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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

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:

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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/

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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.

Be Prepared. Get The ULTIMATE Food Protection Plan

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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:

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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

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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.

Have you ever pickled fish? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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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.

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

5 Proven Ways Our Ancestors Preserved Meat Without Refrigerators

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5 Proven Ways Our Ancestors Preserved Meat Without A Refrigerator

Stockpiling food and other supplies is central to being prepared for an emergency, but there are some foods – such as meat — that are harder to pack for long-term storage than others.

I’m sure there are some people out there who think that they can live off of rice and beans, getting all the protein they need from the beans. While that may be technically true, I, for one, don’t want to try it. Not only am I not a huge fan of beans, but I also am a huge fan of meat. So, I need to have ways of preserving that meat and ensuring that I’ll have it available when a disaster strikes. Fortunately, there are actually a number of ways of preserving meat which work quite well — ways our ancestors used.

The Key to Preserving Meat – Salt

If there’s any one key ingredient for preserving meat, it’s salt. Salt is one of the few natural preservatives, and it works ideally with meat. Salt draws the moisture out of the cells in the meat in a process known as osmosis. Essentially, osmosis is trying to equalize the salinity on both sides of the cell wall (which is a membrane). So, water leaves the cell and salt enters it. When enough water leaves the cell, the cell dies.

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This happens with bacteria, as well. Any bacteria that are on the surface of the meat go through the same osmosis process that the cells of the meat do. This dehydrates the bacteria to the point of death. Unfortunately, the salt won’t travel all the way through the meat quickly, killing off the bacteria, so salt is usually used in conjunction with other means of preserving.

1. Canning

Probably the least complex form of preserving meat is canning it. Canning preserves any wet food well through a combination of killing off existing bacteria in the food and container, while providing a container that prevents any further bacteria from entering.

Canning uses heat to kill off bacteria. All you have to do is raise the temperature of the bacteria to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, and it dies. This is called “pasteurizing,” so named for Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist who discovered the process in the mid-1800s. To kill viruses, you raise the temperature a bit more, to 174 degrees Fahrenheit.

The only problem with canning meat is that it has to be canned at a higher temperature than fruits and vegetables. This is accomplished by canning it in a pressure canner, essentially a large pressure cooker. The higher atmospheric pressure inside the pressure canner causes the water to boil at a higher temperature, thus cooking the meat.

Meats that are canned tend to be very well-cooked. You have to at least partially cook them before canning, and then the 90 minutes they spend in the canner cooks them further. That makes for very soft meats, but they do lose some of their texture.

2. Dehydrating

Dehydrating takes over where salt leaves off, removing much more moisture from the meat than just salting it will. However, dehydrating of meats is usually combined with salting the meat with a rub or marinating it with a salty marinade. The salt on the outside of the meat attacks any bacteria that approach the meat once it is dehydrated. Meat that is dehydrated without salt won’t last, as the bacteria can attack it.

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5 Proven Ways Our Ancestors Preserved Meat Without A RefrigeratorThe American Indians used dehydrating as a means of preserving meat, making jerky. While a very popular snack food today, jerky is excellent survival food. Not only will it keep without refrigeration, but it can be rehydrated for use in soups and stews. That takes it beyond being a snack and makes it possible to use jerky for part of your meals.

Dehydrating can either be done in the sun, in an electric dehydrator or in a solar dehydrator. The American Indians used the sun, hanging strips of meat on poles. However, there is a risk in dehydrating meat as they did, in that the meat may start to spoil before it dries. All fat should be removed from the meat, as the fat can turn rancid.

3. Salt fish

Salt fish is another means of dehydrating meat, something like making fish jerky. It has been done for centuries and is still a popular dish in some countries. Salt fish uses the concept that the salt draws the water out of the fish, starting the drying process. This is accomplished by packing the fish fillets in alternating layers of salt and fish. Then, the fish is sun dried to complete the process.

4. Smoking

Smoking is another method that combines salt with a secondary method of preservation. For preserving, one must use hot smoking, which cooks the meat, and not just cold smoking, which is used to flavor the meat. Typically, the process consists of three major steps: soaking the meat in brine (salt water), cold smoking and then hot smoking.

When meat is smoked, the proteins on the outer layer of the meat form a skin, called a pellicle. This is basically impervious to any bacteria, protecting the meat. However, if the meat is cut, such as to cut off a steak from a chunk of smoked meat, the open surface can be attacked by bacteria.

In olden times, this problem was solved by hanging the meat in the smokehouse once again. In some homes, the kitchen chimney was large enough to be used as a smokehouse, and meat was hung in it, where the constant smoke helped to protect it. Most of the fat was usually trimmed off the meat, so that it would not turn rancid.

5 Proven Ways Our Ancestors Preserved Meat Without A RefrigeratorOne nice thing about smoking meats, besides that it adds that lovely smoke flavor, is that the smoking process is a slow-cooking process, much like cooking meat in a crockpot. This helps to break down the fiber in the meat, turning otherwise tough cuts of meat tender.

5. Curing

The deli meats we pay top dollar for today are actually cured meats. Curing is a process that combines smoking, with salt, sugar and nitrites. Together, these act as an almost perfect preservative, protecting the meat from decay-causing bacteria. Technically, smoking is a type of curing, but normally when we talk about curing, we’re referring to what is known as “sausage curing,” which is the method used for making most sausage and lunch meat.

The curing process is all about killing the bacteria and is done mostly by the addition of salt to the meat. For sausage curing, the meat is ground and then mixed with fat, spices salt and whatever else is going to be used (some sausage includes cheese). It is then allowed to sit, in order for the salt to permeate all the meat and kill the bacteria. Cooking or smoking is accomplished once the curing is done.

Curing meats, like smoking, tenderizes it. So, traditionally, the tougher, lower grade cuts of meat were usually used for the making of most of what we know today as lunch meats. One nice thing about properly cured meats is that they can be left out, with no risk of decay, even when they have been cut. That is, if it is properly cured. I wouldn’t try that with commercially prepared lunchmeats, as they are not cured with the idea of leaving them out.

What meat-preserving methods would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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4 Survival Recipes That Kept The Pioneers Alive On Their Westward Trek

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4 Survival Recipes That Kept The Pioneers Alive On Their Westward Trek

The pioneers’ recipes were not ones that came from being able to shop at a large grocery store, where you can buy virtually anything.

Their recipes – or “receipts” as they were called back then — were born out of necessity, having one pot and one skillet plus the need to use ALL of the leftovers from previous meals.

You see, when they set out in a wagon to cross the seemingly endless prairie, it was decision time. They had to decide what they were going to take with them and what they were going to leave behind.

They had to take all the tools to build a log cabin. They had to take all the hardware to build their cabins as well. They had to take nails, hinges, screws, wire and everything else. There was nowhere to just stop and buy it.

So, the wagon was packed to the brim. Every square inch was accounted for, and then some.

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Many had one or two cast iron pots and one or two skillets or frying pans — and that was it.

The recipes that were their favorites were ones that fed everyone, and were easy to make even if you were short a couple of different ingredients each time you made it.

Most of the time, they were cooking over an open flame. So, things that had gravy or liquids such as soups and stews were a favorite. The reason: the heat of open flame cooking is unpredictable. You had to be sure you didn’t burn the food. Oils were scarce. So, liquids, soups and gravies were far more tolerant of erratic heat sources, and they burned a lot less.

Ready to learn how to look like the pioneers? Here are a few of their favorite recipes that you can make in your cabin or modern-day homestead:

(Do remember, these recipes were their optimal recipe. Most of the time they were lacking one or more ingredients and therefore had to substitute or leave it out.)

1. Creamy Chicken Soup

  • 4 pounds of chicken (can be made with three pounds if need be).
  • 3 quarts of creek or well-temperature water (room temperature is find if you’re in a modern home).
  • 1 tablespoon salt.
  • 6 peppercorns (or 1/4 teaspoon of black or white pepper).
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped.
  • 2 cups whole milk (can be substituted with cream).
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (not needed if using cream).
  • 2 eggs beaten well.

Cut the cleaned, deboned chicken into bite-sized pieces.

4 Survival Recipes That Kept The Pioneers Alive On Their Westward TrekPut your chicken and the bones into your pot with your water and salt. Bring it to a boil and then slow boil it until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken bones and use them for bone meal, dog food, compost and other uses.

Add in your peppercorns and onions. Let it slow boil for 10 minutes.

Put your milk or cream and cornstarch into another pot or skillet. Let it come to a slow boil and stir until it’s nice and thick. Add your butter if you’re using it, and season it to taste with whatever you have (that’s really how they did it).

Slowly add your well-beaten eggs into the milk and cornstarch. Stir until mixed and smooth.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the soup kettle and stir until it’s well-mixed. Then, stir and cook for two more minutes and serve.

2. Fat Pork and Mormon Gravy

The settlers very often made what’s called Mormon gravy, named after Mormon missionaries who made it as a staple.

It’s simple and yes, it’s a heart attack waiting to happen. But, man, oh man, does it taste good.

  • 8-10 thick slices of fatty pork or thick cut bacon strips.
  • 6 tablespoons of meat drippings.
  • 4 tablespoons of flour.
  • 2 cups of whole milk.
  • Salt and pepper.

Cook your meat in a cast iron (preferably) frying pan until crisp on both sides.

Measure out your six tablespoons of drippings from the drippings in the pan, and pour the rest in your drippings saver container for other foods later.

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With your measured drippings, stir in your flour and milk, and keep stirring until it’s thick and smooth.

Serve your meat with the gravy poured over it or over the top of biscuits or bread.

3. English Whirligig

This was traditionally made with black currents. However, it can be made with nearly any tart berries or even fruit such as cranberries or sour apples.

  • 2/3 cup of honey.
  • 2 tablespoons of flour.
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • 1 cup of hot water.
  • 3 cups of black currants (you may substitute other tart berries or fruits).

Add your honey, flour, spices and your salt into your hot water. Stir until they are all well dissolved. Then cook this mixture until thick. Be sure to stir often.

Put your currents in a frying pan and cover it with the thick mixture. Cook it on a rack above the coals for 20 minutes.

Let cool so that it is nice and firm. Then dish it up.

4 Survival Recipes That Kept The Pioneers Alive On Their Westward TrekThe pioneers would sometimes make a topping for this of whipped cream if it was a birthday or holiday. However, most of the time they ate it as described above.

4. Potato Pancakes

There are a number of recipes around for these. But this is the true settlers/pioneers recipe as it was brought over by a settler from Austria who became rather famous for them in what would later become Kansas City, Missouri.

  • 6 large potatoes.
  • 2 teaspoons salt.
  • 3/4 cups of whole milk.
  • 2 eggs.
  • 1 cup of flour.
  • Lard that has been pre-strained of any pieces.

If you want them with the skins on the potatoes as most pioneers ate them, then wash them and grate them to a medium-sized shredding. If you want them skinless, peel them and grate them.

Mix them with your salt, eggs, milk and flour.

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Spoon the mix into the hot lard in a frying pan. They will flatten out by themselves. If not, flatten them a bit.

Fry until they are golden brown on both sides.

Final Thoughts

Much of the time, the pioneers didn’t have the luxury of eating what they wanted when they wanted it. They ate what they had.

If a family had a ton of blackberries nearby, then they would have several blackberry recipes they would use all the time. The same would go with any food that was plentiful, whether it was deer, carrots or cherries.

Each of the above recipes were favorites that the pioneers brought over with them from their old countries. They had to adapt them to what was available. But, they stayed as true to them as possible.

We certainly hope you enjoy them.

Have you ever cooked any survival recipes? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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How To Grow Shiitake Mushrooms On The Homestead In Only 7 Days

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How To Grow Shiitake Mushrooms On The Homestead In Only 7 Days

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Shiitake mushrooms are a wonderful addition to the homestead, serving as a valuable source of proteins and minerals — yet their nutritional value goes unnoticed by most. Just one average size shiitake mushroom has almost half a gram of protein! (The dietary recommendation is 0.8 grams/kg of weight.)

Shiitake mushrooms provide considerable health benefits to any food plan with a minimal amount of work to grow them, and can be grown in as little as seven days. A small space serves just as well as a large space, but the right conditions are essential in terms of temperature, light and humidity. For a more natural process, hardwood logs are the best option. For a faster and higher production process, use synthetic logs.

Hardwood logs can be found at a local resource such as a tree trimming service or logger. For those fortunate enough to have a chunk of land with woods, just use hardwood from home. It’s best to cut logs in early spring before the trees bud. They may be cut in the winter and stored until spring to inoculate. Oak is the premium choice of wood for growing shiitake mushrooms.  Following is a list of woods that can be used, listed from best to worst:

  • Oak
  • Sugar
  • Iron Wood
  • American Hornbeam
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Hickory
  • Red Maple

Once the logs are cut, be careful to keep the bark as undamaged as possible. They should be 3-4 feet long and 4-6 inches in diameter. Consider making the thicker logs shorter because they will be heavier. Logs will need to be soaked periodically, so the length of the logs may be dependent on what you will soak them in.

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There are many perspectives on when to inoculate the mushroom logs after cutting. Trees do have a chemical in them to fight fungus from growing on them that can last about a week after cutting. This is why some growers will wait a week or two before inoculating the logs. Waiting any longer will allow competing fungus to grow on the logs.

How To Grow Shiitake Mushrooms On The Homestead In Only 7 Days

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There are three strains of shiitake mushrooms: wide range (WR), warm weather (WW) and cold weather (CW). The spawn producer (local or online) can help you choose the best strain for your area. Upon making a decision, a method of application must be chosen: spawn or plugs. Spawn is the more complicated option, whereas with plugs, simply drill a hole and hammer in the plugs. This is another important decision to discuss with your spawn dealer.

Once the logs are inoculated, they will need to be incubated. Incubation entails keeping the right moisture content and temperature so that your shiitake spawn will fully inoculate the hardwood log. It can take six months to a year for your first crop of mushrooms to show up. This has a lot to do with the wood, mushroom strain and environment.

A tree-shaded lot is ideal for growing mushrooms on logs. If you have enough light to read the paper, it’s about perfect for mushroom. Shade cloth (70 percent shade) can also be used and purchased from grower supply houses and online. This will cut down the wind and light.

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Synthetic shiitake logs may be purchased or even made. For a rapid harvest, choose inoculated synthetic shiitake logs. In this route, there are other considerations and expenses. A grow room is needed to produce mushrooms on synthetic logs because of the high risk of mold. Even the cleanest grow rooms have to deal with molds and even use chemicals to combat the mold.

For the synthetic log route, plan on building a grow room. When looking for a synthetic log producer, choose one that will provide plans on building a grow room. These plans are often free and will provide instructions on the setup and the required materials. The main concern is air flow. Air flow will control the moisture and be the single most important detail to help control mold.

Expect mushrooms from synthetic shiitake mushroom logs in a week to 14 days. They produce two to three times before they can be turned into compost.

Natural shiitake hardwood logs last about three years and provide several harvests over that time. Synthetic logs will produce much faster but will be spent in about one to two months. Regardless of the direction you choose to go, mushrooms are proven to be an invaluable food source: mushrooms don’t make noise, smell or need fertilizing!

Have you ever grown shiitakes or any other type of mushroom? Share your tips in the section below:

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Do Home-Canned Foods Last As Long As Commercially Canned Foods?

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Do Home-Canned Foods Last as Long as Commercially Canned Foods?

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Chances are good your stockpile is filled with commercially canned and home canned foods. A jam-packed food storage area is a necessity in these uncertain times, and preserving fresh vegetables and foods is one of the best ways to store food for future shortages.

Of course, canning foods at home is economical and easy. Yet there are some differences between home canning and factory canning that are important to understand in order to choose effective stored items to feed your family in the future.

Food safety is no trivial concern, and the safety of your stored supply should be foremost in your mind. Spoiled emergency food is more than a liability; it could kill. Botulism is a real danger in canned foods, but you can learn to safeguard yourself and recognize spoilage in preserved foods. With proper storage techniques, monitoring and labeling, you will have a reliable and ready supply of food when you need it.

