage space also can affect rapid growth of mold. That’s why bread boxes and bread drawers are usually sealed carefully to limit the exposure to ambient spores in the air.
  • Preparation style also can affect bread shelf life. The more a bread dough is mixed and kneaded, the more oxygen is incorporated into the bread. Oxygen is another factor that encourages the rapid growth of mold. This is not to say that a bread should not be mixed or kneaded, but only to the point necessary. Over-mixing or kneading just adds more oxygen.
  • Moisture can trigger mold growth at a surprising rate. Areas of high humidity can be extremely challenged by bread spoilage. The location of the bread also can increase its exposure to humidity. It’s another reason why it should be sealed and kept in a proper storage space.

Techniques for Extending Shelf Life

These techniques to extend the shelf life of bread do not include the use of artificial preservatives often found in store-bought bread.

Temperature has a significant effect on mold growth. Spores, molds and fungus prefer a warm temperature to thrive and grow. Room temperature is not ideal if you want to extend the shelf life of breads. However, refrigeration can inhibit mold growth up to an additional two weeks Freezing can extend shelf life even more.

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Ingredients like salt, water and vinegar as opposed to milk, sugar and butter can also inhibit mold growth, but here again it’s a matter of days at room temp.

Some people have reported that allowing dough to rise in the refrigerator overnight after being carefully wrapped can inhibit mold growth. Once again, it only adds days to the shelf life.

This is actually the most significant technique for extending bread shelf life. (See recipes below.)

The Bread Shelf-Life Scorecard

Here’s a quick overview of bread shelf life. These are estimates from various sources, and the factors affecting bread spoilage can vary as we’ve already discussed.

  • Gluten-free.
    • Pantry – 3 days.
    • Refrigerator – 1 week.
    • Freezer – 1 month.
  • Homemade white or wheat bread.
    • Pantry – 3 to 7 days.
    • Refrigerator – 1 week.
    • Freezer – up to 2 months.
  • Store-bought bread (with preservatives).
    • Pantry – 5 to 7 days.
    • Refrigerator – 1 to 2 weeks.
    • Freezer – 3 months.
  • Sourdough bread.
    • Pantry – 7 to 10 days.
    • Refrigerator – 2 to 3 weeks.
    • Freezer – 3 to 4 months.
  • Matzo bread.
    • Pantry when stored properly up to 2.5 years.
    • When stored properly in an enclosed container 5 to 10 years.

The clear winners for long-term shelf life are matzo bread and hardtack. However, they do not present the typical, soft texture that we typically associate with bread. But in a situation requiring a long shelf life, they can fulfill the bread function as a foodstuff and actually taste pretty good. Here are the recipes:

Basic Hardtack Recipe

Long-Lasting Breads You Can Stockpile For YEARS and YEARSA piece of hardtack from the Civil War was determined to be not only preserved, but edible. The thing you need to know about hardtack is that it’s more of a thick, hard cracker and needs to be soaked in milk, water, broth or coffee to soften it up. This is an unleavened bread that was often present on old sailing ships crossing the oceans. Our pioneer ancestors, in addition to soldiers in various wars and skirmishes, ate it often.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of flour.
  • 2 cups of water.
  • 3 tsp. of salt.

Directions

Mix the flour, water and salt together, and make sure the mixture is fairly dry. Roll it out to about half-inch thickness and cut it into 3-by-3 inch squares; poke holes in both sides. Place on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet, and cook for 30 minutes per side at 375-degrees Fahrenheit.

When done, let it dry and harden for a few days in an open space like a countertop. When it has achieved the consistency of a brick, it’s fully cured. Store it in an airtight container or bucket. To prepare for eating, soak in water or milk for about 15 minutes, and then fry in a buttered skillet. You can eat it with cheese, soup or just plain with a little salt added.

Basic Matzo Bread Recipe

Matzo bread is the unleavened bread from the Bible that sustained the Israelites across their travels and wanderings. It, too, is more of a cracker than a traditional bread but can be eaten without soaking in liquid like hardtack. The top end of the shelf life for matzo bread is two and a half years when stored in a dry place.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
  • 3 cup of water (and more if needed).
  • ½ teaspoon of kosher salt.
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

Directions

Move an oven rack near the top of the oven and preheat it to 475-degrees Fahrenheit. Preheat a heavy baking sheet in the oven.

Dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with 1 teaspoon flour, or as needed. Place 1 cup of flour into a mixing bowl; set a timer for about 16 minutes. Start the timer; pour the water, about 1 tablespoon at a time, into the flour. Stir the water and flour together with a fork until the dough forms a rough ball. Remove the dough to the prepared work surface, knead rapidly and firmly until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces; cut each piece in half again to get 8 pieces total. Swiftly roll each piece into a ball. Roll each piece of dough out into a 5-inch pancake, dusting the top and rolling pin with flour as needed. Gradually roll the pancakes out to a size of about 8 inches, increasing the size of each by about 1 inch, then letting the dough rest for a few seconds before rolling again to the finished size. Roll from the center out. The bread rounds should be very thin.

Using a fork, quickly pierce each bread about 25 times, all over, to prevent rising. The holes should go completely through the bread. Flip the bread over, and pierce each piece another 25 times with the fork.

With at least 5 minutes left on the timer, remove the hot baking sheet from the preheated oven, and place the rounds onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet onto the rack near the top of the oven, and bake for 2 minutes; turn the bread over and bake an additional 2 minutes, until the matzos are lightly browned and crisp.

Have you ever made matzo bread or hardtack? What tips would you add? How do you extend the shelf life of bread? Share your thoughts in the section below:

3 Ways To Determine If Old Food Is Edible

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3 Ways To Determine If Old Food Is Edible

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Whether you stockpile food in your pantry, basement, root cellar or your bug-out bag, the biggest problem is that some or most of it will go bad at some point. Plus, the bigger the stockpile, the harder it is to manage, and this only increases the chances of you having to throw food away.

Let’s assume you’re rotating your food at least twice a year. The only thing left to do is to look for signs of spoilage.

Spoilage is caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, mold (microscopic fungi) and yeast, if and when they have the right conditions to thrive and multiply. The list of issues is not that big: oxygen, light, humidity and temperature can cause a variety of bacteria and fungi to develop.

Always ask three questions when checking whether food is good to eat:

What Does it Smell Like?

Smelling is a good way to determine whether meat and dairy are spoiled. If it smells rancid or sour, you might as well throw it away.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

The smell test, though, only works for some foods (such as milk, meats and cooking oils). Just keep in mind that not all bacteria smell bad. Which leads us to our next test …

What Does it Look Like?

If it smells OK, then examine it carefully. Look for discoloration or mold forming anywhere on the surface.

Yeast and molds are more likely to form on fruits, veggies and other acidic foots that have been stored improperly or for long periods of time.

Bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables all can be affected by mold, which could look like grey fur, white dots or a white dust. Keep in mind that the mold also gets inside the food, not just on the surface. Although the right thing to do would be to throw the entire piece of fruit or veggie away, many people have reported that throwing away only the infected part worked well for them. Still, I recommend the first option.

3 Ways To Determine If Old Food Is Edible

Image source: Pixabay.com

Besides mold, you should also be on the lookout for yeast (false yeast to be precise, because true yeast is the kind used for fermentation). It can develop on high acidic foods or foods high in sugars. Expect to see it in fruit juice bottles, fruit yogurts, and so on. Yeast can be easily identifiable under close examination, but just because it looks good, don’t expect it to taste good.

Speaking of visual cues, you should be extra careful with canned food. If the lid is dented, bulged, cracked or if there are bubbles around it, you should immediately throw away the can. In fact, you should make sure not even your pet would be able to eat it. It’s most likely infected with a toxin called botulism. Bacteria from botulism are nearly impossible to spot because they’re so small, yet they’re more dangerous than yeast and mold.

Also, keep in mind that discolored food inside food also is a sign of spoilage. Plus, in the case of store-bought canned food, always check the expiration date and use an organizer for your #10 cans or even make one yourself. Although the shelf life can range between two and five years, I would strongly recommend you eat and replace them after a year.

What Does it Taste Like?

If food tastes bad, you’ll know right away. But don’t use the taste test for canned food and meat. If they’re infected with bacteria, the danger is greater, so taste-tasting is a bad idea.

Of course, just because food tastes bad, it doesn’t mean it’ll make you sick – at least, not according to the director of the Center for Food Safety from the University of Georgia in Griffin, Ga., quoted by ABC News — but you probably don’t want to take that chance. As the article suggests, one way to ensure proper food storage in your fridge is to keep it a 40 degrees Fahrenheit and, of course, to eat it in a timely manner.

Though it would take a sample and a lab to be absolutely sure a food is safe to eat, for preparedness purposes you just have to follow the above advice and the No. 1 rule: When in doubt, throw it out!

What is your advice on checking the edibility of food? Share your tips in the section below:

The Cholesterol-Lowering ‘Weed’ Hidden In Your Yard

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The Cholesterol-Lowering ‘Weed’ Hidden In Your Yard

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It grows everywhere, and it’s persistent in its growing. But many homeowners rip the plant out of their gardens, yards and walkways without a second thought.

It is purslane. You may not even know its name, yet you certainly have seen it growing.

This little weed, though, actually is a beneficial herb. It is native to Asia, popular in the Mediterranean, and is a typical hot-weather herb. It does not like frost, and will not grow until the soil is warm, usually in May. It is drought-resistant, probably because it retains water in its tube-like stems.

When examining the leaves of purslane, you will notice they are fleshy and green, with red stems and bright yellow flowers. The leaves are thick and smooth, with a paddle shape, and are about one and a half to two inches long.

Purslane is remarkably high in omega-3 fatty acids – which can help lower bad cholesterol — and contains more of it than any other leafy green. It also has calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Additionally, it is high in vitamins A and C and pectin, the latter of which can lower bad cholesterol, too.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

Not bad for something you usually yank out of the garden!

Planting Your Own Purslane

If you don’t have purslane in your yard, you can grow it. You will have to find it first! In its wild state, purslane grows in a flat, circular, horizontal position of up to 16 inches across. You also can simply buy seeds from a garden center.

If you are harvesting wild purslane, stay away from plants growing by the road or where chemicals have been sprayed. You will want to find the most organic and healthy plants possible.

When you find a plant, you can collect some seeds. If you would rather deal with seedlings, then cut a couple of stems. Sowing the seeds is quite easy. Simply scatter the seeds over the prepared soil. You don’t need to cover them; let them sit on the surface, as they need sunlight to germinate. If it makes you feel better, spread a thin layer of soil over the seeds.

The Cholesterol-Lowering ‘Weed’ Hidden In Your Yard

Image source: Pixabay.com

Purslane cuttings can be laid on the soil, after which you can water the stems. They should take root after a few days. It is a care-free plant once it starts growing.

Purslane is an annual and takes four to six weeks to fully mature. It usually reseed itself, but you can gather seeds just to be safe. It likes partly sunny, to full sun areas.

The soil type doesn’t seem to matter too much to this plant, but the ground needs to be clear and recently turned. Purslane likes the combination of moisture and heat, and it does well during wet summers.

Harvest it regularly or it can become invasive in your garden. (Harvest before it flowers to control its spreading.)

Using Purslane

It has a crunchy and lemon or citrus-like taste. The last inch or two of the plant is the most delicious, so when you gather it to eat, make sure you get the whole plant — the stems and the leaves. If you are trying to thin out a patch, simply pull it out by the roots. Keep it cool until you can wash and trim it.

Purslane goes well in salads and can be used as garnishes or in sandwiches (preferably by using the tender, young leaves).

You can use it to substitute for spinach or watercress, as well as to thicken stews or soups.

Make your own pesto by combining these ingredients:

  • Purslane, with stems and all.
  • Olive oil.
  • Garlic.
  • Pine nuts.
  • Hot watercress.

Blend thoroughly.

Whether you want to call purslane a weed or an herb, there is no denying the healthy benefits of this often-overlooked plant.

Do you eat purslane? What advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

8 Coffee Substitutes You Can Grow In ANY Climate

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8 Coffee Substitutes You Can Grow In ANY Climate

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If you’re trying to raise as much of your own food as possible, a coffee habit can be a real problem. Most people’s morning cup comes from thousands of miles away, involving a lot of unfortunate environmental and human consequences.

Enjoying coffee is a daily ritual that brings comfort and time for contemplation. A casual conversation with friends or family, the warm mug in our hands, or just the excuse to take a few minutes for ourselves. If you’re looking for a coffee substitute that you can grow or forage yourself, there are a lot of compelling options.

1. Beech nuts

Beech trees are easy to identify and produce large amounts of a distinctive nut that can be collected in the fall. The thin shells are easily and quickly peeled off by hand, allowing the nut to be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. Deer are particularly fond of beech nuts, and if you don’t know if you have beech trees in your area, ask a local hunter where you can find them.

2. Chicory root

Perhaps the most common and well-known coffee substitute, some brands of coffee actually include roasted ground chicory root in with the coffee to enhance the flavor and stretch the coffee further. In the U.S., this is known as New Orleans Style Coffee, and results in a smooth coffee with a slight mocha flavor. Straight chicory coffee has a blacker-than-black color, and is delicious drink with a bit of sugar to balance out the flavor. Harvest the roots before the plant flowers for a less bitter brew.

3. Dandelion root

8 Coffee Substitutes You Can Grow In ANY Climate A bit easier for most people to find and identify, dandelion root makes some of the best-tasting coffee of any wild substitute. Fancy farm-to-table restaurants across the country are marketing dandelion lattes with their local bacon on the breakfast plate, and why not? It’s a much-cheaper alternative, but still tastes great. Just like chicory coffee, for the best dandelion coffee harvest the roots before the plants flower for the most delicious brew. If you only notice your dandelions after they’ve gone to flower, harvest them anyway; they’re still almost as good.

4. Burdock root

Burdock is easy to identify in the fall of the second year by its large leaves and round burs that stick to just about everything.

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Growing nearby the second-year roots, you should be able to find smaller first-year plants without seed burs. First-year roots make the best coffee and can be harvested in the late fall, dried in an oven and roasted to produce a naturally detoxifying coffee substitute.

5. Cleavers fruit

Known as cleavers for its reported ability to “cleave” illness from the body, this natural medicine also makes an excellent coffee substitute. It’s an extremely common weed, slowly spreading across the ground and climbing in a tangled mass over rocks or stumps. It produces small flowers that turn into tiny cleavers fruits that can be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute.

6. Kentucky coffee tree

As the name suggests, Kentucky coffee tree beans can be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. The name stems from a marketing ploy, back when coffee was expensive and hard to get in inland areas away from ports. Land developers told people that in Kentucky, they could harvest a plant that would make a great substitute.

7. Sow thistle

An aggressive weed closely related to the dandelion, sow thistle produces prickly leaves and sends up long shoots with yellow, dandelion-like flowers. Its greens are edible and medicinal, and in some places in the world it’s actually cultivated as a vegetable, but more importantly, the tap root makes an excellent coffee substitute similar to dandelion coffee.

8. Acorn coffee

Though bitter if not prepared correctly due to the tannic acid, if acorns are first thoroughly soaked and ground, they can be roasted into an acceptable coffee substitute. Some mention this as a tastier use for them than trying to use them as flour or porridge, but others note that they’re a far cry from real coffee.

What is your favorite coffee substitute? Share your tips in the section below:

4 High-Fat Foods You Should Eat Every Single Day

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4 Fattening Foods You Should Eat Every Single Day

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Just the mention of “fat” turns off people, but some fats are good for your health and are part of an essential diet.

Better yet, they can lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, improve immune function, aid in liver and kidney functions, and keep our bodies fit and trim.

The key to using these fats is to learn how to cook with them while using the most desirable options.

Ready to learn what fattening foods you should add to your diet?

1. Avocados

Avocados are crammed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat as well as antioxidants. A potent amount of monounsaturated fat aids in the reduction of low-density lipoproteins, otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol. Hence, eating avocados increases high-density lipoproteins or “good” cholesterol levels. Additionally, this incredible green fruit is full of vitamins, plant nutrients, and minerals which support the liver’s overall health. It also contributes to breaking down other kinds of fats.

It gets even better!

Avocados have a smooth, silky, texture that can be used as butter or an oil substitute. In fact, if you mash avocados good enough, you can use the paste as a substitute in recipes that call for mayo. Avocado paste can make any recipe calling for mayo, butter or oil that much healthier without the worry of unhealthy fats clogging your arteries.

The key to using avocados as a delicious mayo, butter or oil substitute is in knowing how to pick out the best avocados! While shopping, you will want to look for avocados without blemishes. Plus, make sure they don’t have dents in them, either. They should be all the same color — a greenish-black — if you are going to use them right away. This color indicates ripeness, which makes them easier to mash. Using ripe avocados will add the most enriched flavor to your dishes. However, if you are not going to be using the avocados right away, pick out the more greenish ones. This will give you a couple of days before you need to use them. If they do not ripen quickly enough, you can put them in a brown paper bag for about 12 hours.

2. Nuts

All nuts contain fat and oils that fringe with elegant, but robust, toasty flavors. Plus, nuts are perfect for adding texture and taste to any recipe.

Nuts contain “good” cholesterol and contribute to lowering “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. Further, nuts contain protein and carbohydrates. Some variety of nuts are high in calories, but if you think you need to avoid them to maintain your weight, think again. Nuts actually make you feel full quicker than eating other foods with the same amount of calories because they contain dense calories. This means you eat less and feel fuller. This is perfect for those on a diet!

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Walnuts contain a high level of amino acid l-arginine, which aids the liver in detoxifying ammonia and the kidneys in removing waste. Walnuts also include omega-3 fatty acids and glutathione, which contribute to natural liver-cleansing methods.

4 High-Fat Foods You Should Eat Every Single Day

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There are several ways to extract oil from nuts to use for cooking. The easiest for home use might be by using an oil press. Oil from nuts can go bad quickly, so keep it in a tightly sealed jar, and in a cool, dry place.

You also can mash up nuts to use as a flour or filler substitute. Additionally, nuts are great roasted, on salads, and mixed with veggies, as well

3. Fish and shellfish

The fats in fish are extremely healthy for your heart. Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are all excellent sources of omega-3s. Further, fish and shellfish are high in protein and low in bad fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to keeping your arteries clean and free-flowing. Otherwise known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in brain function. Omega-3s may reduce the risk of heart disease, as well.

The key is to buy high-quality fish and shellfish. First, find a trustworthy seafood merchant. Then, when choosing fish fillets, make sure that they are clear and have no slits in the flesh. If you can, buy the fish whole as opposed to cuts, as a whole fish is usually of a better quality. When buying a whole fish, check the gills to make sure they are red and the scales to make sure they are shiny. The eyes should be clear and bulging.

4. Extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil adds refined flavoring, texture and aroma to almost anything. It’s the perfect medium for sautéing and isn’t overpowering.

Olive oil that is truly extra virgin has a distinguishing taste and is potent in phenolic antioxidants, the primary reason why (real) olive oil is extremely valuable to your health.

Extra-virgin olive oil can be your go-to for finishing and as a salad oil. Pure olive oil should have excellent clarity, and it should also contain a tinge of green to show that it was prepped when the olives were fresh and ripe. Light can damage olive oil, so store it in a dark bottle.

What foods would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Sources:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Good-vs-Bad-Cholesterol_UCM_305561_Article.jsp#.WNV2pfnyuUk

http://www.webmd.com/heart/arginine-heart-benefits-and-side-effects#1

http://bodyecology.com/articles/6_benefits_monosaturated_fats.php

https://authoritynutrition.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil/

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Polyunsaturated-Fats_UCM_301461_Article.jsp#.WNV2WvnyuUk

https://medlineplus.gov/antioxidants.html

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf8002174

The 12 Foods The Government Wants You To Stockpile (But Is It Enough?)

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The 12 Foods The Government Says You Should Stockpile (But Is It Enough?)

Photographer: Mike Mozart / Flickr / Creative Commons

It’s hard to quantify, but the modern prepping movement has at least, in part, been caused by the government. I am not referencing fear in the government doing something stupid that would force us into survival mode (although that is possible), but instead in promoting the idea of disaster preparedness.

FEMA’s Ready.gov website contains a host of information on how to prepare for a pending disaster, and radio commercials promote the idea, too. While not the best information in the world, it’s a good starting point for the novice prepper.

Of course, many if not most preppers don’t pay much attention to the FEMA website. Part of that could be because few of us trust the government all that much. But a much bigger part is that the government’s idea of prepping really doesn’t go far enough.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

Let’s take a look at the list of Suggested Emergency Food Supplies that FEMA has on their website:

  1. Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener
  2. Protein or fruit bars
  3. Dry cereal or granola
  4. Peanut butter
  5. Dried fruit
  6. Nuts
  7. Crackers
  8. Canned juices
  9. Non-perishable pasteurized milk
  10. Vitamins
  11. Food for infants
  12. Comfort/stress foods

That’s it — a dozen things. While all of those are good choices, there’s no way that I would consider them enough. But then, I take a much different view of survival than what FEMA is promoting.

The 12 Foods The Government Wants You To Stockpile (But Is It Enough?)

Image source: Pixabay.com

FEMA takes the stance that you only need to be ready to take care of yourself for three days. That’s their target reaction time. At the end of the three days, FEMA supposedly will have assistance in place. There’s only one thing … FEMA has a very poor track record of meeting that goal.

So when FEMA talks about stockpiling food, they only talk about stockpiling three days of it. That’s probably where the idea of a bug-out bag only having three days of food originates. Personally, I don’t feel that three days is anywhere near enough, especially since I have no intention of ending up in a FEMA camp, waiting for the government to decide to let me go.

There were people digging in dumpsters, looking for food, six weeks after both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy (which occurred in Republican and Democratic administrations). That doesn’t give me a whole lot of faith in FEMA’s abilities. But I’m also concerned that whatever FEMA gives out, comes with a price. The price of government meddling in our lives. That’s a much higher price than paying for my own food, to build a descent stockpile.

Let’s go back to that list for a minute. While the foods contained in it are all good choices for a survival situation, there really isn’t enough there to create actual meals, unless you stockpile canned goods that can be put together to make a meal. While that is possible, it’s not anyone’s first choice. Canned foods do provide nutrition, but they are severely lacking in flavor.

If all you’re talking about is surviving three days, that’s not really an issue. You can live on peanut butter crackers and dried fruit for three days. For that matter, you can live without it for three days, just about as well. But you can’t simply buy more of the foods mentioned on this list and expect to have a three- or six-month stockpile. You’ll have to add other foods to it. I’m not going to talk about what other foods you should stockpile, as I’ve written other articles about it. Try this article or this one for more information.

Another problem with the list is that not all of these foods will store for a prolonged period of time, without rotating your stock. While some, like canned goods will last a long time, there are other things, like breakfast cereal and crackers, which will quickly become stale and unpalatable.

FEMA also suggests that you “choose foods your family will eat.” While that may seem to make sense, most of our families aren’t going to go for a healthy diet of survival food; they’re going to want something tasty. In other words, they’re going to want the same sorts of junk food that they’re used to eating. That doesn’t work, and it’s actually totally contradictory to the list of foods they’ve put together.

I prefer to say, “Figure out how to make the foods you are going to have to stockpile for survival palatable for your family.” This requires figuring out how to take the foods that you stockpile and adapting their flavor to meet your family’s tastes. While not easy, this is actually possible. All you need is a stock of the right spices, plenty of salt and maybe a few sauces, like spaghetti sauce.

You’ll have to do some experimenting to find ways of preparing the survival foods you’re going to stockpile in ways that will be palatable to your family. Take the time to make up some recipes, and make a small batch and test it on your family. If it doesn’t work, try modifying. That usually means adding more spices to give it more flavor.

I stockpile plenty of spaghetti sauce and cream of mushroom soup, as well as the spices used in making my own spaghetti sauce, so that I can restock from tomatoes I grow in my garden.

So, yes, the FEMA list contains a few items that should be in any stockpile. Just don’t stop there.

What do you think of FEMA’s tips and list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Best Immune-Building Soup Recipe … Ever?

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The Best Immune-Building Soup Recipe ... Ever?

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Let’s face it: Sometimes it’s just too difficult to remember to eat all the right things. When cold or flu season hits, however, I like to make up a double batch of this immune-building soup. I make a  batch large enough for two or three suppers (or lunches), and then freeze the other half for later. There are lots of different ways to make immune-building soups, but this is my favorite recipe.

You will need:

  • 10 average-sized garlic cloves
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small onions
  • ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ a teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly minced parsley

This recipe serves six; adjust as needed.

  1. In a large soup pot, add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Turn the heat on medium. Add 10 average-sized minced garlic cloves and two thinly sliced small onions. (Red, white, or yellow — your choice.) Sauté for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the onions are very soft.
  2. Chop about 4 medium-sized tomatoes and add them to the pot. Now add 2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth, 1 cup of tomato sauce, ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon of dried thyme and ½ a teaspoon of sugar.
  3. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup of freshly minced parsley (dried will do if you don’t have fresh on hand) and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

I hope you enjoy this garlic/tomato immune boosting soup as much as my family does.

Do you have your own favorite recipe? Share it in the section below:

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The First 15 Foods You Should Stockpile For Disaster

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The First 15 Foods You Should Stockpile For Disaster

Image source: TheKrazyCouponLady.com

 

A good stockpile of food will go a long way toward helping you survive the aftermath of any disaster or life crisis, especially when grocery stores are emptied.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there are people who are not preppers who nevertheless instinctively know to stockpile food. This really isn’t surprising when you consider that through most of mankind’s history, stockpiling food was essential to survival — specifically surviving the winter months. During those months, wildlife is bedded down trying to stay warm and plants are dormant. If one didn’t have a good stockpile of food, their chances of survival were pretty darn slim.

But knowing to stockpile food and knowing what to stockpile are two different things. The vast majority of what the average American family eats is unsuitable for stockpiling, because it falls into one of three categories:

  • Junk food – Lots of carbs, lots of sugar, lots of salt and lots of chemicals, but not much nutrition.
  • Fresh food – Foods that won’t keep without refrigeration.
  • Frozen food – It will begin to spoil within two days of losing electrical power.

So we need to come up with other foods — foods that will give us a lot of nutrition and also have the ability to be stored for a prolonged period of time. Here are what we consider the 15 most important ones:

  1. Beans – This is one of the more common survival foods. Not only are beans plentiful and cheap, but they provide a lot of protein — something that’s hard to find without meat.
  2. White rice – The perfect companion to beans. An excellent source of carbohydrates, and it stores well. [Note: Don’t store brown rice, which contains oils and will spoil.]
  3. Canned vegetables – A good way of adding micro-nutrients to your survival diet. Canned goods keep well, long past the expiration date on the label.
  4. Canned fruit – For something sweet, adding canned fruit allows you a nice change of diet. Being canned, they keep as well as the vegetables do.
  5. Canned meats – Of all the ways of preserving meat, canning is the most secure in protecting the meat from decomposition. While it doesn’t typically have as good a flavor as fresh meat, it still provides animal protein at the most reasonable price you’ll find.
  6. Honey – As long as you can keep the ants out of it, honey keeps forever. Plus, it is beneficial during cold season.
  7. Salt – Nature’s preservative. Most means of preserving foods require the use of salt. In addition, our bodies need to consume salt for survival.
  8. Pasta products – Pasta is a great source of carbohydrates, allowing you a lot of variety in your cooing. Besides that, it’s a great comfort food for kids. Who doesn’t like spaghetti?
  9. Spaghetti sauce – Obviously, you need this to go with the pasta. But it is also great for hiding the flavor of things your family doesn’t like to eat. Pretty much anything, with spaghetti sauce on it, tastes like Italian food — whether you’re talking about some sort of unusual vegetable or a raccoon that you caught pilfering from your garden.
  10. Jerky – While expensive to buy, jerky is pure meat, with only the addition of spices. Its high salt content allows it to store well, making it a great survival food. It can be reconstituted by adding it to soups and allowing it to cook.
  11. Peanut butter – Another great source of protein and another great comfort food, especially for the kiddies. It might be a good idea to stockpile some jelly to go with it.
  12. Wheat flour – For baking, especially baking bread. Bread is an important source of carbohydrates for most Americans. Flour also allows you to shake up the diet with the occasional batch of cookies or a cake.
  13. Baking powder & baking soda – Also for making the bread, cookies or cakes.
  14. Bouillon – Otherwise known as “soup starter,” this allows you to make the broth without having to boil bones on the stove for hours. Soups will probably be an important part of anyone’s diet in a survival situation, as they allow you to eat almost anything. Just throw it together in a pot and you’ve got soup.
  15. Water – We don’t want to forget to stockpile a good supply of water. You’ll go through much more than you expect. Experts recommend a minimum of one gallon per person per day, but remember: That’s just for drinking.

