food

Starting to Preserve Food/Food Preservation for April 29-May 5th

pears

I’m starting to get into food preservation in a big way again.

Me and like every other homesteader on the planet I think.

There’s been a lot of noise about food, food stability, supply chains, and access lately. And it’s completely understandable, when our time is now measured ‘pre pandemic’ and ‘post pandemic’ it’s a little…naive to not recognize that we’re in a period of massive upheaval.

I should tell you that I’m a homesteader and prepper by training but I was also raised in a HEAVY hard science family, from rocket science into meteorology…and medicine. I will not tolerate conspiracy theory, how ‘they’re suppressing the facts, man’, bs insults like ‘sheeple’, or how you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who can like totally prove it’s all media noise.

I also live in the second largest city in New York. I am ready for a fight y’all. I get angry under stress and I’m telling you I’m not above fighting in my own comments.

Anyway. Food preservation.

I have some tips for food preservation in a time of upheaval. I have written on this in the past but without some of the fun and interesting complications of a global disruption events. This is written more for the people who are truly just hitting the ground running so this is going to feel very intro level. And this is going to be a longer entry than what I normally write.

Getting into Food Preservation

There are a couple very obvious ‘big name’ preservation types that will probably come to mind even if it’s ‘zombie invasion’ memes or your grandma, frankly. As an aside, I was promised on Facebook that this was going to be ‘fae come back to the mounds and start eating us’ month and you gave me murder hornets. I am unimpressed. I am actually less afraid of the sluagh than I am of stinging insects.

chicken

This is the future the discordian gods want.

 

You may need to think beyond canning. I will get into why in a second. I have been drying basically anything I can get onto my Nesco. I even dried yogurt the other day (that’s still up in the air in terms of repetition, but you can do it). Dehydration, freezing, air drying, fermentation, oven drying, meat preservation like biltong which yes is just a fourth style of drying, tinctures, and yes, canning.

I am telling you that you might want to get beyond canning because the entire world is now telling you to start canning at the time of year when it was already low canning supply stock season on top of manufacturing disruptions. As in…you may literally not be able to find lids here soon if everyone is telling everyone else to ‘just can stuff’. And yes, I love canning and there are things that are better handled by canning than say dehydration. I can’t tell you what next month will bring and maybe we’re going to be able to easily access supplies but we also could be feeding all that excess milk to our Hoard overlords, I rule literally nothing out as a Pagan homesteader in 2020.

*Under normal circumstances I would never say stuff like this and I KNOW it’s controversial so don’t make noise about it. Don’t do anything that you are not fully comfortable with and I can’t make that call for you as a person. You can in theory re run canning lids. The issue is are they going to seal, and if they do, are they going to fail in the long run. That’s why they tell you do not re run lids, the failure rate is much higher and much more chaotic/random than with new lids. But you CAN do it. Supposedly older lids have a better success rate with this. You also have a higher access to food grade plastic than you might be comfortable with and in an era with harder access to glass canning jars with is when I suggest shifting to it and saving as many jars as you can for actual canning. Coffee cans and Gatorade bottles are both good for holding dried items and are already tested for food storage. Several brands of spaghetti sauce and other store sold food items come in Ball produced jars and you can run them in water bath canners. Water bath. I’m stressing that. Water bath.

Also, reminder, you can do high acid foods in a water bath but if you want to do beans, meat, etc you’re going to need a pressure canner. Or freeze it.

Preserving Seasonally

strawberries

This is always important but it may be hella important for at least the next growing season. Watch what’s in season, google it if you have no idea what you’re looking at. Seasonal food, even when purchased from a conventional store, is going to be higher quality and cheaper than trying to work with out of season foods. Sometimes you might have no choice/just want to mix foods that aren’t in season but you can help keep pricing down by using seasonal guides, as in, if you want to work with lemons mix them with strawberries in early summer.