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It is difficult to determine how long canned goods can be safely stored. While most experts agree that canned goods cannot be stored forever, the truth is that not many studies have been performed. These days, people are usually too wary of the expiration dates stamped on commercial products to keep and eat food stored after these dates; most “expired” cans are thrown away. Canned goods do not require a “best before” date, because they are shelf-stable when their packaging remains undamaged. Most commercially canned foods will have a date on them showing about three years from packing. According to the USDA, high-acid canned foods can be eaten for about a year and a half, and low-acid foods for five years after packing. Many foods will still be edible for a long time after that, though.

Canned goods prepared under proper conditions and stored properly are sterile; however, they do suffer some nutritional loss. In 1974, scientists conducted tests on a supply of canned goods that were more than 40 years old. They evaluated nutritional content and bacterial spoilage, and found that the canned foods were safe to eat. Vitamin A and C content has been shown to drop in canned foods, and in some by as much as 5-20 percent annually. The safety of the canned items is only compromised if the can itself becomes damaged.

Do Home-Canned Foods Last as Long as Commercially Canned Foods?

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The conditions under which canned foods are stored is an important concern. Cans should be kept between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and prevented from freezing and overheating. They must be stored in spaces relatively free of moisture and out of danger of being damaged. Dented, rusted and broken cans can harbor unsafe food, because flaws in the packaging can allow air and bacteria access to the food inside. Foods stored in glass jars must be protected from light exposure and, of course, breakage.

Monitor and document your canned foods carefully to ensure they will be safe to eat when you need them. All cans and jars should be labeled and marked with their contents and packaging date, so they will be identifiable if the paper labels are detached. If you create an inventory, you can keep track of any incidents that may affect the shelf life, as well as plan what to eat first to make sure older food is consumed before newer items.

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It is important to be able to recognize unsafe foods in your stored supply; carefully observing cans and maintaining records will help you notice if the appearance of cans changes. According to the CDC, food may be contaminated if the container is leaking, bulging, swelling or if the food inside is foaming, moldy or smells bad. Don’t take unnecessary risks with your food; throw away anything that seems suspect without tasting it.

Anecdotal evidence of storing home-canned goods and eating after five to 10 years exists; not too long ago it was not uncommon to store food for hard times and eat it many years later. Despite this, most canning experts and food safety agencies recommend eating home-canned goods no more than two years after packaging. The difference between home and commercially canned foods is in the preparation; it is more difficult to maintain sterile conditions at home than within a commercial processing facility. Properly observing canning standards can ensure safer, longer-lasting home-canned goods; it is essential to learn how to preserve sterilization if you want to rely on home canning.

Canned foods are among the best options for stockpiling. Be certain to store all preserved food under proper conditions to ensure its viability to sustain you when you need it. If you are home-canning for your stockpile, you absolutely must observe rigorous sanitation practices throughout the canning process. Monitor all canned goods for signs of spoilage, and don’t risk the serious illness or death that may result from eating spoiled items. With careful preparation, storage and routine inspection, your home-canned goods can become an important part of your long-term food plan and contribute to the security of your family in times of shortage.

Related:

How Long Will Frozen Food Really Last Before It Goes Bad?

What is your experience – how long have your canned foods lasted? Share your observations in the section below:

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11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile

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11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile

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Stockpiling food can be expensive. But there is some good news for those of us on a tight budget – you don’t have to spend a fortune to be prepared.

You may not have all the food you want, but you’ll have food to keep your family alive. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

The most expensive part of any food stockpile is meat. While I’m a carnivore, I do recognize that I can survive without it. I also recognize that of all the types of food in our diet, meat might be the easiest to come up with in the wake of a disaster. You can hunt for meat, but last I checked, you can’t hunt for a loaf of bread.

With that in mind, here are my top foods for stockpiling, based on the nutritional bang you get for your buck:

1. Dry beans

On a worldwide basis, beans are one of the most common sources of protein. If you spend any time in Mexico, you’ll find that you get beans with pretty much every meal. That’s because beans pack a lot of nutrition into a small space, and there are a lot of different types of beans. They also store very well, if you can keep moisture and bugs away.

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11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile

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Maybe beans aren’t your family favorite; that’s OK. A lot can be done to doctor up the flavor of them, especially by using spices. Chili con carne and soup are both excellent places to hide your beans and actually get your family to eat them.

2. Rice

Rice is also a staple in many parts of the world. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Colombia, and rice is also typically served with every meal. Beans and rice are a common dish in many countries and territories, such as Puerto Rico.

As with any food, the more processed rice is, the more nutrition is lost. Brown rice can be mixed with just about anything and fried, making your own version of fried rice. But many survivalists prefer white rice because it stores longer.

3. Whole grains

We normally think of wheat when we think of grains, mostly because that’s what we usually use to make bread here in the U.S. But just about any type of grain can be used. When you buy some specialty breads, such as rye bread, you’re buying a bread that is made of a mixture of rye flour and wheat flour. When you buy “seven-grain bread,” it’s literally a mixture of seven different types of grains.

Having a stock of grains, especially a mixed stock, will allow you to experiment and break up the monotony of your diet. You’ll also have more nutritious bread, as wheat flour isn’t the most nutritious grain you can use.

You’re better off buying whole grain, rather than flour, as it will keep longer. Keep in mind, however, that if you buy whole grain you will need a mill to prepare it.

4. Cooking oil

In order to use those grains, you’re going to need to have cooking oil. Fortunately, it’s inexpensive unless you buy pure olive oil or something similar. Oil keeps well for prolonged periods of time as long as it is sealed. There is little risk of insects or bacterial forming in it.

5. Peanut butter

As an inexpensive source of protein, it’s hard to beat peanut butter. Besides, what American child hasn’t grown up eating peanut butter sandwiches? That makes it a good comfort food as well. Peanut butter keeps well, is inexpensive and provides a lot of nutrition – so stock up.

6. Pasta

Pasta, like rice, is a good source of carbohydrates. The nice thing about it is that there are so many different things you can do with it. Besides throwing some sauce on it and having spaghetti, pasta forms a good base ingredient for many types of soups and casseroles. You can mix pretty much anything with it and turn it into a tasty dish.

7. Bouillon

Bouillon is your basic dehydrated or freeze-dried soup stock. If you buy it in the grocery store, it’s rather expensive. But if you buy it packaged for use in restaurants, it’s very cheap. With bouillon and pasta to start, you can turn most any food into a flavorful pot of soup.

8. Salt

Salt is necessary for your health. While doctors talk about not eating too much salt (to avoid high blood pressure and other health issues), a lack of salt prevents your body from retaining enough water.

11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile More than that, salt is the main preservative used for meat. If you happen to kill a deer or even a cow, you’re going to need to preserve a lot of the meat. Whether you decide to smoke it or dehydrate it, you’re going to need salt … and lots of it.

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Don’t buy your salt in the one-pound containers you see in the grocery store. Instead, buy it in 25-pound bags. You’ll get it for about one-eighth the cost per pound. Considering that you want to have a couple of hundred pounds of it on hand, that’s a nice savings.

9. Sugar

Sugar is more than a sweet treat. For example, it works as a preservative for fruits and helps bread dough rise so you can bake a nice, fluffy loaf.

Like salt, sugar will keep forever. The only problem is keeping moisture and ants out of it. Store it in a five-gallon, food-grade bucket and you should be able to keep it without any problem.

10. Powdered milk

Milk is one of nature’s most complete foods. It’s also needed for most baking. Unfortunately, in liquid form it doesn’t keep well and that’s why stockpiling powdered milk is wise. While powdered milk might not taste as good as regular milk, you’ll get used it and be glad to have it. Plus, powdered milk is very inexpensive.

11. Seeds

Admittedly, seeds really aren’t food. But they grow into food, and that makes them the best single food item you can stockpile. Eventually – no matter how many bags of beans, rice and other foods you stockpile – you are going to run out and will need to grow your own food. Stocking up on seeds is a great way to ensure your long-term survival.

What low-cost foods would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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The Overlooked Reason You Should Never Freeze Meat

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The Overlooked Reason You Should Never Freeze Meat

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Of all the different means we have at our disposal to preserve meats, the most common is freezing. In our modern society, we either cook our meat fresh or put it in the freezer until we are ready to use it. This makes sense in an industrialized society, where normal utility service can be counted on and the electricity only goes down when there is an emergency.

For those of us who are stockpiling food and preparing for the unknown, what’s considered “normal” isn’t our norm. The fact of the matter is that our electrical supply is very unreliable in times of crisis or disaster. Even a brief storm is often enough to blow power lines down. Something more serious, like a hurricane, can leave us without power for weeks.

Considering that a freezer can’t keep frozen meat frozen for more than two days without electricity, keeping more than three or four days worth of frozen meat on hand means that there’s a good chance you’ll lose it in a power outage. (Yes, there actually are survivalists who never freeze meat.)

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The only way to prevent that meat from going bad in a survival situation would be to take it out of the freezer and preserve it by some alternate means. The big problem with that is that being thrown into a survival situation is going to overwhelm us — and we’ll likely have other, more urgent tasks. The last thing any of us will need at that moment is to have to deal with a freezer full of meat.

Alternate Means of Preserving Meat

What are some alternatives? I’d say that canned meats are safe. The canning process itself, if done properly, will ensure that the bacteria contained in the meat has died, making the meat safe for storage and eating. What about smoked meats? Most smoked meats are only cold-smoked for flavor, and not hot-smoked to keep for a prolonged period of time. Unless you’ve smoked it yourself and know that it was thoroughly hot-smoked, I wouldn’t count on it.

Commercially processed jerky isn’t even all that reliable. I’ve bought jerky at my local supermarket that has developed mold. That either means that the meat wasn’t properly marinated or that the salt concentration in the marinade was too low. If the salt concentration is high enough and the meat is properly marinated before dehydrating, there’s no way that it should go bad.

The Overlooked Reason You Should Never Freeze MeatThe fact of the matter is that meats are the hardest thing to preserve, especially for long-term storage. Canning is the most reliable, but canning will affect the taste and texture of the meat. If you’ve ever eaten canned beef, it is usually so overcooked that it will fall apart easily. If it isn’t cooked that well, you can’t be sure that the bacteria is killed.

I’ve had problems with both smoked and cured meats going bad. If you are planning on using either method for preserving meat, then you should use it in conjunction with refrigeration. But that puts us right back in the place we were with freezing.

What About Drying?

Drying meats – whether by dehydration or freeze-drying – is fairly secure as long as the salt concentration is high enough and the moisture content of the meat has been brought down low enough. Properly salted and dried meats provide a very hostile environment for bacteria to grow in. The salt alone is enough to dehydrate the bacteria and kill it.

So, how much salt is enough? From my personal experience, not all jerky recipes have enough salt in them for good preservation. I generally dehydrate five pounds of thinly sliced beef at a time. Regardless of the recipe I use for the marinade, I always add an additional heaping teaspoon of salt. Doing it that way makes the jerky rather salty, but I have yet to have any jerky go bad when I add the extra salt.

To keep jerky for a prolonged period of time, it needs to be sealed in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. I also add a silica gel pack. One pound bags are good for a survival stockpile and a number of them can be put together in a five-gallon bucket for storage.

Re-freezing Meat

There’s another problem with freezing meat that I want to mention. And that’s the problem of re-freezing meat. Freezing meat doesn’t necessarily kill the bacteria in it. In many cases, the bacteria just become dormant. Then, when the meat is thawed, it becomes active again. As long as the meat is cooked to a high enough internal temperature, that bacteria is killed and any problem is eliminated.

But if the internal temperature of the meat isn’t high enough to kill the bacteria – for example, cooking a medium-rare steak – then you have live bacteria in the meat.

Not only is that bacteria alive, but the metabolism of the bacteria increases as the temperature rises. So, the bacteria will multiply faster, infecting the meat even more. If the meat has been properly refrigerated or frozen, this usually isn’t an issue. But it can be if the meat is heated and cooled repeatedly.

The other issue is that some bacteria put off toxins as waste. The higher temperature and higher metabolism increase the amount of these toxins that are released. Thawing out meat and then re-freezing it provides an excellent opportunity for the bacteria to produce these toxins, making the meat dangerous to eat. For this reason, meat that has thawed should never be re-frozen and then eaten.

Related:

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

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5 Long-Lasting Superfoods To Keep You Healthy All Winter

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5 Long-Lasting Superfoods To Keep You Healthy All Winter

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Consuming seasonal superfoods – that is, foods that are nutrient-rich — strengthens your immune system so you can fight off those nagging colds and be at the top of your game no matter what life throws at you.

Here are five winter superfoods that you should consider adding to your list. Even better, they will store for weeks or months:

1. Root vegetables

Vegetables such as parsnips, celery, carrots, beets and turnips all grow under the ground, where they can take in nutrients from the soil. These high-fiber vegetables are truly versatile and can be added to soups or stews, or stir fried and even made into tasty chips (a great alternative to the potato chips you buy in the store). My whole family enjoys these root chips!

Research has even demonstrated that a compound found in raw carrots may inhibit the formation of breast cancer.

2. Winter squash

Squash and colder weather just sort of go together, don’t they? But rather than just using these beautiful veggies to adorn your front doorstep, why not consider adding them to your diet?

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

Antioxidants found in squash can help to reduce inflammation — good news if you suffer from achy joints. Just one serving of butternut squash has 35 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. The high amount of beta-carotene and omega-3 in squash helps keep your skin looking radiant and young all winter long.

3. Cabbage

Both red and green cabbage are loaded with vitamin K and anthocyanins that improve both mental function and concentration. Also, both of these nutrients help to guard against dementia and Alzheimer’s, and they prevent nerve damage. Cabbage is also high in potassium that regulates blood pressure. The vitamin C and sulfur in cabbage helps to get rid of free radicals and uric acid – the main culprits of gout, arthritis, skin conditions and rheumatism.

Cabbage can be eaten raw, juiced, sauteed, roasted or included in soups, salads or stews.

4. Chia seeds

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While you may know that flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are even better. These tiny black seeds are loaded with vitamins A, B, E and D, along with the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, niacin, potassium, thiamine, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and zinc.

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Throw some of these potent little seeds into your salads, smoothies, soups and more to enjoy all they have to offer.

5. Citrus fruits

How could I forget the ever popular winter citrus fruits? Citrus is just one of the things that makes me smile — whether it be grapefruits, oranges, limes, tangerines or lemons. Eating citrus in the winter is a great way to keep your immune system strong and your energy high. Not only are citrus fruits high in vitamin C, but they are also rich in thiamin and folate. Research shows that citrus fruit can help protect against heart disease and cancer. Enjoy citrus fruits fresh, in salads or juiced.

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

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Long-Term Meat Preservation, The Native American Way

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Meat Preservation, The Native American Way

 

Native American traditions in food consumption varied greatly, owing much to the diversity of habitats.

For example, the Alaskan Athabascans had very different diets than the Brazilian tribes in the Amazon rainforest. There were also a variety of lifestyles for different tribes as well. Some tribes settled into one place year round, farming the land and being very agricultural, while others were semi-nomadic, following the herds and moving with the seasons as they hunted and gathered their foods. But one constant in both tribal lifestyles was a need for meat accumulation and preservation for use in the winter months and during long hunting and trading expeditions.

In the days before supermarkets, Native Americans in these ancient societies found food for their families in four basic ways: hunting and fishing, gathering, farming, and raising domesticated animals.

So, what types of meat did the Native Americans eat? It varied, depending on the tribe. Buffalo, deer, caribou, elk and rabbit were popular. Raising domesticated animals in North America before Europeans arrived was limited primarily to turkeys, ducks and dogs. Most tribes did not eat dog meat, although there are cases of some who did. In the documented travels of famous explorers Lewis & Clark in their 1803-06 expedition, they spoke of consumption of dog meat all across the continent (although Clark abstained). When their own supply of dog meat ran low they acquired more from the Paiutes, Clatsop, Teton Sioux, Nez Perce and the Hidatsas. The Kickapoo (in present day Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Mexico) still consume puppy meat in their ceremonies and festivals to honor their chief deity.

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Here are four ways Native Americans preserved meat:

Smoking it – Northwest tribes and those in the extreme north relied heavily on fish to carry them throughout the year, making use of annual salmon spawning to capture massive amounts of fish. They would then dry and preserve the fish for use throughout the winter. Ancient methods of preserving fish included drying, salting, pickling and smoking, but in the absence of large quantities of salt and other preservatives, smoking alone was sufficient.

Meat Preservation, The Native American Way

Image source: FirstPeoplesOfCanada.com

The smoking process involves exposing salmon or other fish fillets directly to smoke from smoldering wood for anywhere from several hours to two to three days.