While this doesn’t constitute a complete list of every type of food that you should stockpile, it’s a good starting point. You’ll want more variety than this, but in reality, your family can survive for quite a while with just the 15 things on this list.

As your stockpile grows, add variety to it. One way of doing that is to create a three-week menu, with the idea of repeating that menu over and over. If you have everything you need to cook everything on that menu, you’ll have a fair assortment of food, and enough so that your family shouldn’t grow tired of it.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

9 Food Projects That Could Make You 100 Percent Self-Sufficient

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9 Food Projects That Could Make You 100 Percent Self-Sufficient

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Are you ready to feed your family?  If you want to reduce your dependency on the commercial food supply, you better start now. Establishing crops, building infrastructure, raising animals, and working out the kinks takes time, and you may have a few less successful years before you can really eat off the grid.

Assuming you have a house on cleared land, with at least one usable outbuilding already constructed, you will be able to focus on growing food. With long working days, attention to seasonal change and weather, efficient work practices, and regular routines, two adults can work the land for food within a few years.

Here’s nine foods that can make you 100 percent self-sufficient. Keep in mind that crops like lettuce – which is easy to grow and doesn’t store very long – aren’t on the list.

Protein

1. Beans. Reliable and easy to grow, beans are a nutritional staple for the homesteading family. Prepare the soil early, and plan on 2-3 months of growing before harvest.

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2. Poultry. If starting with chicks, expect 2-3 years of successful rearing, selection, brooding and culling before you will have your flock established. In the meantime, you will collect eggs and eat birds you choose not to keep in the flock. Start with 10-12 chicks, and plan for them to be around 3-4 months old before butchering.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

3. Rabbits. Rabbits are quick producers of meat for your family. It is not unreasonable to expect 20 or more rabbits per year from a single breeding pair. Allow for 1-2 years for your rabbits to become established. Select for breeding performance, health and size, and introduce new genetics regularly.

Grains

4. Corn. This is a prolific grain crop needing much nutrition from the soil and up to four months of heat for production. In your first year of growing corn, it is not unusual to have a lot of losses due to weather, pests or soil issues. However, once you have worked out the issues, corn can be an important staple grain. Plan on about two years of learning before cultivating a substantial harvest.

5. Wheat. One of the most common grains in the American diet, wheat is reasonably easy to grow but hard to harvest. Wheat is ready after around two months of hot weather. When planning to start wheat, figure in threshing and grinding time.

Fruits & Vegetables

6. Winter Squash. Grow winter squash to supply your family with important vitamins and to provide you with an easy keeper crop. Winter squash takes up to four months to mature, but you should be able to get a good yield in your first year with appropriate pest management and watering.

7. Apples. Although apples can be extremely useful, you need to plan on 6-10 years with your trees before they will bear fruit. Your patience will pay off, however, and planting apple trees is well worth the wait.

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9 Food Projects That Could Make You 100 Percent Self-Sufficient

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8. Potatoes. Potatoes are easy to start, and you can expect a good yield in your first year of growing them. Short-season varieties will grow in as little as two months, but longer-season varieties can take three months or more.

Extras

9. Honey. While not strictly necessary, honey is a fantastic sweetener on the homestead and comes with lots of nutritional benefit. However, bees take a while to get production ramped up. Your first-year harvest will be very small, but in the second year you can harvest up to 30 pounds of surplus honey from one hive (leaving the bees something to eat over the winter).

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Great Depression Soup: The Recipe You Better Save For Hard Times

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Great Depression Soup: The Recipe You Gotta Save For Hard Times

My parents were just toddlers when the Great Depression burst into their lives. It forever altered their view of the world, and not always in a good way.

My mother, in particular, would tell me horror stories about some of the things that went on during those years. Until the day she died, she always carried some sort of food in her purse, usually peanuts or crackers. She never forgot what it was to be truly hungry.

Perhaps the worst story she told me was that my paternal grandmother, who was in her early 20s at the time, woke up one January morning in a barn to find that her husband had just left her and their toddler in the night. She had no food, no money, no family, no place to live, and a baby to feed. She walked along the highway and offered her baby to anyone who would take her. She assumed that someone with enough money for a car had money to feed a baby.

These type of stories can give you nightmares and make you wonder how people survived! My mother told me many other amazing stories, about how they “just did without” or “made do” with what they had, but some of her stories were practical enough that we could still benefit from them if we should ever find ourselves in the same desperate circumstances.

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Great Depression Soup: The Recipe You Gotta Save For Hard TimesOne of those was how women shared food-stretching recipes, such as macaroni and cheese or fish gravy. One recipe my mother remembered clearly was called “depression soup,” although she said her father called it “garbage soup,” a name that would make my grandmother angry.

My grandmother had a large pot with a lid that she kept in the ice box or outside in the snow. Cans (or jars) of fruit or vegetables were filled with a bit of water, and then scraped out and put in the pot. Everything, and I mean everything, went in that pot: bread crumbs, a tablespoon of rice, a shriveled-up carrot, a half-rotten potato (just cut off the bad part), fish heads and tails, bits of garlic, chicken skin, necks, livers, hearts, the hard skin of onions, broccoli ends, carrot and radish greens — you name it; unless it was rotten, it went into that pot.

Once it was about half full, my grandmother added water, perhaps a tablespoon or two of bacon grease, and cooked it for two hours or so. And that would be dinner. If you were fortunate, she baked bread.

My mother remembers that some soups were better than others. Once they began raising rabbits, the bones were used as a base. Soup made with bones and vegetables had to be tastier than soup made with carrot tops, radish tops and some bacon fat.

The point here is that while we would never dream of eating Depression Soup for lunch, remembering how people survived on scraps, literally, might come in handy for tomorrow’s world. We aren’t promised a land of fruit and honey in the future, so knowing how our ancestors survived during hard times might one day ensure our own survival.

Would you eat Great Depression Soup? Is there a better way to make it? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Food Preservation Method The Rest Of The World Uses

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The Food Preservation Method The Rest Of The World Uses

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Most people are familiar with fermented foods in the form of alcoholic beverages, like beer and wine. Humans, though, have been experimenting with fermenting food for preservation and flavor enhancement for millennia, and yeast-based ferments that produce alcohol are only one type of fermentation.

Lacto-fermentation, or fermentation with lactic acid-producing bacteria, is used around the world to make and preserve food, and you may be surprised to learn that some of your favorite foods are actually produced with lacto-fermentation. Yogurt is one well-known example of a lacto-fermented food, and it’s where lacto-fermentation derives its name.

Lactobacillus is a strain of bacteria first studied for its ability to convert milk sugars into lactic acid — thus the reason for the “lacto” in the name. However, milk or dairy products are not required. It was later learned that lactobacillus can convert just about any sugar into lactic acid, even the naturally occurring sugars in raw meats and vegetables.

Some of the easiest lacto-fermented foods to make at home include vegetable-based ferments like sauerkraut, and naturally fermented pickles and kimchi. Condiments like Sriracha, soy sauce, miso paste and Worcester sauce are all fermented to give them their characteristic taste and long shelf life.

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Salt-cured meat products like salami, summer sausage and prosciutto are also lacto-fermented foods. They’re actually preserved less by the salt added to cure them, and more by the fact that lactic acid bacteria thrive in a high salt environment. Once the meat products are salted, lacto-fermentation takes over and cures the meat before the bacteria that grow more slowly in a high-salt environment can gain control.

The easiest way to get started with lacto-fermented foods is either with yogurt or sauerkraut.

Homemade Yogurt

With yogurt, you’re starting with heat-sterilized milk and adding a yogurt starter culture that contains Lactobacillus bacteria, usually just a few spoonfuls from a previous batch or a freshly bought plain yogurt from the store.

Start with a freshly sterilized jar, boiled for 10 minutes or put through a sanitize cycle on your dishwasher. Bring milk to 180 degrees (Fahrenheit) on your stovetop to freshly sterilize it, and then pour it into your clean sterile jar. Wait until it cools down to 90-100 degrees, and then add a few heaping spoonfuls of fresh newly opened yogurt, or a clean uncontaminated container from your last batch. Wrap the jar in a towel or place it in a warm water bath to keep it warm for 8-12 hours while the culture incubates. Be careful not to let the mixture go above 115 degrees, as it may kill off your starter culture. After 8-12 hours, you should have a thick tangy yogurt, and if not, give it a few more hours, and then place it in the fridge and enjoy.

Homemade Sauerkraut

For sauerkraut, you’re relying on the naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria present on the surface of all raw vegetables, and encouraging it along with the presence of a high-salt environment.

Finely chop a cabbage and pack tightly into a clean sterile jar. Cover with a brine made by dissolving 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt into each quart of water. Alternatively, mix the chopped cabbage with 3 tablespoons of salt for every 5 pounds of cabbage, and allow the salt to draw liquid out of the cabbage to create its own brine. Top off with a 1 1/2 tablespoon to 1 quart of water-salt brine if the water level does not completely cover the cabbage.

Make sure that the cabbage stays well below the water level, as any cabbage exposed to the air will likely spoil the batch. Use something clean, non-porous and non-reactive as a top weight to keep the cabbage below the water line. Try a small plate, smaller jar or a sealed plastic bag filled with water. Avoid anything made of metal, as it may react with the ferment.

Allow the sauerkraut to sit on the counter, ideally between 70 and 75 degrees and out of direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks. At that point, it can be placed into the refrigerator to slow the ferment, or kept on the counter for another week or two while it’s consumed. On the counter the flavor will continue to intensify as the ferment continues. Likewise, in the fridge the flavor will continue to develop, but much more slowly with the colder temperatures. Fully fermented sauerkraut should keep in the refrigerator for several months if kept uncontaminated.

Next Steps

Once you’ve tried these basic ferments, you can begin experimenting with more advanced techniques. Try making your own fermented hot sauce or naturally fermented pickles. Once you’re confident in your abilities, even seemingly intimidating meat ferments like duck breast prosciutto or summer sausage are easily made at home by just following simple recipes.

Have you ever made yogurt, sauerkraut or other lacto-fermented foods? Share your tips in the section below:

4 Forgotten Meat-Preservation Methods of the 1800s

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4 Forgotten Meat-Preservation Methods of the 1800s

The struggle to keep and store enough food is not a new problem, and as far back as 12,000 B.C., there is evidence of food preservation. The greatest tools to the ancients would have been sun and wind. Of course, we also can look to the Native Americans to learn how food was preserved. They smoked and salted meat to make it last longer.

Or we can look to the classically trained chefs of the 1800s. Their stories may not be as exciting or as fraught with peril as the American pioneers, but under certain kings they could be one bad meal away from the gallows!

1. Fat cap

Fat has an astounding ability to preserve. This is especially true when it rises to the top and seals in food. When fat cools and seals food in, it also keeps oxygen out. Without that precious oxygen, it takes much longer for the food to spoil. That is because bacteria need oxygen to proliferate.

One of the best ways to take advantage of this fat or fat cap is to create a stock or broth. Bone broth has become very popular and would work here, as well. As you simmer the bones in your stock or broth, try not to skim off the fat. (Although you do need to skim off the foam and impurities.)

As this mixture cools, you will see the fat cap begin to rise, form and solidify. Store this somewhere cool. A refrigerator is ideal for the modern homesteader, but a cool basement will work, as well, particularly in colder temperatures. In the fridge, you will get up to a month if you leave the fat cap undisturbed; you could get up to two weeks in a nice cool area.

2. Salt cure and hang

This is a combination of techniques and is one of my very favorite preparations. The best method comes from the world-famous chef, Jacques Pepin.

Traditionally it is to be used on the pork picnic or hind quarters. You will first have to salt this piece of meat for 30 days. Place it in a large container or odorless trash bag. Cover it completely with salt and leave it in a cool place for a month.

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After the month is up, wipe off the salt, but do not rinse it because we are in the business of dehydration with this preparation; rub it with some whiskey or bourbon. In France, they would tell us to use cognac but we are in America so I use what we make here.

Next, wrap this beauty in some cheesecloth or a breathable chef’s coat.

The timing is critical, as it will take six months to hang and dry. You must be aware of your climate and the time of the year. To do this right, you need a nice cool, dry environment that will stay that way for most of the six months. On the East Coast, that means hanging your pork around September or October and pulling it down in March or April.

After about three months, unwrap your meat and give it a look. Make sure it hasn’t fallen prey to bugs or something bigger! Also, there may be some mold growing on this meat and you will need to trim that off, as well. Rewrap and hang for the remainder of time.

Once you have reached the six-month mark, drop your meat and bring it inside. Touch the meat; is it springy in the center or solid? Cut it in half and look it over. If it’s not completely dry, it will still be gummy in the middle. Wrap it again and hang it for another month. If it’s dry, shave off any mold and unsightly pieces.

Eat it raw or use it to flavor soups, pastas and stews.

In today’s world, this might sound like a lot of work for something you cannot eat for six months, but if you killed an animal in September and you could have access to the meat six months later, that would be a huge benefit to the people who are storing food.

I have used this on the following cuts of meat as well:

  • Beef shoulder — same prep as pork
  • Deer hind quarter — same prep as pork
  • Duck breast — salt one week; hang 1 month
  • Goose breast — salt two weeks; hang 2 months.

3. Rillette

The rillette is a preparation that also takes advantage of the powerful preserving qualities of fat. This preparation is traditionally used for rabbit and is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a good hare.

Rillette

Rillette

The meat of a rabbit should be roasted slow and low in an oven until it gets tender. It is then minced or processed in a food processor with a mix of herbs. (Chefs of the 1800s, of course, would have used cleavers.) For this flavor, use lavender, thyme and oregano. Chill the meat at this point.

Add fat to this mixture, as that is what makes it a rillette. Traditionally duck fat is used for this and you want the mix to be pretty creamy. In other words, add chilled fat slowly into your food processor until you achieve a good balance. Season it if you wish with salt and pepper.

Divide your rillette into smaller containers and top each with some warmed duck fat that will harden like the fat cap we mentioned earlier.

I am not positive on shelf life of the rillette because they get eaten fast. I bet if you had tops to cover them and buried this in the ground during winter, they would last at least a month.

4. Confit

I have saved my very favorite chef prep method for last. To “confit” is to cook on extremely low heat, submerged in fat. It is basically deep fat baking instead of frying. The results are totally different from that of deep fat frying, though. Meat is transformed into something incredible at these low temps.

We will focus on duck legs, as that is the classic meat used. Salt the duck legs for 24 hours and cover them with a little fresh thyme. After 24 hours, rinse and place the legs in a nice deep baking dish. Next, cover with duck fat and bake at about 200 degrees for six hours.

The legs become juicy, tender and incredibly succulent. They are also covered in fat. I am sure you know where this is going. Once cooled, the fat will harden and prevent spoilage. Shelf life: one month.

What are your favorite old-time meat preservation methods? Share your tips in the section below:

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11 International Foods That Are Banned In The U.S.

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11 International Foods That Are Banned In The U.S.

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Did you know that there are some foods that are popular in other countries that are banned in the United States? In an effort to keep citizens safe from harm, the government has banned the following food items. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? You decide.

1. Kinder Surprise Chocolate Eggs. Popular in Europe, these eggs contain a non-edible toy hidden inside a plastic capsule.

Since a 1938 federal law prohibits non-edible objects within food products, Kinder Eggs are banned in this country. Each year, U.S. customs officials seize thousands of Kinder Eggs at the border, as travelers attempt to bring these potential choking hazards home.

2. Fugu. If it is not prepared properly, this Japanese puffer fish can kill you. Fugu contains potentially deadly amounts of tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that can cause paralysis or asphyxiation.

In the U.S. it is illegal to catch, to harvest, to serve or to eat fugu.

3. Casu Marzu. It may look like a creamy cheese, but Casu Marzu, a delicacy in Sardinia, Italy, is made by placing fly larvae into Pecorino cheese. When the larvae hatch, they speed up the fermentation process and help give the cheese its creamy texture.

That unusual – and unhealthy — means of production has caused it to be banned in the U.S.

4. Haggis. Haggis, a food produced in Scotland, contains sheep lung.

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The USDA has prohibited foods containing lungs since 1971, and haggis is no exception.

11 International Foods That Are Banned In The U.S.

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5. Ackee. In Jamaica, this fruit is often boiled and cooked with salted cod. However, when it has not ripened properly, ackee can contain dangerously high levels of hypoglycin A and B, which can lead to coma or death upon consumption.

6. Shark fin. Long a delicacy in China, shark fin has been banned in eight states, largely to support conservation efforts of certain shark species.

Shark finning, which has affected global shark populations, includes finning the shark and then throwing it back into the ocean.

7. Horsemeat. Although there is no official ban of horsemeat, federal law prohibits tax dollars being spent on the inspection of horsemeat and of horse slaughterhouses. Since USDA inspections are required for food that is sold here, this law effectively prevents horsemeat from being sold in U.S. restaurants or supermarkets.

8. Beluga caviar. The U.S. government has banned the importing of beluga caviar as a protective measure against overfishing of beluga sturgeon, primarily in the Caspian Sea.

9. Pig’s blood cake. A popular dish in Taiwan, pig’s blood cake includes pork blood and sticky rice. The USDA has banned it here due to sanitary concerns.

10. Sassafras oil. Sassafras has been banned because it has been linked with certain cancers and with liver and kidney damage. Artificial sassafras flavoring is used for making root beer in the U.S.

11. Queen conch. With overfishing threatening its population, the queen conch has been protected since 2003 by a U.S. law making importation of the large sea snail illegal.

Now that you know some of the foods our government banned, it is interesting to note another piece of food banning information. Since 2011, the French government has banned tomato ketchup in its elementary schools. Apparently, the government was concerned that the condiment, which is so omnipresent in the U.S., would overshadow the taste of French food.

Do you think some foods should be banned in the U.S.? Share your thoughts in the section below:  

Sources:

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/foods-illegal-in-the-united-states-of-america-thrillist-nation

https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryankincaid/banned-international-foods?utm_term=.vamn4AXwa#.ohwdQ9w2m

http://www.delish.com/food/g2012/banned-food/

http://www.oola.com/dishes/13793/17-international-foods-that-are-totally-banned-in-the-us-have-you-tried-any-of-these-before/

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3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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If you’re growing or foraging your own food for winter storage, there are plenty of options for keeping your family fed in the early days of winter. Many root crops, fruits and greens can keep for a few months cool and out of direct sun, even without a proper root cellar.

As the winter presses on, though, options start to dwindle and there are fewer and fewer choices in dependable home-raised crops that will take you all the way through the hunger gap into the first productive days of late spring and early summer. Nonetheless, humans survived millennia without refrigeration and long-term food shipments, so there’s plenty to get your family by.

There are multiple reasons you should look into long-term storage crops. What if spring and early summer crops fail? What happens when a full summer’s worth of crops fail and you’re heading into winter again, with just what you still have on hand?

In 2013 the Northeast experienced record rainfall and cloud cover in June, meaning that the growing conditions were more like an average northeast November. Crops rotted in the ground, and normally dependable summer and long-season fall crops were delayed by months or could not be grown at all. Looking back further, the year 1816 was dubbed “the year without a summer” because a volcanic eruption caused widespread climate problems, and many areas experienced blizzards and hard frosts literally every single month of the year.

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Of course, you also could pressure can, salt cure or dehydrate food to increase storage life, all of which require either special equipment or considerable time and effort to ensure that a food that would otherwise spoil stays palatable for longer than it would on its own.

There is a better way. By selecting foods that naturally store for extended periods of time without specialized effort or processing, you ensure survival and food security with minimal extra effort and in general minimize your consumption of processed foods of any sort. There’s something to be said for providing your own home grown, long-term food security, all without the need of special equipment or elaborate processing.

1. Nuts

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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While annual gardens and fruit orchards tend to get a lot of attention for providing food self-sufficiency, nut trees are a great investment to provide a stable fat and protein source to balance out your family’s diet. They have the added benefit of a long storage life, especially at cool temperatures.   All nuts keep best unroasted and left in the shell.

Hazelnuts, a high-yielding, easy-to-grow home crop, can keep up to two years held between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (in a cool unheated basement), or for just over a year at 50-60 (F) degrees in a back closet on the north side of your house in cooler regions. They have the added benefit of being one of the most versatile nuts, because they can be grown anywhere between zone 4 and 9 successfully. There are even some zone 3 cultivars.

Pecans come in second place in nut shelf life, and can keep just over a year at cool, unheated basement temperatures. Very high fat nuts such as walnuts don’t keep quite as well as the others, but remain good for 9-12 months at cool temperatures.

Be sure to check your nuts for rancidity by smell before eating them. Nevertheless, rancid or not, it won’t harm you to eat them during an emergency situation as long as they don’t have visible mold or pest infestation.

2. Dried corn and beans

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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While many forms of grain and staple legumes store for extended periods of time, dry corn and beans are the most practical for growing and processing at home without equipment. Beans and corn can be harvested, cleaned, dried and stored all by hand without specialized equipment, unlike other grains such as wheat. If dried thoroughly to a low moisture content and kept cool, home dried corn and beans can last 2-3 years, without the need to invest in long-term storage options like vacuum sealing and oxygen absorbers. With the additional investment to reduce or eliminate oxygen, corn and beans can hold successfully for up to 10 years.

3. Honey and maple

Natural sweeteners like honey and maple are full of beneficial enzymes and micro-nutrients, not to mention a ready source of calories, and they boast considerable shelf lives. Honey, if kept uncontaminated and well-sealed from moisture, can last at room temperature indefinitely. Maple syrup, packaged very hot into glass jars such Mason jars, has very long shelf life potential – upwards of 50 year or more. Maple manufacturers recommend a storage life in glass of no more than four years for optimum flavor, assuming the jar is unopened. Maple stored in plastic jugs should not be kept more than 1-2 years, and metal jugs are only rated for six months of storage life.

What would you add to our list? Are there other foods you grow and store for long-term survival? Share your tips in the section below:

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How to Make An Attention-Grabbing, Festive Culinary Wreath

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How to Make An Attention-Grabbing, Festive Culinary Wreath

Photo: Jacki Andre

You’ve worked hard growing herbs and vegetables. Why not show off your bounty as a beautiful wreath? Culinary wreaths can be created in a variety of ways. Most start with a base of herbs and may include other small produce — like garlic bulbs or small peppers — for visual interest. Culinary wreaths smell amazing and offer a unique way to access your herbs while cooking.

How to Make An Attention-Grabbing, Festive Culinary Wreath

Photo: Jacki Andre

If you use fresh herbs, they will start to dry fairly quickly on the wreath form. The best fresh herbs for this project are those with woody stems and small leaves, like rosemary, thyme, tarragon, marjoram and oregano. They will be easier to attach to the wreath form and will keep the wreath shape better than those with soft stems and larger leaves, which will droop as they dry. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a zone where bay laurel is hardy, or if you have a bay laurel tree growing indoors, bay leaves work great, too.

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However, I was doing this project on a deadline, with no time to grow a bay tree. I just used what I had available — and I’m pretty happy with the result. Don’t be afraid to try different types of herbs on your own wreath.

All you will need are a wire wreath form and floral tape. Depending on what you are using to create your wreath, you also may find twist ties, thin twine or thread handy. You may want some ribbon on hand to create a hanger, or just a pretty bow. As far as tools go, kitchen shears are all you need.

I started by attaching the herbs with the biggest leaves first. Simply strip the leaves off the bottom 2-3 inches of the stem and securely wrap the stem against the wreath form, using the floral tape. A tip I learned the hard way is that it’s better to use more floral tape than you think you need. If you don’t have enough tape, it will unwind on its own. If you are using herbs with softer stems, be gentle with the stems as you wrap them.

How to Make An Attention-Grabbing, Festive Culinary Wreath

Photo: Jacki Andre

Once the herbs with the biggest leaves are secured to the wreath form, start filling in the gaps with smaller herbs. Take care not to crush the ones that are already attached to the form. For much of the project, I simply stood the wreath on my lap and rested the back of it against the table edge. But once I could no longer keep it on my lap without crushing the herbs, I hung up the wreath.

It can be a little awkward to work on your wreath while it’s hanging, but a big plus is that it’s easier to see which areas need to be filled out more. As you work, cram in as many herbs as you can. You might also want to bunch two or three stems together as you tape them onto the form, to create a nice full wreath. Remember that as the herbs dry, they will shrink, so the more that you can attach, the better.

Once you are happy with your herb base, get creative and add in other produce for visual interest. I used twist ties to attach garlic bulbs, and thread to attach red Thai peppers (which, to be honest, I bought at the supermarket). Depending on what kind of herbs your wreath is made from, other possible embellishments include cinnamon sticks, a string of cranberries, dried orange slices, and flowers or Chinese lantern pods.

Once you are happy with your finished product, hang it up in your kitchen and get ready to pull off pinches of dried herbs as needed. Your wreath will be beautiful, practical and a point of pride, because you grew the herbs and created the wreath yourself. That’s the best kind of project, don’t you think?

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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One-Pan Meals: The Smart-And-Simple Way The Pioneers Cooked

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One-Pan Meals: The Pioneers’ Secret To Simple, Easy, Nourishing Food

I’m an avid outdoorsman and have spent many days and weeks in the wild with friends and family. I’m also a chef, so it was always my job to cook the meals. Unfortunately, that meant I always got stuck with doing the dishes, regardless of my pleas, requests, threats and rants to get some help with greasy pots and pans. I finally found a solution, though, that pioneers and mountain men used for centuries. It’s the one-pan meal.

The fundamental idea behind a one plan meal is that you cook everything in one pot or pan. The protein — whether it be meat, poultry or fish — and all the vegetables are together in one pan or pot. Some recipes fall in the category of a stew, but just as many are more along the lines of roasted or braised foods. In some respects, this was a pioneer version of a crock-pot meal. Unfortunately, they didn’t have electricity, but I think the food tastes better when prepared the old-fashioned way.

A one-pan meal not only makes serving and cleanup easier, but it’s also easier to cook because everything’s done at the same time. There’s no waiting for those hard potatoes to get tender, or wondering when the uncooked chicken or duck is finally going to be done.

The Setup

My setup for one-pan cooking is fairly basic. It’s either a grill over an open fire, a Dutch oven over coals on the ground and some in the lid, or a cast-iron frying pan with a lid warming and waiting over some hot coals. You could also cook these meals in an oven at home or on the kitchen range, but we’re going to stay off-grid like our pioneer ancestors.

Key Ingredients

Basic ingredients could range from beef and pork to venison, rabbit and squirrel. We’re going to keep it rustic and explore recipes with wild game like rabbit and squirrel, plus some poultry variations.

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Water is the cooking medium in many recipes, although oils ranging from bacon fat to butter or a vegetable oil are also important.

The critical success factor is to manage the heat so the food cooks and caramelizes but does not burn. Heat control is what it’s all about. This isn’t about just bringing a big pot of water to a rolling boil over a blazing fire. It’s about carefully managing the temperature and humidity in the pan to make a great meal.

The approach

Step 1

Get your pan or pot hot and either render some bacon to capture the fat or add an oil like canola oil or butter to the bottom of the pan. The first thing you’ll want to add is the meats or poultry (cut into pieces). Don’t do this step with fish or shellfish; it’s unnecessary.

Your goal is to brown the meat or poultry to an amber caramelized brown. This has three benefits:

  • It seals the juices into the meat or poultry.
  • The caramelization will impart a nice, amber color to the added water to make a rich stock.
  • It enhances the flavor of the finished dish as it relates to the meat or poultry.