This will also be helpful because as a person who grew up in a farming community with a giant backyard garden, as in I’ve been around plants for decades, please stop telling people a victory garden is a guaranteed path to food stability. I have gotten into a LOT of fights about this over the past few months. I am NOT telling you not to plant if you have the ability, I am telling you that flooding, droughts, pests, mineral depletion, time restraints, health concerns, and old fashion shit luck are all things and crop failure exists. You can find yourself with a thousand tomatoes and literally nothing else. That’s great because you don’t need to buy any tomatoes for the year. You’re probably not going to want to live off of just tomatoes. So find your seasonal charts and preserve off of that once you have your stockpiles to where you want with your basic foods.

*It’s not as pivotal if you’re buying already preserved foods unless you’re going straight to producer for them, in season. Know that when you go to Aldi or similar regardless of time of year that frozen and canned food is probably not in season food. If you buy pickles at a farmer’s market next to a mountain of cucumbers they very well may be in season but they’re already preserved so you have to ask yourself your personal feelings on that one, does it actually matter? I can’t answer that question for you.

I’m not touching on wildcrafting because I really don’t have that much of a knowledge base there. By all means go for it if you do or can access someone with the skills base, and it will DEFINITELY be driven by seasonal shifts.

Know Your Stockpile Limits

dandelionchai

Dandelion Chai

A family of 10 is going to have radically different needs than a couple with no children. I’m guessing you do not have lion’s mane and reishi next to your carrots the way that I do. Part of a successful food stockplile is knowing what you actually need and how much. I am drying increasingly large amounts of apples and bananas every week because I haven’t hit the ceiling yet with what a functional amount of both looks like for me. I dried one eggplant once and haven’t done that since.

There’s a lot of factors that go into this including household size, frequency of use, storage space limitations, and monetary restraints. This will require an investment in overhead at first. There are ways of mitigating that but yes there will be a required amount of money put into it one way or another. The easiest way to start with what you need to put into your stockpile is ‘what do you already eat in the highest quantity’ and go from there. My husband takes dried fruit every day on the truck so we go through a lot. That eggplant is still sitting there. If you never use jelly don’t make it. If you hate pickles don’t get into pickling. It seems obvious but I have had a lot of conversations over the last decade that amounted to ‘I don’t know why I made three gallons of bread and butter pickles, none of us like them’. There will be failures of one form or another as you go (cough: eggplant) but you will definitely cut down on them by thinking about what you already use.

The big thing with this is a rotting stockpile is a waste of space and money, and is arguably immoral. If you have fifteen pounds of carrots to put up at the end of harvest rock out. But don’t buy more carrots in three months unless you actually drained those carrots by that point. When you’re first preserving you might find yourself feeling like crap this is a ton of food, but it’s easily it’s a ton of food -right now-. It’ll get easier a couple of years in when you can watch your stash for things like I still have jam from 2020 I should pull back there.

Weekly Preservation

 

I don’t have yields this week, I wasn’t paying that much attention for the sake of recording it.

Assume dried if not specified like jam

-five pound bag of fuji apples (baked with some), both plain and spiced

-2 1/2 pints strawberry ginger jam

-quarter pint dried ginger and turmeric root

-dried oranges and lemon, plain

-dried citrus, spiced

-white potatoes

-organic bananas

-apple strawberry fruit leather, one tray

-carrots

-mushrooms

-spinach and kale

 

Jalapeno Mash

It actually is that shade of green

It actually is that shade of green

It’s not exactly any sort of secret that I love hot food, and I am the type of person that thinks that if 10 bottles of hot sauce are good, 25 will certainly ensure that I will never have to be without both variety and heat.

I’ve been slowly getting back into fermentation again. This is a simple enough project, that can be scaled to fit the amount of peppers you have-which means it’s a good project to have in your box for summer harvests.

This can be done with any peppers, but I used jalapeños because I found organic at a decent price.