Smoking can be done in both open and enclosed structures. Traditional smoking structures include smoke sheds and tipis large enough to smoke entire hides, many salmon, or large quantities of game.

Enclosed structures contain a smoke source in the bottom, and raw foods to be smoked are arranged on racks or on hanging lines inside the shed or tipi.

Jerky — The term “jerky” derives from the Peruvian Quechua tribe’s word “ch’arki” meaning “dried” or “burned” meat. Jerky is a form of meat preservation in which fresh meat from large game is carefully defatted, cut into slices, sometimes pounded flat, and dried in the sun or smoked over a fire to prevent it from spoiling. Salt was not usually used in the preservation process due to its inland scarcity. Small game meat was primarily consumed immediately, but larger game was preserved and utilized as a long-term source of protein.

Pemmican – A high-energy concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious “shelf stable” traveling food, pemmican is made from the lean meat of large game such as buffalo, moose, elk or deer. The meat is cut in thin slices and dried over a slow fire, or in the hot sun, until it is hard and brittle. The picture below is a demonstration of traditional meat-drying techniques at the annual Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

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

Roughly five pounds of fresh meat is required to make one pound of dried meat suitable for preparing into pemmican. Once the meat is dried, it is pounded into very small powder-like pieces. The pounded meat is then mixed with fat in an approximate 1:1 ratio. In some cases, depending on availability and geography, native dried fruits such as Saskatoon berries, cranberries, blueberries, or choke cherries, were pounded into powder and then added into the meat and fat mixture.

Some preparations also included bone marrow. Cranberries and choke cherries are both indigenous to North America, and both have acids that help to naturally preserve buffalo meat. The resulting mixture was then packed into rawhide bags for storage and even shipped and stored at the major fur posts.

Wasna – This is the Lakota version of pemmican, although the meat is specifically buffalo. One modern-day Lakota told the Native American company Tanka Bar that the “best wasna comes from choke cherries beaten with a special stone, which gives them a special flavor, and made into dried patties. The patties are then mixed with bapa, or dried buffalo, and a small amount of buffalo kidney fat.” That “special stone” is found in a local river. The Lakota discourage people from using beef fat, as it would make the wasna spoil quicker. The Tanka Bar in South Dakota actually sells wasna and other Native Americans foods.

Learning and practicing these traditional techniques is a great idea for homesteaders and survivalists. While carbohydrate-rich energy food may be great to have on hand for short-term use, it’s better to both familiarize yourself with the flavors of protein-rich native foods and gain the valuable food preparation skills needed.

Related:

How To Make Pemmican: A Survival Superfood That Can Last 50 Years

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Have you ever made pemmican or other types of Native American foods? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

7 Time-Tested Ways Your Ancestors Preserved Food Without A Refrigerator

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7 Time-Tested Ways Your Ancestors Preserved Food Without A Refrigerator

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Most of America’s food storage today depends on refrigeration or freezing, or processed foods that we purchased at a grocery store and then stocked in a pantry. But there was a time when food storage wasn’t quite so easy.

On a fundamental level, old-time off-the-grid food storage involved a series of dedicated spaces or locations to allow temperature and conditions to preserve the food. It also included various preservation processes that further helped with preservation and flavor.

Below are a variety of processes that many of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and their ancestors uses.

1. Off-grid freezing. Yes, freezing. The cold winter months, combined with a dedicated space in an attic or outbuilding, allowed for fish, game and livestock to be butchered and frozen. The meat was usually hung from the rafters in the ceiling to protect it from mice.

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This freezing approach to food storage usually occurred from mid-December to at least the end of February.

2. Off-grid refrigeration. Here’s another surprise, and we’re not talking about a propane refrigerator. Cold springs, water pumped from a cold creek with a ram pump, and water pumped from deep underground with a windmill were often used either to chill a large metal box immersed in the spring, or to continually fill and drain a brick-and-mortar tub where food items were often stored in milk cans. The milk cans were metal, and the circulating cold water effectively kept the internal temperature chilled for things like eggs, butter, bacon, other meats, and, of course, milk.

7 Time-Tested Ways Your Ancestors Preserved Food Without A Refrigerator

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3. Root cellars. Root cellars were as much a standard feature on a homestead as a refrigerator is today. These were deep pits dug into the ground and covered with timbers and earth with steps leading down to a door that opened into the cellar. The walls were lined with shelves for the storage of winter roots, canned goods and certain fruits. The floors were often dirt, sand or stone. This allowed the natural moisture and coolness of the surrounding earth to keep the root cellar at a consistently low temperature.

4. Canning. This involved adding fruits, vegetables, fish or prepared sauces to glass jars with lids that would create a vacuum seal. The jars were then processed in boiling water for a specific length of time to kill and prevent microbial growth. Sometimes ingredients like vinegar or salt were added because of their natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Often, these canned goods were also stored in the root cellar and sometimes in a pantry.

5. Fermenting. Here’s one we don’t think about often. Fermentation is the process of allowing good microbes to grow to kill the bad microbes.

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Examples include sauerkraut, Korean Kimchi, yogurt, wine from grapes, beer from grains, cheese and pickles. Some of these were stored in a root cellar or a cold box. Cheese was often coated with beeswax to further preserve it.

6. Drying. This was a simple process that made storage fairly simple. Classic examples are any and all varieties of string beans that are threaded onto a string and allowed to dry to a leathery texture. These were then hung in the kitchen or a back porch. They had to be reconstituted with a water-soak for a day or two, but it was easier than canning.

Dried and cracked corn was another staple that was usually stored in barrels or large sacks in the kitchen or a dry space like an attic. Herbs were also dried and often bundled and hung from an attic ceiling and in the kitchen, where they could be easily used in winter.

7. Smokehouse. When many of us think of smoking foods, we usually imagine a variation on a barrel smoker and a duration of four to 12 hours. A true smokehouse is much larger and allows you to walk into it. It was often made of brick or stone and had an external firebox and pipe that allowed the smoke to enter and vent through a chimney in the tin roof.

Large meat hooks were hung from the ceiling rafters, and hams, pork shoulder, pork bellies, turkeys and other meats were suspended. This was a dry-smoking process which often went on for weeks and was typically preceded by a curing or dry-salt process. Curing is a brine solution that is either injected into the meat or used as a marinade, while dry-salting is a salt-based “rub” that is rubbed over the outside of the meat.

The combination of salt-curing, the drying from the low temperature heat, the smoke, and the enclosed space allowed some smoked foods like hams and pork bellies to be stored in the smokehouse long after the smoking process was complete.

What food storage methods would you add to this list? Share your knowledge in the section below:

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The Long-Lasting, Never-Go-Bad ‘Survival Soup’ The Pioneers Ate

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The Long-Lasting, Never-Go-Bad 'Survival Soup' The Pioneers Ate

There’s a pioneer cooking tradition in the United States that stretched from cook camps on cattle drives to lumber camps. It’s “perpetual soup,” known in some regions as the Skillagalee kettle.

Back in 1910, Horace Kephart wrote an iconic book titled: The Book of Camping and WoodcraftA Guidebook for Those who Travel in the Wilderness. He covered just about everything related to living and surviving in the wilderness back then, and had this to say about this type of food: “Into it go all the clean ends of game — heads, tails, wings, feet, giblets, large bones — also the leftovers of fish, flesh, and fowl, of any and all sorts of vegetables, rice or other cereals, macaroni, stale bread, everything edible except fat.”

The post, he said, is “always kept hot” and its “flavors are forever changing, but ever welcome.”

“It is always ready, day or night for the hungry, varlet who missed connections or who wants a bite between meals. No cook who values his peace of mind will fail to have skilly simmering at all hours.”

Let’s look at this food more in detail – and consider its benefits.

The constant simmering and perpetual heat under the pot is actually an old food-preservation technique. By keeping the broth at a steady temperature between 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, anyone helping themselves would not suffer the consequences of food contamination. You could almost think of it as the pioneer Crock-Pot which was especially handy in a time with no electricity.

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And that’s something to think about. As Kephart noted in his book, you can add just about anything to the pot. Personally, I don’t think I’d toss fish bones in with the chicken and beef bones, but maybe someday I’ll try it. What’s important is that the combination of ingredients are a potent brew of macro and micronutrients.

How to Make it in Your Kitchen

But you don’t have to hang out the cast-iron cookware over the open fire just yet. You can easily make perpetual soup in a Crock-Pot with some traditional recipes and just keep it on a setting that maintains a high-simmer. I’ve often done this on week-long fishing and hunting trips when I found myself sharing a cabin with five or six guys who always seemed to be hungry. I was the cook on all of these trips and appreciated Kephart’s recollection of a recipe for my own sanity when some of the guys came in from the cold.

Soup Tips

pioneers 2You may be tempted to assume that making your own perpetual soup is no different than a traditional soup, but it’s the “ongoing additive nature” of this particular dish that makes it unique. We’ll cover a traditional approach that’s a bit less eclectic than the old 1910 version.

There are three basic things you’ll want to keep an eye on with your perpetual soup, whether it’s simmering over the fire or in a Crock-Pot:

  1. Slow and steady heat that keeps the broth between 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a bit easier with a Crock-Pot, and a gently, bubbling simmer should be apparent. Over an open fire you’re probably going to have to improvise and make some more physical adjustments.
  2. One thing that will definitely affect your simmer is the frequent addition of water. As the soup evaporates and is consumed, the broth needs to be replenished. There’s no precise measurement here. Just do what makes sense without overfilling. You also may need to crank up the heat a bit for a while to get your good simmer back.
  3. Keep adding ingredients. This is what makes perpetual soup so unique. Every time you add something new, it will impart a new set of flavors and nutrients.

Perpetual Soup Ingredients

The idea is to start with a foundation that you can add to, day to day.

  1. Water. This amount depends on the size of your pot, but I usually fill the pot 2/3 full whether it’s a Crock-Pot or a kettle on the fire. You’ll want to cover with a lid, but make sure you balance your heat to the proper simmer with the lid in place. A lid over any hot liquid will increase the temperature as heat is added, and you could end up with a rolling boil or boil-over instead of a very gentle boil or robust simmer.
  2. Vegetables. I like carrots, celery, roughly chopped onions with the skins still on (this will add a nice, caramel color to the broth), other root vegetables and stalk trimmings like radish and turnip stalks. Leave out the beets and trimmings unless you want a very bloody, red color.
  3. Bones. Beef bones, pork bones, chicken and pheasant carcasses and turkey carcasses. Get them bones in there. They add wonderful flavor and lots of good stuff. At some point you can pull out the big beef bones and make your dog very happy. He might like a sprinkle of the broth on his dry dog food.
  4. Seasonings. You have to balance this with your group’s sodium tolerance. Seasonings related to broth tend to be defined by salt. You may be pleasantly surprised that as your perpetual soup matures, its flavor grows and diminishes your craving for salt. Just taste as you go and go and go.

Fats are typically not a good idea with a Skillagalee pot, but they’re unavoidable. Also, if your fire went out at camp or you let the broth boil away overnight in your Crock-Pot, toss it and start over.

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Add as you go from one day to the next, but think about how certain ingredients can dominate flavors long-term. Once you add fish bones to a stock, it will linger. Same is true for hot peppers and other dominant flavors. I love garlic, but a few trimmings in the pot will last and last.

Lastly, know when to quit. This could become very obvious as the off-flavors just don’t seem to be working. In my case, it’s when my wife complains about those constant smells in the kitchen from “that Crock-Pot.”

It’s easy to start over. After all, you’re just using water, trimmings and some simple seasoning.

The concept is pretty simple and it’s not like it takes a lot of practice. But the next time the lights go out or you find yourself with a large group for a while, give it a try.

Have you ever made perpetual soup? Share your tips in the section below:

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The 10 Very First Foods You Should Stockpile

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The 10 Very First Foods You Should Stockpile

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Those of us who have been storing food for a while probably have a pretty good assortment of food in our stockpile. We may have started out with just a few basics, but over time, we’ve been adding to it. In some cases, our survival pantry has reached the point where we’ll probably eat better in an emergency than we do on a day-to-day basis.

But none of us started out that way. Whether we started out by buying a few bags of rice and beans or some prepackaged survival foods, our budding stockpile really didn’t have all that much selection. It was about survival, not about taste.

The thing is, those first foods we stockpiled were probably the most important foods that we have. Why? Because they are the ones that will keep us going when we run out of everything else. Yes, it’s nice to have foods you enjoy in your stockpile and I wouldn’t try to dissuade you from that. But more than anything, you need foods that will give you the nutrients you need when there aren’t any other food sources available.

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With that in mind, we should always go back and check our stock of these basic items. Since they are the most important, it makes sense to have more of these on hand than we do of the others.Basic Survival Nutrition

Basic Survival Nutrition

When we read what nutritionists say today, we find a lot of talk about omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and other micronutrients. Those are all-important for maintaining our health. But when we’re talking about survival nutrition, it’s not about those micronutrients; we need to focus on the macronutrients. If we can fit the micronutrients in too, that’s good, and they will help keep us healthy. But more than anything, we need the macronutrients to keep us alive.

So, what are these macronutrients?

  • Carbohydrates — should make up about 60 percent of your intake
  • Fats — should account for about 25 percent of your intake
  • Proteins — should account for roughly 14 percent of your intake

Carbohydrates are broken down by our bodies into simple sugars, which are the basic fuel our muscles burn in order to move. In a survival situation, we are going to have to be more physically active, so we will need lots of carbs. That makes them the single most important part of our survival diet. In the wild, these are hard to encounter. But in the grocery store, they are very easy.

The 10 Very First Foods You Should Stockpile

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Once the body has consumed carbs, it will turn to breaking down fats to turn them into simple sugars. This includes both fat in our diets and fat in our bodies. Since fats take longer to break down than carbohydrates do, this will work sort of like a time-released energy boost, giving our bodies the energy necessary for a second wind.

Proteins can be broken down into sugars as well, but we really don’t want that to happen. When the body starts breaking proteins down into sugars, we’re literally at the point of starvation. What actually happens is that the body starts to cannibalize itself, specifically skeletal muscles, in order to get those proteins. Since the body is always building new cells, a constant supply of proteins is needed to keep the body from cannibalizing old cells in order to make new ones.

If it is possible to get micronutrients in there, that’s great. Most of them come from fruits and vegetables, which also are great sources of carbohydrates. They also are the easiest forms of food that we can grow ourselves. So make sure you have a vegetable garden so that you can have carbs and micronutrients.

The First 10 Foods

Now that we have a little better understanding of survival nutrition, let’s look at what foods are the most important to stockpile. I’m going to look at this as if I was just starting out. What foods are absolutely the most important for me to stockpile?

1. Water

Most people won’t consider this a food item, but I don’t want to leave it off. The saying is that you can live 30 days without food (personally, I think most of us could go longer), but only three days without water. So in terms of importance, water clearly trumps food.

The other issue with water is that you need so much of it. Most experts say you need a gallon of purified water per person, per day for drinking and cooking. But that doesn’t include what you need for washing and tending to your vegetable garden. You’re actually going to go through a whole lot more than just a gallon per person.

2. Salt

Salt is more than a seasoning. It is necessary for survival because it is what holds the water in our bodies. It also is a natural preservative. If you happen to bag a deer while hunting, you’re going to need salt to preserve the meat, regardless of how you preserve it.

Many survivalists and preppers don’t stockpile enough salt because they don’t think of it as a preservative. But it’s more or less impossible to preserve meats without it. Whether you smoke meats or dehydrate them to make jerky, you have to have salt. You even need it for canning meats, although you don’t need as much. Stock up well on salt and if it turns out you have too much, you can always use it as trade goods.Brown rice

3. Brown rice

Brown rice is somewhat of a universal food, providing an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber and other nutrients. While rice doesn’t make for all that exciting a diet, rice and beans are a staple for a large part of the world’s population.

4. Dry beans

Together with rice, dry beans are one of the world’s staple foodstuffs. They are an excellent source of plant protein, as well as carbohydrates. Beans keep extremely well as long as you can keep moisture and insects out of them.Cooking oil

5. Cooking oil

Cooking oil is necessary for cooking just about anything. Your rice and beans will need oil for cooking. You’ll also need it for baking bread. This is your prime source for fats in your diet, as game meat won’t provide you with much.