Once your meat is seared and nicely sealed, remove it from the pan and reserve it on a covered plate.

Step 2

One-Pan Meals: The Pioneers’ Secret To Simple, Easy, Nourishing FoodAdd your vegetables to the drippings in the bottom of the pan. I start with carrots if I’m using them because they’re a firm vegetable. Once I start to notice some caramelization around the edges, I’ll add the onions. These are usually cut into halves or quarters but sometimes diced. When the onions start to show some browning, I’ll add potatoes peeled and cut. I’m stirring all the time to keep the vegetables from burning. Once I’m satisfied that I have a little bit of crispiness and browning, I’ll add 2 to 4 cups of water salted with a ½ teaspoon of salt per cup, or a bouillon cube per cup.

The water proportions vary depending on the size of your pot. Once I’ve added the water, I’ll stir the pot to scrape up any bits on the bottom. What you’ll start to see is a nice amber color coming into the water to begin the stock. I’ll return the pot to a gentle boil and move on to step 3.

Step 3

Once the pot is gently boiling, I’ll return the meat or poultry to the pot. The meat will be sitting on top of the vegetables with some stock lapping at the bottom of some of the meat. This is a critical time to manage the heat. I’ll cover the pan or pot with a lid or foil and then put it over low heat. Medium to high heat can burn anything on the bottom of the pan, so keep the heat low. The heavy lid on a Dutch oven actually creates a mild, pressure-cooker effect. If I’m using a cast iron frying pan, I’ll place the lid over the fire to get it very hot and then carefully place it over the cast-iron frying pan. If you’re using a Dutch oven, then put some coals on the lid and some coals underneath.

Step 4.

How long you cook your food will vary depending on your heat source, the size of your pot and other factors like outside temperature. Cooking outside in winter takes longer than summer. The easiest way to assess your progress is to carefully lift the lid and take a peek. I’ll sometimes stir the bottom a bit just to make sure there’s no burning, and I might add some more water. Water goes a long way toward preventing charring and burning and it’s easy to boil it off if you have too much.

The Final Finish

Once I’m satisfied the food is cooked, I’ll consider taking the meal to the next level. This could include turning the stock into a gravy or adding dumplings to the top for a finishing touch. I’ll also taste the stock to adjust the seasoning with salt or pepper, but remember that people can always salt and pepper their own serving, so don’t overdo it.

Once all is done, put the pan or pot on a stump or large, cut log or in the center of the table on a trivet or some other insulating layer … and let everyone help themselves. Tell them they’re responsible tor washing their own plates and you can worry about the one pot or pan later.

Recipes

One-Pan Poultry

(Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 strips of bacon or 2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 chicken or 2 ducks or 2 pheasants cut into quarters
  • 6 carrots sliced into circles
  • 2 large onions quartered
  • 4 large potatoes quartered
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt or 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • Herbs like rosemary, thyme or sage

DIRECTIONS

Heat the pan and render the bacon fat or add the oil. Brown the meat and reserve. Brown and caramelize the vegetables and add the water. Stir the pot and return to gentle boil and add the poultry. Add the herbs. Cover and cook over low- to low-medium heat or coals for 1 hour. Stop and stir halfway through the cooking. Check for doneness by rocking a poultry leg at the thigh. If it moves freely, you’re finished. Serve with salt and pepper. Top with crumbled bacon if you used it at the beginning.

Hunter’s Stew With Dumplings

(Serves 4)

  • 6 strips of bacon or 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 squirrel plus one rabbit plus one bird, all quartered (chicken/duck/pheasant/quail)
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • 4 large potatoes cut into large chunks
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or flour stirred into ½ cup of water

Dumplings recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • (Mix until you have a dough and roll out or pat until about ½ inch thick and cut into pieces about 2 inches across.)

DIRECTIONS

One-Pan Meals: The Pioneers’ Secret To Simple, Easy, Nourishing FoodHunter’s stew is best made in a large cast iron pot or Dutch oven. Heat the pot and render the bacon fat or add the oil. Brown all the meats and poultry and reserve. Add the onions and potatoes and cook until onions begin to show some browning on the edges. Add the water and stir and bring to a gentle boil. Add the meat and cover and cook for one hour. Stir halfway through. Check for doneness by slicing into some of the meats. Mix the corn starch or flour with the water and add to the pot and stir. Simmer gently until stock thickens. For a thicker gravy, add some more corn starch or flour. Top the pot with the dumplings and cover and cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Serve.

Fisherman’s Stew (Michigan Bouillabaisse)

(Serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons of butter or oil
  • 4 carrots diced
  • 3 stalks of celery diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 fennel bulb diced (optional)
  • 2 peeled tomatoes or 1 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon of turmeric
  • Herbs like thyme or chervil
  • 4 cups of chicken broth or fish stock (simmer fish heads and bones for
  • 30 minutes and strain for fish stock)
  • 12 to 24 crayfish
  • 6 to 10 frog legs
  • 4 to 8 fresh water mussels, depending on size and availability
  • 2 pounds of fish cut into large chunks (salmon/trout/bass/northern/walleye)

This is best made in a large, uncovered cast iron frying pan or uncovered Dutch oven. Heat the pan or pot and add the butter or oil. Add all of the vegetables except tomatoes at once and cook until onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, turmeric and herbs and the chicken or fish stock. Bring to a gentle boil and add the crayfish and cook until they turn red. Add the mussels and the frog legs.

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Discard any mussels that don’t open. Once the mussels are open, add the fish and cook for a few minutes until opaque. Don’t overcook the fish or it will crumble into bits. Serve.

Rabbit and Squirrel Pot Pie

(Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons of butter or oil
  • 2 squirrels and 1 rabbit cut into small chunks
  • 4 carrots diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 large potatoes diced into cubes
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 2 cups of beef stock or beef bouillon cubes in 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of corn starch or flour in ½ cup of water
  • 2 pie crusts

Pie crust recipe

  • 1 cup Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold shortening or butter
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

(Cut the shortening or butter into the flour and salt with two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time and mix with your hands until you have a dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap or in a plastic bag and chill for 20 minutes. Cut the dough ball in half and roll out into two equal-sized sheets to fit your pan. You can roll the dough onto your rolling pin to make it easier to transfer and unroll over your pan.

DIRECTIONS

This is best made in a cast iron frying pan with a tight-fitting lid. Aluminum foil is your backup plan as a cover. Make the dough and let it rest in a cool place. Heat your pan and add the butter or oil and brown the squirrel and the rabbit. Reserve. Add all of the vegetables except for the peas. Cook until edges start to brown. Add the beef stock and the meat and cook uncovered until all ingredients are cooked through and tender. Add the corn starch or flour in the ½ cup of water and stir until thickened. Add peas and pour the mix into a bowl or other container.

Wipe out the pan and oil before you get the first pie crust into place. Poke the bottom with a fork to make some holes. Fill the pan with the meat/vegetable mixture. Don’t fill to the brim. You still need to add the second crust on top and have a lid to cover all of it. Top with the second crust and poke more holes in the top with the fork. Heat the lid over the fire until it is very hot and place on top of the pan. Place the pan over the lowest heat possible and let bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t lift the lid until you think it’s done. If it’s not done or golden brown, return the lid to direct heat to heat it up. Put the lid bake onto the pan until finished. Let rest off the heat for 5 minutes and serve.

Have you made one-pan meals? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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The Pilgrims’ 1st Thanksgiving Meal Included … Seal & Eagle?

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The Pilgrims’ 1st Thanksgiving Meal Included … Seal & Eagle?

The first Thanksgiving – at least, the one involving the Pilgrims — is believed to have occurred over a period of three days, sometime between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9 in 1621.

The feast occurred on a Pilgrim plantation at the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts, and was attended by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. Reportedly, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag expressed thanks for the animals, fruits and vegetables they were consuming. This is actually a tradition with Native-Americans, who would always thank an animal or plant for surrendering their life so that they may live.

The Pilgrims were grateful to God, not only for the bounty they had collected but for the Wampanoag, who had helped them survive on the brink of starvation and who peacefully co-existed with them for 50 years.

The Pilgrims did not have wood-burning cook stoves. All cooking was done over an open fire, either in cast iron pots and pans, or roasted on spits or suspended next to the fire. Dutch ovens were used for basic baking and braising. There also were some foods cooked in hot ashes, which was a technique they learned from the Wampanoags.

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Boiling, steaming and frying were the cooking styles of choice, and both duck fat and goose fat were highly prized for a number of dishes. Butter was a scarce and precious commodity, as was milk.

Seasonings were limited, although sea salt and certain herbs like liverwort and some other aromatic herbs like ramps (wild chives) and purslane were used.

What Was Not On The Table

plymouthThe foods consumed were indigenous or natural to the Massachusetts area in the 1600s. As a result, there were some plants and animals that didn’t show up on the menu:

  • Potatoes. There simply were no potatoes growing in North America at that time. No white potatoes, sweet potatoes or red potatoes. Potatoes grew in South America, and it wasn’t until the Spanish brought them to Europe that they eventually made their way to North America.
  • Cranberry sauce. Cranberries did, in fact, grow in bogs around Massachusetts, but the sauce we know today was not made. Cranberry sauce requires a lot of sugar, and the Pilgrim’s supply of sugar was nearly exhausted. Honey was too precious for something as basic as a cranberry sauce.
  • Dessert. Again, there simply was not enough sugar.
  • Turkey. Well, maybe not. (The meat of choice was deer.) Wild turkeys inhabited the region, but other types of fowl took center stage, including ducks, geese, pheasants, pigeons and even cranes, swans and get this … eagles.
  • Bread. At least, not much of it. There were some breads at the table, but mostly sourdough and cornbread. The sourdough was referred to as “cheate” bread by the Pilgrims. The sourdough was baked as a round loaf, probably in a Dutch oven. The cornbread was a gift from the Wampanoag, from a variety of corn referred to as “flint” corn — a yellow corn that was allowed to dry on the plant and was then ground into a flour or corn meal.
  • Salt but no pepper. Given the proximity of the Plymouth colony to the ocean, sea salt was in abundance, but pepper was missing in action. Pepper was a very exotic and expensive spice at the time.

What WAS On The Table

So, what did the menu look like? The only foods recorded in history were deer and fowl. In addition, fish, seafood and even seal likely were served. The vegetables tended to be rustic and traditional but very familiar to us. There was fruit, as well as some simple breads.

Let’s have some fun with this and look at the First Thanksgiving in a traditional menu format, with a description of the ingredients and how the dishes were prepared. These were the actual foods served at the First Thanksgiving, with traditional ingredients and a traditional preparation style.

——————————————————————–

Ye Olde Thanksgiving Menu

 

Appetizers:

Assorted nuts consisting of acorns, walnuts and chestnuts roasted over an open fire in a cast-iron pan and lightly salted with sea salt.

A mix of wild plums and grapes with blueberries, gooseberries and wild black raspberries.

Seal kebobs cut into chunks and slowly roasted on skewers over coals and served with sea salt.

Raw oysters on the half shell served with an herbed vinegar

Surf and surf combination of lobsters and clams boiled in salt water and served with herbed goose fat.

Mussels with curds. The mussels are boiled in sea water, shelled and then mixed with curds until the curds gently melt.

——————————————————————–

Starters:

Vegetable soup

A soup made with sea salt in sea water and a medley of sliced onions, parsnips, carrots, leeks and cabbage and topped with duck fat.

Clam chowder

We start with shucked clams and gently simmer in our limited and precious milk, onions, leeks and then thicken with corn meal and season with sea salt and garnish with chopped spinach leaves.

Mixed green salad

A salad of dandelion greens, plantain leaves, various lettuces, spinach and peas with a dressing made from vinegar and duck fat and a sprinkle of sea salt all topped with chopped liverwort greens.

———————————————————————–

Ye Main Meal

 

Venison

Venison steaks roasted over an open-fire on a spit and served with a brown-blueberry sauce.

Pan-roasted venison sautéed in a cast iron pan over an open fire with caramelized onions and vinegar.

Braised venison

Cuts of venison from the rump, brisket and shoulders are cut into chunks and flowered in corn meal and then browned in goose fat with onions, carrots and some sea water in a Dutch oven until tender.

———————————————————————–

Fowl

(All fowl dishes are served with an optional stuffing or a “pudding in the belly” made from corn meal, onions, cranberries, herbs, vinegar and sea salt

Pheasant

Spit-roasted pheasant roasted on a spit over open coals and basted with duck fat and sea salt.

Braised goose

Cut-up goose braised with onions, parsnips, carrots and cranberries in a Dutch oven.

Wild turkey

Spit-roasted wild turkey roasted between two beds of hot coals and basted with a sea water, vinegar blend.

Boiled eagle

Cut-up eagle boiled with onions and herbs in a pot of salt water and then quickly seared over open coals.

Pigeons in a pan

Pigeons in a pan with onions and carrots sautéed in a cast iron frying pan in goose fat and duck fat are then topped with roasted and chopped black walnuts.

Hot coal-roasted swan

The swan is set beside a fire vertically on stakes and turned from time to time to cook the meat through. It’s basted with a blend of duck and goose fat and seasoned with sea salt and served whole on a large plank.

——————————————————————-

Fish

Cod

Cod either boiled with onions, roasted over coals or wrapped in grape leaves and simmered in hot ashes.

Sea bass

Whole grilled sea bass basted with duck fat over open coals and topped with sea salt and chopped herbs and spinach.

——————————————————————–

Sides

Stuffed pumpkin

We start by hollowing out a pumpkin and then filling it with chunks of pumpkin, milk, honey and spices and then wrap in boiled grape leaves and cook in ashes until done. It’s served from the pumpkin as a bowl and has the consistency of a custard.

Boiled onions

Onions are peeled, quartered and boiled with raisins, sugar, egg and vinegar until tender.

Squash mash

A variety of squashes from butternut to acorn to pumpkin cut into chunks and boiled until tender and then mashed with honey, cinnamon, cloves and a touch of sea salt.

Mixed vegetables

An assortment of vegetables including carrots, parsnips, onions, spinach, peas, and a blend of chopped herbs all gently boiled and topped with sea salt.

Flint-corn mush

A combination of ground flint corn gently boiled in milk and seasoned with either sea salt or honey.

Boiled spinach

Spinach leaves boiled in sea water and drained and then topped with duck fat and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Your choice of sourdough “cheate” bread or cornbread

——————————————————————-

     Dessert

Fruit and nut sampler

A mix of fruits and nuts including grapes, gooseberries, blueberries, wild plums and an assortment of salted and roasted acorns, chestnuts and black walnuts.

———————————————————————–

Beverages

Water

Tea

Maple Sap

———————————————————————

pilgrims-faithI don’t know about you, but it all sounds pretty good — although I might take a pass on the boiled eagle. There’s a hefty fine and they are never in season these days.

If you want to try one of these recipes, the menu is pretty self-explanatory with ingredients and cooking style. This was a very rustic, simple and direct type of cooking. There were no meat thermometers to tell you when something was done; the usual shake on the drumstick of any bird would tell you it’s done when it feels loose and the juices run clear.

Fish was easy enough to evaluate when the fish was opaque and flaked, and most boiling and braising methods would indicate doneness with a simple slice and a taste.

You may or may not want to toss one of these recipes on your Thanksgiving table, but even if you don’t, you can always throw a cold plate of plums, grapes and berries out there to remember that first Thanksgiving.

What would be your favorite “original” Thanksgiving meal? Share your thoughts in the section below:   

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The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

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The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

Image source: Steve Nubie

Editor’s note: The author is a certified chef and specializes in wildfire and wilderness cooking.

I remember the first time I encountered a puffball mushroom. It was autumn — the height of puffball mushroom season. I was 17 and was walking my dog in a particularly remote and thick deciduous forest. I was stunned to see what appeared to be an ultra-bright soccer ball on the dark and neutral detritus of the forest floor. I, of course, did what any self-respecting 17-year-old boy would do, and kicked it. It shattered into pieces and I was stunned that something like that could grow in the wild. Little did I know I had just destroyed a delicacy. It wasn’t until years later that I grew to appreciate the value of the puffball mushroom.

You always have to be careful about eating any mushroom found in the wild. Typically, very colorful mushrooms are poisonous, but some of the deadliest are white or cream colored. I’ve harvested mushrooms for years and I wrote a previous article about the most common and safe-to-eat mushrooms. But, for me, the puffball is king — literally.

Finding puffball mushrooms is easy. So easy a child can do it, and I’ve found my grandkids to be the best puffball hunters. Puffball mushrooms can grow from the size of a marble to the size of a bowling ball overnight. They are a very bright white and stand out even at a distance. But you have to harvest them at the right time.

The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

Image source: Steve Nubie

Here’s how to know you’ve found a perfect puffball mushroom:

  • Tap it gently and if it has a hollow sound like a drum, you may have found a perfect puffball at its peak. I carry a five-gallon plastic bucket for my puffball hunts and it fills up quickly.
  • Slice it in half with a bread knife. The center should be bright white through and through, and the texture consistent.
  • Smell it. It should have a mushroom smell like a button mushroom you’d buy at the grocery store with some radish-like flavor notes.

If it appears green or any other color than bright white, throw it back in the field. It’s the old adage, “when in doubt, throw it out.” If you’re lucky, it will generate spores to reseed for next fall.

Storing Puffball Mushrooms

I’ll usually do a gentle wash over running water when I get my puffballs home (and I mean gentle). The thin skin of a puffball is easily cut and bruised. Rinse it like you would rinse the scalp of a baby in the sink. I’ll then either put them into the fridge whole, or sauté them in olive oil and freeze them. Fortunately, I have a fridge in the garage that has enough room for some basketball-sized mushrooms. Unfortunately, my wife asked me five minutes ago what I planned to do with those weird mushrooms. I suspect she’ll be playing soccer with them soon.

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I think you’ll be amazed by what you can do with a puffball mushroom. You can easily make these recipes if you are lucky enough to encounter a puffball.

Puffball Mushroom Steak With Onions

You can make a carefully sliced chunk of puffball mushroom not only look like a steak, but taste kind of close. The key is to marinate it and follow the recipe below:

The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

Image source: Steve Nubie

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large slice of puffball mushroom cut 2 inches thick by 3×4 inches wide
  • 1 tablespoon of teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of butter

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the puffball into shape as indicated. Mix the sauce and vinegar in a bowl. Place the puffball steak into the bowl and press down. It’s like a sponge and will absorb the marinade. Let it marinade for five minutes, turning it once. In a hot pan, melt the butter and sauté the puffball steak. Brown it gently on all sides. Heat a cast iron grill with grilling ridges or fire up the kettle grill. Grill the puffball steak and serve with thin-sliced onions.

Puffball Mushroom Extraordinaire

This involves slicing a 1-inch slice of puffball mushroom across the center and sautéing it in butter and topping it with some caramelized onions and garlic. You slice it and serve it like a pizza. My kids and grandkids eat it like locusts.

The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

Image source: Steve Nubie

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-inch slice of puffball mushroom cut across the center
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic chopped
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of seasoned salt

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and caramelize the onions and then add the garlic for one minute. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and sauté the puffball slice for 2 minutes a side or until browned. Remove the puffball to a platter and top with the onions and garlic and the remaining olive oil from the pan and sprinkle some sea salt on top.  Cut and serve like pizza slices.

Parmesan Puffball Mushroom Cubes

This is a great side dish to most any savory recipe. It’s easy and simple to make and the puffball cubes are almost like snack food.

The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

Image source: Steve Nubie

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups of puffball mushrooms cubed
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan and sauté the mushroom cubes until browned on all sides. Sprinkle with salt. Top with the grated parmesan and serve.

Puffball Mushrooms Strips With Salsa

Who needs chicken strips when you’ve got puffball mushrooms? This recipe is simple and all you do is cut the puffball into strips and sauté and serve with a spread of salsa on top with some lime wedges.

The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

Image source: Steve Nubie

INGREDIENTS:

  • Puffball mushroom cut into strips of varying sizes
  • ¼ cup or olive oil
  • Salsa (store-bought or your homemade recipe)
  • Lime wedges

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the puffball into thick strips about 1-2 inches wide and about 4-6 inches long and about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Bring the sauté pan up to heat and add the oil and sauté 1-2 minutes a side. Remove to a platter and top with the salsa and serve with lime slices.

Ramen Noodle Soup With Puffball Mushrooms

My youngest son is a college student, and like most college students he’s amassing enormous school-loan debt, working three part-time jobs for around minimum wage and living on ramen noodle soup. I’ve tried to do everything I can to help him and he enjoyed the afternoon when I showed him how to make ramen noodle soup with puffball mushrooms.

The great thing about puffball mushrooms is they’re a lot like tofu. They absorb the flavor of broths and sauces and make a great addition to a dish like this.

The Easy-To-Spot Giant Mushroom That Can Feed A Family

Image source: Steve Nubie

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 packages of ramen noodles plus seasoning packet
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 cups of cubed puffball mushrooms cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup of chopped spinach

DIRECTIONS:

Add the seasoning packets to the water in a saucepan and add all of the ingredients except for the ramen noodles. When the water comes to a boil, add the noodles until done and pour into a bowl and serve.

Get Creative

I’ve made puffball mushroom burgers, which are a great alternative to Portobello burgers, and have used puffball mushrooms in everything from omelets to stuffing for poultry to wild-game gravies and sauces. They’re out there and they’re free, so see if you can find one at its peak and enjoy some puffball mushroom cuisine.

Have you ever eaten puffball mushrooms? Share your foraging and cooking tips below:

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16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

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16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

Image source: AcultivatedNext.com

If you are looking to keep your foods fresher longer – and who isn’t? – you need look no further than your freezer.

Freezing is an easy and convenient way to preserve food. By freezing leftovers and foods that will spoil before you use them, you can save money and reduce food waste.

As a general rule, you can keep fruits and vegetables in the freezer for up to a year, poultry for six to nine months, fish for three to six months, and ground meat for three to four months. Use resealable freezer bags or freezer-safe plastic containers and label them with the date of storage.

But you can freeze many more food items than you probably realized. Here is our top 16 list of foods you didn’t know you could freeze.

1. Garlic – You can freeze whole garlic, garlic cloves or chopped fresh garlic. Frozen garlic does lose some of its texture, but the flavor remains intact.

2. Corn – You can freeze fresh-picked corn on the cob for up to one year. Pack it in freezer bags — husk and silk and all. For store-bought corn, husk and blanch it before freezing.

3. Avocados – The bad news is that frozen avocados lose their consistency. The good news is that they do not lose their taste, so you can use them for guacamole or dressing. Wash and halve them before peeling. Freeze as halves, or puree them with lime or lemon juice and then store for up to eight months.

4. Mushrooms — You can freeze raw button, creminis and portabellas mushrooms for later use. Chop and slice mushrooms and then spread them on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Then transfer the pieces to bags or containers.

5. Onion – You can save chopping time – and tears – by freezing onion for cooking later. Store peeled, chopped onion in plastic freezer bags. The best part is you can just toss them into your recipes without thawing them first.

6. Hummus – Scoop your fresh hummus into plastic containers. Then drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the top to keep it from drying out. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before mixing and serving.

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7. Bread and tortillas – You can easily freeze bread slices or loaves of bread and tortillas. If they are dry after thawing, just wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave for a few seconds.

16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Chips – Potato and veggie chips can go stale quickly, so if you have extras on hand, try freezing them. They defrost quickly, but you may even like the taste of them straight out of the freezer.

9. Flour – Did you know that many bakers keep their flour in the freezer? It not only stays fresher longer, but it makes tastier baked goods as well.

10. Eggs without shells – Whether they are from your own chickens or whether you just got a good deal at the store, you don’t want to waste eggs. Did you know you could freeze eggs – just not in their shells? Crack them and scramble them. Then pour the liquid into cube trays and freeze. Next, remove the cubes and store them in freezer bags for up to six months.

11. Cooked rice and cooked pasta – You can safely freeze cooked rice and pasta in individual portions for later use in meals. When you are ready to prepare a meal, simply sprinkle the rice or pasta with a little water and then heat it in the microwave.

12. Chicken broth – You can freeze chicken broth for up to six months in the freezer. Be sure to use an airtight, freezer-safe container – not a can.

13. Pasta sauce and tomato paste – Did you only need a tablespoon of tomato paste or part of a jar of tomato sauce for that recipe? You can freeze the rest for later use. Just be sure to store it in a freezer-safe container – not a can.

14. Herbs – You can successfully freeze your fresh herbs in olive oil. Chop your herbs and place them in an ice cube tray. Then cover them with olive oil, allowing a little room at the top for expansion. You can transfer frozen cubes to a resalable bag. Then plop them right into soups and other recipes.

15. Cookie dough – It can save time to make a big batch of cookie dough at once, but you don’t save money if they go stale before anyone eats them. Your freezer can come to the rescue. Freeze homemade cookie dough in individual spoonfuls on a baking sheet. Freeze them and then transfer to a resealable bag for later use.

16. Fresh citrus – How many times have you only needed one slice of a lemon or lime? Did you know you could freeze the rest? Slice or section citrus fruits and place a piece of wax paper between each piece. Remove as many seeds as you can before freezing.

Now that you have some new ideas for freezing food, here are some basic rules to follow:

  • Most meats, dairy, and some vegetables should not be re-frozen after thawing.
  • Cool down cooked foods before freezing.
  • Wrap foods properly to avoid freezer burn.
  • Freezing retards bacterial growth but it does not kill bacterial growth.

Are there other foods you would add to our list? What freezing tips would you have included? Share them in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Varmint Cuisine: 6 Wild Animals Our Ancestors Ate (But We Won’t)

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Varmint Cuisine: 6 Wild Animals Most Americans Won’t Eat (But Should)

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Foraging for wild plants, berries, nuts and mushrooms in the wild is an essential survival skill. But one thing I’ve learned the hard way is that they don’t provide an abundance of calories and protein. Fortunately, many small and large animals do.

In this article, we’re going to explore capturing and preparing animals in the wild to supplement a survival diet. Of course, unless you’re in a true survival situation you should make sure you are not violating local game laws.

1. Snakes

These are the easiest to catch, and both venomous and non-venomous snakes can be eaten. Just make sure to cut off the heads. Any snake should be skinned first before gutting it, starting at the vent underneath the tail. The scales on the belly of any snake are tough and the skin can be easily pulled off like a glove. Slit from the vent and rinse out the body cavity and wind it around a stick so you can slowly turn it over a bed of coals, or cut into pieces and fry. You can remove the meat from the bones with your teeth like you would from an ear of corn.

2. Frogs

My personal favorite. The frogs can be harvested with a frog gig — which is like a small pitchfork with prongs — or with just a sharpened stick. My brothers and I used to just grab them by the hand. The legs were the only thing worth eating, and we’d skewer them on a stick and roast them over coals after we skinned them. You could also bread them and fry them.

3. Crayfish

You can catch crayfish by hand, with a net or trap, or hang a piece of meat on a string and pull them from the water. Do it quickly before they let go. We used to skewer them on a stick, and roast them or steam them or boil them. The good meat comes from the tail — and some from the claws of bigger crayfish. Some people suck the heads of the body cavity. I never liked that, but you might want to give it a try.

4. Squirrel

There are hunting seasons on squirrel in some parts of the country. My brothers and I used to hunt them with everything from a .22 to a pellet gun to slingshots and even rocks.

Learn The Secrets Of A Veteran Hunter As He Demonstrates How To Quickly Field-Dress Game

Varmint Cuisine: 6 Wild Animals Most Americans Won’t Eat (But Should)

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Once a squirrel is “up the tree” it’s easy pickins if you’re patient. We’d skin them and gut them and usually cook them over coals. They taste like rabbit. The hind leg and body meat is best. A little barbecue sauce helps.

5. Possum

Possum often has a taste that’s described as “peculiar.” This is due to the musk glands in a possum. It’s best to skin and gut the possum and marinade it in a mix of one cup of salt and enough cold water to cover the possum. Marinade overnight and then roast in a 350-degree oven or grill for two hours. Baste it often. It’s a lot like a small pig. Slice and serve.