Notes:

Doing a fermentation in this style requires the produce to stay under the water level at all times. The easiest way I’ve found to do this, for the amount of peppers I ferment at any given time, is to weigh the peppers under with a small (quarter or half pint) canning jar. Clean a wide mouth jar, at least pint size, place the peppers into the jar, cover with brine. I like to skim off as many seeds as I can but I’m not actually sure that it’s necessary. I then place the [cleaned] smaller jar, which will fit into the mouth of the larger, into the larger jar. It will push the peppers to the bottom of the jar and brine will displace around the jar and make sure they stay submerged. Do this in a sink in case it floods. If you pack loosely enough you can cover it with a lid.

jalepenos

Fermentation:

Make a brine-I used warm water and salt, at a ratio of 4 cups water to 3 tablespoons salt. Sea salt is best.

Cut the tops off the peppers and if fermenting whole cut a slit in each pepper. You can also chop or slice.

Cover with brine, and cover with a lid. See the notes regarding weights [you can see the smaller jar in the above photo]

Ferment for at least a week, or to your normal time frame for peppers

Mash:

Drain the peppers but don’t rinse

In a blender add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, dried turmeric (about a tablespoon), 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, and the peppers. Blend until pureed. Place in the refrigerator.

 

Experiments [Fermenting Soda]

photo from pixabay

photo from pixabay

I’ve been driving my list on Facebook up a wall. I’ve been trying to ferment soda all week.

It’s become something of an ego challenge at this point-I can ferment stuff like pickles, hot sauces I can do in my sleep, and I have a fairly active turmeric bug that I started last week that’s foaming away.

But soda is just outside of my grasp.

Fermenting soda in theory isn’t hard-it’s water (maybe), juice or other fruit/sugar material, and a starter. You put the starter, the juice (what the starter is feeding off of and is flavoring the soda), and water to make up volume in a container, let it sit for a few days, and then bottle it which forces the CO2 into the fluid and makes it fizz.

Except my soda just sat there. I’ve come to realize that it’s the syrup that I used for the first few batches. I ended up dumping out of my first batch outright. It sort of fermented, but tasted foul and never fizzed.

The second batch just got another boost of turmeric bug, thinking my bug was too young to have a full bacterial load yet.

But then came the second phase of the experiment…

You can make mead with yeast. Normally wine yeast but you can do with bread yeast in a pinch-and bread yeast I have. So I added some runny grapefruit jam to a jar, added water, and added a teaspoon of yeast. It sat overnight and is actually bottled and in the freezer already. [The longer it sits the fizzier and drier it’ll get, so definitely use bottles designed for soda/carbonation with yeast. I’m actually using old soda bottles since they’re built for the pressure, and I have them.]

The jam batch was foamy before I went to sleep last night, about an hour after I set it up.

The syrup batch is barely foaming hours later. I think that the syrup just doesn’t have enough sugar to do much of anything.

So this is my basic structure for quasi-fermented [yeasted] soda:

about 1/4 to 1/2 pint jam, heavily sweet fruit syrup, or other canned product*

-or-

Several cups 100% fruit juice*

Roughly 1 tsp yeast

dried or fresh herbs, if desired, to taste**

mason jar with a ring and a coffee filter

Some sort of flip top jar or well cleaned soda/gatorade bottle with lid

*This is a project where you actually want a lot of sugar. The fermentation runs off of it, so the process actually eats the sugar and you don’t drink as much as it feels like you’re putting in the jar. Make your syrup sweeter than what you would if you were eating it straight. While this will never be a ‘true’ health drink like kombucha or jun may be, you can still make a soda with much, much less sugar than what’s on the market-and you can use raw or low processed sugar.

Because of the need for sugar this is actually a good project for jams that didn’t set/ended up as syrups. That’s what I’m using right now to reclaim jars without dumping out my work.

**Place into the 2f/second step jar, not in the first round of fermentation

 

Add syrup/juice and yeast to the jar. Add filtered water to make up about a quart of volume if necessary. Stir. Secure coffee filter to jar with lid. Let sit overnight or 2-3 days. The longer it sits the more sugar the yeast will eat, so taste to see if you like the sweetness. Try to pull it sweeter than you normally drink it.

Add herbs if using to the 2f bottle, add the soda to the bottle and cap it.

REMEMBER TO BURP YOUR BOTTLES REGULARLY.