6. Sugar or honey

natural honey or manufactured honeySugar and honey both keep indefinitely; some say forever. Like salt, sugar is a natural preservative. We use salt for preserving meats, but sugar for preserving fruits. Both work in the same way to kill off harmful bacteria that would otherwise eat the food that is being preserved.

Sugar and honey also are excellent sources of energy, when you need it the most. Since they are complex sugars, they break down into simple sugars faster than any other food source. That provides an instant boost of energy when one is exhausted.Peanut butter

7. Peanut butter

Peanut butter is another excellent source of protein, as well as fats and carbohydrates. In fact, it provides the best mix of the three macronutrients of anything on this list. Canned, it also keeps very well and is relatively inexpensive. That makes it an ideal addition to your survival stockpile. Of course, if you want peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you’ll need some bread and jelly to go with it.

Peanut butter also is a good comfort food for kids and most American kids grow up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As a result, not only will it be easy for them to stomach, it will give them a feeling of normalcy in the midst of disaster.

8. Whole red wheat, unground

Bread is the Western world’s most common source of carbohydrates, while the Eastern world is more accustomed to rice. However, flour doesn’t keep well for long periods of time. The solution is to store unground flour and grind it yourself. This means having a grinder as well, preferably a high-quality one that can be operated manually without electricity.

Whole wheat not only keeps longer, but will provide more fiber and nutrition than our typical white flour does. In olden times, breads were much heavier and heartier due to an increased use of whole wheat and a reduced use of yeast.Powdered eggs

9. Powdered eggs

In order to bake bread, you have to have some sort of protein. It’s the protein that actually holds the bread together. The normal means of providing that protein is with eggs. If you don’t have chickens you can count on, you’ll need to have a goodly stock of powdered eggs on hand. Don’t even plan on eating these plain, as nobody really likes them – just keep them for baking.

10. Heirloom seeds

While seeds aren’t really food, any food stockpile should have a good selection of vegetable seeds. Be careful to buy heirloom seeds rather than hybrid or GMO. Only heirloom seeds allow you to harvest the seeds of the plants you are growing so that you can replant and harvest the same plant next year.

No matter how big your stockpile is, it will eventually run out. By adding these seeds you give yourself the ability to produce your own food, extend your stock and make yourself more self-sufficient. Just don’t wait to start planting; either start your garden now or as soon as the disaster hits.

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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The Dumbest Mistake Even Experts Make In Food Preservation

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The Surprising Mistake Even Experts Make In Food Preservation

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My mother tried to teach me about food. She did it all — gardening, canning, jellying, freezing, drying, cheesing. She knew all about the so-called “Hundred Mile Diet” that has become so popular in recent years, the now-trendy notion of trying to make all or most of your diet consist of food that was produced within a hundred miles of your home. She had eaten that way most of her life. She was a trendsetter, decades ahead of her time.

Too bad I had no interest whatsoever in such things. It was the 1970s, when chic modern women bought their food in boxes at the grocery store — none of that old-fashioned “raise-your-own” nonsense for someone as cool as I was.

By the time I managed to rise above my ignorance, I was middle aged and my mother was deceased. Thanks to books and the Internet, as well as wonderful personal mentors and formal training through my state’s Master Food Preserver program, I have been able to pick up much of what I missed out on learning from my mother.

Except for the most important thing of all — the one thing that is so simple and ridiculously obvious that most people don’t even see it as something to learn.

I had to learn to eat my food.

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That’s right. All that growing and harvesting and blanching and pressure-canning does no one any good, unless we eat the fruits of our labors.

The Surprising Mistake Even Experts Make In Food Preservation

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There are a lot of barriers to this. Home cooks in today’s society are accustomed to deciding what they want to eat, finding the recipes they like best, and heading for the grocery store with a shopping list. Doing it that way is so ingrained in a lot of people that they forget to take into account the cellar full of food that they worked so hard to put up.

Homesteaders need to do it the other way around — see what we have on hand, look for recipes that utilize those things, and put those on the menu. There might still be shopping to do, but only for that which we cannot raise ourselves and cannot substitute.

Another obstacle to cooking my own food was that as a child of the 70s, I may have since rejected the idea of opening boxes and cans and freezer bags for my main ingredients, but I was still programmed to follow the directions. Recipes don’t call for a jar of my homemade spicy pickled carrots or rhubarb sauce or green tomato mincemeat pie filling. I have found that if I want to use what I have in my larder instead of adding on to the grocery list, I need to learn to actually create flavors on my own. Using my home-grown foods requires me to actually cook, not just follow recipes.

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On the other hand, real cooks don’t always use foods out of their home-preserved collection, either. Or at least, the rock-star chefs on television don’t. When I watch the celebrity chefs using all fresh out-of-season vegetables and only the best cuts of meat, I always wonder how they would do on a homestead.

Neglecting to use home-processed food is a common affliction. Most home canners have been known to lament the efficacy of canning this season’s green beans or applesauce when their shelves are still loaded with jars of last year’s.

People mean well. All those frozen bags of eggplant, lovingly peeled and chopped and blanched in lemon water, with visions of winter ratatouille dancing in my head — how can they still be leftover come spring?

Home food preservation is a wonderful thing, for a lot of reasons. It is a great way to control what goes into your food, be self-sufficient, eat healthy, minimize waste and petroleum use in food production, and practice skills in preparation for hard times.

However, if you leave out that essential last step, it is all for naught. Shop in your larder before you head for the grocery store, and alter your recipes if needed. Whatever it takes, make sure you do the one most important thing when it comes to food preservation. Make sure you eat it.

Do you agree? What would you add to this story? Share your advice in the section below:

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4 Overlooked Meats The Rest Of The World Eats (That We Should, Too)

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4 Overlooked Meats The Rest Of The World Eats (That We Should, Too)

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Eating the organs of animals is quite popular throughout the world, but many Americans find the idea to be unpleasant. Perhaps that is because of a lack of exposure to organ meats or a memory of a badly cooked meal. Either way, adding organ meats to your regular diet can give you a significant healthy boost.

While some of these following meats aren’t actually organs but muscle, they tend to be lumped into the same category.

1. Liver

One of the most common true organ meats is the liver, and if you were to only eat one type of organ, this should be it. The liver is not only loaded with nutrients, but is a source of certain ones you probably struggle to get through other foods.

You may have already heard that liver is an incredible source of vitamin A. Retinol, a form of vitamin A from animal products, is a major reason for eating liver. Approximately four ounces of beef liver gives you more than 1,600 percent of the daily recommended intake of this vitamin. In addition to vitamin A you also get major doses of B vitamins. Don’t forget about the iron, folate and other nutrients as well!

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There is some concern that the liver can be a source of toxins, since one part of the many jobs this organ performs is filtering blood and detoxification of chemicals. This risk of this happening is quite low, but it’s a good idea to eat the highest quality liver possible — meaning livers from livestock that were not factory farmed. (Recommended: “Liver: The Underappreciated Superfood Of Yesteryear.”)

Recipes for cooking liver:

2. Kidneys

4 Overlooked Meats The Rest Of The World Eats (That We Should, Too)Less popular than liver, kidneys are another organ that can be quite tasty when cooked properly.

Just like the liver, the kidneys are a great source of vitamin A. Kidneys do have less vitamin A compared to liver (close to about half) but are still higher than most foods. Kidneys provide a nice boost of iron, as well — about five grams in a serving. Finally, these organs are a great source of vitamin B12 — at least 300 percent more than the daily recommended intake, depending on the type of kidney.

Recipes for cooking kidney:

3. Heart

Less often consumed is the heart. Of course, the heart is a muscle but it offers nutrients more similar to organ meats than muscle meats. Aside from that, heart is considered offal so it’s often lumped into the category of organs.

Beef heart is high in protein and a very rich meat. It is particularly high in vitamin B12 and iron (notice a pattern here?). A three-ounce portion of beef heart will provide roughly 200 percent of the daily recommend intake of B12. Ironically, B12 is an important vitamin for cardiovascular health. As for iron, you can expect to get about 50 percent of your recommended intake if you are a man or about 22 percent if you are woman.

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Most people tend to find that heart has a very strong flavor, particularly beef heart. If you know you don’t like beef heart, then give the milder chicken hearts a try before writing off this meat altogether.

Recipes for cooking heart:

4. Tongue

A final muscle that isn’t an organ but often lumped into the same category is the tongue. Beef tongue is quite the delicacy in other parts of the world, such as Japan where you can find beef tongue-flavored savory snacks.

Since the tongue is high in fat it isn’t as tricky to cook and is quite versatile in how it can be prepared. The downside is that tongue isn’t as packed with nutrients as the other organs/meats. In comparison to the other meats mentioned, beef tongue only has 12 percent of the recommended iron daily intake and 22 percent for B12. Despite this, tongue is still a nice addition to add variety to your diet. Plus, it is usually quite cheap!

Recipes for cooking tongue:

If you truly dislike the taste of offal or organ meats, then don’t feel like you have to force yourself to eat them. However, there are many recipes out there that may work for you.

Do you enjoy organ meats or offal meats? Please share your tips for cooking up these meats in the comment section below.

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The Easiest, Cheapest (And Tastiest) Animal You Can Raise For Food Is …

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The Easiest, Cheapest (And Tastiest) Animal You Can Raise For Food Is ...

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Man, do I love chickens and fresh eggs in the morning. I also love hogs, and the pork that I can turn into Virginia hams and back bacon. Goats and cows provide milk and delicious red meat. But with the exception of the chicken, none are as easy to raise for food as the good old “rascally rabbit.”

In fact, I have come to learn that the rabbit is just about the easiest animals one can raise for food, and certainly one of most delicious. If you have never had rabbit on your dinner table, you are missing out. It is lean (only about 10 percent fat) and flavorful.  Hasenpfeffer, Spanish rice and rabbit, or roast rabbit on a spit. I am getting hungry just talking about such table fare.

I grew up fishing and hunting. We hunted squirrel and rabbit as kids and teenagers, and to this day I still consider rabbit one of my favorite game animals.

When I turned 14, I had an interest that lasted for several years to start raising rabbits to sell them, but that never materialized. It was not until I started working for a farmer after high school that I came in contact with meat rabbits.

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We had a couple dozen at a time on the farm, and along with my other duties, I cleaned their hutches and fed them vegetables and straw. Over time, I really came to appreciate how easy a rabbit is to care for as opposed to goats, and cattle or even chickens.

The Humble Hare

Rabbits are not picky eaters. I have fed them hay and straw, and even grass clippings from the yard and weed clippings from a garden. You can feed them rabbit pellets or cattle feed. They will eat almost any organic material — provided they like it. Not every rabbit is going to like all food items, but that is normal. You can try feeding the rabbits different things as you go, and soon enough you will find what they like.

The Easiest, Cheapest (And Tastiest) Animal You Can Raise For Food Is ...

Image source: Pixabay.com

These critters are not too picky about shelter, either, although you don’t want to leave them outside in the bitter cold. In temperate climates you can raise them both indoors and outdoors. Outdoor hutches are the most common, with wood floors and a waterproof roof, and mesh on at least one or two sides. Cleaning the hutches every couple of days is paramount to prevent disease and mold build-up. Remove any food they have not partaken of after 24-48 hours, and keep the rabbits well-stocked with fresh forage and water.

You also can build indoor hutches (in your home) for rabbits. Of course, being indoors you will need to pay close attention to keeping these indoor hutches clean, as there is the absence of fresh air that you get with an outdoor hutch. Cleaning these living quarters will also keep the smell down, as indoor rabbits can stink a wee bit.

Table Fare

When it comes to killing and butchering, rabbits are much simpler than the chicken. My preferred method of dispatching a meat rabbit is using a wood club to strike firmly on the base of the skull. I then field dress the rabbit as I would any small game animal I harvested afield. After the rabbit is field dressed, I wet the fur to prevent hairs from getting in the meat. Skin them as you would any small game animal, with cuts around the hocks, legs and tail and a pulling motion which removes the creatures hide quickly and efficiently.

The rabbit can be quartered, de-boned or used whole. It can be stewed, grilled, broiled, fried and roasted. How does it taste? Like chicken, of course! OK, not really, but it tastes like rabbit and it is delicious!

If you are looking for an easy-to-raise animal for additional meat for your family or farm, take a glance at the rabbit. Getting started is cheap, and if you can get past the “cute and cuddly” aspect of the critter, you can enjoy some excellent meat!

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

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Here’s How To Make Lard, The Easy Way

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Here's How To Make Lard, The Easy WayGrowing up on the farm we made lard in an iron kettle over an open fire. That’s the old-fashioned way to melt pig fat. You had to watch it constantly and keep the fire hot. Too hot and you would scorch the lard, too cool and the fat wouldn’t melt.

I make much smaller quantities today, and it’s simple and easy thanks to my good old crock pot.

Where Find Lard

If you are not on a farm, you can find lard at many butcher shops or small processing plants. Of course, you can also have the butcher save the fat from your own pig if you have one slaughtered and packaged. Ask them to separate the leaf lard from the rest, as you will want to render it by itself. (Render is the proper name for melting pig fat)

Leaf lard is the highest-grade fat from around the kidneys and the inside of the loins. It is used mainly for baking, as it has little or no pork flavor.

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The rest of your lard will be from the fatback and trimmings that the butcher has left over when cutting and packaging your pork.

How to Make it

Here's How To Make Lard, The Easy WayStart out by cutting all the fat into similar-size chunks. This will help ensure the fat all melts down at about the same rate and aids in stirring the fat as it renders down.

Put about half of a cup of water in your crock pot or slow cooker. This keeps the fat from scorching until enough of it melts to replace the water. The water will evaporate off by the time you are done.

Turn the crock pot on medium to high, add the chunked-up fat to the water, and place the lid on top. You can expect it to take around eight hours if you get your crock pot just hot enough to melt the fat and not much hotter. Getting the temperature too high can result in scorching or burning the fat, which gives it a burnt taste and dark color – not what you want!

Stir the fat occasionally as it renders, which will help you determine if it’s getting too hot and aid in breaking up the small bits of meat, etc. that will not melt.

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When the lard is about done, you will notice that it has stopped melting and you have only smaller brown pieces much like curds. If the skin were left on the pig, this would be cracklings. Growing up on the farm, we always left the skin on the pig so it meant straining the lard and pressing these cracklings in a lard press.

Here's How To Make Lard, The Easy Way

Lard, prior to it cooling.

Almost all pigs today are skinned, so what you have left after the fat renders completely can be strained off and fed to the birds, chickens or thrown away.

I use a small strainer that fits a quart Mason jar and cut a small piece of cheesecloth to fit the bottom of the strainer. This ensures nice, clean lard, although if you do have a bit of material get through, it will settle out if you let the lard solidify at room temperature.

Once the lard has rendered down, simply pour through the strainer into clean containers and allow to cool. I prefer to use glass jars. Once the lard is cooled down, refrigerate it. You should freeze it if you are going to keep it for the long-term.

This method of making lard is easy and can be completed while doing other things. Just make sure to check it often in the beginning to make sure it’s not getting too hot.

All that’s left is to enjoy your lard for cooking some delicious food and baked goods!

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

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9 Christmas Herbs And Spices That Smell Good, Taste Great … And Heal, Too

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Christmas Herbs And Spices That Smell Good, Taste Great ... And Heal

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We all use spices and herbs when we cook during the year. At Christmastime, however, certain spices, and certain herbs just make the holidays real. They add a different taste to our food and smell to our air. You’re no doubt familiar with the smell of freshly baked pumpkin pie — what holiday does it make you think of?

Smell isn’t everything, though. How about the taste of hot chocolate, egg nog, holiday cookies or candy canes? Our childhood Christmas memories are likely full of the aromas of certain spices or herbs.

Spices and herbs produce the smells of the holiday. There are many customs, legends and memories created by these spices and smells. They add flavor and aromas to the season; normal dishes have an extra festive flair when you put just the right spice or herb in them. Not only do the spices and herbs smell wonderful, but they also have proven health benefits.

Most of the herbs and spices we associate with this holiday are exotic and come from warmer climates. Spices were once sold at the price of gold — and believe it or not, they were sometimes the reason for wars between countries. That is how important they were. (And now we can buy them to our heart’s content in the grocery store!) Spices and herbs played a big role in the history of mankind.