6. Birds

We tend to have a prejudice when it comes to eating birds. We seem to dwell on chickens, turkeys, duck and the occasional pheasant. But all birds are edible, from sparrows to Canadian geese. They’re all fair game — whether you’re using a BB gun, slingshot or just throwing rocks at a flock of Canadian geese fertilizing your backyard.

Birds have to be de-feathered and slit to remove the guts. This is messy, and you’ll be covered in bird fluff. We would roast small birds on a stick, but we would cook larger birds in an oven, spit-roasted or on a covered grill. When the drumstick on any sized bird moves easily, it usually means it’s done.

Final Thoughts

With the exception of some animals like the blowfish, you can eat just about any animal. A lot of it depends on how hungry you are and what you can catch or kill. In many parts of the world, insects like grasshoppers and grubs are eaten without hesitation. If there’s a caution, it’s that you should always try to cook the wild foods you gather and consider the source. Polluted environments create polluted food sources, and all raw foods are potentially dangerous, regardless of the source. If your food source has come from a clean environment and you’ve been able to subject it to a good degree of heat … eat hearty.

Which is your favorite wild game? Share your tips in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

3 Edible Wild Nuts You’ll Find Everywhere — Except At The Store

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3 Edible Wild Nuts You'll Find Everywhere -- But Not At The Store

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It’s fairly easy to find a variety of wild plants that are edible — but they have a downside. Most leafy, green wild plants are very low in calories, and especially calories from fat.

On average, an active adult needs at least 2,000 calories a day to sustain his or her weight. Just as important, calories from fat do the best job of generating body heat in the cold temperatures of winter. That’s where wild nuts come into play. Of course, you could always supplement your diet with meat, but when nothing shows up on four legs, you might need to think seriously about nuts such as acorns, walnuts and chestnuts.

1. Acorns

Acorns appear on oak trees in late summer and fall. You can pick them off the tree or off the ground, but you might have some competition from local squirrels.

You’ll also need to do some prep work, which essentially involves shelling the nuts and soaking them in water to leach out the bitter tannins. The bitterness varies depending on the oak variety, but most require a good soak in warm water for a few hours. You may also have to do a second and third round of soaking if the acorns are particularly bitter. A taste test between soakings is the only way to assess when they’re ready.

You could also put the acorns into a fine-mesh net and soak them in a stream for a few days. The running water will do a great job of rinsing out the tannins.

‘Miracle Oil Maker’ Lets You Make Fresh Nut Oils Within Minutes!

Some people will then dry the acorns and crush them into a flour. They can be used as a substitute for flour in any recipe, although cookies seem to be the best bet. (Learn how to make acorn flour here.)

You also could roast them in a dry frying pan over an open fire for 15 to 20 minutes.  Toss them from time to time, or put them on a baking sheet in a 375-degree (Fahrenheit) oven for 15 to 20 minutes. I usually salt them lightly before roasting and eat them like peanuts.

2. Black walnuts

Black walnuts are easy to find. Their large, green husks will often litter the ground beneath the tree. You can try to shake a few down or do what my brothers and I used to do — throw some walnuts up into the tree and try to knock a few more down.

The outer husk of a black walnut is bright green, but wear gloves when you collect them. They will actually stain your hands black, which is the genesis of the name “black” walnut. You’ll need to remove the outer husk. This can be done by rolling a nut underfoot on a hard surface or using a hammer to crack and loosen the outer husk.

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Once you have shelled the walnuts, rinse them in a few changes of cold water. The water will turn black and you should continue to soak and rinse them until the water runs clear. Putting a hose into a five-gallon plastic bucket filled with walnuts works pretty well, but make sure the dark water runs off into an area where the stain will not affect a deck, sidewalk or patio.

Black walnuts are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and proteins, and have been shown to lower cholesterol and to act as an anti-inflammatory. The nuts in the shell are also difficult to crack open. Traditional nutcrackers often won’t work, so you may be back to the hammer or a vise. Wear goggles when you’re cracking them open because they can splinter. Separate the nutmeat from the shells and you’re ready to eat.

3. Chestnuts

Yes, you can roast them on an open fire but make sure you have the right variety of chestnut. Horse chestnuts are toxic, while the sweet (English0 chestnut is not. If you’re not sure of the variety of chestnut you may have found, bring one home and check the Internet to identify the variety.

Chestnuts are surrounded by a hard, spiky shell. Wear gloves when you gather them and try to remove the outer shell as soon as possible. The chestnuts can be eaten raw, but I prefer to roast them. This can be done either in an oven or over a fire.

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If roasting in an oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit) and cut an “x” into each one of the chestnuts. Place them on a sheet of foil and roast for 30 minutes. The inner shells will crack open at the incisions you made and are easier to peel when still warm.

If you’re going to roast over a fire, use a cast iron frying pan. Cut the shells in the same way and toss the nuts from time to time in the pan. Thirty minutes should do the trick, or you can try one from time to time to see how they’re doing.

Fall is the best time to harvest wild nuts, but regardless of when you pick them, discard any nuts that look damaged by insects or have nutmeat that appears to be off-color compared to the rest of the nuts you’ve gathered. Happy hunting!

What is your favorite wild nut? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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10 Food Storage Tips Your Great-Grandparents Would Want You To Know

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10 Food Storage Tips Your Great-Grandparents Would Want You To Know

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There was not a fully-stocked food store on every corner when our great-grandparents were alive, and most of them did not have access to anything resembling modern supermarkets.

Selection and availability were limited during days of old, and much of their food was either homegrown or locally sourced. Our ancestors probably had a few tricks up their sleeves when it came to keeping food at home, and might be able to offer some guidance to those of us who manage food today.

Here is some of the advice our great-grandparents might share with us today:

1. Storage does not improve food. If the quality is marginal when it goes into the freezer, the Mason jar, or the bulk storage container, then it will still be marginal—at best—when it comes out. It is a good idea to select the finest products for storing and preserving, and eat the blemished foods fresh.

2. The above tip notwithstanding, do not waste food. If it’s the best you have, or all you have, and you need or want some for later—then by all means store it! Food storage, like most things to do with homesteading, is all about doing the very best you can with what you have.

3. Store only what you will eat. It sounds simple, but it is all too easy to get lulled into preserving food just because you can, and without questioning whether or not you should. I got so carried away with canning one season that I put up foods my husband and I don’t even like. I gave a little away to friends and relatives, but it didn’t appeal to them, either. The steers got most of it and were appreciative, but it was an expensive and labor-intensive livestock feed that I will make sure never to repeat.

4. Go for the easiest way first. Choose the food storage method which requires the least effort, the least cost, the least equipment, and the least supplies. If storing dry beans in a glass jar works for you, do that instead of going to the trouble of using long-term storage buckets with the air removed. If root-cellaring works in your situation, do that instead of canning.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

If freezing is easier for you than canning and you have what you need to do it, freeze on! You can always upgrade later—for example, if your root-cellared carrots or jars of homemade fruit leather start to look iffy, freeze them before you lose them.

10 Food Storage Tips Your Great-Grandparents Would Want You To Know

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5. Store enough to tide you over a shortage. Unexpected events happen, from tomato blight to drought to livestock loss. Commercial foods are sometimes suddenly and inexplicably unavailable, as well. For example, it was hard to find bottled lemon juice in any of the stores one summer season, leaving home food preservers scrambling to find it wherever they could. Since then, I have always made sure I tuck away a little extra of all my essentials in addition to what I need for the current season.

6. Do not get too hung up on fancy items. Sure, maple sweetened carrots and complicated chutneys are great for special occasions, but make sure you remember the basics. Most people won’t find a place on their table for fancy foods every day, but will need plenty of plain pumpkins and dry beans and their favorite varieties of rice. Balance the everyday foods with the special ones and you will hit it just about right.

7. Keep an eye on the environment around your food. Is it hot, cold, dry or humid? The conditions may have been right for your food when you placed it into storage, but can change with the seasons. Avoid frozen Mason jars and hard-caked sugar and moldy squash by regularly monitoring your food storage environment.

8. Guard against pests. Make no mistake—everything out there is looking for a free lunch! Mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, voles, rabbits, birds and foxes, along with all manner of beetles and bugs, will gladly avail themselves of your hard-won foodstores if given the opportunity. Do your best not to give them the chance. Use a combination of hardware cloth, plastic and metal containers with well-fitted lids, deterrent and diligence to keep them out of your food.

9. Rotate your stock. Be sure to use up the oldest first. This practice, along with buying and preserving only those foods which will get eaten in your home, will prevent foods from getting too old to be safe or palatable.

10. Keep organized. Loss and frustration can occur from being unable to locate or access items. A scattered messy pantry might look unappealing, too, resulting in less efficient use of stored food.

Follow this time-tested food storage advice, and enjoy the successful bounty of growing and preserving your own food, stocking up at the store, and managing it all at home.

What food storage advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

How To Make Flour, Bread And Even Coffee With Acorns

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How To Make Bread, Flour And Even Coffee With Acorns

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Did you know that there is a nutritious food source literally dropping from your trees each fall? In fact, unless you are a squirrel, you may even see this food as a nuisance.

Alas, the lowly acorn was not always seen this way. Historical sources suggest that some of the world’s earliest civilizations ate acorns. In fact, the word for “oak” in Tunisian translates to “meal-bearing tree.”

Although acorns, which contain healthy fats, protein and minerals, found their way into many Native American foods and are the main ingredient of a traditional Korean jelly recipe, most people today shy away from eating them. Why? Anyone who has ever sampled a raw acorn can tell you. They taste bitter.

The secret to eating – and enjoying acorns – lies in removing the tannins. When you complete this process, you can produce a subtly flavored flour that works well in all kinds of baking recipes and even as a coffee-like beverage.

The first step to removing the tannins is to select only ripe, brown acorns. Avoid green, blackened or mildewed acorns. Then remove the caps and boil the acorns for about 10 minutes. You will need to strain out the brown water and boil the acorns again in fresh water. Repeat this process three to four times until the water looks clear and the acorns can be easily shelled.

‘Miracle Oil Maker’ Lets You Make Fresh Nut Oils Within Minutes!

Another way to remove the tannins is to remove the caps and then place the acorns inside a mesh or cheese cloth bag. After securing the opening, place the bag under running water (say, a stream) for several hours. Native American used this flushing method by placing bags of acorns in running streams, rivers and even waterfalls.

Now that the tannins are removed, it is time to dry the acorns. Spread the acorns on a baking sheet and place them in a preheated 200-degree Fahrenheit oven. Leave the door slightly ajar so moisture can escape.

How To Make Bread, Flour And Even Coffee With Acorns

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Another option is to place the baking sheet outside in direct sunlight for several hours. Be sure to protect the nuts from wildlife while they are drying.

Acorns add a nutty, slightly sweet taste to recipes. You can use them as a substitute for chickpeas, peanuts or macadamia nuts. (Put them in banana nut bread or zucchini bread!) You also can use them to make acorn butter, which you can use instead of peanut butter or almond butter. You also can add them to salads, soups and stews for flavor and nutrition.

To make acorn flour, grind slightly moist leached acorns in a blender or food processor. Dry the resulting meal in a low temperature oven for a few minutes, or let the meal air dry for a few hours. Then grind the dry meal in the blender or food processor again.

You can substitute this acorn flour in any recipe that uses wheat flour, but keep in mind that acorn flour products will have a crumbly texture. If you prefer a spongy texture to your cookies or bread, you will need to mix in some wheat flour with your acorn flour.

Another option is make acorn coffee. Now, this drink will not perk you up in the morning since acorns do not contain caffeine, but it is a pleasant beverage, especially in cold weather.

Place pieces of leached acorns on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. When the pieces are dark brown in color and have a pleasant roasted (not burned) aroma, they are ready.

Add one tablespoon of roasted acorn pieces per eight ounces of boiling water. Let the mixture steep for five to 10 minutes. Reheat if needed. Then you can add your regular coffee condiments or drink the acorn coffee black.

Acorns are a rich source of carbohydrates, proteins, essential amino acids, trace minerals and Vitamins A and C. This nutritional value compares favorably with barley or wheat flour.  Although producing acorn flour does take some time, it is satisfying to put to use a food source that is free and readily available.

Just leave a few acorns for those squirrels.

Have you ever eaten acorns? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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6 Popular Fruits & Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Preserved

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6 Popular Fruits & Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Preserved

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When most people think of putting up food for winter, there are a few vegetables and fruits that immediately come to mind.

But a look through any good quality food preservation book—such as the ones published by Ball, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or the USDA—can reveal some interesting options.

When I find myself with an overabundance of something from my garden and do not want to see it wasted at the end of the season, I am often inspired to search for creative ideas to preserve my harvest in new ways. Over the years, I have dug up a few possibilities that can surprise even some experienced home food preservationists.

Here are a few fruits and vegetables you may not have realized you can preserve:

1. Eggplant. Although there is no recommended method for canning eggplant and it is listed in the “poor to fair” category for dehydrating success, you can still enjoy your eggplant harvest all year long by freezing it. The trick is to use lemon juice in the blanch water. Add a half cup per gallon of water, process in small batches, and prepare only enough fruit for one batch at a time.

For eggplant that I plan to use for frying, I slice it one-third of an inch thick. If it is fresh from the garden and not at all overripe, I leave the skins on. Otherwise, I peel it. After blanching for 4 minutes and cooling the slices in an ice bath, I pat dry on towels and freeze in zip-top bags with wax paper between the layers.

For other uses—ratatouille, stews and casseroles—I peel the eggplant, cut it into chunks, blanch and cool in lemon water the same as with slices, spin dry in a salad spinner, and freeze in batches the right size for one recipe.

It has occurred to me that it would work well to bread it and fry it before freezing, but my garden harvest keeps me too busy for that. If you have time to do so before freezing and save yourself the trouble later, I encourage you to try it.

2. Onions and peppers. The happy surprise here is not that you can preserve them, but the fact that it is so ridiculously easy. To freeze onions, shallots and peppers of all kinds, just cut them to the size and shape in which you are most likely to use them—sliced, chopped or in wedges—put them in bags or containers, and toss them into the freezer. No blanching, no fuss. Just clean, peel, cut up and freeze. They will not be suitable for raw eating when they come out, but will be excellent for just about everything else, from casseroles to omelets to soups to stir-fries.

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They can be preserved in other ways, also. Sweet peppers can be canned plain, pickled or in a variety of relishes. Hot peppers can be pickled, made into jam, or added to hot sauce. Onions, too, can be canned in vinegar, added to relishes and chutneys, and even made into marmalade!

Onions and peppers also dry very well, resulting in excellent culinary options for those off grid or with minimal freezer space.

6 Popular Fruits & Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Preserved

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3. Zucchini and summer squash. The truth is, you will never be able to achieve an exact duplicate of yummy fresh-out-of-the-garden squash. But if you cannot bear the thought of going without squash on pizzas and in frittatas and sautéed in olive oil for the winter months, try freezing some slices. Slice, blanch 3 minutes, cool in ice water, pat dry on towels, and pack in bags or containers with wax paper between the layers.

As with eggplant, you may do well to fry it first if you have the time.

You can also grate it and freeze it that way, for use in winter breads, cakes and cookies. I measure out what I need for my favorite recipes and freeze it in those quantities. It does not need to be blanched if it will be used in baked goods, where the texture of the end product does not matter, but be aware that it will become watery when thawed.

Do not can summer squash. Its texture does not allow for it to be safely canned by itself. There is an approved recipe for canning zucchini in pineapple and sugar, but the end result may not taste much like the vegetable you are trying to preserve.

4. Watermelon. Wait, what?! The books say you can freeze it, in seedless cubes or balls, either plain or packed into a container of heavy syrup. I admit I have never done this, and the reason is simple. I live far enough north that raising melons is iffy. When I do manage to raise a few successfully, I indulge in them right then and there.

The one method I have tried is watermelon rind preserves. It is a delicious way to use a part of the melon I would have thrown away anyway, and makes a nice winter treat.

Melons can be dried, but is not recommended. I know people who have done it, but because melons are almost all water, the result may not be satisfactory.

5. Greens. Canning greens is hard work, but the results taste great. If you have a pressure canner and are up for the task, canned greens are an excellent choice.

You also can blanch and freeze them, but you end up with a product that does not look anything like store-bought.

Another option for greens is to simply freeze as-is. If your intention is to use them in a way in which the texture is irrelevant, such as in a smoothie, and you will use them up within a few months, this is the way to go. Pack enough for a single usage into a zip-top bag, flatten to remove as much air as possible, and freeze.

6 Popular Fruits & Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Preserved

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6. Fruits and berries without sugar. Many people think it is necessary to make a sugar syrup for canning fruits and berries, but water or fruit juice can be used in most cases. I found a recipe for canning blueberries in water this year—I should note that I use canning recipes only from sources I know to be safe and reliable, and this one is from the National Center for Home Food Preservation—and was happy to can my home-grown blueberries using this healthy and hassle-free method.

It is wise to do some searching and read the side notes in order to find low-sugar and no-sugar options for canning fruit. Sometimes they can be found in the “special diet” section.

A word about experimentation—before you try it, ask yourself if the worst thing that can happen is about quality or safety. If it is about quality, and if you can afford the potential loss of losing the product, go ahead and try. But if it is about safety, do not risk it. What you stand to gain is not worth the possible cost.

Use this list for starters, use trusted resources, and have fun. You just never know what you might end up enjoying from your garden on a snowy January day.

What would you add to this list? Share your preserving tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Completely, 100 Percent Off-Grid: 9 Essential Foods You Should Grow

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Completely, 100 Percent Off-Grid: 9 Essential Foods You Should Grow

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Are you ready to feed your family by what you grow and raise? If you want to reduce your dependency on the commercial food supply, you better start now. It is important to develop a functional homestead capable of producing enough food to live on before you need it.

Establishing crops, building infrastructure, raising animals and working out the kinks all takes time, and you may have a few less successful years before you can really eat off the grid.

Assuming you have a house on cleared land, with at least one usable outbuilding already constructed, then you will be able to focus on growing food. With long working days, attention to seasonal change and weather, efficient work practices, and regular routines, two adults can work the land for food within a few years. Figuring in planting time, growing time, daily chores, pest and weed control, soil maintenance and construction, it would be reasonable to expect a partially self-sufficient homestead within three years, and a fully sustaining one in around five years. In addition to a milk source (cows or goats), you should plan on having:

Protein

1. Beans – Reliable and easy to grow, beans are a nutritional staple for the homesteading family. Prepare the soil early, and plan on 2-3 months of growing before harvest to get a yield in your first year, and you can expect more in year two.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

2. Poultry – If starting with chicks, expect 2-3 years of successful rearing, selection, brooding and culling before you will have your flock established. In the meantime, you will collect eggs and eat birds you choose not to keep in the flock. Start with 10-12 chicks, and plan for them to be around 3-4 months old before butchering.

3. Rabbits – Rabbits are quick producers of meat for your family. It is not unreasonable to expect 20 or more rabbits per year from a single breeding pair. Allow for 1-2 years for your rabbits to become established. Select for breeding performance, health and size, and introduce new genetics regularly.

Grains

4. Corn – Corn is a prolific grain crop needing much nutrition from the soil and up to four months of heat for production. In your first year of growing corn, it is not unusual to have a lot of losses due to weather, pests or soil issues. However, once you have worked out the issues corn can be an important staple grain. Plan on about two years of learning before cultivating a substantial harvest.

5. Wheat – One of the most common grains in the American diet, wheat is reasonably easy to grow and hard to harvest. Wheat is ready after around two months of hot weather. When planning to start wheat, figure in threshing and grinding time.

Fruits & Vegetables

6. Winter Squash – Grow winter squash to supply your family with important vitamins and provide you with an easy keeper crop. Winter squash takes up to 4 months to mature, but you should be able to get a good yield in your first year with appropriate pest management and watering.

Completely, 100 Percent Off-Grid: 9 Essential Foods You Should Grow

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7. Apples – Although apples can be extremely useful, you need to plan on 6 – 10 years with your trees before they will bear fruit. Your patience will pay off, however, and planting apple trees is well worth the wait.

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8. Potatoes – Potatoes are easy to start. You can expect a good yield in your first year of potatoes. Short season varieties will grow in as little as 2 months, but longer season varieties can take 3 months or more.

Extras

9. Honey – Honey is a fantastic sweetener on the homestead and comes with lots of nutritional benefit. Plus, bees pollinate your crops. However, bees take a while to get production ramped up. Your first year harvest will be very small, but in the second year you can harvest up to 30 pounds of surplus honey from one hive (leaving the bees something to eat over the winter).

If self-sufficiency is your goal, then don’t wait to start on projects like these. Even if you’re still buying most of your food, developing your homestead so you can begin slowly weaning yourself away from doing so, means you won’t have to spend your early years of self-sufficiency struggling to find food.

What advice would you add? What would you add to this list? Share it in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

10 Clever Food Preservation Tricks You Likely Won’t Find On YouTube

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10 Clever Food Preservation Tricks You Likely Won’t Find On YouTube

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There is no doubt that the world wide web contains a wealth of information. How-to videos are easy to find for just about everything, and articles full of clever hints and hacks are all over the place.

But this article is not just another list of cute-but-impractical ideas. Most of these tricks are ones which I actually use myself on a regular basis to make my food preservation projects easier and more efficient. (I will explain the two exceptions at the end.)

Although I have embraced the arts of home food preservation for less than 10 years and have spent much of that time on a steep learning curve, I have been fully immersed in everything homesteading and surrounded by others who share the lifestyle. As a result, I have been able to pack plenty of great ideas into my bag of food preservation tricks, and have compiled a few of my favorites to share with others on the same journey.

1. Store onions in nylon hose. Aside from temperature and humidity control, one of the other important factors in keeping onions fresh is preventing them from touching each other. The key to accomplishing this is easy: Just store them in nylon stockings with knots tied between them. Any sort of hose will do; if you have tights or panty hose, just cut off the legs for use and throw out the top. Make sure they are clean, of course, since you will be storing your food in them. Place an onion into the clean hose, push it all the way to the toe, tie a knot in the hose, and repeat with another onion and another knot. Leave enough hose at the top to tie a loop, and hang the loop from a nail on the rafters of your cellar or a hook on the ceiling of your food storage area.

2. Keep apples separate during storage. Many people do not realize that apples give off a gas which causes other fruits and vegetables to ripen more quickly. While this is a great way to treat unripe fruit in a mixed fruit bowl, it creates unfavorable conditions for root cellars and can cause loss of produce. If at all possible, keep your apples stored apart from your squash and root vegetables.

10 Clever Food Preservation Tricks You Likely Won’t Find On YouTube

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3. Use a scoop for pesto. After years of doing it the way everyone else does, I finally came up with a better way. The conventional method for freezing pesto is to put it in ice cube trays, freeze it, and then pop it out and store it in zip-top bags. Nice, unless you are the one who has the tedious job of cleaning out all of those oily little individual ice cube cups. This year, I tried using a small ice-cream style scoop—specifically, a size 40 disher, for those who use restaurant equipment—instead. My freshly processed pesto was too soft immediately, so I chilled it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, it was the perfect consistency for using a disher to make little balls of pesto. I scooped it out onto waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Once frozen that way, it was an easy task to toss the perfectly shaped and portioned pesto balls into a zip-top bag for storage, and cleanup was a breeze.

4. Use whatever fruits you have on hand for fruit leather. I am a great believer in adhering to food preservation recipes, with one exception. Fruit leather projects around my place turn into a fruit free-for-all. If I happen to be making peach leather, but there are a couple of bananas that are a little too soft for fresh eating lying on my countertop, I throw them into the food processor with the peaches.

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On the other hand, if my apple leather project happens when there are once-frozen peaches now thawed and unappealingly discolored in the refrigerator, they end up in the leather as well. Mixing fruits for leather is safe and generally rewarding.

5. Use a salad spinner when blanching vegetables. This is a fantastic tip I learned from my Master Food Preserving Program instructor. After processing your broccoli or green beans in boiling water and then plunging them into an ice bath, the next step is to remove as much water as you can before packing them into freezer containers. You can spin almost all vegetables dry using a salad spinner, even the bulky ones like cauliflower or Brussels sprouts—just cut the vegetables into reasonably sized chunks and be sure not to overload the spinner.

6. Use a regular drinking straw to remove the air from freezer bags. The more air you can remove when packaging vegetables into zip-top bags, the better quality the frozen result will be. You can buy a vacuum seal machine if you want to, but that means greater expense, additional storage space and hassle, higher cost for bags, and less ability for reuse. Alternatively, you can manually suck the air out with a straw and pinch the seal around it as you withdraw the straw. It is an easy process and takes only a few seconds per bag.

10 Clever Food Preservation Tricks You Likely Won’t Find On YouTube

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7. Keep jars warm in the canner. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many experienced home canners do not know about this. When I prepare for a canning project, I first place my clean jars into whatever canner I am using, cover them with water, and set them on the stove to heat. By the time my product is prepared and I am ready for jars, I simply lift them out a few at a time for filling, and return them afterwards for processing. You will have too much water for pressure canning this way and will have to pour some out before processing, because you need just a few inches instead of enough to cover the jars. If you heat your lids, you can drop them into the canner with the jars as well.

8. Mouse-proof plastic totes with hardware cloth. Large plastic storage totes make perfect storage for root cellaring, except for the problem of what to do about the lid. If you leave it on, the vegetables cannot breathe and the air in the container will become too humid. But if you take it off, rodents get into your bounty. The solution is to cut out a piece in the center of the lid and cover the hole with hardware cloth using heavy-duty glue or duct tape. You can adjust the size of the mesh according to the particular pests that threaten your produce, and may even need to use window screen if insects are an issue.

9. Keep raw tomatoes in the freezer until you have enough for processing. There is a lot of space between having just enough to eat fresh and having enough to can a whole batch of sauce. In the interim, many wise home food processors simply toss them into the freezer. When there is enough—or when you have time to do the work—simply take them out and cook them as usual, remove the skins in a food mill, and continue the sauce work.

10. Store berries in the freezer for making jam later. There is a lot of living to be crammed into short northern summers, and sometimes there is not time for jamming when the berries are ripe. And besides, standing over a pot of boiling fruit is far more appealing in November than it is in August. Using frozen and then thawed berries for jam can be the answer to short, hot busy summers.

The last two items are those which I do not do personally. The reason is simple—freezer space. I begin every summer with an empty 15-cubic-foot freezer, and by early October every square inch is full. I have a second freezer which I use for meats and other miscellanea, but space is at a premium in that one, as well. By the time my long-season paste tomatoes start ripening, there is no room for them in either freezer.

By incorporating some of these simple tips into your regular routine, you can benefit from the tried-and-true wisdom of the homestead community and begin to build your own bag of food processing tricks.

What food storage advice would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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The 10-Year Shelf Life Food That Prisoners Are Stockpiling (And Bartering)

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The 10-Year Shelf Life Food That Prisoners Are Stockpiling

Long a staple of dorm room life as well as a favorite stockpile item, ramen noodles have become a trading commodity at American prisons.

According to a recent study by Michael Gibson-Light, a University of Arizona School of Sociology PhD candidate, the instant soup and noodle product is a valuable bartering tool for inmates for other food items, as well as clothing, personal hygiene products and services.

Frequently maligned for their high sodium content, ramen noodles now come in lower sodium versions and even organic versions.

“Prisoners are so unhappy with the quality and quantity of prison food that they receive that they have begun relying on ramen noodles – a cheap, durable food product – as a form of money in the underground economy,” Gibson-Light said in a news release.

For his research on how inmates are handling declining prison services, Gibson-Light interviewed staff members and male prisoners in an unnamed penitentiary. He reports that “soups,” as ramen noodles are called in prison, have replaced tobacco as the preferred currency for inmates and that prisoners even use “soups” as bargaining chips during card games.

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It is easy to see why. The ubiquitous soup product that features hot broth and noodles has a long shelf life and can be eaten “as-is” after mixing with hot water or as the base for other meals.