The longer it sits the more carbonated it will get and the pressure will build up. Open the bottles regularly to release pressure.

After a day or so (or less time if it’s really active), put your bottles into the fridge. The cold will help hold the carbonation and slow down fermentation.

Open over a sink or bowl in case it explodes.

 

***You can upsize this accordingly, I make about 20 oz at a time.

You can play around with flavors as you like.

 

If I can get a ‘true’ fermented soda to work, I’ll post that process as well.

[This is basically the first steps in wine making. If you let this sit long enough and added an airlock you would end up with a raw wine. What I’m getting at is that if this sits long enough you will develop an alcohol content. If you’re storing for an extended period of time, test before giving to children.]

 

2016 Canning List

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I am giving March the theme of Canning Month; 2016 is a year that requires themes for me to post consistently.

I want to start canning early this year-a lot of this list I can make with frozen produce or other supplies I can get at Target with cards from S.w.agbu.cks. So March will be covering a lot of older recipes or trying new ideas (I want to try Firestarter with dried peppers).

I didn’t get through a lot of last year’s list so this may be a repeat to older readers.

-Carrot Cake Jam

Firestarter

–different fruits as well as peaches

—-pineapple has been requested

apple pear jam

-apple sauce

-cyser style apples

-banana fridge jam

-dilly beans

-whole and crushed tomatoes

-dill pickles

-spiked oranges

-plum sauce

-pickled hot peppers

-bbq sauce

-apple butter

-peach butter

-peach pie jam

-cherry jam

-mint syrup

-preserved mint

-salsa

-cider molasses

-pickled beets

-…lemons?

-sweet pickles

-blackstrap strawberry jam

-relish

-strawberry mint syrup and jam

-fruit syrups

-hot sauce

-whole peaches and nectarines

 

Rattlesnake Bites

rattlesnake-bites-hot-beef-pockets

Third memory-As it turns out, Mid really likes these rolls. I wasn’t expecting that…or I would have made them more frequently.

I would probably be an awesome pirogi maker.

I really like rhythmic kitchen tasks. Give me something with repeated movements like filling something that’s sort of dumpling-y and I’ll go to town. It’s a helpful trait to have when making these rolls.

Light and fluffy outside with soft, spicy insides these have become a favorite in our house. They’re fast, can be made ahead and assembled when needed, and quite simple they would be awesome for entertaining.

I don’t recommend brands because I’m sponsored, but because I like them and I like the Immaculate brand of crescent rolls in a can. I can actually get their can open without worrying that I’m going to take an eye out or impale myself.

I normally make my own taco seasoning, but I’ve also used Penzey’s chili spice and local hot peppers.

*I believe that I originally got this recipe from Taste of Home.

Rattlesnake Bites

*1 pound of filling will fill at least 32 rolls.

Refrigerated crescent rolls, at least 4 tubs of 8

1 lb taco meat, prepared and seasoned to taste

3-4 hot peppers, diced

1/2 block cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Open and unroll crescent rolls.

Cook taco meat and leave in pan. Add cream cheese and peppers, leaving on heat long enough to melt cheese. Mix well and lower heat or remove from heat.

Using a measuring spoon, fill the center of a crescent roll and pinch edges up into a ball or packet.

When all rolls are filled bake for 13 minutes (or according to package).

Rolls reheat well at 300 for 5-10 minutes.

The Case for the Vegetable Patty

fried potatoes

We upgraded our phones today. I’m never sure how I feel about upgrades when I do it. I always feel wasteful; I think I want my phone to shatter into a million pieces before I feel comfortable turning it in. But a not-scratched up phone and better speakers are starting to sway me.

These photos are still going to be dark because there’s nothing a phone’s going to do to make my already dark kitchen brighter after sun down.

I really thought that I had blogged about these before, but if I did, I called them something so archaic I can’t actually find them again.

before frying

I make these a lot in the fall as one of my repeat harvest dishes. This is the time of year where living in WNY is easy-our produce is finally in and it’s not too cold to want to go get it. I go and pick up a little of a lot of things, which is great to feel like I have a full kitchen but sometimes leaving a general sense of ‘now what?’.