The Top Ten Christmas Spices and Herbs

1. Rosemary. Here is an herb that has many uses. It can be used for cooking, baking or decoration. You can find rosemary plants, including decorated ones, in garden centers, even during this time of year. It is a very popular herb to use with turkey or roasts, as well as in stews and soups. It is also a wonderfully fragrant plant to add to holiday centerpieces. Medicinally, rosemary has be shown to be helpful in reducing headaches and encouraging healthy skin and hair.

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2. Bayberry. This is actually a fruit, but its fragrant smell and special wax have become very popular at Christmas. The wax from the fruit is often added to candle wax; this is where you get your bayberry-scented candles. Bayberry is also known as wax myrtle or myrica. It is said to help treat diarrhea.

3. Cinnamon. This spice is used worldwide and comes from a cinnamomun vernum tree. It was once a prized spice and given to visiting dignitaries. It is a common spice today, and is used in dishes to eat and added to seasonal decorations. Cinnamon is also good for combating nausea and indigestion. You can use it in baking, cooking and teas.

Christmas Herbs And Spices That Smell Good, Taste Great ... And Heal4. Lavender. Lavender is a favorite scent for women. It has a calming effect and soft fragrance. It is symbolic of purity, immortality and cleanliness. Perhaps for this reason, it is often used in aromatherapy. It is also used for patients who suffer depression.

5. Myrrh. This, of course, was given to the baby Jesus. Myrrh comes from Commiphora Myrrha Tree resin. It is another spice often used during church services. This spice was worth more than frankincense in the ancient world. It is used as an oral antiseptic.

6. Ginger. Used in all forms, ginger is mostly used in baking and cooking. It can be candied as well, and used in teas and popular holiday drinks. This spice helps to ease nausea, gas, congestion and inflammation.

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7. Cloves: Buds of the clove plant are often used for baking and cooking, and putting in drinks and teas, and in wonderfully smelling decorations of the season. It has anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities and can help in digestion.

8. Nutmeg. Often used in baking, cooking, drinks and teas, nutmeg also helps settle and relax nerves.

9. Sage: This herb is a well-known, fragrant anti-inflammatory. It reduces irritations in your intestines and stomach. It also helps with sore throats. It is often used in baking and cooking.

Other herbs and spices we can’t forget to mention: At Christmastime, you will also smell or taste juniper, peppermint, allspice and vanilla. Cranberries also can be included here, as the red berries are used for cooking, baking and decorating.

Spices and Herbs as Gift Ideas

You can use herbs and spices as Christmas gifts. Make your own steak seasoning, rosemary salt or roast seasoning mixtures. A favorite is a rub made from rosemary and garlic. Create away and wrap with care to present a unique homemade gift to a special someone.

So choose your herbs and spices and get creating this season. Let your decorating skills come alive, and cook those family meals with confidence and love. No matter what you make or which dish you cook, your food will taste amazing and your home is going to smell festive. All it takes is a little dash of this, and a pinch of that.

What are your favorite Christmastime herbs and spices? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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Recipes From History: Foods That Can Last 100 Years

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Survival Superfood That Can Last 100 Years

Image source: Parks Canada

When it comes to long-lasting survival foods for emergency situations, most pantries are filled with dried or canned foods and emergency meal kits. These foods tend to last for a few years with proper storage, which is impressive. But did you know there are other foods that can last for even longer — even past your lifetime?

In fact, there are a few stories of certain foods remaining safely edible for upwards of 100 years. While the majority of these claims have been merely anecdotal, there is no doubt that some foods can easily last decades or more under the right conditions.

Here are 3 foods that are easy to make or gather that will easily outlast typical canned or dried survival foods.

Pemmican

Pemmican has a long history as a food that seems to never go bad. This food is a mixture of fat and protein made into a paste and then dried. Think of super tough, calorie-packed fruit leather.

This peculiar jerky-like food was developed by North American Native Americans as a high-energy meal that could be taken on long journeys without spoiling. The idea was passed on to Europeans, who found it invaluable as a protein source by explorers and trappers.

Pemmican isn’t difficult to make and there really is no exact recipe, since traditionally the protein and fat sources that were used depended on whatever the people had. Therefore, modern pemmican’s protein component could be anything from store-bought beef to wild game like deer or moose. There are cases of Natives adding fruits for taste and increased nutritious — although this fancier Pemmican was often used in ceremonies and other significant events.

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You click this hyperlink to go to a modern-day take on a Pemmican recipe. In short, this food is made by crushing previously dried meat (jerky) and mixing it with crushed dried berries and an equal amount of melted fat. Pemmican can be eaten as-is, added to stews or fried up in a pan with vegetables or other foods you may have on hand.

Hardtack

Another food with an interesting history is hardtack (or, hard tack). This cracker-like bread or biscuit was made popular by sailors and soldiers. The idea of baking a hardened bread or biscuit to take on long voyages or treks originated all the way back in ancient Egypt and Rome. In wasn’t until 1667 that hardtack became part of a standard diet for the Royal Navy.

It wasn’t until 1801 when a baker began producing hard tack (called water crackers) in America. These water crackers became a mainstay and also were eaten by troops. There are even hardtack biscuits in Civil War museums today.

Hardtack isn’t a tasty food since it’s just a mix of flour and water, but it did do a good job of keeping soldiers in condition. There are still some companies in the US that make hardtack for Civil War reenactments, and these biscuits can still be found in supermarkets throughout the world.

There isn’t really an expiration date on hardtack but it’s generally believed that if kept in dry, insect-proof containers out of sunlight these crackers can easily last 50-100 years.

Watch the video below to learn how to make it:

 

If you want a different recipe, then use this one from Parks Canada, which was used by surveyor Major AB Rogers:

  • 4 cups flour, preferably whole wheat
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups water, approximately

Directions:

  • “Preheat the oven to 375°F | 190°C.
  • “Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add enough water − possibly less than two cups − to ensure that the dough sticks together without sticking to your hands, the rolling pin or the pan. Mix the dough by hand.
  • “Roll the dough out, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Cut into the dough into 12 squares about 3 x 3 inches and ½-inch thick. After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square, using a nail or other such object. Do not punch through the dough. The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker. Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side.
  • “Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.”

And finally …

While not a meal by itself, honey is a great addition to a survival diet for a number of reasons. Not only is raw honey great for the body internally (and the taste buds!) but it also performs double-duty as a natural healing salve. Unfiltered raw honey in its most natural state boosts the immune system, provides antibacterial and antifungal protection, and is loaded with various minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

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It cannot be stressed enough that these numerous benefits and longevity apply to only raw honey. Honey that has had additives added or has been heated to a high temperature doesn’t offer the same benefits. Some supermarkets or health stores will sell unprocessed, raw honey, but you can always find an apiary where you can buy your honey straight from the source.

For best results, honey should be stored in a cool, dry place in mason jars with secure lids. Ideally, the honey should be kept at room temperature but this only helps prevent crystallization. Raw honey is one of the only foods, if not the only one, that has no expiration date. A jar of honey was unearthed that was more than 5,000 years old and still deemed fit for human consumption!

Other foods with tremendously long expiration dates include sugar, raw maple syrup, white rice, beans, ghee and bouillon cubes. Even if you have a garden and livestock in the event of an emergency, stocking up on true survival foods will ensure you get plenty of variety during hard times.

What foods or advice would you add to the list? Share it in the section below:

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Beyond Cast Iron: Homestead Cookware That Will Last Forever

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Beyond Cast Iron: Homestead Cookware That Will Last Forever

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The homestead lifestyle is generally one centered on frugality, self-reliance and going back to basics. These characteristics can all apply to the kitchen. Just visit any cookware or kitchen supply aisle in a store and you will see a huge array of gadgets all promising to make cooking easier.

More often than not, though, these gadgets or “must-have” appliances don’t work as well as marketed or they end up living in the back of a drawer or cabinet because you really never use them. Perhaps you do enjoy them but find that they break easily or that nifty non-stick coating on your favorite pan is already chipping. You can save a lot of money in the long-run and improve your cooking experience by investing in simpler, basic cookware and kitchen utensils – some of which your grandparents or great-grandparents used.

Everyone has their own way of cooking or preferences for certain types of cookware. But in general the following kitchen equipment will be used quite often in the homestead kitchen.

1. Cast iron cookware

Cast iron definitely has its place in the homestead kitchen and honestly, even just cooking with cast iron makes you feel a bit like you’ve gone back in time. It also has a lot of benefits, such as:

  • It isn’t expensive and will easily last many generations.
  • It is naturally non-stick (when properly seasoned).
  • It retains warmth very well.
  • It is extremely versatile (on stovetop, in oven, over campfire, etc.).

Cast iron doesn’t really have any disadvantages, but there are some things to keep in mind. First off, most basic cast iron pans aren’t going to have some type of handle to prevent you from burning your hand like other pans. Even I have made the mistake of grabbing the handle while I was busy cooking and not paying attention.

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Secondly, some novice cooks complain they don’t like cooking with cast iron because the food sticks badly, it’s difficult to clean, or their pots/pans started to rust. This is unfortunate because all of those issues are solely due to improper care. Simply put, cast iron cannot be treated like other metal cookware. These pans must be seasoned and cleaned in a specific way. If you care for your cast iron cookware properly you will find they are great cooking tools.

Check out articles here and here on how to care for your cast iron.

2. Stainless steel cookware

Aluminum pans are cheap but stainless steel pots and pans are what you should invest in. Stainless steel is more expensive but you will get a heavier pan that is better at holding in heat. A well-made stainless steel pan is thicker and will sit much better on a stovetop. Stainless steel is also non-reactive, so you don’t need to worry about pitting from salts or acids if you use common sense.

3. High-quality knives

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

A dull knife isn’t just a pain to use but also can reduce the quality of your food by crushing while cutting. A dull knife is also more dangerous than a sharp one – the reason being is that you have to apply more force with a dull knife and if you slip, you are more apt to cut yourself.

If you enjoy cooking, you really need a good set of knives and a knife sharpener. There are a lot of different kitchen knife brands out there, so I recommend doing your homework before buying. Good kitchen knives are an investment. They aren’t cheap, but they will easily pay for themselves. Good knives should outlast your lifetime easily. You don’t need to break the bank to get new knives. I recommend replacing your underperforming knives with new ones over time, starting with whichever style of knife you use the most.

4. Glass or ceramic bakeware

If you are someone who loves baking your experience in the kitchen will be much more pleasant with high-quality bakeware. Although you can find really great bakeware that isn’t a brand name, there are two name brands that are exceptionally impressive – Pyrex glass bakeware and Corningware. You can often find Corningware that is still in great shape at thrift stores or garage sales. Heavy, thick and well-made glass or ceramic bakeware is going to last for many generations.

Bonus Advice

Finally, I like wooden cooking utensils. The sound of a wooden spoon stirring around a pan is quite lovely, plus you don’t need to worry about scratching metal or non-stick cookware. Wood won’t react with acidic foods while cooking, either.

Some people do worry about bacteria in the wood grain, but the same can happen in plastic or metal utensils. Just wash your wooden utensils after use and be sure they are dried immediately. Wood spoons can easily last a lifetime when cared for properly.

What are some of the most-used pieces of cookware in your kitchen? Please share in the comment section below!

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Stockpiling 101: Which Foods REALLY Have The Longest Shelf Life?

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How Long Will Your Food Stockpile REALLY Last?

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Any thoughts about stockpiling foods in the event of a catastrophic emergency are dominated by two simple words: Shelf life. Some foods lose their nutritional value over time; others can become rancid or even dangerous if microbial or fungal growth invades the food. Curiously, there also are foods that have a shelf life measured in decades, if not centuries

We’re going to explore three general categories of foods that can be stored for various periods of time:

  1. Foods with an extremely long shelf life, even up to centuries.
  2. Foods with a very long shelf life (decades) due to their processing and packaging.
  3. Grocery store foods with a fairly long shelf life, six months to a year, or longer.

Foods With an Extremely Long Shelf Life

Some foods by their nature have surprisingly long shelf life if packaged and stored properly. Many are available at your local grocery store for a relatively low cost but you may want to consider repackaging or further sealing them if you plan to store them for any significant length of time. Here’s the top 10 long-term food storage champs:

1. Honey

A story about honey that’s often touted was the discovery by archaeologists of honey jars in an ancient Egyptian tomb.  The honey was carbon dated as 3,000 years old and was still food-safe and tasted just like honey.

2. Salt

If you can keep the moisture out of stored salt it will last indefinitely. Salt is a standard staple in any long-term food storage plan and is used in food preservation methods such as curing and pickling.

3. Sugar

Sugar possesses many of the characteristics of salt but here again, moisture is the enemy. If you can keep it hermetically sealed and perhaps add a moisture absorber, sugar also can keep indefinitely.

4. White rice

Stockpiling 101: Which Foods REALLY Have The Longest Shelf Life?

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White rice can last up to 20 years if properly stored. As a staple of most diets around the world, it’s a must in any long-term storage plan. Just don’t assume you can buy a large bag at the grocery store keep it in the pantry. It needs to be carefully sealed and stored.

5. Whole wheat grains

Whole wheat grains are usually purchased through a supplier that specializes in long-term food storage. They are often sealed in large, foil packages and sometimes repackaged inside large plastic buckets.

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The foil package is hermetically sealed to remove oxygen and prevent the permeation of moisture. If processed, packaged and stored properly it can last for decades. Remember that you’ll need a flour mill to further process any stored whole wheat grains.

6. Dried corn

Corn when properly dried and protected from moisture will last for decades. It’s another staple that provides significant nutritional value.

7. Baking soda

While it’s not a food source, its uses from baking to cleaning are many and varied. If kept dry it also will last indefinitely.

8. Instant coffee, cocoa powders and tea

If you succeed in keeping these ingredients dry they will survive for decades without losing potency or flavor.

9. Powdered milk

This staple will survive for up to 20 years. Moisture absorber packets are highly recommended when storing powdered milk for the long-term although some packaging solutions – such as in #10 cans – might not require them.

10. Bouillon products

This may seem a bit redundant with salt, but bouillon products have the added value of flavor. Most are chicken or beef flavored and the granular type tends to store better that bouillon cubes in the long run. With proper processing, packaging and storage they can last for decades as well.

Foods With a Very Long Shelf Life

Some companies today are in the business of specifically selecting, processing and packaging foods that will typically have a stable shelf life of 20 to 30 years if stored properly.

These are the some of the common foods packaged to have a very long shelf life:

  • Dried beans, 30 years
  • Rolled oats, 30 years
  • Pasta products, 30 years
  • Potato flakes, 30 years
  • Dehydrated fruit slices, 30 years
  • Dehydrated carrots, 20 years

These are great items to stockpile because you can be reasonably assured they will retain their integrity and nutritional value for years to come.

Foods With a Fairly Long Shelf Life

Some foods can last a relatively long time but it’s measured in months or a couple of years as opposed to decades. As a general rule, you should pay attention to the expiration dates on bottles, cans and boxes purchased at a grocery store. You can still eat the food after the expiration date, but there may be a loss of nutritional value. Also packages – such as boxes or bags – are more likely to allow compromise due to moisture or rodent invasion.

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Stockpiling 101: Which Foods REALLY Have The Longest Shelf Life?

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you are thinking about storing any oils for the long-term, regular olive oil is a hero with a shelf life of two years. Canned goods range from one to two years, and for some foods like tomatoes that are highly acidic, glass jars are the ideal package given the tendency of acidic tomatoes to compromise both metal and plastic packaging over a period of time.

If you want to adapt grocery store foods for long-term food storage you should seriously consider some packaging solutions that can allow you to protect and preserve these items. This includes using sealed cans, and both oxygen and moisture absorbers. Keep in mind you also can order from a reliable purveyor of long-term foods and buy in bulk.

An important consideration for the shelf life of any food is how it is processed, packaged, stored and rotated.

Processing

The way that any food is processed has a lot to do with shelf life. Typical processing approaches include dehydrating, freeze-drying, pasteurization, heat processing, curing and pickling. While all of these processes extend the shelf life of many foods, the nature of the food itself determines how long it will remain edible.

Packaging

The integrity of packaging is as important as the processing. Typical long-term food storage strategies involve packaging dried or dehydrated foods in metal, #10 cans that are hermetically sealed and often have oxygen and moisture absorbers enclosed.