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Retailing for around 30 cents per three-ounce serving when purchased in bulk packs, ramen noodles are tasty and inexpensive, and they have up to a 10-year shelf life when stored in a cool, dry location. For many survivalists, ramen noodles are a stockpile staple.

Instant ramen was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, a Taiwanese/Japanese entrepreneur, and is now a multibillion-dollar global industry. The word “ramen” is probably derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese for “lo mein,” which is also a boiled noodle dish.

The Maruchan Company, founded in 1953 by Japanese businessman Kazuo Mori, is the largest producer of instant ramen products. Since 1977 when it opened its first manufacturing plant in Irvine, Calif., Maruchan has produced its products in the United States.

“Maruchan” is a Japanese compound word that loosely translates to mean the round, happy face of a child. The Maruchan website says that it produces 3.6 billion packages of the popular noodle soup each year and boasts that if all those noodles were lined up end to end, they would reach from earth to Mars and back again.

The Chinese consume about 46 billion packets of ramen a year, making them the world’s largest consumers of the product, according to the World Instant Noodles Association.

Sources:

http://www.denverpost.com/2016/08/24/ramen-black-market-currency-american-prisons/

http://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/english/

http://www.maruchan.com/

What is your reaction? Do you stockpile ramen noodles? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Hickory Nuts: The Wild-And-Abundant Fall Food You Better Grab Before They’re Gone

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Hickory Nuts: The Wild-And-Abundant Fall Food You Better Grab Before They’re Gone

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If you are looking for a tasty, calorie-dense wild food, you can’t go wrong with hickory nuts. The sweet, fatty raw meat of a hickory nut can be eaten right out of its hard shell or cooked. The nuts will keep in a cool dry spot for several months, or you can freeze them for later use.

Hickory nuts come from deciduous hardwood trees that are found in North America and Asia. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees lists 10 different varieties of hickory trees. A few varieties produce bitter-tasting nuts, but the shagbark and shellbark trees are known for their good taste.

Our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, famously was nicknamed “Old Hickory” due to his tough nature, although the real-life hickory nuts are easily crack-able. He also had quite a few shagbarks surrounding his home, the Hermitage.

The shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), found in the eastern United States, has a shaggy bark that easily peels away in strips. Other varieties include the pecan (the Carya illinoinensis), the shellbark or kingbark (the Carya laciniosa), the mockernut (the Carya tomentosa), the sand hickory (the Carya palida) and the red hickory (the Carya ovalis).

The shell of the hickory nut is encased in a green or greenish-brown husk that you can easily peel off after the fruit has fallen from the tree. The nuts begin to drop from hickory trees in early fall, and since you will face some stiff competition from squirrels, it is a good idea to gather your supply as soon as possible.

Gather hickory nuts in a bucket or sack, removing the husk as you go. Consider saving the husks for use as mulch in your garden.

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At home, sort through your collection, discarding any nuts that have a dry, wrinkled appearance or that have discoloration or holes in their shells. Holes are an indication of insect infestation in the nut.

Shelling the Nuts

There are many ways to crack open the tough hickory shell, ranging from the use of a heavy-duty v-shaped hinged nutcracker to the use of a rock or a hammer. Avoid using a standard lever-type nutcracker, however, because it might crunch the tender nutmeat into fragments. Also, do not use your teeth!

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Before cracking, soak the nuts in warm water for about an hour. This process causes the shell to flex and/or split, making the cracking process easier. The amount of pressure you exert to crack the nut properly will vary, and it may take a while to get your technique down. To prevent shell pieces from flying around, cover the nut with a cloth before hitting it with a hammer or rock.

Use a nut pick to extract the meat from the broken shell. You can save shell fragments for your bird feeder. Birds are good at finding small fragments of meat left on broken shell pieces.

Eating the Nutmeat

You can enjoy hickory nuts fresh from the shell as a satisfying snack. Nine hickory nuts, or about one ounce, provide 186 calories, 3.6g protein, 5.2g carbohydrates, 18.2g fat, 1.8g fiber, as well as traces of magnesium and thiamine.

There are other ways to enjoy the nuts:

Roasting. Spread the nutmeats in a cookie sheet or shallow pan and place them in a 200-degree Fahrenheit oven. Roast the nuts until they are a golden color.

Nut butter. Grind the roasted nutmeats in a blender, along with enough safflower oil and salt to achieve the desired consistency and taste.

Baking. You can substitute hickory nuts for pecans or walnuts in dessert and bread recipes.

Here is a hickory nut pie recipe to try:

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup white Karo syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup hickory nuts, chopped
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Directions

Mix the eggs, vanilla, sugar, syrup and butter together. Fold in the nuts. Pour the batter into the pie shell and bake in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40 more minutes.

What advice would you add on harvesting and using hickory nuts? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Which Preservation Method Is Best For Which Foods? (Here’s How To Know)

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Which Preservation Method Is Best For What Foods? (Here's How To Know)

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I am frequently asked what is the best preservation method for various foods, and the answer is almost always the same: It depends.

The best bet is to be ready and able to do a combination of canning, freezing, dehydrating and root cellaring in order to maximize your efficiency and to end up with the best possible end result for the least effort and cost.

There are pros and cons to each type of food preservation, and which one you choose depends upon the food you are preserving, your own particular needs, your facilities and equipment, and the time you are willing and able to put into it.

The general rule of thumb in food preservation is to shoot for the shortest distance between two points. That is to say, choose the easiest and cheapest way to get the job done in a satisfactory manner. However, there are often additional factors which must be considered.

Let us first look at a few basic facts about each preservation method.

Canning

What Is The Best Food Preservation Method? (Here's How To Know)

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The upside of canned food is that it can be stored without the use of electricity, making it versatile for off-grid situations and worry-free for possible power outages. In addition, jars of food can be stored just about anywhere, making storage space less of an issue than with other options. The contents of canned foods are ready immediately without waiting for thawing or rehydrating. Also, many people prefer the taste and texture of canned foods, especially that of meats.

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On the other hand, canning is generally the most labor-intensive method of food preservation. It also presents a certain level of risk that is less prevalent with other methods—although the likelihood of botulism in properly canned foods is miniscule. Many canned vegetables have a less desirable texture than their frozen counterparts, and some are even said to contain less nutrients when canned.

Freezing

The best part about freezing foods is minimal preparation. Another great plus is the increased flavor, texture and color of many foods.

The downside of freezing is that it costs more. Purchasing a freezer is a big investment, and running it continuously year-round adds up. Using a freezer to preserve food is a real challenge without a steady reliable source of electricity. Freezer space can be a problem, too. It takes up floor space in your home, and when it’s full, it’s full. Unlike other methods, the space is finite—16 cubic feet of food is not going to fit into 15 cubic feet of freezer.

Dehydrating

Not all foods can be dried safely and effectively, but those that can are able to be stored easily, using minimal space and no power, for a long period of time. Taste and texture can be an issue with dried foods, which somewhat restricts their usage. The cost of dehydrating equipment covers a wide range, from a simple homemade screen which is adequate in some climates to high-end electric models that do offer a certain appeal. There is a learning curve to dehydrating, as well, with it being arguably the most subjective of methods—unlike canning instructions that give specific processing times and freezing directions with blanch times. Dehydrating the same food can range from four to 12 hours.

Root cellaring

Root cellaring is easy and no-fuss. One of the older preservation methods, it involves at its most rudimentary level simply finding a cool place to store a vegetable and placing it there. But like most skills, it requires a little judgement and experience to know what goes where, how long it can be expected to last, and what not to pair with it. It can be as inexpensive and no-frills as a shelf alongside the cellar stairs or under the guest room bed, or as elaborate as an intentional structure out of stone and mortar.

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A word about smoking: Although recognized as an excellent option for food preservation, it probably involves more skills and equipment than everyday gardeners may have access to in their backyards and kitchens and pantries. For that reason, I have chosen to omit it from this discussion. But if it is your preservation method of choice, thumbs up to you!

What Is The Best Food Preservation Method? (Here's How To Know)

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My personal food preservation plan looks something like this: I reserve freezer space for foods which do not generally can well—if at all—such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, green peppers, pureed squash and most berries. If there is space beyond that, I add in foods which I prefer frozen, such as green beans.

If I have an abundance of beans—which I almost always do—I will can some. I like to can a few batches of blueberries to eat with yogurt, in addition to many pounds I freeze for use in baking. I always can my jams and pickles because I prefer the texture and cannot afford the freezer space.

I dry some fruits and like to make fruit leather. I also dehydrate vegetables when they are so abundant that I still have some left over after other methods, for use in soups and casseroles.

My root cellaring depends upon the weather. If it gets cold early in fall without too much of an Indian summer, so that the temperature in my house cellar drops and stays down, it is a prime opportunity for storing a bounty of food. I set apples in screened crates on the stone steps of my exterior bulkhead, where it gets very cold and stays damp, and keeps my apples separate from other foods. I place carrots and rutabagas and leeks in bins of sand in the main part of the cellar, and stash winter squashes in the closet in my utility room.

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If I have time, I prepare some convenience foods—those which I am glad to reach for when I need something instant, such as canned potatoes, canned stew and canned pork-and-beans.

Your personal preservation plan might look different than mine. To sort it out, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I realistically have time to can it?
  2. Can I afford the purchase price for a freezer, do I have room to store it, and do I have an adequate source of reliable electricity?
  3. Will I be satisfied with the end product of dehydrating foods?
  4. Do I have, or can I create, a place to store root crops as-is or in sand?
  5. Do I enjoy the taste and texture of my chosen method?

Certain foods ought not be canned, due to either quality or safety reasons. Brassicas, eggplants, summer squash, pureed vegetables and untested recipes are among these.

Other foods are able to be canned but often yield a disappointing result. Strawberries lose flavor and texture. Greens such as spinach and Swiss chard are a lot of work.

Conversely, tomatoes are generally better canned than frozen, but cherry types can be popped whole into freezer bags for use in soups and casseroles, and leftover batches that did not seal in the canner freeze fine, too.

Some foods have many options. Potatoes are great root cellared, canned, frozen or dehydrated. Most cuts of beef are, too, as well as many other meats and vegetables.

Sometimes, you can even use more than one method on the same food. For example, I hang my onions from cellar rafters, inside the legs of pantyhose with knots tied between them to keep them from touching, and they store well that way for months. But when they start to get soft—or when it gets cold enough for me to fire up my cellar stove—I peel them and freeze them in bags of slices or chunks. This two-phase method minimizes my processing efforts to only that which is absolutely necessary and still allows me to use onions at my convenience throughout the year.

There are many factors to consider when preserving food. Cost, space, effort and end result are all important considerations to be balanced. As long as you follow safety guidelines, there are plenty of options that can be tailored to a food preservation plan that works just right for you.

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3 ‘Survival Breads’ The Pioneers Made Without An Oven

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3 Simple ‘Survival Breads’ The Pioneers Made Without An Oven

Image source: Charles Marion Russell

 

Baking bread usually requires an oven. But what do you do when you’re a pioneer living in the 1800s — and you don’t have an oven? Simple. You use a frying pan, or twist the dough around a stick or make a version of cornbread on the metal side of a hoe or large axe. This is what our ancestors did for hundreds of years.

The first recipe we’ll explore is a frying pan bread often referred to as bannock bread. The recipe is fairly simple. The only trick is making sure you don’t burn the bannock.

Bannock Bread

3 Simple ‘Survival Breads’ The Pioneers Made Without An Oven

Bannock batter. Image source: Steve Nubie

Bannock bread ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of shortening
  • ½ cup of dry milk powder (optional)
  • Water

Bannock bread directions:

Before you add the water, you need to cut in the shortening using a couple of knives or a pastry cutter. After the texture appears crumbly, slowly add water until you get a putty-like consistency.

Oil a cast-iron frying pan. Mountain men would use bacon, salt pork or even bear fat. I’m OK with the bacon but I’ll pass on the bear fat. Pour the mixture into the pan. I used a small size 1 cast-iron pan. Place the pan over some coals or on the stovetop and brown for about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the bread over in the pan and finish the other side.

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3 Simple ‘Survival Breads’ The Pioneers Made Without An Oven

Bannock bread over coals. Image source: Steve Nubie

You might want to flip a few times to cook the bread through and to prevent burning. When you think it’s done, poke a stick into the center of the bread. If it comes out clean and dry, then the bread is done. If not, then you can let it rest in the pan off the heat until it finishes.

Bread on a Stick

Another recipe was popular with sourdoughs and mountain men. It was bread on a stick. This was a surprisingly simple solution because all it involved was wrapping a long roll of dough around the end of a shave stick and setting over the fire. The stick was usually inserted in the ground at an angle to the fire and turned occasionally. If you dip your hand in water and spritz the dough while it bakes, then you’ll get a pretzel texture to the finished bread twist.

Bread on a stick ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast
  • Extra flour for dusting and rolling

Bread on a stick directions:

Combine and mix the dry ingredients and slowly add the water. You want to create a dough ball that you can roll out into a rope of dough. Use the reserved flour to keep the dough from sticking. Let it rest for about 10 minutes after kneading and then wrap it around the end of your cooking stick. The ideal dimension for your cooking stick is about an inch in diameter with a pointed end and about 3 feet long. I usually insert one end of the dough into the point at the end of the stick and then try to either overlap the dough as it’s wound or if I’m lucky, push it onto a small branch about 10 inches down the stick. Set the dough on the stick aside and let it rise a little more. I just push it in the ground away from the fire.

When it’s time to bake or roast your bread on a stick, push a different sharpened stick into the ground at an angle to your fire. You could also support it with rocks. You don’t want a roaring fire. A nice bed of coals will do. Turn the stick from time to time, but be careful and wear gloves because the stick will get hot. You can also spritz the dough with water flicked from your fingers if you want a pretzel-like finish to the dough. You can toss some salt on the wet dough toward the end of cooking after your final spritz.

Tear a piece off and give it a try. If it needs more time you can slowly turn it over the coals.

Hoe Cake

3 Simple ‘Survival Breads’ The Pioneers Made Without An Oven

Hoe cake. Image source: Steve Nubie

Another pioneer bread is commonly referred to as “Hoe Cake.” This is a cornbread that was literally baked on the curved metal side of a hoe. The hoe was parked next to the fire and the hot iron cooked one side of the hoe cake while the heat from the fire cooked the other side. I don’t happen to have a hoe, but I have a large timber-squaring axe, which did the trick just fine.

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You can also finish your hoe cake in a cast iron skillet. It’s the same concept, although you have to flip if from time to time to finish both sides.

Hoe cake ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¾ cup of buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup plus one tablespoon of water
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil or bacon grease
  • oil for the pan or the hoe

Hoe cake directions:

If you want to do this the old-fashioned way on the side of a hoe (if you have one) or in my case, the side of a large axe – you’ll want a fairly thick batter that will stick to the side of the metal.  If you would rather do it in a pan, you’ll want a cast-iron pan. Oil the pan and drop the batter into the skillet after it’s hot. You’ll probably want to turn it once or twice to cook it through and prevent it from burning.

Final Thoughts

It’s fun to try these old world recipes and they’re easy to make. You might want to experiment a bit, but it’s a good skill to know if you find yourself in the woods or wilderness and have a craving for something as fundamental as bread.

What advice would you add? Have you ever a survival bread? Share your tips in the section below:

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3 Things Your Grandmother Got Wrong About Canning

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Here’s What Your Grandmother Got Wrong About Canning

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There are a lot of misconceptions out there about canning safety. As is true with many topics, information found on the Internet supports a wide variety of truths and opinions, and it can be hard to differentiate between them.

Canning safety is a big deal. Doing it right is what comes between eating home-preserved food with confidence and risking upset stomachs, spoiled and wasted food, serious illness, or in very rare cases even death.

Before I explain which techniques are considered safe according to modern-day science and which are not, let me address the inevitable questions.  I hear them at every workshop I conduct and see it in every comment thread on forum discussions and social media.

“My grandmother used wax on her jams and all us kids grew up eating them.”

“The ladies at church just flip the hot chow-chow jars upside down and call it good.”

“My mother never owned a pressure canner and we all ate her canned beans and beef just fine.”

“We eat canned cake at camp every summer… and nobody ever died.”

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And my answer is always the same. Sure. Each one of us knew of someone consuming food canned by what is considered today to be unsafe practices, and many of us did it ourselves. And we did indeed all live to tell the tale.

But why take the risk? People survived automobile travel before seat belts came along, but most of us wear them nowadays. Communities have thrived for centuries without modern-day sanitation and plumbing, but most of us today consider running water and flush toilets to be good things. Mammograms, steel-toed work boots, prenatal ultrasounds, child safety locks—all things people lived without, until the advantages of using them became clear.

You can take the chance of doing it the old-fashioned way if you want to, but know that it is a risk. No home-canning method is guaranteed 100 percent bulletproof, but using techniques tested and approved by science and research are the best ways to minimize potential problems.

There are three main points I would like to highlight – three things our grandmothers often didn’t do when canning. First, processing in a canner is necessary for every canned product. No shortcuts, no alternatives. And second, using a pressure canner is essential for all low-acid foods. Third, all recipes are not created equal. Read on for details.

1. Processing is crucial.

Old-fashioned methods and trendy hacks are not good choices. Topping preserves with hot wax allows potential harmful bacteria and molds to seep in. Even after mold is scraped off the top—like our grandmothers used to do when we were not looking—it has been determined by recent science that there could well be lingering pathogens below the visible mold. The safe bet is to just pop them into the hot water bath canner for a short process time instead.

So-called “oven canning” and “open-kettle canning,” along with creative ways to can foods in the dishwasher and microwave, have not been tested to be safe and are not recommended. Food processed in this way does not always kill potential contaminants which may spoil food and make you sick.

Neither is it safe to simply invert the jars when hot and allow the product to seal itself—it might appear to seal nicely at the time, but is apt to unseal and reseal itself as the storage temperature fluctuates between now and the time you eat it.

Process, process, process—in a canner. There is no shortcut that is worth the risk.

2. Process all low-acid foods using a pressure canner.

Here is why:

3 Things Your Grandmother Got Wrong About Canning

Image source: Pixabay.com

Hot water bath canners heat water to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. That is as hot as they can get. Pressure canners, by design, heat water to 240 degrees. The reason heat is an issue is because of rare but naturally occurring spores of the microorganism C. botulinum. When given exactly the right conditions—low acid and anaerobic—they can develop into botulism, which can be deadly. When canning low-acid foods, care must be taken to kill the spores before the product goes into the anaerobic jars, and 212 degrees is not sufficient to do so. It is imperative to use the higher-heat pressure canner to destroy any possible C. botulinum spores present.

Some folks insist that by canning them longer, all foods can be safely canned using a hot water bath canner. This is not true. Boiling water will never reach the temperature needed to kill possible dangerous spores. And besides, who wants to eat green beans that have been boiled for an hour and a half?

High-acid foods—most fruits and tomatoes—do not provide conditions for botulism to develop, and so hot water bath canners are sufficient. Vegetables, meats and other low-acid products need to be pressure-canned. The exception to this rule is when the vegetable is “acidified.” When sufficient amounts of acid, usually vinegar or lemon juice, are added, the end result is a food with enough acid content to safely can in a hot water bath canner.

3. Always use an approved recipe.

In addition to giving you the exact amounts of every ingredient and explaining exactly how to cut, chop, combine and cook them, a good recipe will tell you which canner to use, what size jars are best, and how long to process the products.

I know, I know. Great Aunt Hilda’s relish recipe was the best! And that wonderful easy salsa recipe on Facebook—yum! But has it been tested? Is the ratio of high-acid and low-acid foods adequate for the method and time given for canning? Is it worth the risk?

Another way people get into trouble is by starting off with a safe recipe and making their own modifications. Tomatoes are generally high acid, but peppers and onions are not. Adding low-acid foods can alter the acidification of a recipe enough to change the safety factor.

The perfect way to have your cake and eat it, too, is this: If you absolutely must use that online salsa recipe with questionable ingredients, go right ahead. Just freeze it. Botulism will not develop in the freezer, and your salsa will be good to go.

Use a recipe source approved by your cooperative extension. These include publications by Ball, USDA, and the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation. Ball canning books are inexpensive and can be found in most supermarkets and department stores. The National Center for Home Food Preservation’s excellent publication, “So Easy to Preserve,” sells for a little more money, but all of its recipes are available online for free at http://nchfp.uga.edu/

In addition to these three must-dos, remember to keep everything painstakingly clean. Pots and utensils, jars, lids, canning equipment, kitchen linens and hands all need to be carefully washed and rinsed before you begin any canning project.

Stay safe, play it smart, follow the guidelines, and you and your family will enjoy the fruits of your labors for seasons to come.

Do you agree? What canning advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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Drowning In Squash? Here’s 18 Clever Ways You Can Use It

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Drowning In Squash? Here's 18 Things You Can Do With It

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Anyone who has ever planned meals around the garden harvest knows there can be too much of a good thing. Eating from the garden is different from buying it at the store. When shopping for food in the supermarket produce aisle, it is easy to get exactly what you need. One bunch of Swiss chard, a sweet pepper or two, and maybe a little box of cherry tomatoes.

Gardens do not grow that way. They are seeds, then developing plants, then there are blossoms, and then wham-o! When a crop is in season, it doesn’t dole out a manageable pound or so a week, giving you time to eat what you have before it delivers more. Instead, it throws a lot at you at once.

Especially if it is summer squash. It seems to explode overnight without warning, going from a few blossoms to a handful of fruits to OH MY GOODNESS. I am pretty sure it has actually happened that I have gone out to the barn and noticed a few ready-to-pick zucchinis as I passed them, spent 15 minutes tending animals, and by the time I walked back past they had all grown to baseball-bat-size.

Even if it does not happen quite that fast, there does seem to be a lot of summer squash and zucchini showing up all at once in the garden. It gets so crazy that friends and coworkers duck for cover when they see gardeners coming, for fear we might be bringing them another armload of squash.

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Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy the bounty of summer squash. Here are my favorite ideas for keeping up with the garden.

1. Raw. Small squashes are perfect in all kind of salads. They can be prepared any way you like. Any shape, any thickness. With or without skins. The pieces are great mixed in with pasta or greens or cherry tomatoes or dressing, or by themselves with dip.

2. Panfried. Fried or chunked, squashes go great in the pan. Use a little oil or butter—I prefer extra virgin olive oil—and spice them up to suit your mood. Use oregano and Italian seasoning for a hint of Mediterranean flavor, or kick it up a notch with a little crushed red peppers or hot sauce. Use Middle Eastern seasonings to side with a nice cut of lamb, or simply salt and pepper in the pan and a sprinkle with parmesan cheese at the table for delightfully simple fare.

Drowning In Squash? Here's 18 Things You Can Do With It

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Breaded. Traditional breading—dip in egg coating and then a flour mixture—is tasty, or you can use tempura batter if you are feeling adventurous. Remember that zucchini can soak up a ton of flavor, so be generous with the flour seasonings.

4. Casseroles and baked dishes. Squash can be sliced thin the long way and used between layers of lasagna and shepherd’s pie, cut up and added to your family’s favorite meat-and-tomato recipes, or mixed into a hot vegetable and rice dish.

5. Ratatouille. This one could really be broadened to “stews,” but I so love this unique thick vegetable stew that I have to give it its own section. But if ratatouille is not quite your thing, then go ahead and mix squashes in with other ingredients for whatever kind of stew you like best. Whether all-vegetable or with meat, summer squashes make an excellent addition to stews.

6. Soups. Of course. Everything goes in soup. Meat, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, stock—and squash.

7. Stir fry and fried rice. Even though these are two completely different dishes, I lump them together here because the act of throwing in whatever is on hand to create one-of-a-kind feasts is the same with both of them. Whether in a pan of Asian greens and vegetables, or rice and soy sauce and meat, summer squashes go nicely.

8. Skillet meals. As with Asian-inspired dishes, skillet meals often turn into a unique composition of food on hand. A few potatoes, leftover chunks of pork chops or steak or breakfast sausages, a few handfuls of cut up zucchini, and bam. Supper in a skillet.

9. Eggs. Zucchini and summer squash make a lovely addition to all things egg. If you live on a homestead and have almost as many eggs as you have vegetables, then you can rejoice that they pair so nicely. A few slices of panfried squash on an egg and cheese sandwich, or a little squash cut up or grated into scrambled eggs or omelets, or a mouthwatering potato and squash frittata—yes, please!

10. Pizza topping. Since I discovered this use for zucchini, I never have any left in the freezer by springtime. Fresh or frozen, zucchini is amazing on pizzas! The secret? Panfry it first.  Just a few minutes in a little hot oil with salt and pepper brings out the juices and bakes into a pizza that will knock your socks off.

11. Baked. Once squash gets a little larger, consider baking it. Slice it the long way, scoop out the seeds, cover it with red sauce—I use plenty of Italian seasoning and a dollop of pesto in mine—and layer some cheeses on top. Mozzarella and parmesan work wonderfully. For a change of pace, add some Kalamata olives and feta. Use a baking dish or sheet pan to catch the drippings and bake until tender.

12. Grilled. Slice it the long way and brush it with olive oil and lay the slices right on the grate for a quick sear, or cut it up and in chunks and add to a grill basket of anything from cherry tomatoes to snow peas to eggplant to broccoli. If you’ve got it, grill it!

Image source: Wikimedia

Image source: Wikimedia

13. Bread. Everyone loves the rich texture and spicy aroma of fresh-baked zucchini bread. While you are at it, bake a few extra loaves for the freezer to enjoy warmed up with a little whipped cream topping on a cold winter night. But wait! Grated zucchini can be used in yeast bread recipes, as well. Just add it in anytime during the mixing process, and it bakes up beautifully.

14. Muffins. As with bread, grated zucchini turns out a delightful muffin, as well. Here are a few hints about muffins: you can usually substitute grated zucchini for carrots in a muffin recipe. Not only that, but muffin and quick bread recipes are often interchangeable. To convert a muffin recipe to bread, bake it at a lower temperature for a longer time.

15. Cookies. In a season of desperate overabundance of squash several years ago, I did an online search and found several excellent zucchini cookie recipes.

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They are so good even picky eaters gobble them up! I use zucchini because that is what I best like to grow, but other kinds of summer squash would also work great. Like other baked sweets, cookies can be tucked into the freezer for later.

16. Cake. Zucchini and yellow squash are perfect grated into cakes. Don’t have a recipe? Just use a carrot cake recipe. You can tweak the spices a little by adding cinnamon, but you do not have to. Or, for a drop-dead divine treat, try a chocolate zucchini cake. The richness swallows up the texture and flavor of squash, leaving just pure chocolate heaven.

17. Mock apples. Yes, you read that right. If all else fails and your best intentions to pick them small do not happen and you are left with a collection of big old squashes, it is still not too late. Peel and core and slice up in the size of apple slices, add the sugars and spices and thickeners you would use for apple dessert, bake it in a crisp or a crust, and see what happens.

18. Preserving. You will want plenty of summer squash on hand to enjoy year-round. Small summer squashes make great pickles, can easily dehydrate into yummy chips, and are a snap to blanch and freeze for later use.

Once you try these ideas for using up summer squash and zucchinis, you will never have too many. So go ahead, plant all the squash you want. And don’t worry about people avoiding you during squash season—just share a few of your yummy results with them, and they’ll be lining up for your bounty.

What squash tips would you add? What creative recipes do you use? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Long-Lasting, 3-Ingredient Survival Food The Pioneers Ate

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The Long-Lasting, 3-Ingredient Survival Food The Pioneers Ate

While working cattle at my in-laws’ ranch recently I caught myself dreaming about the past, running through a checklist of things I take for granted that George – the ranch’s founder who grew up in the 1930s — never had the chance to enjoy as a kid in his small house.

The one thing I kept circling back to was food. I thought about my refrigerator at home, packed with juices, meat, cheese, fruit and everything else the average fridge contains. I imagined how my diet would change if one day somebody disconnected the fridge for good. Not only would it cause some storage problems, but it would drastically alter what foods I actually ate.