I also find that vegetable patties like this are great to use up leftovers or produce that’s about to go. Use premade mashed potatoes and whatever you have lying around-including apples or applesauce. Really, use whatever you have. If you have left over roast squash, use that as a base instead of potatoes. Go wild with it.

Because it’s such a flexible dish there’s really no true recipe with quantities here.

Vegetable Patties

3-4 potatoes’ worth mashed potatoes

shredded cheese

bread crumbs (optional)

1-2 eggs (optional)

shredded or chopped (or frozen even) vegetables, assorted

applesauce (optional)

Mix everything together, and fry over medium heat with a little oil or butter. Give it a minute or two per side to let everything heat up and come to a golden brown.

I top with additional cheese and bbq sauce.

pre mixed potatoes

Roasted Applesauce (AKA The Best Applesauce Ever)

Yep. My cutting boards are actually used to cut things. I mean I guess I could buy a prop board...but I would end up chopping carrots on it.

Yep. My cutting boards are actually used to cut things. I mean I guess I could buy a prop board…but I would end up chopping carrots on it.

I can’t eat hot apples.

I can eat apples that have been cooked, I just can’t eat them hot. So I’m not sure why I got stuck this weekend on the idea of roasted applesauce-instead of my normal boiled down type.

I’m not even sure why I thought that it would be different-but different, indeed, it is.

We went on an apple hunt this weekend-I ran completely out of canned apple products last week and I had been putting off getting more apples. I decided I was never going to get them if I didn’t just make the plunge, I would keep putting it off, so I went off to my favorite vendor at the North Tonawanda farmer’s market. I came home with a Top’s paper bag full of Golden Blushes for $3.

After some basic Internet searches just to verify that this was even worth attempting, I was off. And sweet Pomona, this stuff is amazing. After blending it takes on this weird rubbery texture (look, it’s a good thing, I just don’t know how to describe it but trust me here) that you don’t get with boiled sauces. It’s more like apple pudding. Amazing, amazing apple pudding.

[I sometimes get asked this, so here’s my stance-I’m not picky when it comes to apples for saucing. If I can get my hands on it, I’ll use it. That means everything from free range wild to Aldis to heirlooms. If I can get it into a jar, I’m not a snob. The trick is trying the apple and seeing roughly how sweet it is and adjusting the sugar added to the sauce that way.]

Notes:

This, like all applesauces, is most of a structure than a firm recipe. You can adjust this as you go. I did add my sugar beforehand, and would recommend adding at least a little to help draw out moisture as it bakes. You can add a little more when it comes out of the oven if you feel like it needs more sugar.

You can roast other fruits in there with the apples at the same time for mixed fruit sauces.

I didn’t peel, I don’t peel my apples for sauce, but you can if you would like.

I froze this batch but I can’t think of a reason why this couldn’t be canned to be shelf stable. Follow the instructions for canning applesauce in the Ball Blue Book.

Roasted Applesauce

Heavy weight oven safe pan (honestly I baked it in a sauce pan)

apples, cored and chopped

about 1/2 cup sugar to start

nutmeg

 

Preheat oven to 400 or 425 (temperature isn’t terribly important as long as it’s in that range)

Core and chop your apples. I just chopped until the pan was filled (there are many apples in my kitchen)

Place in the pan, and cover with sugar.

Bake for 40-50 minutes. The apples will come out looking slightly dehydrated.

Very carefully-or let cool first-blend with an immersion blender or carefully add to a conventional blender and pulse till smooth. It might take a moment to get it going.

Add a little more sugar if desired and a couple of dashes of nutmeg, and stir into sauce.

Nutmeg Coffee Syrup

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I do have ghost material to post-I went to the Central Terminal for the Carnival of Parahorror, and want to get that post written up at least.