Another long-term packaging solution involves the use of large, 5-gallon plastic buckets. This is usually used for bulk items such as white rice, flour, sugar, salt and other staples that someone wants to store in a large quantity. Make sure you inquire about the integrity of the seal on the lid. I had five gallons of sugar in storage for five years and when I open the lid, mildew had permeated the bucket. Not a single teaspoon was edible.

Storage

Storage has a direct effect on the duration of shelf life. The cooler the temperatures the longer the shelf life, but be careful to avoid freezing temperatures.

A dry environment is also important. Mildew can permeate the seal on some food containers, moisture can cause oxidation of metallic cans, and certain foods like grains can actually sprout if exposed to moisture over a period of time.

Darkness is important for any foods stored in glass jars, and in general advised because direct sunlight will raise temperatures.

Rotation

As I’ve noted, some foods have a shelf life measured in months. That really doesn’t qualify as long-term in the classical sense so you should practice “Eat what you store, store what you eat.” This means you should eat from your food stash and keep it organized so that you are always using the food that has been in storage the longest, first.

The Bottom Line

Do your homework. Long-term food storage requires a plan that not only assesses the foods you should store, but the number of people you plan to feed and for how long. It’s the duration that makes shelf life such a critical consideration.  As much as possible, rotate your stock of foods by eating what you store. If you simply want to store food and forget about it unless it’s needed in an emergency, make sure it’s packaged and stored properly and that you know its expiration date.

From your experience, which foods last the longest? Share your tips in the section below: 

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How To Make Bone Broth, Just Like Your Grandmother Did

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How To Make Bone Broth, Just Like Your Grandmother Did

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Making bone broths should be an activity in every home. Our great-grandparents made these nourishing concoctions regularly, and by doing so used every part of an animal and stretched their food resources.

Bone broth contains many important nutrients that support good health. Some benefits include:

  • Bone broth is one of the best sources of absorbable calcium, especially for those who cannot tolerate dairy foods or who do not consume dairy as part of their home culture.
  • Beef broth, chicken broth and fish broth are good sources of magnesium.
  • Bone broth is a good source of sodium. Sodium is important for many body and cellular functions, such as adrenal gland health, water balance regulation, muscle contraction and expansion, and maintaining a proper acid-alkaline balance in the body.
  • Bone broth that includes chicken or calf feet is a good source of silicon. Silicon is a very important nutrient for supporting strong and flexible bones, healthy cartilage, connective tissue, skin, hair and nails. Silicon also helps to protect the body from aluminum toxicity.
  • Bone broth is a good source of iodine, potassium and other important trace minerals that are easy to assimilate.
  • Bone broth helps to support the immune system and provide the body with resistance to infections diseases.

Broth Versus Stock

For the most part, the words “broth” and “stock” are used interchangeably in culinary applications, but there is a difference. Broth often incorporates leftovers of various kinds, such as from a roasted chicken eaten for dinner. Stock requires more of a prescribed formula, and is made regularly in the traditional kitchen to become the base of sauces and soups.

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

Other differences between the two are that stock generally incorporates more bone, and broth incorporates more meat. Stock has a more gelatinous texture and will be clearer in appearance. Broth is thinner and has a cloudier appearance.

 

 

It might be tempting in busy times to buy canned stocks and broths from the local grocery store. But these usually contain many unhealthy ingredients that you probably do not want to be ingesting or feeding to your family. These include MSG and other excitotoxins that are harmful to the body, especially to the brain.

Tips for Making Bone Broth

  • Always begin with cold water. This allows the fibers of the ingredients to open slowly and release their flavorful juices into the broth. The broth should be simmered after reaching an optimal temperature to promote clarity of the broth.
  • Be sure to skim the liquid as the impurities float to the top during simmering.
  • Adding vinegar or acidic wine during the cooking process helps to draw out important minerals, including calcium, magnesium and potassium.
  • Boiling down stocks will concentrate their flavor, producing a sauce that is useful for many culinary applications.
  • You can tell if your stock contains enough gelatin by letting it chill in the refrigerator, where it should thicken into a gel-like liquid. If it is not thick enough after chilling, you can boil it down to reduce it further.

Stock will keep in the refrigerator for five days (it can be re-boiled if you have passed this time frame by a few days), and in the freezer for several months. Any containers of stock should be labeled with the date made and a description of contents.

Chicken Broth Recipe

  • 2-3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings (free-range chickens are best)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon thyme, 1 tablespoon salt, and 12 peppercorns

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken into a large pot, along with the rest of the ingredients (except for the parsley). Adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the ingredients at this time will yield more minerals from the bones into your broth.
  2. Bring everything to a boil and simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
  3. Skim off all scum as it rises to the top of the liquid throughout the cooking process.
  4. Add the parsley approximately 10 minutes before the broth is done cooking.
  5. Once the stock is done, place a sieve over a large bowl (line it with some clean cheesecloth if needed), and carefully pour the broth into the sieve so that it drains into the bowl below. The cooked chicken meat can be used for salads or ethnic dishes. Discard the remaining solid matter.

What are your best tips for making bone broth? Share your advice in the section below:

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5 Edible, Wild Mushrooms Anyone Can Find (With A Little Help)

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5 Edible, Wild Mushrooms Anyone Can Find (With A Little Help)

Porcini mushroom. Image source: Pixabay.com

I have been gathering wild fruits, vegetables and other wild, edible plants for more than 40 years. Every walk I take into a field or forest presents me with new combinations and possibilities for something that can be consumed as a survival food or as part of great meal. However, I also find myself looking with alarm at many wild plants that I know to be toxic, if not deadly. This is especially true for mushrooms.

For a number of years when my sons were younger I was involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. One of the things I would do at troop campouts and jamborees is conduct field classes on foraging edible, wild plants.

This always concerned me because many young boys would quickly get the idea in their head that they could eat anything out there. As a result, I would always spend the first half of our hike identifying poisonous wild plants. I wanted to send the message that a lot of what grows in the wild knows how to defend itself, and poison is the first line of defense that many plants present.

Wild Plants Can be Poisonous

In that regard, some mushrooms top the list. So we’re going to begin with a review of the bad guys. Here’s a link to photos of the most common poisonous mushrooms. They tend to grow in the ground and often have unique characteristics in terms of coloration and shape. Unfortunately, some look common and similar to popular edible mushrooms, such as the “false-morel.”

“When it Doubt, Throw it Out”

That’s the mantra for mushroom foragers. Even experienced mushroom hunters will take a pass on a questionable mushroom. If you’re in doubt don’t even harvest it. Check it with your field guide and if you’re not sure, don’t even put it in the bucket.

This may discourage you from mushroom foraging, but don’t let it. Some edible varieties are distinctive, easy to spot and have characteristics you can easily identify. It also helps if you take your first few forays into mushroom land with a mushroom expert, but if you don’t know anyone with that experience we’ll hopefully give you some preliminary advice.

Where to Find Wild, Edible Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a fungus and as a result are ubiquitous. They’re everywhere from our backyards to fields and forests. Many grow from rotting tree stumps or composting plant concentrations. They emerge quickly, usually in the night. And they deteriorate just as quickly.

Image source: Mary Smiley/Wikipedia

Morel. Image source: Mary Smiley/Wikipedia

Typically if they emerge from the ground there is a composting source beneath the soil such as a rotting tree branch or a layer of compacted leaves and grasses. It’s sometimes hard to find ground mushrooms unless the ground is relatively clear of brush, grass and scrub. I’ve had great luck walking through stands of pine because the needles act as a natural mulch and the mushrooms will easily poke through the carpet of needles. I gathered close to 100 morels in a small stand of pines this way a couple of years ago. In the fall, many mushrooms emerge from the knots of tree branches that have died and are in some state of decay. That’s why you have to always remember to look up.

One thing you’ll learn quickly is that mushroom foraging is going to leave you turning your head and neck like a jet pilot. They grow on the ground, on trees and stumps at eye-level, and high in the dead branches of trees above you.  Just take your time and enjoy the casual pace of your hike.

The following are five mushrooms commonly found:

1. Morel

These appear in early to mid-spring after the first wildflowers begin to emerge. They are considered an absolute delicacy in many parts of North America. They tend to grow in groups and can be dried for later use, or used within a few days to a week after harvest. Pay close attention to the photos in the link and take note of the photo of the false morel.

2. Golden chanterelles

Golden Chanterelles. Image source: wikipedia

Golden Chanterelles. Image source: Wikipedia

Another very popular mushroom that grows across North America and appears from June to September is the chanterelle. They’re usually found in the woods, often in pine stands or under stands of oaks and maples.

There are two similar mushroom varieties that are not poisonous but toxic to some degree, so do your homework.

3. Black trumpets

Black trumpets are related to chanterelles but have a distinctive, trumpet shape. It’s the kind of mushroom you would typically avoid, but if you’ve found a true black trumpet they are very good to eat. They tend to grow out of rotting stumps

Black trumpets. Image source: Wikipedia

Black trumpets. Image source: Wikipedia

and deadfalls in deciduous forests.

4. Porcini mushrooms

Porcini tend to emerge from compost in the ground and can be found in fields and forests. Their color varies from a light red to shades of brown.  Make sure you use your mushroom guide or follow the link above to correctly identify them.

5. Hen of the woods

This is considered the bonanza for any mushroom forager. They have a wonderful flavor, keep well, and grow in bunches up to 50 pounds. They appear in the fall and grow on the trunks of deadfall trees and the base of stumps. The largest bunch I ever harvested was about 20 pounds and I

Hen of the woods. Image source: Wikipedia

Hen of the woods. Image source: Wikipedia

quickly called it a day after that find.

When Are Mushrooms at Their Best?

The day after first emergence is the prime time to harvest mushrooms. It may be hard to know this has occurred if you’re exploring an area that’s new to you, but their color, texture and overall appearance should look fresh, yield when squeezed and have no powdery spores present. Spores are essentially mushroom seeds and if you’ve ever kicked a mushroom in a field to reveal a puff of what looks like smoke, you know what the spores look like.

Mushroom Harvesting Tools

The tools you use to harvest mushrooms can vary from gloves and a bucket to long poles made from electric conduit with a flat blade at one end to cut the stems of tree mushrooms. Here’s a checklist if you’re going out to do some serious mushroom hunting:

  • Gloves
  • 1 to 5 gallon plastic bucket
  • Knife for slicing stems from the ground or deadfall trees
  • 1 gallon plastic bags if you want to separate species of mushrooms
  • A tree pole usually in sections and often made from thin tubes of electric conduit.
  • A Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms

If you are planning to do some serious tree mushroom hunting you might consider a net as well. This can be a fishing net or butterfly net. The reason is that mushroom are delicate and if they fall onto hard ground, branches or even your hand, they can break into numerous pieces. A net gives you a fighting chance to catch it in one piece.

Cleaning and Keeping Your Wild Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms should be refrigerated in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Do not wash them before packaging them in their plastic bags. Try to use them within a few days of harvest. Before use, wash them under cold, running water. Many disagree with this washing step, but as a former chef I know it has no adverse effect. Let them drain on paper towels a bit before slicing or dicing and adding to a salad or sauté pan.

You also can dehydrate wild mushrooms and reconstitute them later. Use a standard food dehydrator and if the mushrooms are large you will want to slice them before dehydrating them. If properly dehydrated, mushrooms can be refrigerated, frozen or stored in the pantry.

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

 

Shrubs: The Easy, Long-Forgotten Health Drink American Colonists Loved

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Shrubs: The Easy, Long-Forgotten Health Drink American Colonists Loved

Certain food trends bring you back to the phrase, “Everything old is new again.” Bee keeping, backyard chickens, whole foods and local foods have become downright trendy.

Of course, those who are homesteaders and “do-it-yourselfers” know that many of the old ways are the best ways.

Shrubs or vinegar-based fruit juices are no exception. While today they pepper gourmet magazines and food websites, they were alluded to in the Bible, have roots in many places across the world, and were commonly found in American homes during the colonial times. They were also a common method of preserving foods prior to refrigeration, making them a common and popular choice of drink in early America.

Shrubs or switchels, as they are also called, are vinegar-based fruit juices. Very simply, they are a mixture of fruit, vinegar and sugar that is consumed both plain, and sometimes used as a base for a cocktail. From China to England, they have a history in many cultures spanning the globe.

They truly came into their own in America with the early colonists. There are some very interesting places in history where shrubs show up in American history. A recipe for shrubs is chronicled in Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin’s papers, according to the American Philosophical Society. During the War of 1812, Captain James Dacres, an English Naval captain, battled the American ship USS Constitution. Historians discovered that as the battle raged on, he fantasized about serving Americans this drink when they surrendered. Like Coca-Cola today, shrubs were seen as the epitome of American drinks.  He apparently dreamed about rubbing the Americans’ noses in their favorite drink, as they lost the battle to Britain. However, as history played out, Americans sank his ship.

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

Shrubs also played a role in the American temperance movement, as they were lauded (at least the non-alcoholic version) as a refreshing alternative to an alcoholic drink.

During this time period, it was also seen as somewhat of a preventative medicinal concoction.  Today, we again recognize the benefits of vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, for a variety of ailments. Historically, sailors used it to prevent sickness at sea.

Of course, they would not have been consumed had Americans and folks around the world not preserved fruit this way as a means of storage. This was also a primary function of making shrubs prior to refrigeration. The “Canning Across America” website offers a great recipe for canning strawberry shrubs:

Spiced Pickled Strawberries

Image source: kansascity.com

Image source: kansascity.com

Adapted from The Complete Book of Pickling, by Jennifer MacKenzie

Ingredients

  • 6 pints strawberries, hulled (preferably on the smaller side and just a touch under-ripe)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups cider vinegar

Puncture strawberries with fork tines and cut any large ones in half.

Combine remaining ingredients together in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over prepared berries.

Cover the berries and let stand at a cool room temperature for at least six hours or overnight.
Prepare water bath canner, jars and lids.

Re-heat berries, gently stirring occasionally until strawberries are heated through but still hold their shape.

Gently spoon strawberries and hot pickling liquid into hot jars, leaving ½ inch head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust head space as necessary. Wipe rim and place hot lid on jar, screwing band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner and return to a boil. Process for 10 minutes.

Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars stand in hot water for an additional 5 minutes.

Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface or a cooling rack and let stand undisturbed until completely cool, about 24 hours. Check lids and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed.

Makes approximately 6 pints.

Use Up What You Put Up: Strawberry Shrub

  • 2-3 tablespoons pickled strawberry syrup (and whole fruit if you like)
  • 12 ounces sparkling water or club soda

Stir together in a tall glass, with or without ice, and enjoy. Add more syrup to taste.

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

You do not have to can shrubs. You can make them for immediate consumption and refrigerate them. The Ultimate History Project website offers a great recipe for non-canned shrubs.

Recipe for Pomegranate Shrub

3-4 large pomegranates
1 3/4 cups of sugar
1 cup cider vinegar

Image source: chowhound.com

Image source: chowhound.com

Steps:

1.  Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over a clean glass (or other non-reactive) bowl. Roll the pomegranates on the counter to loosen the seeds, then cut them into quarters. Invert the quarter and pop the seeds out into the colander.

2. Pick out any of the white pith that fell into the seeds, as it will lend a bitter note to the finished product if you don’t. Pull the ends of the cheesecloth and squeeze the pomegranate seeds as hard as you can. Keep squeezing and twisting until you have only the inner kernels left in the cloth.  Throw that away. You should have about two cups of liquid.

3. Mix the liquid with the sugar (use more if you like it sweeter). Stir to try to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible.

4. Add the vinegar to the mixture, pour the whole into a clean bottle, cap it securely and shake it.  Place it in the refrigerator and let it sit for 2 weeks. Shake it whenever you think of it.

5. Finally, uncork it and give it a sniff. It will smell very vinegary. Mix a small amount with seltzer water and taste it.  It will seem extremely sour to the modern palate but mixed with seltzer or vodka in the right proportions, it is indeed, very refreshing. If you find it too sour, simply add more sugar and let it sit for another day.

Note: To make this recipe with any other fruit, just chop up the fruit very coarsely, mix it with the sugar and let the mixture sit on the counter or in the fridge for several hours until the juice oozes out of the fruit. (Blemished fruit is great for this!). Then, strain the fruit through a sieve and mix the resulting sugary juice with the vinegar. Some people cook the fruit for a time with the sugar to produce the syrup. Both methods work perfectly well.