These dilemmas were an everyday reality for people of George’s day. Folks today often cite canning as the way our ancestors preserved food. It is true the generations of the late 19th and entire 20th century put excess food away by canning. But canning has only been around for a little over 200 years. How did people preserve food prior to that?

The answer is through a variety of methods. Many foods were dehydrated or salted to extend their shelf life. One food that people, especially explorers, found especially useful was hardtack. It seemingly lasted forever.

The Long-Lasting, 3-Ingredient Survival Food The Pioneers Ate

Image source: Author

Hardtack refers to a type of biscuit or cracker that can last an extraordinary length of time. This bread is made with very little water, no yeast, and will keep in storage for years if kept dry. Hardtack’s ability to stay in storage for years without spoiling or molding was probably its greatest attribute. It is also lightweight, nearly indestructible, and contains an abundance of carbohydrates which makes it ideal for a person on the move.

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Hardtack is one of the oldest known foods we have. If you sit down and enjoy a piece, you’ll be sharing the same cuisine feasted on by Roman legionaries, Egyptian sailors and crusaders — just to name a few. Known around the world by different names, the title of “hardtack” became well-used by the early 1800s. Patriot fighters during the Revolutionary War, pioneers and frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone, and mountain men like Jim Bridger and Jedediah Smith would have known the unyielding strength of a hardtack biscuit. In fact, the food was so common to the mountain men they simply referred to it as a “biscuit” rather than differentiating between it and the softer textured bread we know today. In the past, hardtack was generally enjoyed after dipping it in coffee or soup to moisten and soften the bread. In many circumstances I’m sure they were happy to have something to eat.

Making hardtack is extremely easy and only takes a few minutes. If you’ve ever thought about making hardtack, want to get a better feel for what table fare in the past would have been like, or are intrigued by foods that can last indefinitely, give this recipe a try.

Recipe

This recipe is one I got my hands on after browsing the book Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger. Jaeger was a very experienced woodsman who put the book together after a life spent learning skills we would dub today as bushcraft. His four ingredients are as follows:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Water
The Long-Lasting, 3-Ingredient Survival Food The Pioneers Ate

Image source: Author

In the book the entire recipe reads as such:

Mix the dry ingredients, and then add just enough water to make a stiff dough. Roll out the dough to about ¼-inch thickness and cut it into sections. Bake them in a greased pan until the hardtack is bone-dry.

That is the entire recipe for making hardtack. Jaeger doesn’t divulge cooking time in his recipe, but I can attest it will take around 1 hour and 10 minutes to cook at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have your oven preheated, it will help. Simply put the rolled and cut dough into the oven for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, you can flip the pieces for another 35 minutes. When you pull it out of the oven, you’ll likely be surprised how incredibly hard this stuff is. If you choose to use this recipe, there is one thing to note. The sugar in the recipe should be considered an optional ingredient. By adding sugar to the mix, you decrease the shelf life of the product, since sugar does not store as well. If you leave out the sugar, then you are left with three ingredients:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Water

I’m not entirely sure why Jaeger included sugar in this recipe, other than it was probably a recipe he had personally used before. Anyone looking to preserve their hardtack for an extremely long time should avoid using sugar.

Hardtack is a food everyone interested in history, camping or survival should know how to make. It is extremely simple and only takes a few minutes of preparation. Once you have made a batch, it can keep for years at a time and provide you with the energy you need to keep moving forward. It also can offer a glimpse into the lives of those shadowy figures who came before us and struggled to build the world we know today. I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to prepare yourself some of the indestructible camp bread known as hardtack.

Have you ever made hardtack? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Bibliography

Jaeger, E. (1945). Wildwood Wisdom. Bolina, California: Shelter Publications.

Militaryhistory.com. (2014, July 11). Hard to Swallow – A Brief History of Hardtack and Ship’s Biscuit. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from Military History No: http://militaryhistorynow.com/2014/07/11/hard-to-swallow-a-brief-history-of-hardtack-and-ships-biscuit-2/

Wier, S. (2014, July 1). Biscuits, Hard Tack, and Cracker in Early America. Boulder, Colorado, US.

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Vintage Canning Techniques Your Ancestors Used (But Are They Safe?)

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Vintage Canning Techniques Your Ancestors Used (But Are They Safe?)

Canning food in the modern world is easy. We have well-made jars, proven methods developed over a century and a half of trial and error, and the ability to consistently put up safe, nourishing and delicious food.

Even a century ago, canning was a well-established science, regardless of if you used Mason jars with zinc lids and rubber lids, or jars with glass lids and wire bails that locked down tight over a rubber ring. The end result was the same, even if the methods were quaint and old-fashioned today. But prior to our WWII-era metal bands and disposable lids, and prior to the old Lightning jars with wire bails or their competitors, and prior to the earliest Mason jars, there were other methods, and that’s what we are looking at today.

In 1858, John Landis Mason patented the basic screwtop canning jar. It used a zinc lid and a rubber band to provide an airtight seal, and with only minor modifications this method would remain unchanged until WWII. Mason revolutionized home canning with his simple invention, as it brought the reliability of consistently made canning jars, lids and rings into the public sphere for the first time. Prior to that, our ancestors had all manner of ways to put food up in glass and crockery jars.

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In 1810, Nicolas Appert, a French inventor, worked out the idea of hermetically sealing food in jars after cooking it. His methods involved placing food in jars, corking it, sealing the cork with wax, wrapping the jar in cloth and then boiling it. While science tells us now that the boiling of the jar essentially pasteurized it, Appert was unaware of the scientific reasons that ensured his method worked, only that it in fact worked.  He was the first to put up food in glass jars, and he thought it was the exclusion of air that preserved the food (he was half right; the other half was in the boiling).

But prior to his efforts, people were still storing food in jars and crocks. The most common methods involved cooking food with a high sugar content or pickling them. In either case, the final product was placed in glass or crockery jars, and sealed in some form or another with glass, crockery, wooden or metal lids, wax, cloth or paper. Here we see the origins of canned food, but grossly lacking in the kind of processing that allows for safe, long-term storage. Such foods relied on their ingredients, being closed off from the air and stored in a cool dark place, and some of them are considered unsafe today.

Vintage Canning Techniques Your Ancestors Used (But Are They Safe?)The mid- to late-19th century was a boomtime for canning jars and canning technology. Before the Mason jar, we would see “wax sealers,” which used a glass lid and ring of hot wax to provide an airtight seal. This technology is echoed by modern homesteaders who may still use wax to seal jars of jams and jellies. It should be cautioned that wax-sealing of any sort, with or without a lid, was not always successful when it was in vogue, and should not be practiced now; it’s impossible to tell if you’ve gotten a good seal, and it’s easy to break the seal. I remember eating jams put up in wax-sealed jars by my grandmother, but I’d be hard-pressed to do it today.

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Another common sort of jar was the “Lighting” or wire bail jar. Countless variations on this theme exist, ranging from the common sort we may know today to complex systems involving levers or even thumbscrews. All work on the same idea, though, of securely latching a glass lid over a rubber ring that has been sealed through boiling.

The harsh reality is until the 19th century, canning really didn’t exist, and food storage in jars, bottles and crocks was as much hit and miss, as accepting the fact you were stuck with heavily brined or sugared food. Modern concepts of sanitation did not exist, and stored foods were at a greater risk of loss through spoilage.

The current Mason jar, with its on-time use metal lid and reusable metal rings, represents the ultimate in home glass jar canning, and should be embraced with great vigor, due to the low cost, ease of use and proven sanitary track record. If you have older shoulder-seal jars like the old blue Ball jars, or wire bail seal jars, those are best left for decoration or dry storage, and given a gentle and loving retirement.

If you are looking to understand and practice home canning as done by our ancestors, then applying modern sanitary methods and storage, combined with well-made modern storage containers can be rewarding, but outside of an emergency, such methods should really only be practiced for entertainment. An exception could be argued in favor of certain pickling techniques, but those exceed the scope of this article.

Hundreds of companies made thousands of variations of canning jars through WWII, and many still survive today. They are a fascinating glimpse into a time in our nation’s history when self-reliance and sufficiency was an important part of many American’s lifestyles, and the ability to “put up” food for the winter could mean the difference between life and death.

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7 Edible Weeds Your Ancestors Ate (And We’re Not Talking Dandelions)

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7 Edible Weeds Your Ancestors Ate (And We’re Not Talking Dandelions)

 

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of wild plants you shouldn’t eat, and some are downright poisonous. But surprisingly, there are quite a few weeds and wild flowers that are not only delicious but also nutritious — and growing in your backyard or surrounding fields.

What’s critical is knowing what they look like and what parts to eat. A good example is dandelion. The leaves, flower and roots are edible. The flower stalk is not.

Many of these wild plants have significant nutritional value on par with spinach and kale. They also present a variety of flavor profiles, from salty to sweet to citrus accents. Most are best combined with other ingredients, but some taste great on their own as a side dish or salad.

A common caution, in addition to accurate identification, is to avoid areas that may have been exposed to herbicides or other chemicals when harvesting. This often happens in many yards, roadsides, public parks and other places that appear to be “too manicured.” You may have to find a field or wild place to find some, but just as many are in your yard if you haven’t been too aggressive about “killing the weeds.”

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On that note, “weeds” is a prejudicial word. These are actually indigenous, wild plants – plants your great-grandparents and other ancestors ate. Those are plants that thrive in a certain part of the country and climate. Some have been imported over the years from various parts of the world, either intentionally or by accident, and others have been here a lot longer.

If I’m harvesting more than one kind of wild plant, I’ll often use one-gallon plastic bags so I can easily keep them separated. A mixed bag of wild plants may be a bit difficult to prepare or cook and eat because of the variety of types and uses.

You also should aggressively wash the plants in cold water with numerous rinses to clean off any dust, dirt, bugs or other stuff that have found their way onto the plant. A rinse in vinegar is not a bad idea to kill any bacteria, given that vinegar is a powerful and natural antiseptic.

Here’s the list, although it’s by no means all-inclusive. Various parts of North America present a broad variety of edible wild plants, but hopefully you’ll be able to find a few of these:

7 Edible Weeds Your Ancestors Ate (And We’re Not Talking Dandelions)

Red clover. Image source: Pixabay.com

1. Red clover. If you can’t find red clover in your yard or woods, you’re either living in the desert or high mountains. Red clover is just about everywhere, and the flowers are the primary food source — as a garnish for anything or in a soup or just a fresh snack. It has a mild flavor that is sometimes semi-sweet.

2. Wild garlic. This plant looks like a green onion and has light, purple flowers. If you crush the leaves, you’ll smell a distinctive garlic smell. That’s important because while the bulb will have a garlic smell, many other plants in the daffodil family have a garlic flavor-note in their bulbs — and they’re toxic. If the crushed green leaves don’t smell like garlic, ignore any garlic smell from the bulb. You can chop the leaves into a soup or salad or as part of a marinade or sauce, and you can also use the bulbs as garlic in any recipe.

7 Edible Weeds Your Ancestors Ate (And We’re Not Talking Dandelions)

Wood sorrel. Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Wood sorrel. The leaves, flower and tender stem when the flowers are first emerging can be used in mixed salads, flavorful pies like strawberry and rhubarb pies, and have been identified as a salt substitute by some sources.

4. Sweet goldenrod. No. It doesn’t make you

7 Edible Weeds Your Ancestors Ate (And We’re Not Talking Dandelions)

Goldenrod. Image source: Pixabay.com

sneeze. That’s a myth unless you’re hypersensitive to pollen from any plant. The flowers and young buds have a semi-sweet, licorice-like flavor. It makes a great tea and is often added to breads, pancake batter and muffins.

5. Wild ginger. This is all about the roots. The rest of the plant shouldn’t be eaten, because it’s flavorless and a bit toxic. The roots can be harvested year-round. Be careful. A variety of wild ginger known as Asarum Caudatum has toxic properties. Asarum Canadanese is the safe variety. It’s used any way you would use ginger, from grated to sliced and pickled, to candied in sugar, to dehydrated.

7 Edible Weeds Your Ancestors Ate (And We’re Not Talking Dandelions)

Lamb’s quarters. Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Lamb’s quarters. It’s commonly known as pigweed, and I have a ton of it in my backyard. It spreads like mint and the leaves are like spinach when boiled in water for three minutes and shocked in ice water. It’s a great three-season plant, from spring to fall. In the fall, the seeds are usually harvested and used in breads or as a garnish.

7. Wild grape leaves. This is my personal favorite, and I saved it for last. We have wild grape vines growing everywhere, and it’s not about the wild grapes but the leaves. There’s a classic Greek recipe called “Dolmades,” or in some cultures “Dolmas.” It involves rolling a mix of meat and rice with herbs and spices in grape leaves about the size of a stubby cigar. Here’s the full recipe in case you come across these wonderful and natural wraps:

Dolmades

Ingredients

40 to 50 large wild grape leaves

4 cups of vinegar

4 cups of water

½ cup of salt

Directions

Soak wild grape leaves in mixture of vinegar, water and salt overnight. Drain and rinse.

Filling ingredients

1 pound of ground meat. Could be beef, pork, game, squirrrel or possum

2 cups of rice. Could be white, brown or wild rice

2 tablespoons of chopped mint

1 tablespoon of salt

1 teaspoon of pepper

Directions

Brown the meat and cook the rice. Combine both with the spices. Let the mixture cool. Take the wild grape leaves and place a finger-sized piece of the mixture on a grape leaf and roll it up in the shape of a small, stubby cigar. Place the roll into a baking dish and continue until the dish is full. Add a half cup of broth (beef or chicken) to the baking dish and bake at 325 for 30 minutes. Remove to a platter and serve. You can top with a sauce if you like, including the classic Greek Avgelemono, but they also taste great a’natureal.

There are other plants, trees and flowers you can eat, but remember: If you’re not sure, just skip it. Many plants are poisonous, and just as many look the same. Hopefully you’ll find some of these good guys and enjoy them on your table someday. The best news is … they’re free!

What advice would you add on harvesting these seven weeds? Would you add anything to this list? Share your advice in the section below:

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Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

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Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

Image source: Flickr

It is never more gratifying to be a gardener than when luscious ripe tomatoes are rolling off the plants and into our kitchens. For most of us, though, there are often far more tomatoes than we can eat at the time. After slicing, sautéing, roasting, making salads and salsa, adding to pizza and ratatouille and grilled burgers, and filling the freezer with sauce, there is only option left.

It is time to can tomatoes. People have been canning tomatoes for long enough that everyone and their great-grandmother—and I do mean that literally—has strong opinions on how it should be done. Some folks use strictly paste tomatoes, meaning only those varieties developed specifically for use in homemade sauces. Others use any varieties of tomatoes at all, from commercial or traditional to heirloom, in all shapes and sizes.

There is no single correct answer when it comes to the best tomato varieties for canning. The primary difference is that paste types usually have less water content and therefore require less reduction for sauces and ketchup. Taste, texture and personal preference are factors that matter.

The thing about canning tomatoes is that there are a lot of choices, not the least of which is whether to use a pressure canner or a boiling water bath canner. And the right answer to this question is that both methods are correct.

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This is unusual. For almost every other food, there is only one right choice. All vegetable, meats and seafood products need to be pressure-canned for safety. And while fruits can be processed using a pressure canner, it would diminish the quality of the product.

Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

Image source: Pixabay.com

So why can tomatoes go either way? To explain, let me first talk about acid. The value of various foods are either very acidic—which registers very low numbers on the pH scale—or very neutral and registering very high pH numbers.

Almost all fruits range from 3.0 to 4.0 and are considered to be high acid. Vegetables range from 4.8 to 7.0 and are considered to be low acid.

And then there are tomatoes. The average tomato sits at 4.6, right on the cusp of high acid versus low acid. In this sentence, “average” is the key word. If the average is at 4.6, that means there are some varieties that are a tad more acidic, and a few—particularly some of the heirloom types—that are a little less acidic.

Therefore, the safety rule with tomatoes is to acidify them. By adding a little acidic content to every jar of canned tomatoes, we can be absolutely sure that they are adequately acid. Just a tablespoon of lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid per pint of tomatoes does the trick. It is super easy, inexpensive and does not affect the taste of the finished product.

It may sound as if it is alright to skip the acidification step—adding the lemon juice or citric acid—if you are pressure canning, but that is not the case. Acid needs to be added with both processes, and here is why: The directions and processing times for both canning methods have been tested using acidified tomatoes. If you do not use added acid, the processing times given may not be adequate.

The major difference in canning tomatoes using the boiling water bath method versus pressure canning is processing time.

For example, tomatoes packed in water take 40-50 minutes (depending upon the size of the jars) in a boiling water bath canner and only 10 minutes in a pressure canner. Tomatoes with no added liquid take a whopping 85 minutes in a boiling water bath canner and 25 minutes in a pressure canner. With crushed tomatoes, there is a huge time difference as well—35 to 45 minutes versus 15 minutes.

However, there is more than just processing time to consider. Using a pressure canner involves 10 minutes of venting, several minutes to build pressure, and more time to depressurize after processing. When you add it up, the actual time differences are less dramatic.

So why use a pressure canner for tomatoes? Many people say it is about the quality of the finished food. Pressure canned tomatoes often have brighter colors and flavors, retaining more of that tart zing that only a fresh backyard tomato can pack.

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Either way, there are some basics to go by. Following is a synopsis, although complete step-by-step directions can be found either in Ball’s Blue Book Guide to Preserving, which can be purchased for under $10 at most stores, or accessed free online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Canning Tomatoes: Here’s What Grandma May Not Have Told You

Image source: Flickr

Prepare your supplies. Wash and rinse jars and lids, and keep warm. Assemble equipment:  canner, jar lifter, funnel and headspace tool.

  1. Peel tomatoes by dipping in scalding water until skin loosens, plunge in ice water to make them cool enough to handle, and pull skins off. Trim ends. Cut or crush as needed for recipe.
  2. Prepare your canner and heat the water to simmering.
  3. Add lemon juice or citric acid to each jar.
  4. Pack tomatoes according to recipe: crushed, whole or halved packed in water or tomato juice, or whole or halved with no liquid added. Add salt if desired.
  5. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and adjust lids to finger tight.
  6. Process in either boiling water bath canner or pressure canner, following times and procedures for the one you are using.

Processing times cannot safely be mixed and matched. It will not work to use pressure canning times in a boiling water bath canner, or to go with times given for whole tomatoes with added liquid for crushed tomatoes. If using the boiling water bath method for whole tomatoes, follow that recipe to the letter.

I have canned many tomatoes and have used very nearly all of the permutations—with liquid and without, whole and crushed, boiling water bath or pressure canner processed. I admit that I do not have a single go-to way of doing it. An hour and 25 minutes is a long process time, but once it’s boiling, I can set it and forget it. Pressure-canned tomatoes do seem a little tastier, but it is more of a multi-step process than a boiling water bath. Crushed tomatoes are easier to pack into jars, but require more prep work and yield a product that I tend to use less in recipes. Most years, I do a variety.

Even though it seems a little more complicated at the outset, tomatoes are the perfect food for canning and are just right for those who prefer a wide variety of methods. And as long as you use an approved recipe, there is no wrong way to can garden-fresh tomatoes.

What canning advice would you add? Share your tips and secrets in the section below:

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The Delicious Edible Weed That Doesn’t Get Bitter, Is Packed With Vitamins, And Grows EVERYWHERE

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The Edible Weed That Doesn’t Get Bitter, Is Packed With Vitamins, And Grows EVERYWHERE

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

We tend to take weeds for granted. We spray them, pull them out and either compost them or simply toss them in a field. Unfortunately, we’re often tossing away nature’s bounty.

We’ll pay a premium for spinach or kale but lose sight of the fact that many plants like dandelions, plantain and purslane have equal nutritional value.

In fact, purslane not only equals the nutritional value of spinach and kale, but it also has a semi-sweet, salty and succulent flavor. Dandelion leaves and plantain leaves can acquire a bit of bitterness once they begin to flower or go to seed. Purslane is different.

That’s because purslane is a succulent plant. It is related to the cactus and absorbs water, which gives it a refreshing taste and flavor. Unlike the cactus it has no needles and when chilled makes a great addition to a tossed, green salad and will stand up to the boil of a soup or broth.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

Purslane is high in omega-3 fatty acids and contains vitamins A, B, and C, and magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. It’s also an excellent source of fiber.

Here are the official nutrition facts on a serving of purslane:

 

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 16 Kcal 1.5%
Carbohydrates 3.4 g 3%
Protein 1.30 g 2%
Total Fat 0.1 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Vitamins    
Folates 12 µg 3%
Niacin 0.480 mg 3%
Pantothenic acid 0.036 mg 1%
Pyridoxine 0.073 mg 5.5%
Riboflavin 0.112 mg 8.5%
Thiamin 0.047 mg 4%
Vitamin A 1320 IU 44%
Vitamin C 21 mg 35%
Electrolytes    
Sodium 45 mg 3%
Potassium 494 mg 10.5%
Minerals    
Calcium 65 mg 6.5%
Copper 0.113 mg 12.5%
Iron 1.99 mg 25%
Magnesium 68 mg 17%
Manganese 0.303 mg 13%
Phosphorus 44 mg 6%
Selenium 0.9 µg 2%
Zinc 0.17 mg 1.5%

 

Both the leaves and stems are edible, which also sets it apart from other “wild” weeds. I’ve even incorporated purslane leaves into deli salads like potato salad, egg salad and tuna salad to give a burst of freshness and flavor. You also can eat purslane on its own. It has a burst of flavor when chilled.

The Edible Weed That Doesn’t Get Bitter, Is Packed With Vitamins, And Grows EVERYWHERE

Image source: Wikipedia

Purslane grows close to the ground and needs to be washed and rinsed a couple of times. As a low-growing plant it tends to pick up a lot of dirt, dust and those ever-present bugs. Once you’ve washed and rinsed your purslane harvest, you can easily store it in the crisper in your refrigerator. It keeps fairly well in a plastic bag or tied into a bunch with a rubber band.

If you’ve never tried purslane, here are a few easy ways to enjoy it and some ideas about how to add it to many of the things you eat.

Purslane Salad

I usually toss a cup of chopped purslane into a chopped green salad and top it with an apple-cider vinaigrette of a ½-cup of oil, a cup of apple-cider vinegar and a tablespoon of water with about a half-teaspoon of salt and a half-teaspoon of pepper. You also can eat the purslane salad on its own if you can harvest enough of it.

Purslane Soup

Bring 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil and add a cup of noodles and when the noodles are done add a cup of chopped purslane leaves and stems for 2 minutes.

Bacon Fried Purslane

Fry 6 strips of bacon until crisp and then drain on paper towels. In the reserved drippings toss chopped purslane leaves and stems. Chop the bacon and top the purslane with the bacon bits.

Growing Purslane

Growing purslane is surprisingly easy. The seeds are simply cast on the top of dry soil, and they germinate quickly. Purslane cuttings of the stems also will develop roots when watered. It’s a tough plant and grows in the worst conditions, which is why it’s considered to be a weed by so many gardeners. But once you get to know purslane, your view of it surely will change.

What advice would you add on eating purslane? Share your tips in the section below:

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9 Foods You Definitely Didn’t Know Could Be Canned

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9 Foods You Definitely Didn't Know Could Be Canned

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

People have been canning at home for years … decades actually. With all of this experience, you would think we all would know what can be canned in pressure cookers. We don’t.

In fact, many people are under the very wrong assumption that fruits, vegetables and things like jam and soup are the only things they can home can.

The reality is that you can home can just about anything you serve your family today. You aren’t limited to eating mushy veggies and fruits if you are relying on your food storage.

You are in for a real treat when you see the following list of foods that can be canned and stored for years. Check out nine things you can preserve in your pressure canner so your family will be eating like kings for years down the road.

1. Hamburger patties. Imagine being able to have a juicy burger, perfectly seasoned, after a blackout. The next time ground beef goes on sale or you get a great deal on a side of beef, you don’t have to put it all in the freezer. It isn’t just patties you can preserve. Ground beef, in general, can be stored for years on your pantry shelf – as can meatballs.

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2. Chicken legs and thighs. Eating your favorite cut of chicken cooked the way you like is a pretty common comfort food. You can bake it, fry it or put it on the barbecue with your favorite sauce. Your family will love the idea of their favorite meal, just like they used to eat, when things were normal. You can buy packs of chicken legs and thighs for just a few dollars. This is an excellent, inexpensive way to stock your food storage shelves. Chicken breasts are also an option.

3. Fish. Going fishing is a fun activity and instead of wrapping up your catch and popping it in the freezer, can it instead! Salmon, steelhead, halibut and trout are all excellent tasting after the canning process. You can fillet the fish or dice it up. You don’t need to add any salt or preservatives to the water in the jar. Let the fish do the flavoring. Add a little vegetable oil if you like.

4. Pot roast. It often goes on sale and the next time it does, buy a bunch and home can it. Cutting the roast into small chunks, adding a little salt and then processing it in the pressure cooker is all you need to do to add some nice red meat to your food storage.

9 Foods You Definitely Didn't Know Could Be Canned

Bacon can be canned? Yep. Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Bacon. This is something few people want to live without. Canning it and adding it to your food storage means that, during a blackout or crisis, you will be able to make Sunday breakfast like you used to, bacon included.

6. Hot dogs. OK, it may not be the healthiest food, but imagine being able to grill up some hot dogs or whip up a batch of corn dogs for your little ones, even if the food in the freezer is spoiled. Hot dogs are cheap and often go on sale during the summer months, which is a perfect time to load up.

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7. Butter. This is another staple you won’t want to live without. Load up on butter when it goes on sale and melt it down to put into your canning jars. It is important to note that the USDA does not have any approved methods for canning dairy products, and actually discourages it. However, any seasoned homesteader or canner will probably tell you many stories about eating canned butter without getting sick. Ghee, which is basically canned butter — regularly used in foreign countries.

8. Cheese. Cheese, glorious cheese in all styles like mozzarella, cheddar and even cream cheese. Again, this is another one of those items that people have been home canning for decades, but there is no official approved method. There is always some concern about bacteria growth, but if you go through the canning process the right way and store the jars in cool areas, you reduce the risk of bacteria growing and making anybody ill.

9. Cake. This is something nobody wants to live without, but baking a cake during a blackout or emergency could be difficult. Having jars filled with your favorite flavor of cake ready to eat when you get that craving will be an appreciated luxury. Cake mixes are easy to make or buy in bulk and you can fill your shelves with lots of cooked cakes to make any occasion a little more special.

What foods would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below: 

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3 Easy Ways To Cook Plantain, The Spinach-Like ‘Survival Weed’

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3 Ways To Cook Plantain, The Spinach-Like 'Survival Weed'

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I grew up in Chicago and remember seeing plantain growing in yards and parkways along city streets. What always caught my eye were the slender seed stalks emerging from a nest of green leaves. I had no idea they were edible, but have harvested them frequently since then.

Both plantain leaves and the seedy stalks can be eaten, and they contain a surprising number of nutrients on a par with spinach and other leafy green vegetables like kale and collard greens. Plantains have healthy doses of vitamins K, A and C, in addition to iron and fiber.

Harvesting Plantain

Plantain leaves can be easily snipped from the plants with a pair of scissors. The leaf stems are actually a bit fibrous, so cut close to the base of the leaf. The leaves are best when harvested before the tall 4- to 6-inch seed stalk emerges. Much like dandelions, the leaves of plantain become a bit bitter once the seed stalks emerge.

The seed stalks also can be eaten, and there are a few ways of preparing both the leaves and the stalks.

Cooking Plantain

A general rule of thumb for cooking plantain is to immerse the leaves or the stems in boiling water for 4 minutes, and then immediately immerse them into a bowl of ice water. This will shock the leaves or stems to stop the cooking process and fix their deep, green color. When plantains are overcooked they tend to disintegrate, so stay close to the 4-minute rule.

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This initial boiling step will not only tenderize the plant but will help to dilute any bitterness in the more mature leaves. Once you have done this initial step you can go into a variety of directions with further preparation and recipes. It’s not absolutely necessary to do this blanching step. Young, tender leaves can be washed and tossed into a green salad, served with any dressing you prefer.