I love pumpkin spice, but nutmeg’s been my current love (though I admit that I’m surprised Pixabay has photos of nutmeg-the camera on my phone is getting touch and go and it’s really gray here today). We went to Spot on Elmwood on Sunday to see someone, and they had cold brew iced coffee-another love-and a shaker of nutmeg. On a whim I made myself a nutmeg coffee, and now I’m off and running.

There’s something slightly retro about nutmeg, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what that is. But I love it. Don’t be surprised if you see it here more often.

Nutmeg is a general healing herb, folklorically speaking. Nutmeg/allspice berries, like most ‘berry’ herbs, can stand in for coins in money draws.

Note:

I mix my syrups a little strong, because I don’t like terribly sweet coffee but want the spice to come through when I use it-so I use a heavy hand so I can get flavor out of a small amount of syrup. Use a lighter hand if you like a sweeter coffee.

Don’t over boil simple syrup or you’ll end up with candy.

Nutmeg Coffee Syrup

1 pint water

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon each good quality ground nutmeg and cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (real/alcohol based preferably)

Mix dry spices and sugar together well, add to a pot with water and vanilla.

Over medium low heat bring to a gentle simmer and let cook down slightly to make a sugar syrup.

Take off of heat, cool, and keep in the fridge. It should hold for a fair amount of time, at least a couple of weeks due to the sugar content.

Harvest Sausage

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This was a happy accidental meal. Or maybe an off road meal, where I threw things in a pot and let it do its thing, while hoping it worked.

Mid is now a floater. He’s steadily increasing in responsibility, and now has two stores he’s available for. The second store uses him for coverage.

It amounted to 15 hours of coverage today.

I needed a meal that I could set, forget, have it be edible when he got home, was a heavy protein hit to make up for that 15 hours of work, and wasn’t going to be too too expensive the night before pay day.

I do recommend ‘decent’ ingredients for this, since it’s so simple-but it will still probably work out to be cheaper than fast food, even, for a full meal. Serve it with a starchy grain or fried potatoes.

Harvest Sausage

*I let mine come to a simmer over medium heat and then lowered to medium low for about an hour, flipping the sausage over once halfway through. You could probably raise the heat and cut the cooking time down.

1 good sized, decent quality Polish sausage. I used the fresh sausage from Wegmans, it’s generally pretty good.

1 can ale/light (as opposed to dark) beer

1 cup applesauce

Bring sausage, ale, and applesauce to a simmer and let cook down for about an hour.

Seriously. That simple, but the flavors from the beer and the applesauce do amazing things to the sausage.

Chana Dal Tadka

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You really can’t get much more frugal than lentils.

They pack a punch for nutrition and are insanely cheap per bag. Put them in soup, eat them as dal, use them like beans.

I have a confession though: as much as I love the humble lentil I haven’t made them in -years-. I have a bag of yellow ones, and every time I cooked them for the recommended length of time, they were still hard. So I put them in a jar and put them in the cupboard. I would glare at them every so often. That would be the full amount of use they would get-move the jar around, glare.

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It’s simple-lentils, onions, garlic, curry spices, a little bit of salt. But the kicker is that it calls for twice the amount of cooking time-which assures me that it’s not me or my lentils, it’s the stuff that I’ve been reading.

So my hack on this recipe, though I do fully encourage you to go read and use the original:

I put 1 cup lentils in a pot with about four cups water. Placed on medium heat.http://www.nyfjournal.com/2014/02/chana-dal-tadka-yellow-lentil-curry-with-sauteed-onions-garlic-and-spices.html

I added about two tablespoons rogan josh powder because Mid will only eat lentils with a heavy flavor profile. Use whatever curry powder you have in the house, or mix yours fresh. Add a little salt.

Cook for about 40 minutes, and while cooking the lentils fry some garlic and onions. Stir into the lentils.

Holly wants to add chicken when she tries it. I think that adding another protein source would be lovely, but this is crisis cooking in our house-two days before payday and my s.w.agbucks gift cards haven’t come in yet, so no money for meat right now. Lentils are solid enough you probably wouldn’t need meat (or mead, either, since that’s what I wrote first).

Original recipe-Chana Dal Tadka on NY Food Journal