Like other canned and preserved foods, there is a deeper appreciation mid-February for food that was preserved by one’s own hands. How delicious and refreshing a berry-flavored preserved drink is, watching the snow fly! Whether consumed as fruit drink or a base for cocktail, it is a nice glass of history and summer to imbibe, when the only signs of spring are a silly groundhog.

Have you ever made shrubs? What tips would you suggest? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Works Cited

“Cooling Off With Switchels and Shrubs. “The Ultimate History Project.” UHP, nd. Web. 4, Nov.2015

Cotner, Meg  “How To Make A Shrub Syrup.” “Harmonious Belly.” Self published 19, July, 2012.Web. 4, Nov.2015.

“Difford’s Guide For Discerning Drinkers.” “Class Magazine.” “Odd Firm of Sin Ltd.” 9, Aug.2011.Web. 4, Nov.2015.

Jung, Alyssa (Adapted). “Thirteen Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar.” Reader’s Digest.”Life Rich Publishing.N.D. Web.4, Nov.2015.

Kim. “Strawberries +Vinegar=Shrub, A Beverage Revelation.” Canning Across America.”  N.P.16, July, 2012. Web. 4, Nov.2015.

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How To Easily Make Flour From Acorns (And Why You Should Learn)

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How To Easily Make Flour From Acorns (And Why You Should Learn)

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Prior to the development of agriculture and hunter-gatherer societies all around the world, acorns were a staple of the human diet. Ancient Romans and early Chinese peoples used them, as did Celts, early Africans and Native-Americans. A single oak tree in a good year can produce 500 to 1,000 pounds of acorns, which are high in protein, carbohydrates and fats.

If you are fortunate enough to have acorn-producing oak trees on your property, you may be sitting on a valuable alternative food source. Oak trees might not produce every year, but acorns can be dried and stored for two to three years. Acorn production can be promoted by reducing competition from nearby trees and insect predation by using fire management techniques to produce larger crops. It is possible to transform one or two oak trees into a sustainable, predictable, nutritious food source.

Harvesting and Storing Acorns

Identify your acorns before gathering, or at least make some observations. There are more than 50 species and hybrids of oaks growing in North America, and they can be difficult to identify. If you’re serious about acorn production and use, you will want a guide, such as the free one offered by the USDA Forest Service. While all acorns are edible, some will require more processing to remove tannins, which are a bitter, astringent chemical found in some plant foods. The amount of tannins in most acorns makes them indigestible and dangerous to humans without processing. One tip for determining the amount of tannins in an acorn is to look at the acorn’s cap size in relation to the seed. The deeper the cap, the more tannins will be in the acorn. Even if they require more preparation time, if the tree is producing a large quantity of acorns it is probably worth the work.

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

Gather your acorns in late fall, after the first have dropped. Oak trees will drop the damaged acorns first, retaining better ones on the tree. If you can gather the acorns while still on the tree, do so. Mature acorns will be brownish and will remove easily from their cap. Pick a few and attempt to remove the caps to ensure they are ready before you gather a lot. You also can collect acorns from the ground, but inspect these ones for holes as acorns are prone to weevils. Expect your processed yield to be about half of your acorn harvest after shelling, leaching and grinding.

Acorns should be tested to eliminate the bad ones before drying. Pour acorns into a bucket of water and discard any that float; these acorns are rotten or contain bugs. Dry the remaining acorns in the sun or in a low-temperature oven. When they are dry, they should crack easily. Store acorns in boxes or cloth bags in a dry room protected from pests. Acorns can be stored for a very long time, but they should be monitored to ensure that they are not becoming moldy and that pests have not found them.

Processing and Eating Acorns

How To Easily Make Flour From Acorns (And Why You Should Learn)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Keep in mind you are using a wild food and there will be a lot of variability in your product. You will probably have to experiment with the best time to harvest, processing methods and recipes. Different varieties of acorns vary in fat and carbohydrate content, meaning their behavior in recipes will vary.  These are some of the popular eating acorns: East Coast White Oaks and Valley Oaks for their size and sweetness, and Eastern Red Oak, Live Oaks and Black Oaks for their fat content. The fattier acorns will work almost as nut butters, while sweeter acorns will work more like chickpea flour.

Plan ahead when you want to use acorns, as processing takes several days. You can remove acorns from storage for processing as needed. Crack acorns using a mortar and pestle or a nutcracker if you prefer, and separate the nut from the shell.

The World’s Healthiest Survival Food — And It Stores For YEARS and YEARS!

Grind the nuts in a food processor or with your mortar and pestle, and place in a clean, glass jar. Fill the jar with fresh cold water. Two to three times daily, pour out tannic water (or reserve for natural dyeing) and replace with fresh, cold water, using a cloth or fine strainer to prevent losing acorns. After three to six days, taste the acorn flour to test for sweetness. If it is done leaching it should not be bitter. The prepared ground acorn can be used as flour immediately or stored, wet or dry, in the freezer.

Acorn flour is versatile in cooking and should be thought of as another ground nut. It can be used on its own to make a crumbly pancake by mixing 2 cups of the flour with 1 egg – or another binder – and you can add honey and other spices to taste. Acorn flour also can be used with wheat or oat flours in a 1:1 ratio to create more versatile nut breads, or eaten as porridge by mixing with broth or honey and water.

Although gathering your acorn crop and familiarizing yourself with its virtues will be work, it will reap tremendous rewards as an additional food source for you and your family. This traditional food could very well help you survive through a lean period, as it has for many people before you. Storing and using a food that is so readily available just makes sense – even the squirrels know that!

Have you ever made acorn flour? Share your tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

The Smart And Simple Way To Pickle Hot Peppers

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The Smart And Simple Way To Pickle Hot Peppers

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Fermented hot peppers offer a delicious tang and bite. The component capsaicin gives hot peppers their invigorating bite and it comes with health benefits, like boosting the body’s metabolism. It also produces an endorphin rush after the burning sensation passes.

Picking hot peppers directly from plants and using them in dishes is wonderful during the summer months, but how do you keep the delights of hot peppers around once the gardening and harvest seasons have ended? Fermentation, my friend.

Peppers Are Hot

Hot peppers are, well, hot, so it’s important to prepare properly before you begin processing them. Capsaicin is an oil, so water don’t clear it off of hands well. Instead, water tends to spread it around, causing the burning to be even worse. It’s easy to accidentally touch other things before your hands are completely free of the pepper oil and you can end up with your nose and eyes burning. Just imagine if you took a bathroom break partway through processing peppers.

So, protection beforehand is key. Cut up your peppers while wearing gloves. Don’t touch them to any part of your exposed skin (arms, eyes, etc.). You might spritz some oil on you and, of course, your skin will cry a little, but don’t, don’t, don’t scratch with your gloves. It will spread the burning. When done cutting, pull your gloves off carefully and put them promptly in the trashcan.

It’s also important to remember that hot peppers can cause issues with breathing. You can use a bandanna knotted around your mouth and nose to protect you, or better yet, pick up a disposable dust mask from the hardware store. If you are asthmatic or have other breathing issues, it might be better to consider asking someone else to process your hot peppers for you.

Make ‘Off-The-Grid’ Super Foods Just Like Grandma Made!

If you do get some pepper oil on you, which will invariably happen even with being careful, milk is the best remedy. Soak your fingers in milk and wash them slowly in it. If your nose burns, wad up a tissue, drench with milk, and stick it in your nose for about five minutes. Hold a tissue or paper towel drenched with milk onto any burning spots for a couple of minutes. The milk loosens the capsaicin and makes it easier to remove. Olive oil also works in a similar way. Whatever you do, don’t try to rub the burning spot with your fingers or wash with soap and water right away. The water feels cool at first, but tends to wash the burning around.

Starting the Fermentation

The Smart And Simple Way To Pickle Hot Peppers

Image source: Pixabay.com

Fermenting peppers is very simple. Start with a clean jar, preferably one with a large opening. You can also use a bowl. Wash your peppers. You can cut them in smaller pieces or leave them whole. I cut mine in half. If you leave them whole, they will still ferment, but it will take longer.

Once your jar or bowl is full, make up your salt-water brine: 1 pint (2 cups) of water to 1 and ¼ tablespoons of salt. Double this recipe as many times as you need to in order to get enough brine to thoroughly cover your peppers. Dissolve the salt entirely in the water. You can use heat to do this or just beat the water and salt with a whisk until the salt disappears. If you do use heat, make sure your brine has cooled down to room temperature before you proceed with the next step.

Could Famine And Hunger Come To America?

Pour your brine over your peppers. Fermentation takes place at room temperature, and so does mold growth. In order to keep your peppers from molding, you need to make sure they are completely submerged beneath the brine. Find a smaller jar or cup or canning weight and set this inside your jar of peppers. This needs to be heavy enough to keep your peppers from floating. Then fill the jar the rest of the way with brine. If you are able to, you can place a lid on your jar now. However, this isn’t necessary. As long as the peppers are submerged, they will be fine.

Place your jar in an out-of-the-way spot, but someplace you can check on it regularly. It can take anywhere from two to three weeks for the peppers to be ready. Check your peppers every day or so, especially if you have placed a lid on your jar as it will need burped (so it doesn’t explode). If scum appears at the top of your peppers, just skim it off with a spoon and make a little more brine to top the jar off with.

Then just wait and taste in about two to three weeks. Once the peppers are done fermenting, you can take out the weight, cap the jar and refrigerate. Fermented peppers last a long time in the refrigerator (three to six months or longer). Some people pour off the brine and boil it before pouring it back into the jar. It’s not necessary, but certainly okay. Or, instead, you can pour off the brine and cover your peppers in oil. You can add whatever spices in you wish as well. Some options are mustard seeds, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, sea salt, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, etc. The ideas are endless.

And now, the fun part: Enjoy!

Do you have advice for making fermented pickled hot peppers? Share your tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

How To Grow Moringa, The World-Famous All-Purpose Survival Tree

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How To Grow Moringa, The World-Famous Survival Tree

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Morgina is probably one of the most nutrient-dense foods and herbal medicines on the planet that you’ve probably never heard of. With every part of the moringa tree useful for food or medicine, this “Tree of Life” is now being used to save many lives around the world.

The moringa tree is an especially nutrient-dense plant, providing a nearly complete source of human nutrition.

Moringa:

  • Contains 10 times the vitamin A content of carrots, twice the vitamin C of oranges, 15 times the potassium of bananas, and 17 times the calcium of milk.
  • Contains high amounts of selenium and vitamin E.
  • Contains 19 of the 20 required amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. The amino acids in moringa are present in a form available for optimal absorption and assimilation by the body. These highly bio-available amino acids make moringa leaves an excellent source of leafy green vegetable protein.
  • Is high in antioxidant compounds, and can support the body in the prevention of cancer and other diseases.
  • Assists the body with detoxification of the liver, and thus, the detoxification of the rest of the body as well. Moringa has been demonstrated in an animal study to normalize liver enzyme counts in the livers of mice that were damaged by acetaminophen.

Because moringa meets the majority of our basic nutritional needs and is so bio-available, it can be used as a replacement for commercially produced multi-vitamin pills, many of which have been manufactured with isolated compounds that are never absorbed by our bodies in the first place (and have been found to actually remain intact even as they exit the body). With moringa, you never have to worry about wasting money on something that doesn’t work to support your health.

Moringa’s Use in Developing Countries

One of the many amazing things about the moringa tree is that it thrives in places where it is difficult to cultivate other crops, primarily in hot, dry and barren landscapes. Used widely in Africa, South Asia, and India, moringa has also been introduced into Central America and South America, and is currently being used to prevent malnutrition in many developing countries around the world. The countries of Rwanda and Ghana are now using moringa as part of their food security programs.

The Best Source For Non-GMO Heirloom Seeds Is Right Here …

Moringa leaves are commonly dried and then ground into a powder. Nursing mothers use the moringa leaf powder to help them produce nutrient-rich breast milk for their infants. Women are also incorporating the leaf powder into all of their family’s meals, leading to well-nourished children who are healthier, happier and experience greatly improved energy.

By growing moringa trees locally, poor communities no longer need to rely on imported food goods to provide the important nutrition that they need.

Another great use of the moringa tree is that its seeds are used to purify water in developing countries where water supplies are often questionable.

How to Use Moringa

As a multi-use plant, moringa has many uses and applications. All parts of the moringa tree are useful, including the roots, stems, leaves, flowers and seedpods.

  • The leaves can be powdered and used as a supplement. A minimum of two teaspoons of the leaf powder per day is recommended to best experience the benefits of moringa.
  • The leaf powder can be made into a tea, added to water or juice, or blended into your smoothies. The fresh moringa leaves can also be made into a tea.
  • The leaf powder can be added to soups and juices.
  • The seed oils can be used topically for skin and hair conditions.
  • The seed oils can be used for cooking, cosmetics and many other uses.

Survival Applications

Because moringa leaf powder is an excellent source of nutrition and meets the majority of our body’s basic needs for nourishment, it is an excellent super food to stock up on and have on hand for times when other local food sources become scarce. It is also a useful food to have a supply of in the winter when it is difficult to grow our own nourishing fruits and vegetables in colder climates.

How to Grow a Moringa Tree

The very amazing things about moringa that make it a miracle survival plant in sunny, hot, dry and barren lands also means that the majority of the climates in the United States are not optimal for year-round growth of moringa trees.

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

However, some people grow moringa trees as annuals, and others are experimenting with bringing them indoors and keeping them alive in pots over the winter. In temperate climates, moringa trees require artificial lighting and heating throughout the cold times of the year in their indoor home.

It is important to note that moringa trees grow very large very quickly, and if you wish to keep them in a pot, you will need to “trick” them into believing that they will never grow very big by trimming their roots back once and their branches regularly.

Some Warnings

Experts warn that moringa seeds should not be continually consumed, as their plant compounds may build up in the body, become toxic, and potentially cause damage. Only the leaves are recommended for continued daily consumption.

It is also recommended that pregnant and nursing mothers only consume the leaves (or leaf powder) due to the potentially negative effects of other parts of the moringa plant on a developing baby.

All information in this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any health condition. Always consult with your health practitioner concerning any supplement(s) that you are considering incorporating into your diet and lifestyle to determine if it is right for you.

Do you have experience with moringa? Share your advice on using or growing it in the section below:

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6 Food-Storage Mistakes That Even The Experts Make

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6 Food-Storage Mistakes That Even The Experts Make

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Long-term food storage is a common-sense approach to ensuring that you and your family can survive a catastrophic event that significantly affects our food supply. But there’s more to it than just stacking cans in the attic. In fact, that may be the worst place to store any kind of food.

A lot can go wrong if you have food in storage for years and simply assume that everything will be okay when the day comes that you need to open those cans.

There are fundamentally six things you should consider with regards to any long-term food storage plan:

1. Consider nutrition.

There are some fundamental considerations you have to think about with regards to long-term food storage. The first is diversity. Storing 200 #10 cans of macaroni and 50 #10 cans of dry milk is not a nutritious solution. You have to think in terms of nutritional diversity. Many companies offer pre-packaged solutions for three months’ to one year’s worth of food. If you can’t afford a large package offering, look carefully at what they include so you can purchase a diversified collection of foods over a period of time.

The World’s Healthiest Survival Food — And It Stores For YEARS and YEARS!

You should also keep a running tally on what you have stored.  You may think you have it all figured out, but you don’t want to find out the hard way that you have too much of one item and barely enough of something that may be more essential. A good way to make this assessment gets to the next point.

2. Eat what you store and store what you eat.

Failure to follow this simple suggestion may be the biggest fail for anyone stockpiling food supplies. While many products in hermetically sealed, #10 cans will survive for years and years, some in 5-gallon buckets aren’t as dependable. I opened a five-gallon bucket of sugar after six years and it was permeated with mildew.

You’ll also find great value in this practice of eating what you store. We’ve never bought a box of macaroni and cheese in the last 10 years when we figured out that a can of macaroni and a can of cheese powder was essentially the same ingredients.

Eating what you store also gives you experience with how to prepare these foods and combine them with available fresh ingredients to create a pattern of recipes you and your family will enjoy.