3 Ways To Cook Plantain, The Spinach-Like 'Survival Weed'

Image source: Wikipedia

Here are three recipes:

1. Sautéing Plantain

I’ll often follow the blanching step in the boiling water with a quick sauté. I’ll drain the plantains and then drop a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil in the pan, and toss the plantains around over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. They make a great side dish, and you can top them with anything from pine nuts to bacon bits.

The seed stalks can be sautéed the same way, and when stacked on a plate have the appearance and a bit of the flavor profile of asparagus. The seeds also can be stripped from the stalks and used as a garnish on everything from salads to mashed potatoes.

2. Plantain Soup

In its simplest form, plantain soup includes strips of plantain leaves boiled in a broth for 4 minutes. I’ll usually add two cup of plantain leaves cut into julienne strips about a 1/4-inch wide and bring 4 cups of chicken broth or beef broth to a boil before adding the plantain leaves. You can add other ingredients to the broth, from noodles to vegetables or even chunks of chicken or strips of beef or venison. Add the noodles or meat or other vegetables to the pot first, and add the plantains to the broth 5 minutes later and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

3. Plantain ‘Goma Ae’

I lived and worked in Asia for two years and spent about 4 months living in Japan. It was there that I first encountered Goma Ae. It’s basically boiled spinach that is squeezed dry after boiling and then tossed in a mixture of sesame seed oil and soy sauce before being shaped into a cube about the size of an ice cube. It’s then sprinkled with a little more sauce and sesame seeds and served cold.

To make the plantain version of Goma Ae, take 2 cups of plantain leaves and boil them in water for 4 minutes. Shock the leaves in ice water and then squeeze out as much water as you can. Mix 2 tablespoons of sesame seed oil with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and toss the leaves in the sauce. Form the leaves into cubes with your fingers; you should get about 4 cubes in total from 2 cups of leaves. Drizzle any remaining sauce over each and sprinkle with sesame seeds. This is the plantain recipe I make most often, and it goes great with any meal. If you want more cubes just double or triple the recipe.

How do you eat plantain? Do you have any other advice? Share your tips in the section below:

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Foraging For Mulberries: Where To Find Nature’s Tastiest Wild Treat

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Mulberry Foraging: Where To Find Nature's Tastiest Wild Treat

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Fruit-loving foragers unite! Just when you think you have tried all berries possible, there always seems to be one more to spark some interest. Do you remember ever singing about going “’round the mulberry bush” as a young child? Well, these berries are more than just part of a youthful song. Those berries are real, and they are perfect for a refreshing summer snack, jams, pies and all sorts of other baking and cooking ideas. Let’s take a look at this tasty berry.

About Mulberries  

These berries look a lot like large blackberries, but mulberries grow on trees – despite what the song says — instead of bushes. It only takes a few years from seed for Mulberry trees to mature into a good, fruitful tree.

There are black, red and white mulberries. When ripe, red mulberries turn into a dark purple or black color. The white type turn from green to their white shade when they are ready to be picked. Black mulberries turn from green to black.

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Red mulberry range. Image source: plants.usda.gov

Red mulberry range. Image source: plants.usda.gov

The red mulberry is native to North America, although it is mostly found in areas such as the Niagara Escarpment now and is classified in Canada as endangered (although common in the US). The black mulberry is native to Eurasia, and the white variation comes from Asia where silkworms eat mulberry leaves.

Mulberries have two types of leaves, and both can be found on a single tree. The leaves are classified as lobed and unlobed. Mulberries are similar to blackberries in taste, but yet still very different. Mulberries aren’t as tart as blackberries, but rather sweet. They are full of vitamin C and iron. They boost the immune system with phytonutrients and carbohydrates.

Where to Find Them

You will be able to find mulberries at the end of spring or beginning of summer. Remember, mulberries grow on trees. These trees can usually be found at the edge of a wood, in neighborhoods and along fences, usually near water such as a creek. They seem to grow anywhere, even in places other plants won’t.

Mulberries are aggressive and tireless growers, especially in moist, rich soil and lots of sun. They like the sun.

Mulberry trees can become quite large over time. Although white and red mulberries are found in the United States, white mulberries are far more rare.

Harvesting Mulberries

As with all types of plant or berry foraging, try to locate fruit away from busy roads or places where chemicals have been sprayed. Plants and trees near such areas will absorb the car fumes and dust. You will want the healthiest and most organic food possible.

White mulberry range. Image source: plants.usda.gov

White mulberry range. Image source: plants.usda.gov

The fruit on the trees will ripen at different times, so you can gather fruit regularly throughout the season. Mulberries are very fragile and make traveling with them very difficult. They are better to eat right away, after washing.

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Picking by hand is still the best way to get the fruit. Be aware: The skin of Mulberries is very thin and you will most likely end up with stains on your hands and fingers (and anything else you touch). Another way you can harvest mulberries is to place a tarp under the tree and gently, but firmly, shake the branches with the ripest fruit. Mulberries will fall readily when they are ripe. Gather up the tarp and place berries in a container. Pick one that will be easy to carry, and rinse the berries when you get home. If presentation of the food is important, then take off the small green stems before eating (although you can eat them, too).

Note: Make sure you only pick mature fruit, as mulberries can act as a laxative when they are not ripe and can be slightly toxic.

Storing Mulberries

Remember the thin skin on the berries? Take care when transporting mulberries home after harvesting. Their own weight can crush those underneath, which can create a big mess if you aren’t ready. Keep this in mind when you are planning harvesting containers.

You can store mulberries at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They only will last a few days at room temperature, and up to a week in the fridge.

Doesn’t just reading about mulberries make you want to grab a basket and spend a day searching for the sweet jewels of nature? Why not make foraging for mulberries part of a family adventure, and enjoy all the yummy bounty you find? The unique look and taste of the mulberry quickly makes this fruit an absolute favorite. You’ll be able to make up a new verse to the childhood mulberry song, maybe one about how good the berries taste!

Do you have any mulberry foraging tips? Share them in the section below:

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Long-Term Food Preservation Secrets Of The Native Americans

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Food Preservation Secrets Of The Native Americans

Image source: National Archives

Traditional food preservation and storage methods have seen an uptick in popularity in the past decade, as people show an interest in learning how the native people of America preserved food and kept it safe for later consumption without refrigeration.

Of course, in winter months, storing food to prevent spoilage wasn’t such a huge concern, but in some parts of the country, indigenous people lived in areas that did not freeze or had a small number of freezing incidents.

Let’s take a look at how the native people dried and stored fruits, vegetables, and meat for consumption during the winter months or for times when food was scarce.

The 5 Types of Food Typically Preserved

  • Foods above ground: berries, fruit, nuts, corn, squash
  • Foods below ground: roots, onions, wild potatoes
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Animals with 4 legs: buffalo, deer, elk

One of the factors that was critical to nomadic tribes, such as the Lakota, was that food needed to be portable. Nomadic tribes generally moved every few weeks (or months, depending on the size of the tribe) so that they did not strip the area of food and firewood, as well as to keep their horses fed. This means that food needed to be dried and made into the smallest, lightest form possible.

For example, while Southwestern tribes, such as the Hopi, could afford to simply dry corn on the cob and store the entire cob in sealed-off rooms, other tribes would strip the corn kernels off for storage. Keep in mind that the corn native people used was not the same corn we see in our supermarkets today.

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Corn was typically dried on the cob, laid out on flat rocks, grass mats or hides. Children and the elderly would typically be in charge of drying food, turning it regularly and removing flies, ants or scaring away birds and raccoons.

Other types of fruit were picked and dried in the same manner. While each tribe had their own way of dealing with vegetables, the methods were the same: to dry out the vegetable so that it could be preserved for later consumption. Many tribes would cut the vegetable, such as squash, into strips, flatten it out using a bone or rock, and then dry these thinned-out pieces in the sun.

Preserving Meat and Fish

Although the native people had no scientific evidence to fall back on, they learned over thousands of years that some foods would not store well and would go rancid quickly unless cooked, dried or somehow preserved.

Fish was often smoked to preserve it for later consumption. Once gutted, the entire fish was often placed over a low fire that included a great many green branches, so that the heat and smoke would dry out the fish meat. Salmon, due to their size, were often cut into strips, and then smoked and dried.

Long-Term Food Preservation Secrets Of The Native AmericansMost other types of meat were cut into long strips and the fat removed. The fat was placed in cooking “pots.” If it was the beginning of the hot, dry season, meat would then be placed on rocks or racks made from tree branches so that it would dry in the sunlight. Again, children and the elderly did their share of work by fanning away flies, insects and marauding animals such as dogs or raccoons. If time was short, the meat was sometimes dried and/or smoked under a very low fire. This dried meat is typically referred to as “jerky.” It could be made soft again by cooking it in a soup and was often served along with other vegetables.

The fat from large animals, such as buffalo or elk, was collected and then put through a process called rendering. Animal fat is very dense in calories, but it goes rancid quickly. Indigenous people learned to render fat by cooking it, along with small amounts of water, under a low heat. All pieces of meat or other tissue will come to the surface and are removed. Rendered fat will last about one year without refrigeration if kept out of direct sunlight.

Pemmican: The Fast Food of Native Tribes

Pemmican was made by many tribes of the north and northeast, including the Cree, Chippewa and Lakota. While the “recipe” varied, the basic pemmican is dried, pulverized meat and dried berries, held together by rendered fat. This mixture was often made into golf-ball sized pieces. The meat could be whatever was handy or what was plentiful at the time, including moose, elk or bison. The fruit used was often dried chokecherries, blueberries or cranberries. Dried meat would be pulverized into almost a powder, the dried fruit also broken down into smaller pieces, and then mixed with the rendered fat. These balls of pemmican were then placed in rawhide bags for storage and transportation.

Pemmican is a nutrient- and calorie-dense food that would last for at least one year. Most tribes, as well as hunting parties, relied on pemmican to get them through the lean winter months. Most Canadian fur traders used pemmican, as well. If a person were traveling, a piece of pemmican was bitten off and then slowly chewed to soften it. If you have ever eaten jerky, you know it takes some time to break down the meat! However, pemmican could also be cooked. Some tribes would put a few balls of pemmican in a pot of water, along with some vegetables, while others would fry it with some onions or wild potatoes.

There were a great many other foods that were dried for later use or used as seasoning, including sage, dandelions, wild rice (which is actually a grass, but grows in wetlands much like rice), pumpkins, beans, azafran, sunflower seeds, acorns, mustard seeds, cactus, tomatoes and plantain (the greens, not the bananas!). What was collected and dried varied a great deal, depending on the climate and what was in season.

While most of us rely on our dehydrators or ovens for drying meat or fruit, the native people of America did it all by hand, relying only on their skill and the power of the sun or fire.

What advice would add on preserving food without refrigeration? Share it in the section below:

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Clover: The ‘Annoying’ Little Weed That Is Edible, Tasty, And Nutritious, Too

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Clover: The ‘Annoying’ Little Weed That Is Edible, Tasty, And Nutritious, Too

Image source: Pixabay.com

Clover is a hardy perennial that has escaped cultivation and grows wild along roadsides and in fields, pastures and gardens across North America. The tough little plant gets short shrift these days, and many gardeners consider it nothing but a weedy nuisance that pops up where it isn’t wanted — like in beautifully manicured lawns.

But if you’re tempted to pull (or worse yet – spray) this plant, consider that every part of clover is edible.

Clover: The ‘Annoying’ Little Weed That Is Edible, Tasty, And Nutritious, Too

Image source: Pixabay.com

Native Americans ate clover raw, or steamed large quantities of fresh, moist leaves between two hot stones. The roots, when dried, were dipped in meat drippings or oil. The dried seed pods and flowers were ground into powder and sprinkled on food or used to make bread.

There are several dozen species of clover with charming names like sweet kitty clover, meadow honeysuckle clove, peavine clover and cowgrass clover. But white clover (Trifolium repens) and red clover (Trifolium pratense) are most familiar. Both are edible and packed with beta-carotene, protein and a variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Clover is easily recognized by its sweetly scented little blooms and three-lobed leaves. Although clover is sometimes confused with wood sorrel, it’s quite easy to tell which is which. Clover leaves are oval in shape, while wood sorrel leaves look like little hearts. Additionally, clover leaves are marked on top with distinctive, whitish-crescent shapes, and if you look closely at a clover leaf, you’ll notice that the edges are slightly serrated.

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Red clover, which is believed to be slightly more nutritious than white clover, is a robust plant that can reach a height of 24 inches. It has a taproot. White clover is a smaller plant that spreads by rhizomes.

Adventures With Clover

There are no particular tricks when it comes to integrating clover into your diet. The key is to keep it simple. For example, eat the blooms and leaves raw or dip them in a little salty water. You also can toss a few leaves or blooms into salads, soup or stir fries. Many people claim that clover (a member of the pea family) is more flavorful and easier to digest after it’s been boiled for five or 10 minutes, but you may have your own ideas. If you’re looking for a nudge to get you started with edible clover, here are a few easy ideas:

Clover: The ‘Annoying’ Little Weed That Is Edible, Tasty, And Nutritious, Too

Image source: Pixabay.com

Clover tea is nutritious, comforting and is believed to be a blood purifier that helps the body eliminate waste materials. Gather flowers when they’re in full bloom, then dry them in a warm, airy spot away from direct sunlight. When the blooms are brittle, chop them loosely and store them in sealed glass containers. Place a teaspoon or two of dried blooms in a cup and add boiling water. Let the tea steep for a few minutes and strain out the blooms. If the flavor is a bit too “green” for your liking, stir in a drop of peppermint or spearmint oil or stir the tea with a cinnamon stick.

Arrange a handful of clover greens on a grilled cheese or turkey sandwich along with sliced tomatoes, lettuce or accoutrements of your choice. The younger the greens, the less bitter they will be.

Stir washed clover blossoms into fritter batter, and then deep fat fry until crispy.

Sprinkle the tender leaves and blooms on green salads, or as a garnish to add flavor and color to your favorite meat or fish.

Saute clover leaves and blooms in olive oil, and then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Mix a small amount of clover blossoms into cake mix or other baked goods. The blooms are reported to add a slightly vanilla-like flavor.

Be adventurous with clover. The culinary possibilities of this tasty little plant are nearly endless.

Have you eaten clover? What advice would you add? Share your clover tips in the section below:

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Chickweed: The Edible, Tasty ‘Superfood’ You Mow Over Every Week

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

What the heck is chickweed and why would I want it in my salad? If you’re like many gardeners, you yank this common weed out of your carefully tended vegetable garden and toss it into your compost bin. Using chickweed as compost isn’t a terrible idea, but you’re missing out on a versatile, flavorful plant. Better yet, you don’t have to plant it, and it’s completely free.

Chickweed is truly worthy of superfood status, rich in vitamins B, C and D, and minerals such as calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and iron. The plant provides anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to be a blood purifier. It has been used through the ages for its many medicinal qualities.

Chances are good that you have easy access to this tasty weed; it grows in nearly every climate across North America.

Dangerous Lookalikes

Before you decide to harvest chickweed for edible purposes, be sure you know exactly what you’re harvesting, because spurge and scarlet pimpernel are chickweed lookalikes. Both are poison and the latter can be deadly, so do your homework. (Although the Internet has a lot of very good information, it’s a good idea to confirm identification in person with two or three experts before eating any wild plant.)

Identifying Chickweed

Chickweed (Stellaria media) tends to grow in thick, intertwined mats, usually no more than four inches in height. Its most important distinguishing characteristic is a single, thin line of white hair that runs up the stems.

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Chickweed produces tiny, tear-shaped leaves and dainty, white, star-shaped flowers. The flowers look like they have 10 petals, but if you look closer you can see they actually consist of five, deeply indented petals. This is an important identifying feature.

The Harvest

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Look for chickweed in spring and cool weather, as this isn’t a heat- or sun-loving plant. You’ll find it growing in woods, meadows, roadsides, lawns or shady garden spots – usually places that have been disturbed. Chickweed may grow in full sunlight, but it flowers and goes to seed quickly. When conditions are just right and temperatures aren’t too warm, you can harvest the plant for up to six weeks.

To harvest chickweed, grab a handful and pull the bunch straight up. Locate the tips of the plants and cut the upper six inches or so with scissors or clippers. Leave the base and lower stems, which tend to be a little on the tough, stringy side. Pick out grass and other less palatable plant matter, and you’re good to go.

Using Chickweed

Have fun and use your imagination, because the sky is the limit when it comes to using chickweed in the kitchen.

The plant is tastiest when used fresh. You may be tempted to dry it like an herb, but it doesn’t last long and loses its nutritional qualities quickly. Instead, store chickweed in the refrigerator as you would spinach or lettuce. If you harvested more than you can possibly use, freeze it and add it to soup stock or other hot dishes.

Salad is the obvious choice for using any type of green, and it’s a good way for beginners to experiment with this tasty wild plant. Snip chickweed into small pieces and add it to a green salad along with grated carrots or beets. Other tasty and nutritious additives include sunflower seeds, nuts, parsley, chives or other wild greens like watercress.

Stir chopped chickweed into omelets or scrambled eggs. Chickweed pairs just fine with mushrooms, onions or other veggies.

Steam chickweed much like spinach or other greens. Make it quick, as overcooking causes loss of valuable nutrients. You can also add chickweed to your favorite stir fry.

Create a chickweed sandwich. For example, pile a handful of chopped chickweed on a slice of tasty bread and sprinkle it with a little sea salt or drizzle lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice. You can always add chickweed to a tuna sandwich, or pile on bacon, tomato or avocado.

Blend chickweed into a smoothie. If you want a super-nutritional treat, combine chickweed with other wild plants like nettles, watercress, lamb’s quarters or dandelion leaves. If you aren’t wild about the slightly earthy flavor, try adding fruit. Any type is great, but citrus fruits like pineapple and orange are especially delicious.

Have you eaten chickweed? What advice would you add on picking and eating it? Share your tips in the section below:

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3 Off-Grid Ways To Make Dandelion Wine (Yes, Wine)

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3 Off-Grid Ways To Make Dandelion Wine (Yes, Wine)

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You’ve heard the motivational phrase about making lemonade from lemons. Well, what about making wine out of weeds? Literally.

The next time you see a fresh crop of dandelions spreading across your lawn, don’t think about how you are going to kill them. Instead, think about the great wine you are going to make out of them.

If this sounds a little crazy, let me assure you it is not. Dandelion wine is a time-tested, well-loved beverage that is made from those pervasive weeds. And, what’s more, it is pretty easy to make.

Thought to be of Celtic origin, dandelion wine is regarded as a European country wine. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, when it was considered improper for ladies to drink alcohol, dandelion wine was recommended as an acceptable medicinal wine for the kidneys and digestive system.

If you need more convincing, dandelion is high in calcium, vitamin A and protein.

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The Internet is rife with dandelion wine recipes – some of which have been passed down through the generations — clearly showing that there is no one true way to make the stuff. Some use the whole flower heads only (no petals), some use flower heads and greenery but no stalks, some use flower heads, greenery and stalks, and still others only use the flower petals. However, they all have dandelions — lots of dandelions — and some form of sweetener.

Wine made from dandelion petals (rather than the whole head) has a gentler taste and is more aromatic than wine made from the whole heads. Wine made from the whole heads has a heavier taste because of a higher concentration of tannin. The choice, then, is a taste preference and a timesaving preference. Plucking the petals is time-intensive, after all.

Dandelion wine is light tasting and lacks body for some wine drinkers. Therefore, many recipes call for bodybuilding ingredients, such as raisins, dates, figs or even rhubarb. How much sugar you add in the wine-making process determines whether the end product is dry, semi-sweet or sweet.

How to Harvest Dandelions

Dandelions tend to close up at night, so your best bet is to choose a hot, dry sunny afternoon to pick your dandelions. Avoid flowers that are damp or wet.

Arm yourself with a bucket, because you need about a gallon of flower heads to make a gallon of wine. If you are just using flower heads, pluck off the heads and gently place them in the bucket. If necessary, you can pick your dandelions over the course of a few days, but store them in the freezer until you have enough flowers for the amount of wine you want to make.

3 Off-Grid Ways To Make Dandelion Wine (Yes, Wine)

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If you have small children, you can enlist their help. Kids enjoy picking dandelions, and they can help cut down on the bending you would have to do if you tackle the project alone.

Here are three recipes for making your own homemade dandelion wine:

1. Recipe one

Ingredients

  • 3 qt dandelion blossoms
  • 1 gal water
  • 2 oranges, with peel
  • 1 lemon, with peel
  • 3 pounds sugar
  • 1 package wine yeast
  • 1 lb raisins
  • Sterilized bottles and corks

Directions

1) Collect the blossoms when they are fully open on a sunny day.

2) Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the flowers in a large pot. Cover pot and let steep for three days.

3)  Slice fruit and make zest from peels.

4) Add orange and lemon zest to the flower-water mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, strain out solids, then add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved. Let cool.

5) Add orange and lemon slices, yeast and raisins to the liquid. Cover mixture with a loose lid to ferment.

6)  When the mixture has stopped bubbling, which can take up to a week, the fermentation process is complete. Strain the liquid through cheesecloth and then transfer to sterilized bottles.  Place a deflated balloon over the top of each bottle to monitor fermentation. If the balloon remains deflated for 24 hours, the fermentation process is complete.

7) Cork the bottles and store them in a cool, dark place for six months or more before drinking.

2. Recipe two

Ingredients

  • Half-gallon dandelion flowers
  • 2 oranges, juice and thinly sliced peels
  • 1 lemon, juice and thinly sliced peels
  • Small piece of ginger root
  • 1-1/2 lbs sugar
  • 1/2 oz yeast

Directions

1) Place flowers in a large pot or crock and pour a half gallon of boiling water over them, making sure they are completely covered with water.

2) Cover pot and steep for three days.

3) After three days, strain the flowers from the liquid and then squeeze flowers to get all their juice.

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4) Pour mixture into a cooking pot. Add ginger root, lemon and orange juice and zest.

5) Add sugar and gradually boil mixture for 20 minutes.

6) Pour liquid back into the rock and let cool. Add the yeast.

7) Pour mixture into a fermenting jug that is fitted with an airlock. Wine will ferment in six days to three weeks.

8) When the fermentation process is complete, transfer liquid to sterilized bottles with caps or corks. Let bottles stand for six months.

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3. Recipe Three

Ingredients

  • 1 qt dandelion petals
  • ¾ lb chopped golden raisins
  • 2 lbs granulated sugar
  • 3 lemons, both juice and zest
  • 3 oranges, both juice and zest
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 7½ pts water
  • Activated wine yeast

Directions

1) Pluck petals from dandelions.

2) Pour boiling water over dandelion petals into a sterile glass jug or food grade bucket.

3) After 2 hours, strain and discard petals.

4) Return water to heat and bring to low boil.

5) Add juice and sugar, stirring well to dissolve.

6) Add zest and chopped raisins.

7) Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

8) When mixture reaches room temperature, stir in yeast nutrient and activated yeast. Cover pot.

9) Stir three times per day for about 10 days to two weeks.

10) Strain mixture into secondary fermenter with a snug airlock.

11) After three weeks, transfer the liquid part (leaving the sediment) into another sanitized fermenter. Fill to top with sterile water and reattach the airlock device.

12) When the wine clears, wait 30 days and then top up and refit airlock device. Age wine at least six to 12 months.

If you would like to read more about how to make dandelion wine, here are a few good resources:

  • Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines by Helen S. Wright, published by Press Holdings International, 2001.
  • The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, published by Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012
  • Drink the Harvest: Making and Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, published by Storey Publishing, 2014

Have you ever made dandelion wine? What tips would you add? Share your advice in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

4 Common Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Turn Into Flour

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4 Common Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Turn Into Flour

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We’re accustomed to wheat as the gold standard for making flour. And while we often think of whole wheat flour as different than white bleached flour, the source for both is still wheat.

The challenge with producing your own flour is the amount of acreage needed to plant sufficient wheat, which is also a high-maintenance crop. Growing wheat may distract from more important work, but that doesn’t mean flour has to be off the menu.

In this article, we’re going to cover some common plants and trees that produce various types of seeds and roots that can be crushed into flour. We’ll include information on harvesting, processing, and also some basics about baking. The primary sources we’ll explore include grasses like rye grass, weeds like amaranth, nuts like acorns, and roots or tubers like cattails.

One of the reasons wheat has emerged and evolved as our primary source of flour is the ease associated with its processing. Wild sources of flour can get a bit more complicated, and sometimes require crushing the source into a wet mash and dehydrating or straining it before pulverizing it into dusty flour.

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Regardless of the source, it takes a lot of raw material to make flour. It’s possible you may only find a small quantity of any one plant, nut or root. That’s why you should consider combining resources to make a blended flour. This could be the roots from cattails plus acorns and amaranth. It essentially creates a multi-grain bread with a nutrient profile that would put it in the category of a superfood.

A Few Words on Technique

The standard approach to making flour from wheat is to harvest the wheat when it has matured and is amber brown, and then cut the stalks and harvest the seeds. Most of us have heard the phrase “separate the wheat from the chaff.” This involves tossing the wheat kernels into a light breeze and allowing the outer coating surrounding the wheat kernels to blow from the heavier wheat seed, which is captured in a wide basket below.

We’ll follow the same technique for rye grass and amaranth, but the approach and technique for cattails and acorns is a bit different and a tad more complicated.

Processing Flour

4 Common Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Turn Into FlourIn order to make a flour, you have to pulverize something into what is essentially a dust. You can purchase a hand-cranked flour mill, which resembles a meat grinder. You also can crush the wheat in between a large river rock about 4 to 5 inches in diameter and a rock with a flat surface. Igneous rocks like granite are best, because sedimentary rocks like limestone and sandstone will eventually break down and become part of the flour. (Archaeologists have determined from Egyptian mummies that a common affliction affecting Egyptians was the erosion and loss of tooth enamel because the grains they ate were largely processed with sandstone and limestone mill wheels.)

Mortar and Pestle Techniques

A mortar and pestle involves a hollow, sloping bowl (the mortar) and a rounded, thinner and elongated pestle. These vary in size from a few inches to a few feet in length. The standard mortar and pestle concept used for flour making was often seen in primitive cultures, where a large log is hollowed out to create a deep, sloping bowl and a pestle is shaped from a log 3 to 6 inches in diameter. The log pestle is raised and dropped repeatedly into the grain, root or nut source until it’s pulverized into a powder.

The Food Processor

This is a cheat from an off-the-grid standpoint, but anything can be processed into a flour with a food processor. The key is that the source material must be as dry as possible. Any remaining moisture will result in a mash rather than a flour. If you end up with a mash, it can be dried, but it’s far more time consuming.

The Gluten Factor

If you’re looking for gluten-free alternatives, you’re in luck. These types of natural, wild flour sources are either gluten free or, in the case of rye grass, very low in gluten. On the downside, gluten is the ingredient that helps a bread or baked good rise, as well as have a soft and smooth texture. Yeast and sugar can help to compensate, as can honey and using a sourdough starter. The bottom line is that these types of flours will result in a very rustic style of bread or baked item that will be denser than a store-bought item or a homemade, wheat-based bread.

The Sources

1. Amaranth – Amaranth is a weed, but I prefer to think of it as an indigenous plant common across North and South America that produces a seed stalk. The seed stalks of the amaranth range in size from 4 to 8 inches in length and are packed with thousands of seeds. The plants grow prolifically and reseed easily as annuals.

An easy way to begin an amaranth planting is to simply buy the seeds in bulk at a grocery store that sells amaranth for cooking. Cast the seeds on the ground in spring, and some plants will grow. Just remember: They spread rapidly and widely over the years.

Harvest the seeds in the fall, and prepare a space where the seeds can dry out, such as in the rafters of an attic or sunny window. They can be processed with any of the techniques we’ve identified.

4 Common Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Turn Into Flour

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2. Acorns – Acorns are best harvested in the fall after they’ve fallen to the ground. They need to be dried, and the best way is to roast them. Take the cap off of the acorn and score them on one side with a knife. Place them on a baking sheet in an oven heated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, or in a Dutch oven over hot coals. Toss them every 10 minutes up to an hour until you can cut one in half to reveal a dried, acorn nut.

Acorns are bitter due to the tannic acid or “tannins” that permeate them. To get rid of the tannins, you need to coarsely crush the acorns and soak them in water after a short roast. You then need to dry or dehydrate them again. This may take more than one soak, so taste as you go until the bitterness is gone.

3. Rye grass – Rye grass is a tall grass 3 to 4 feet in height. The seeds are long and narrow and distinct from some of the small seed heads on other grasses. Annual rye grass provides larger seed heads than perennial rye grasses, because annuals are so dependent on reseeding for proliferation.

Rye grass should be harvested in the fall when the grasses are browned and mature. The grass is shaken over a large basket and the seed heads are sometimes beaten with a stick to release the seeds. The seeds are then tossed and crushed by hand, and the wind is used to separate the rye seed from the chaff. The heavier rye seeds are captured in a fine mesh basket or container.

4. Cattails – Peel the wet roots and chop them into small pieces and then pound them with a little water to make a mash. There will be some fibers, so strain the mash through a screen. The resulting flour mash should then be left to dry and can be crushed into flour using any of the techniques we’ve identified.

Cattails are actually an excellent flour resource. In the early 1940s, cattails were essentially isolated to marshes on coastal areas of the east and west coast of North America. But during World War II, the government began a widespread program to distribute the seeds in order to jumpstart a new, alternative flour program. While the program was suspended after the war ended in 1945, the cattails you see across the country today are the results of the program.

Storage

I usually store any wild flour in a sealed container or plastic bag in a cool, dark place. I use it as a replacement in standard recipes calling for flour, with the understanding that it will result in a denser, coarser baked result. Ultimately, you’ll have to experiment with wild flour blends to see what works best for you.

Have you ever made flour? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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The 10-Week Budget Grocery Guide To Building A 3-Month Food Stockpile

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The 10-Week Budget Grocery Guide To Building A 3-Month Food Stockpile

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Our world seems to be in a violent tailspin and its occupants are watching and waiting, hoping for the best, but expecting the worse. The uncertainty has prompted many families to create stockpiles of food and water, along with some basic necessities just in case things take a turn for the worse.

A stockpile of food is a lot like having an insurance policy for any and all disasters, whether they are huge or just minor hiccups on the road of life.

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Of course, stockpiles cost money. If you are a typical family, a stockpile of food that you won’t eat right away seems like a pipe dream. But what if you could build up a stockpile of food for your family to use after a devastating disaster without going broke?

You can. With these tips, you can build your stockpile of food on $20 a week. It will last at least three months – perhaps more depending on the size of your family. Pick a line item each week and buy it. Soon, your food storage will be overflowing, and you will still have plenty of money for your living expenses.

Week 1: A 25-pound bag of steel cut oats will cost you about $15. This will give you enough oats to serve your family of four one cup of cooked oatmeal every morning for approximately two months. Add a $5 bag of dried berries to the cart for a little extra flavor.

Week 2: A 20-pound bag of long grain white rice is around $10. One pound of rice equals approximately six cups of cooked rice. Buy two bags one week and you will have enough rice to serve your family one cup of cooked rice for 60 days.

The 10-Week Budget Grocery Guide To Building A 3-Month Food Stockpile

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Week 3: One 20-pound bag of dried pinto beans is about $15. One cup of dried beans equals three cups of cooked beans. That one bag is enough for about 40 servings, or 40 meals of pinto beans for the family.

Week 4: Canned vegetables can be purchased by the case for around 50 cents a can. Unfortunately, those deals are often reserved for certain times of the year. Let’s assume you are shopping for singles; you can expect to pay about 75 cents a can for generic brands. With your weekly allowance, you can get 25 cans of veggies. Mix it up. Don’t go for all corn one week. Do 12 corn and 13 peas (if your family will eat them). That is about a month’s worth of veggies bought in a single week!

Week 5: A single 25-pound bag of flour will cost you about $10 if you go with generic. Buy two, pop them in the freezer for a week to kill the weevil eggs before storing, and you have enough flour to last several months, depending on your meal plan.

Week 6: Canned meat is a bit more expensive, but you will want the protein. For things like canned chicken and Spam, you will only be able to buy 10 cans for the week. Tuna is a great option, and you can get about 40 cans with your $20 allowance for the week.

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Week 7: Peanut butter will be a big deal in your stockpile. This week, buy five jars of peanut butter in the standard size—don’t go for the bulk.

Week 8: Baking ingredients; 25 pounds of sugar, 1 can of baking powder, 1 box of baking soda. You will want to cook meals from scratch.

Week 9: Instant dry milk can be bought by the box or can be freeze dried. Expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $20 for a large 64 ounce box of instant milk that has about 80 servings.

Week 10: Canned fruit will cost you about a dollar a can. Pick up 20 cans of your family’s favorite fruits.

In just 10 weeks, spending $20 a week, you can have a stockpile of food that will last your family several months. Once you complete the list, then start over or add additional items like pasta noodles, jerky and various soups. That extra 20 bucks can be saved by skipping your favorite coffee drinks and making your own at home, not going out to eat one night or using less electricity to save on your electric bill. If you are truly serious about building a food stockpile, then you will find ways to save a few dollars everyday to make it happen.

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Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

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Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

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From Russia across Europe to the United Kingdom, stinging nettles are enjoyed in soups, stews and as an ingredient in everything from pasta to pesto. The nettles also make an excellent tea, but regardless of the recipe you need to apply a bit of caution and common sense when harvesting and preparing stinging nettles.

Of course, stinging nettles also are found in yards and fields throughout the United States and North America.

It’s hard for many people in North America to understand the popularity of stinging nettles in Europe. There are a few good reasons why Europeans consider them a regular part of their diet:

  • Stinging nettles can be harvested in early spring, long before other green, leafy vegetables show up.
  • They grow like weeds and grow just about anywhere, making them easy to find, and they’re free.
  • They are commonly found in grocery stores and markets in Europe, but rarely if ever in grocery stores in the US.
  • They are a long-established part of European culinary traditions and culture.

Here’s the point: Don’t be put off by the name. They can be incorporated easily into many recipes if handled and prepared properly.

Once the leaves of a stinging nettle have been exposed to hot liquid for a couple of minutes or finely chopped in a food processor, the needles and stinging chemicals are neutralized and they’re safe to eat. They are often used as a substitute for spinach, and, in fact, have a taste similar to spinach with cucumber flavor notes. There are numerous vitamins in them, from vitamin A to vitamin C to vitamin K. (In fact, they have more vitamin A, fiber, iron, calcium and magnesium than broccoli – although broccoli does have more vitamin C). Nettles have a surprising 25 percent protein content, and they’re known to be a natural blood thinner and diuretic. They’re also high in iron and have a similar nutritional profile to other green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach.

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Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

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So, what makes a stinging nettle sting? The leaves, leaf buds and parts of the stem on a stinging nettle are lined with small, hollow filaments that contain a variety of chemical compounds, including formic acid. When the filaments come in contact with the skin, they break off like tiny needles and cause a stinging, burning sensation. That’s why the standard recommendation of harvesting include gloves, long sleeves and pants. Scissors are usually used to trim the leaves and leaf buds from the plant, and they are typically collected in plastic bags.

Recognizing Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles have a unique, heart-shaped leaf with serrations along the leaf edge. They are typically a deep green and are often harvested in the spring and early summer. Once they flower, they develop some hard deposits that some believe will irritate the urinary tract. If in doubt about a plant, you can always run your finger along a leaf from the tip to leaf stem. If it stings, you’ve found a stinging nettle. Hopefully you only have to do this once or twice as you familiarize yourself with the plant.

Cures for a Sting

It’s inevitable that you’ll get stung if you regularly collect stinging nettles. Common remedies include the external application of apple cider vinegar, a paste of baking soda and water, over-the-counter sprays like Bactine or Solarcaine, aloe vera, ice cubes and cold water.

Initial Prep for Stinging Nettles

Most recipes for stinging nettles recommend an initial preparation step that involves immersing the nettle leaves in lightly boiling water, broth or sautéed in butter or oil for at least 2 minutes up to 5 minutes.  The leaves are then squeezed dry for addition to some recipes, or left in the broth for a soup or stew.  Some people simply add the raw nettles to a food processor but I prefer blanching them for at least 2 minutes before any food-processor step.

Countless recipes for stinging nettles can be found on the Internet, and we’ll feature some of them here, but a basic rule of thumb is that any green, leafy vegetable or herb can be substituted with the leaves of the stinging nettle. Examples include replacement of basil with stinging nettles leaves in a pesto, or any recipe that calls for collard greens, kale, spinach, mustard greens and others. You can even make a green pasta with a processed paste of nettles leaves and flour. What’s important is to precede any usage of nettles with the initial preparation step in gently boiling water or hot oil.

Nettle Pesto

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of blanched nettle leaves
  • ½ cup of nuts (pine nuts or your choice or mixed nuts)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper
  • ¾ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

Image source: Pixabay.com

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor and pulse until the nettles are a smooth paste. Drizzle the olive oil into the processor while it’s running. You can add more oil to the consistency you like. Use to top pasta or any other dish that calls for pesto.

Nettle Soup with Noodles

(Makes four one cup servings)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 carrots sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cups of fresh, raw nettles
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of rotini or other spoon-sized noodles

DIRECTIONS:

Sauté the onion and carrots in a saucepan in the olive oil for about three minutes or until the onions are translucent. In a separate sauce pan, bring water to a boil and cook the noodles. Deglaze the carrots and onions in the other pan with the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Add the fresh nettle leaves and simmer for four minutes. Strain the noodles and add to the soup broth. Serve with crusty bread.

Nettle Greens with Bacon

(Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 4 cups of water
  • 6 cups of fresh nettle leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Fry the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Reserve the bacon drippings in the frying pan. While frying the bacon, bring four cups of water to a boil and add the nettle leaves and cook at a gentle boil for four to six minutes. Drain the leaves and try to press out some of the moisture and toss in the warm bacon drippings. Serve on a platter and sprinkle crumbled bacon over the top.

If you’ve never tried stinging nettles before, this may be the year to give them a try.

Do you eat stinging nettles? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Pickling Fish: How To Do It (And Why You’d Want To)

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Pickling Fish: How To Do It (And Why You'd Want To)

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Pickling is not just about cucumbers and green tomatoes. Pickling, in fact, is a great way to preserve and enjoy your daily catch of fish.

Making your own pickled fish is both easy and can be accomplished with a variety of fish species. Some of the most popular fish for pickling include pike, salmon, trout and sucker.

There are many benefits to pickling fish. One is the fact that the vinegar in the pickling brine actually works to dissolve and soften any bones in the fish. I’ll usually try to pull out the Y-bones in a pike or the pin bones in a salmon, but it’s harder to do with a small trout and almost impossible given the number of small bones in a sucker. That’s where the vinegar really helps to soften and dissolve the bones, much like you find in canned sardines or anchovies.

Health Benefits

Pickled fish is very healthy, for a number of reasons:

  • The softened and partially dissolved bones are an excellent source of calcium.
  • If you choose to use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, then you reap all of the health benefits associated with it.
  • Many of the herbs and spices used in various brine recipes have proven benefits — turmeric, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and both dill and fennel fronds.
  • If you’re diabetic or subject to edema, then you can reduce the amounts of sugar or salt in a brining recipe to suit your taste.

Unlike traditional canning methods that call for the jars to be immersed in a hot water bath for a period of time, fish pickling is a cold-pickling process. It often requires a cold soak in the refrigerator for a day or two in a pre-soak brine before you make the final, flavored brine for the jars.

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You’ll also need to sanitize the jars in boiling water before filling them with the fish chunks and other ingredients. All pickled fish must be refrigerated or kept cool in some way at 36-40 degrees Fahrenheit. The safest shelf life is two weeks or less.

Some recipes recommend that fish like pike be frozen for 48 hours prior to pickling to kill any potential parasites in the fish.

We’re going to cover several recipes with salmon, trout, sucker and pike. Here’s some of the basic equipment you’ll need:

  • Glass canning jars and lids.
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Tongs for putting the fish chunks into the jars
  • A non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel)
  • A large, non-reactive bowl for marinating (glass or ceramic)
  • Measuring cups and measuring spoons

Pickled Sucker

This recipe has long marinating and holding time to allow the vinegar to thoroughly dissolve the many bones in the fish.

INGREDIENTS

2 quarts of sucker cut into one inch by half inch chunks

Marinade:

  • ½ cup of salt
  • 1 quart of vinegar

Pickling brine:

  • 2 cups of vinegar (white vinegar or apple-cider vinegar with at least a 5 percent acetic acid concentration)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of pickling spice
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 sliced onion separated into rings

DIRECTIONS

Pickling Fish: How To Do It (And Why You'd Want To)

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Mix the salt, vinegar and water and pour over fish in a glass or ceramic bowl or crock. Weigh down the fish with a plate to keep it immersed. Let stand 5 days in the refrigerator, and then drain and rinse with water. Pack in jar. Put fish, then layer of onion, then fish. Mix 2 cups vinegar, sugar and pickling spices and wine and heat and stir in a non-reactive saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Let cool, and pour into jars. Do not cook. Let stand 5 days in the fridge.

Pickled Pike

This recipe also has a marinating step to dissolve the y-bones common in northern pike.

INGREDENTS

  • 1 pound of thawed northern pike fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 quart white vinegar or apple-cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons whole yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 cloves, whole
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

Make a brine combining the salt with a quart of water in a Mason jar or glass bowl. Add the pike to the brine and soak for 24 hours. Drain the fish, but do not rinse it. Add a quart of vinegar to the fish and soak for an additional 24 hours. Drain the fish.

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Combine a cup of vinegar, a half cup of water, and the sugar in a nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar, and then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

In a 1-quart Mason jar, add a quarter of the fish, then add some of the spices and sliced carrot and onion. Repeat with the remainder of the fish, spices, and vegetables so that the ingredients are layered and evenly dispersed. Pour the vinegar mixture into the jar. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least three days to allow the flavors to develop.

Pickled Trout or Salmon

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds trout or salmon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 red onion sliced into rings

DIRECTIONS

Combine water, vinegar, seasonings and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar, and let cool. Rinse filets and cut into 1-inch pieces. Slice onion. Arrange fish and onion rings in alternate layers in sterilized jars. Cover with pickling solution.  Refrigerate at least three days before serving. The fish will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

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7 Survival Foods The Pioneers Ate That You Wouldn’t Recognize

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7 Things The Pioneers Ate That You Wouldn't Recognize

Food has long been a focus of society. While our modern way of life includes regular trips to the grocery store, where there is more variety than we know what to do with, our ancestors didn’t have it quite that easy. We are literally only a few generations away from a time in which people hoarded their food, both on the westward trail and in their root cellars, just to make sure they would make it through winter.

Other than the last century or so, the need to stockpile food has been the main effort of people the world over. With harvest times coming only once a year, the size of the harvest and how well it was preserved determined whether the next year would be one of lack or plenty. When drought occurred, it would be a serious enough event to destroy villages, major cities and even entire cultures.

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Going west, a Conestoga wagon or a converted farm wagon made into a prairie schooner was mostly filled with food, as well as other necessities. While some families started out with expensive furniture in their wagons, that was soon left by the wayside, lightening the load, so they could keep their all-important food. A typical load of food would consist of the following for each adult in the family. Similar provisions for children would be brought along, with the quantities adjusted for their size.

  • 200 pounds of flour (could be any type of flour, not just wheat flour)
  • 30 pounds of pilot bread (otherwise known as hardtack)
  • 2 pounds of saleratus (baking soda)
  • 10 pounds of salt
  • Half a bushel of corn meal
  • Half a bushel of parched and ground corn
  • 25 pounds of sugar
  • 10 pounds of rice
  • 75 pounds of bacon
  • 5 pounds of coffee
  • 2 pounds of tea
  • Half a bushel of dried beans
  • 1 bushel of dried fruit
  • A small keg of vinegar

Once leaving Independence, Missouri, there would be little chance of resupply. That food would have to last them, augmented by whatever they could hunt and any berries they could find. While there were a few military posts with Sutler’s stores (general stores that provided the military), they were few and far between.

So, what did our ancestors do with this and what did they really eat? Well, a lot of it would seem rather normal to us, but there was also a lot that was not normal. Some things that we wouldn’t even recognize. However, it all had one thing in common: Food that the pioneers ate had to be non-perishable, as they had no way of refrigerating it.

1. Buffalo, bear, cougar and squirrel

7 Things The Pioneers Ate That You Wouldn't RecognizeOne of the easiest ways for pioneers to restock or stretch their food supplies was to hunt. Hunting provided them with fresh meat, something they had no chance of bringing with them. But that meant they ate whatever they could find. Crossing the Great Plains, buffalo were common, so they were eaten. When they got into the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming and points west, the buffalo were replaced by bear, cougar and deer. They would even eat squirrels, if they couldn’t find anything else.

Jim Bridger, the mountain man, claimed that cougar meat was the best there was. While cougars weren’t anywhere near as common as deer, when one came along, it was often eat or be eaten. You’d better be quick with your rifle, or you just might end up as dinner.

Shooting a squirrel was difficult, as the size of the bullet would destroy much of the usable meat. They didn’t have .22 caliber rifles back then. So instead of shooting the squirrel, they’d “bark it” by shooting the bark of the tree, just beneath it. This would knock the squirrel off the tree, unconscious, saving the meat.

2. The insides of the animals, too

They couldn’t afford to let anything go to waste. So, it wasn’t unusual for pioneers to eat parts of the animal which we would turn our noses up at. Brain, heart, tongue, liver and even intestines were eaten, often cut up and put in something.

This practice is still common in much of the world today. While we don’t eat much other than the muscles of the animals, in Mexico they eat the tongue, cheek meat, heart, liver, intestines and stomach. Some of these are used for special recipes, which are considered near delicacies by the Mexicans.

3. Frying pan bread

Baking bread on the trail was nearly impossible, so instead, they made frying pan bread. This was basically biscuits, cooked in a frying pan, rather than in an oven. Biscuits and bacon were one of the staples of the trail.

While you might think that breads are breads, breads were much different back then. You might not recognize them for what they were. First of all, most flour was whole grain, not our white pastry flour. While white flour did exist, it wasn’t common, except in the larger cities.

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They also didn’t have the same types of leaven that we have today. Most women “made” their own yeast, by leaving a container of “sourdough starter” open for bacteria to invade it. This would then be saved, allowing them to make bread every day.

But these breads were much heavier and heartier than the breads we know today. A loaf of bread on the frontier probably weighed two to three pounds, even though it was smaller than our common one pound loaf. But that bread stuck with you longer, providing more nutrition and calories than our modern breads do.

4. Salt pork

7 Things The Pioneers Ate That You Wouldn't RecognizeWhile bacon was the most common preserved meat they’d eat, those in the military usually had to make do with salt pork. This is much like bacon, but without as much meat. Essentially, a piece of salt pork is a chunk of fat, with a little pork meat running through it. Soldiers would be issued salt pork as their version of combat rations, whenever they were on the move. They’d slice it and fry it, eating it with pan bread.

5. Yucca root

The root of the yucca plant is something like a potato. As the southwest was settled, this became a staple for many of the people, as the land was already littered with yucca plants. Tougher than our potato, and more fibrous, it was nevertheless a good source of carbohydrates. Cut up and boiled in water, it would soften up and make a great filler for soups and stews.

6. Pine nuts

The pine cone we know so well really isn’t the seed of the pine tree, but rather the husk for that seed. Hidden deep within its many scales are pine nuts, which are the seeds. These can be removed by simply banging the pine cone upside-down on a hard surface.

Pine nuts can be eaten raw, or toasted, much like many other nuts. They have a distinct, but pleasant flavor. Like many nuts, they are an excellent source of fats, which they needed. Little of what they ate had much in the way of fats in it. Wild animals don’t grow anywhere near the amount of fat that our domesticated animals do, and they couldn’t go to the store for a bottle of cooking oil.

7. Acorn bread

Acorns, the seeds of the oak tree, are plentiful in some parts of the country. A seed, they are much like many other nuts. Gathered, they can be roasted to dry them and then ground, making flour out of it. Like the flour of any other grain, this can then be turned into bread. For some pioneers who didn’t have access to resupplies of wheat flour, acorn bread and cornbread were the only breads they had available.

What would you add to our list? Share your knowledge in the section below:

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The Secret To Eating Dandelions Without That Bitter Taste

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The Secret To Eating Dandelions Without That Bitter Taste

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For many people, the annual war on dandelions has begun. We spray them, dig them up, toss them, burn them and everything else we can think of to get rid of them.

What we should be doing is eating them. The leaves and crowns are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin K, and healthy doses of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium.

The roots, when dried, make a medicinal tea. The entire plant has medicinal value, including:

  • Tof-CFr — a glucose polymer found to act against cancer cells in laboratory mice.
  • Pectin — anti-diarrheal and blood and gastrointestinal detoxifying herb. Can also lower cholesterol.
  • Apigeninand luteolin flavonoids – these have diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-oxidant and liver-protecting properties; plus, they strengthen the heart and blood vessels. They also have anti-bacterial and anti-hypoglycemic properties.
  • Linoleicand linolenic acid fatty acids — to regulate blood pressure, lower chronic inflammation and prevent blood-platelet aggregation.
  • Choline — to improve memory.
  • Taraxasterol – for liver and gall bladder health.

What and When to Harvest

If you’re planning on eating the leaves or the crowns, you’ll want to pick them before the plant buds or flowers. Once it begins to flower, the leaves and crowns become bitter. You can compensate for this by soaking them in a couple of changes of cold water, or sauté them with garlic or other aromatics. The crowns are that area between the root top to about a half inch of the leaf stems at the base.

The flowers are usually harvested as the plant matures, but you’ll only want the petals. These are usually pulled from the flower and dried and then used as a garnish for soups or salads. The stems and flower base have a milky sap and are not eaten. The flower petals are sometimes used to flavor dandelion wine.

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The roots are usually harvested during the second year of maturity due to the fact that they’re larger. Wash and peel them with a potato peeler and then chop them into chunks to dry. You can use a dehydrator or dry them or place them in the sun from a sunny window. Some people have finely chopped and dried the roots, and they use it as a chicory or coffee substitute, although it has no caffeine.

Here are some of the basic dandelion recipes that have proven to be popular over the years starting with my favorite, dandelion crowns.

1. Dandelion crowns

The Secret To Eating Dandelions Without That Bitter Taste

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Using a trowel, cut the root and pull the whole plant. Trim off the leaves about half an inch above the root, and trim the root from the base. Rinse the crowns well to remove dirt and grit and then boil for five minutes. When done boiling, shock them in a bowl of ice-water and then put them on a paper towel to drain. You can serve them topped with melted butter and some salt and pepper, or sauté them in butter or oil with one, diced garlic clove and eat them as a side dish. I’ve also tossed the chilled crowns into a mixed salad.

2. Dandelion salad

Dandelion greens and crowns are usually tossed with other salad ingredients to take the edge off any slightly bitter leaves. I’ll usually use a base of dandelion leaves and crowns and add some sliced onions, tomatoes, other leafy greens like spinach, kale and lettuces, and then top with a basic vinaigrette of a half cup of oil, a quarter cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of water plus salt and pepper to taste. As a finishing touch you can garnish the top of the salad with dandelion petals.

3. Dandelion greens, with bacon

As summer progresses, dandelions reach maturity and many of the leaves will have a bitter edge. When that happens I bring on the bacon. This is a classic southern approach to greens. I start by frying a half pound of bacon until crisp. I drain the bacon and reserve the rendered bacon fat in the pan. I then add one diced onion and three chopped garlic cloves and sauté them all for about two minutes. I then add six cups of dandelion greens and toss them for about three or four minutes until wilted. I plate the greens and garnish with the bacon chopped into bits and sprinkle with dried dandelion petals and serve. It’s great with chicken or pork.

Keep Eating Those Dandelions

In most parts of North America, dandelions are plentiful for five or more months. Wild dandelions are best, or a yard-grown dandelion if the yard hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. They can easily become a part of everyday meals and best of all, they’re free.

What advice would you add for eating dandelions? Share your recipes and advice in the section below:

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The ‘Super Survival Plant’ Your Great-Grandparents Ate – Hidden Right In Your Yard

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The ‘Super Survival Weed’ Your Ancestors Ate – Hidden Right In Your Yard

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Translated from the French name “dent de lion,” which describes its coarsely toothed leaves, dandelions are hardy survivors, and were a staple in the diets of Native Americans, pioneers and most all of our ancestors.

It seems like no matter how much humans strive to kill them off and spray a plethora of chemicals on them, they still come back. Although their survivability can be quite frustrating for those striving for a picture-perfect lawn, the humble dandelion can play an important role in ecological health and in supporting our own health, as well.

While there are many varieties of dandelions, the most common is the Taraxacum officionale. Originating from Eurasia, dandelions are now naturalized in the U.S. throughout all 50 states, as well as in parts of Canada and Mexico. The seeds of a dandelion can travel up to five miles from the original plant.

Health Benefits of Dandelions

Humans have been using dandelions for both food and medicine for thousands of years, for a variety of ailments. The entire dandelion plant, from the bright yellow-colored blooms, to the leafy greens, to the roots, is edible and is useful for both food and medicine.

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Dandelions contain many valuable nutrients, such as Vitamin D, beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, B complex vitamins, trace minerals, antioxidants and organic sodium. They also contain more protein than spinach. The health benefits of dandelions include the treatment of a variety of conditions.

Environmental Benefits of Dandelions

The ‘Super Survival Weed’ Your Ancestors Ate – Hidden Right In Your Yard

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Dandelions can help to clean up contaminated soils by taking up and concentrating toxic chemicals in their plant parts. (Obviously, you don’t want to eat dandelions from that soil.)

Dandelions attract ladybugs, helping to keep aphids in check in our yards and gardens.

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The deep taproots of dandelions aerate the soil and take up minerals that are returned to the soil when the plant dies. These deep roots also help to prevent soil erosion, by holding the soil in place. Dandelions even provide an important source of nutrients for grizzly bears, deer and elk.

Dandelions are an important first emerging pollen source in the spring for pollinators in the United States. This is critical, since our pollinator populations across the US are in steep decline, due to a number of issues such as critical habitat loss and heavy pesticide use in agriculture that kills important pollinators, including honeybees and monarch butterflies.

Using Dandelions

Bitter greens like dandelion greens are great liver-supporting foods that can be added in limited quantities to smoothies, as well as sautéed.

Dandelions can easily be grown in garden planters or pots. The seeds can either be purchased or gathered from any of the dandelion puffball seed heads in your community during the summer. If you do not wish to grow or gather your own, fresh dandelion greens can often be found at health food stores or as a freeze-dried herb. Dandelion tea, capsules and tinctures are also commercially available.

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They are a great addition to any cleansing program. Because of their ability to support the body’s detoxification systems, dandelions are a great herb to consume in the spring when our bodies are going through a “spring cleaning” on their own.

The ‘Super Survival Plan’ Your Ancestors Ate – Hidden Right In Your Yard

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Dandelions can be used in recipes to produce culinary creations, such as dandelion wine and dandelion jelly. Refer to individual recipes for which parts of the plant to use when preparing these foods. Dandelion roots can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute without the jittery effects of caffeine.

Dandelions also can be infused in apple cider vinegar and used as a salad dressing during a cleansing program.

Tips on Harvesting Dandelions

When harvesting dandelions, be sure to avoid gathering them near roadsides, where landscapes have been sprayed with lawn or agricultural chemicals. Meadows and abandoned lots – or your yard — are great places to harvest dandelions.

To reduce the bitterness of the greens, harvest them in the spring or in the fall. Young leaves are generally the least bitter tasting and can be added to raw salads. Cooking reduces the bitterness of the leaves and the roots.

To harvest the entire plant, dig them up from the roots.

How do you eat or use dandelions? Share your ideas in the section below:

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional to determine which treatments are right for you and any individual health condition(s) that you may have.

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