3. Watch out for heat.

6 Food-Storage Mistakes That Even The Experts Make

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The standard recommendation is to store your foods in a cool, dark place. That’s why an attic is a bad idea. Not only is it sometimes inaccessible on a regular basis, but the heat that can develop in an attic space will quickly compromise the shelf life of any stored food. A dedicated pantry is ideal and a basement is also an option. Darkness is not as critical as ambient temperature, because most long-term foods are hermetically sealed in cans, but direct sunlight at any time can raise temperatures.

4. Watch out for moisture, too.

If your basement is damp, that’s a problem. Even though cans are sealed to prevent moisture from affecting the contents, oxidation or rust from moisture can affect the integrity of any metallic item over time. Moisture can also permeate food even if it’s sealed. This was my experience with the five-gallon bucket of sugar. A bit of dampness in my basement was all it took to compromise the entire bucket.

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

You should also take your cans out of the cardboard boxes if you have purchased foods in bulk. The standard package is six #10 cans in a box. That’s great for shipping, but cardboard absorbs moisture and can continually compromise the cans inside. Get the cans out and do whatever you can to keep them free of moisture.

5. Use common sense when opening food.

When we eat what we store we have to remember that the minute a can is opened, it is subject to the standard shelf-life of any consumer packaged goods. Most #10 cans come with a plastic lid and you can even buy additional lids if you lose one, but resealing a can with a plastic lid doesn’t mean you can return it to the storage area for another five years. Once it’s opened, you need to consume it on a regular basis.

6. Rehydrate your food properly.

What allows most foods to have a long-term shelf life is dehydration. In order to prepare most of these foods, the addition of water or some form of liquid is required to rehydrate the foods. Failure to rehydrate properly is perhaps the greatest fail when it comes to the enjoyable consumption of long-term foods stores. We’ve prepared an article on this subject that gives you guideline for various rehydration methods and food types. (Recommended: The Right Way To Rehydrate Long-Term Storage Food.)

This gets back to the fundamental concept of eating what you store and storing what you eat. You’ll gain valuable experience with various types of stored foods that will ensure that you can prepare meals that not only sustain you nutritionally, but that you’ll actually enjoy.

What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

15 Grocery Store Foods You Can Stockpile Virtually Forever

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15 Grocery Store Foods You Can Stockpile Virtually Forever

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Preserving and stockpiling food is a cornerstone of homesteaders and off-gridders. Not all foods, though, preserve well, no matter what you do to them. Some are just bound and determined to deteriorate with time. But there are enough foods that will last and last extremely well, if we take the time to select and pack them in the right manner.

Part of the problem is understanding what enemies are out there – the ones that want to destroy our foods. Once we know that, we can prevent them from having access to our food stocks and thereby can prolong the life of those stocks. The enemies I’m referring to include:

  • Critters – Rodents, insects and especially bacteria, all of whom want to eat our food before we can get to it. The best solution is a combination of killing any that might be in the food (especially for bacteria and insect eggs), while making sure that more critters can’t get in.
  • Heat – Heat, even minimal, will cause many foods to start breaking down. Keeping foods in a cool area helps preservation.
  • Oxygen – Some nutrients in our foods will oxidize when given the chance and enough time. Ensuring that the foods are packed without oxygen or with oxygen absorbers is the best protection against oxidation.
  • Light – Yes, light can damage foods as well, although mostly it is by discoloring it. Light also has an effect on changing the chemical composition of some vitamins. That cool storage place needs to be dark as well.

There is some good news in all of this. And that is that ancient people were successful in storing foods for very long periods of time. Many ancient tombs more than 1,000 years old have been opened to find useable grains and other foodstuffs.

The World’s Healthiest Survival Food — And It Stores For YEARS and YEARS!
Foods That Naturally Keep Forever

There are some foods that just naturally keep pretty much forever. Those are always a good starting point if you want to make sure that your grandkids get to eat your survival stockpile.

beans1. Dried beans – A great staple and a source of protein, beans are a cornerstone food for survival. It is important to keep insects out of them, but with that one precaution, they are unlikely to be bothered by anything else.

2. Coffee & tea – While coffee and tea will both lose some of their flavor with time, they are still usable after years of storage. Coffee does best if left unground until use. Tea stores best for long-term if it is loose leaf tea and not bagged tea. The more airtight the container, the better it will preserve the flavor.

3. Dried corn – This is probably the most common preserved food of ancient people and the most common to find in their tombs. Dry corn is pretty much impervious to attacks by bacteria and insects will generally leave it alone. But rodents love it, so you have to have it in a thick enough container to keep them out.

4. Cornstarch – As long as it doesn’t get any moisture in it, cornstarch will last forever. Keep it in a cool, dry area.

5. Corn syrup – High in sugar, corn syrup will last for many years. Like pretty much all liquids, it needs to be kept in a well-sealed container to prevent evaporation. Believe it or not, there is organic corn syrup.

6. Honey – Honey stores indefinitely, as long as it’s stored in a sealed container. Keep it in a cool, dark place. If it crystallizes, simply heat it up to melt it again.

7. 100 percent pure maple syrup – Left in a sealed container, pure maple syrup holds up extremely well. If it should get mold on it, simply skim off the mold, boil the syrup and re-can it.

8. Powdered milk – Yes, that powdered milk that nobody likes to drink is one of the longest lasting foods around. While it may not be our favorite now, when we don’t have any other milk to drink we may find that we like it.

Rice9. White rice – White rice will last a good 30 years if stored in a container without any air in it. Pack it well with an oxygen absorber and you can be sure that you’ll be able to eat it later… much later.

10. Salt – Must be kept free of moisture. Salt is a natural preservative, so it makes sense that it will last well too.

11. Soy sauce – Due to its high salt content, it is virtually impossible for bacteria to grow in soy sauce. Just make sure that the container stays sealed so that it can’t evaporate.

12. Sugar – Like salt, sugar is another natural preservative. You will have to protect it from bugs though, who are attracted to it. But if the bugs don’t get to it, it lasts forever.

13. Pure vanilla extract – Since vanilla extract is alcohol based, it lasts forever. About the only difference you might notice is a slightly stronger flavor, caused by evaporation of the alcohol.

14. Vinegar – Vinegar is another natural preservative, due to its high acid content. It is often used in making pickled foods. As such, it keeps forever. If a film develops over the surface, don’t worry, that is merely the vinegar “mother,” which is the bacteria used to create more vinegar. You can filter it out or use it to make a fresh batch.

15. Unground wheat – Wheat flour doesn’t have a very long shelf life and can attract insects. But unground wheat will easily keep for 20 years or longer. Wheat has even been found in ancient tombs, left there for the dead king’s spirit to eat.

Packaging Makes the Difference

While these foods naturally last for an incredibly long time, packaging is an issue. You probably noticed that I mentioned special packaging and storage requirements for just about everything on the list. Ultimately, the packaging you use – more than anything else – will determine how long your foods will last.

Canned foods are among the very few foods that you can buy that are truly packaged for long-term storage. While they all carry an expiration date on them, those dates are based upon worst-case situations. Nobody really knows how long properly canned and stored foods will last. As long as the can’s integrity is intact, you can assume that the food within is still safe to eat.

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This goes for foods that we can ourselves, too. It doesn’t matter if the food has been professionally canned in a cannery or canned in mason jars in your kitchen, the results are the same.

There is one exception I have found to this. Foodstuffs that have been canned in plastic jars, rather than glass ones, don’t seem to keep as well. Apparently, some small amount of oxygen can make it through either the plastic of the jar itself or the lid. In either case, that causes the food inside to start oxidizing.

There is some evidence that certain canned foods will lose nutritional value over time. This is specifically referring to the vitamins in the food. However, that doesn’t mean that these foods no longer have value. Canned vegetables and fruits are high in carbohydrates, the most important survival micronutrient. Losing some quantity of micronutrients doesn’t ruin their usability.

Considering that dried grains have lasted several centuries when packed away in clay vessels, I think we can safely say that we too can store those grains for about as long as we want. The only problem is keeping them protected from insects and rodents. If we do that, then we can count on them literally forever.

What foods would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

Discover The Trick To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

 

How Long Will Frozen Food Really Last Before It Goes Bad?

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How Long Will Frozen Food Really Last Before It Goes Bad?

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Freezing is an easy and convenient way to save time and money when it comes to feeding your family. You can make meals ahead and freeze them for future use. You can freeze seasonal fruits and vegetables for the winter. You can even freeze random leftovers for what my kids know as our no-cook “leftover surprise” night.

But freezing does present two possible problems. First, how can you know how long a frozen food item is safe to eat? And, secondly, what will happen to all that frozen food if the power goes out?

Most frozen foods remain safe to eat almost indefinitely. Therefore, most storage “times” for frozen foods are merely suggested times for best taste and quality only.

Keeping in mind that the federal government is conservative with its estimates, here are some general guidelines from FoodSafety.gov and nchfp.uga.edu.

  • Ground meat: 3 to 4 months
  • Fresh meat: 6 to 12 months
  • Poultry: 12 months
  • Fish: 3 to 6 months
  • Pork: 6 to 8 months
  • Processed meat (hot dogs, sausage lunch meat, bacon): 1 to 2 months
  • Leftovers (cooked meat): 2 to 6 months
  • Butter: 5 to 6 months
  • Hard cheese: 6 to 12 months
  • Soft cheese: 4 months
  • Eggs (removed from shell): 12 months
  • Milk: 1 month
  • Fruits: 12 months
  • Cooked vegetables: 1 month
  • Raw vegetables: 12 months
  • Onions (raw): 3 to 6 months
  • Baked goods: 6 months

The best place for long-term storage is the back of your stand-up freezer or the bottom of your chest freezer. Use the freezer door for times you use up frequently, since door items are subjected to more temperature fluctuation.

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Packaging matters. Resist the urge to place an item in the freezer in its store-bought package unless the packaging is intended for the freezer. Be sure to let cooked foods cool before packaging them to help speed up the freezing process and to help them retain their natural color, flavor and texture.

Then use containers that are moisture-vapor resistant, durable, leak-proof and easy to seal. When placing foods in the package, allow enough room for some expansion during the freezing process. Mark your packages with pens and labels designed for freezer use.

Although you may think you’ll never forget what is in that big Tupperware container, you just might in a couple of months. Label the food with its contents and the date you are freezing it. That way, you can try to follow the same first-in, first-out rule for your freezer that you follow with your pantry foods.

But What If You Lose Electricity?

How Long Will Frozen Food Really Last Before It Goes Bad?

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But what if the power goes out? How long will frozen food last then?

Although you can invest in fuel-powered generators to keep your freezer running for a time, in a long-term emergency, you may not be able to consume all your frozen food before you run out of fuel. As a result, no emergency food storage plan should rely on frozen food.

What if you do not use a generator? To maximize your freezing time during a power outage, try to keep your freezer as full as possible. A full freezer operates more efficiently than an empty or sparsely used freezer. Consider freezing plastic bottles that are filled about two-thirds full with water as a way to keep your freezer fuller. The water may come in handy during an emergency as well.

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In a power outage, the food in a full free-standing freezer will keep for about 48 hours if its door remains shut. Food in a full chest-type freezer may last as much as 24 hours longer – again, if cold air is not lost through an opened door.

During a power outage, you can quickly take out items that you will use in the short term and place them in coolers. This planning ahead process will help you keep the freezer door shut and help keep your frozen foods colder longer.

Here are some other tips:

  • Breads will defrost more quickly than meats and vegetables.
  • Most thawed or partially thawed foods may be safely refrozen if they still contain visible ice crystals or if the appliance has a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • If the color of an item has changed, if an unusual odor is present, or if the item feels warm, discard it.
  • Covering the freezer with blankets will help it retain its temperature. (Avoid covering vents.)

Additionally, it is worth it to invest in a quality freezer thermometer. Most frozen food storage guidelines are based on a maintained freezer temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degree Celsius) or colder.

What freezer tips would you add? Do you eat frozen foods that are many years old? Share your advice in the section below:

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5 Quick Steps To Easy Apple Cider

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5 Quick Steps To Easy Apple Cider

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Autumn is here! And autumn means harvest time has come and is in full swing. To me, fall has always meant lots of apple pies, apple butter and apple sauce, as well as jugs full of apple cider and juice. There’s just nothing like a fresh-made, frothy mug of apple cider after a long day of harvesting and processing the fruits of my labors from the previous six to eight months.

It doesn’t matter if you have your own private orchard supplying you with all the apples you could want or if you’re raiding the local farmer’s markets. Either way, you can make your own apple cider and juice at home. Of course, if you do happen to have your own orchard, making cider is a great way to cut down on the waste you might experience, especially with those early summer apples that have gotten insect stung, pecked by birds or blown down in a windstorm.

You can make your own apple cider in two different ways. If you happen to have a juicer, you will cut your work down a bit more than if you don’t. But it’s still a good way to get everyone involved in the process and it lets the kids have a nice reward at the end of the day that they can see – and drink!

Steps to making apple cider

1. Gathering, Sorting & Preparing Your Fruit. This is the most time-consuming step in making apple cider. It is also the best step to get the kids involved in the process. Older kids can learn how to use a small paring knife while mom and/or dad are there to watch over them.

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  • Small children can be employed to gather the apples into small buckets or baskets, especially if they are windfall apples already on the ground.
  • Once the apples are gathered you will want to sort through them. You will want to cut off the bruises, peck holes and anything that you don’t think would be wanted in your finished product.
  • After you’ve sorted through the apples, wash them well in fresh water. If you happen to be using grocery store apples, you’ll want to add half a cup of vinegar to each gallon of water to remove the wax from the skin of the apple. The wax may make the apples look nice and it may not have a lot of flavor, but it could still taint your cider and we don’t want that.
  • Cut the apples up. There’s no need to peel or core the apples. However, if you’re worried about the seeds, then you can separate out the cores — but don’t throw them away! I’ll give you an idea for them later on.
5 Quick Steps To Easy Apple Cider

Image source: Pixabay.com

2. Cook Your Apples. You can use a large stockpot for this, but make sure that you can reach the bottom with a potato masher without touching the tops of the apples, since they’ll be hot when you get to that point.

  • Add about 2-3 inches of water to the bottom of the pot full of apple pieces and bring it to a boil.
  • Once the water boils, turn it down to a medium-low simmer to help the juices come out of the apple flesh. Cover and let the apples soften. You’ll need to keep an eye on it, since apples cook down fairly quickly depending on the amount you have in the pot.
  • Every once in a while you’ll want to take the lid off and mash the apples with a potato masher. Beginner’s Note: A potato masher is the one with the wave-like, single wire. Not the flat piece with holes in it.

3. Strain the Mash.

Prepare now for surging food costs and empty grocery store shelves…

  • Cooking should only take about 10 to 20 minutes for each batch.
  • Once the apples are broken down, you are ready to strain the pulp out of the juice. You can use either a fine mesh sieve or a food mill.
  • If using a mesh sieve, you will want to use a silicone scraper or “jelly fish” spatula to move the mash around to press as much juice out of the pulp as you can.
  • A food mill is much easier than a sieve. With a food mill you will need to strain your juice a second time to separate out the pulp that will have gone through the mill.
  • Don’t throw out the leftover solids from the sieve or the peels from the mill!
  • If you use the mill and have to strain the juice a second time, the resulting mash can be made into apple sauce or apple butter. I’ve even got an idea for the peels that I’ll mention later on.

4. Adjust the Sweetness,

  • After straining, taste your cider. Is it too tart? If so, continue on to the next step.
  • Transfer the liquid into a clean pot and start it on a simmer.
  • Add sugar a teaspoon at a time and whisk thoroughly to dissolve it before tasting again. Continue doing this until it is the sweetness you and your family can enjoy.
  • If you used a variety of apples, this step may not be necessary but it is always a good idea to taste your cider to be sure.

5. Preserve It!

  • There are two methods to preserving your fresh-made cider: freezing or canning.
  • If you are freezing your cider, allow it to cool in an air-tight container before putting it into the freezer. Use the cider within 3 to 6 months for the best flavor.
  • For a longer shelf-life, it is better to can your cider. Pour warm cider into hot, sterilized jars with ½ inch head space. Process in a hot water canner for 30 minutes.

Congratulations! You’ve made your own, homemade apple cider that you and your family can enjoy for weeks or months to come. But you might be asking what you can do with the leftover cores and peels besides tossing them in the compost or out in the chicken yard. Well, that’s the idea I wanted to leave you with. You can make apple cider vinegar from them. Nothing needs to go to waste!

What advice would you add on making apple cider? Share your advice in the section below:

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