Tag Archives: homesteading

  • Pickling 101: The Basics

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    Learn the basics for pickling your own food at home! #canning #pickling #foodstorage

    If you've ever lost power during a storm, watched expensive produce spoil quickly in your fridge, or had an overabundant yield in the garden, learning how to pickle just might be the solution for you.

    Used since ancient times, pickling has been a process of covering food in salt and acid to preserve it and add flavor, while eliminating any bacteria that may cause spoilage. However, since the invention of the refrigerator, the art of pickling has become a less common skill and practice.

    For anyone interested in emergency preparedness or food storage, learning to pickle is a practical skill to put under your belt. Here’s a basic crash course:


    Why should You Pickle?

    Besides providing you with food that will last longer on the shelf (and that doesn't need refrigeration), there are other benefits to pickling that make it a practical skill and art to learn:

    1)    Food storage: Of course we all know that pickling is a great way to build your food storage reserves, but did you know that it can also give you more control and choice during an emergency? Having a supply of your favorite pickled (and other home-processed) foods on hand can help to make an emergency a little more bearable; it gives you a sense of comfort, control, and familiarity during an emergency situation.

    2)    Saving fresh food: Pickling allows you to use food even past its season. If you've grown or bought more than you can eat, you’ll still have a way to preserve it and keep it on hand for when you’re craving it most. Also, pickling helps you to save money because you won’t have to buy imported or expensive produce that’s out of season later in the year.

    3)    Variety: Pickling allows you to experiment with different textures, flavors, and recipes. You can be more adventurous with your food by learning how to pickle.



    There are a few tools you’ll need to have on hand before you begin your pickling journey.

    Glass jars and Lids: Use glass jars specific for canning that are free from cracks and chips along the rim. Rings can be re-used, but must be free from rust and dents. Choose the size of jar based on the foods you are pickling and the amount you would use in a reasonable amount of time once opened. Don’t use half-gallon jars to pickle cauliflower if you only use 1 cup at a time. Also, most jar sizes are available in two different opening sizes (regular mouth & wide mouth) for ease of packing. Keep this in mind when choosing your jars.

    Always use new lids. Inspect them carefully. Do not use them if there are any dents or impressions in the rubber ring on the lid.

    Pickling 101: The Basics


    A large pot: For sterilizing the jars. Always sterilize all of your equipment before pickling. You don’t want any contaminates that could spoil the food getting into your containers, so be extra careful to keep everything clean. Try the Victorio 7 Qt. Aluminum Steam Canner, which also comes with the fitted wire rack that helps prevent jars from breaking.

    Tongs: This tool not only helps you to handle sterilized items and to keep them free of contamination, but they also help you to avoid getting burned while taking your jars out of the boiling bath. There’s a very sturdy set of tongs in the Victorio Canning Kit that will make pickling much easier.

    Funnel: For easy, mess-free pouring. You can also find this tool in the Victorio Canning Kit.

    Canning or pickling salt: Make sure you have canning or pickling salt. Regular salt doesn't have the same preservation properties. Canning salt helps your pickled food to retain its rich color and texture and is also easier to dissolve in the brine (learn what brine is in the “Basic Process” section below).



    The Basic Process

    While each item you pickle will have its own process and steps to follow, you can count on many of the steps in the process to be the same, no matter what you are pickling.

    1.Sterilize your cooking area. Start by making sure your work area and equipment are sterile. Learn how to sterilize your jars by following the steps below from CountryLiving.com:

    • Place your empty jars right side up in a large pot. Fill the pot with water, making sure the water completely covers the tops of the jars.
    • Bring the water to a rolling boil. Boil for 15 minutes over high heat.
    • Turn off the heat. Place the jar lids in the water as well as the grasping side of the tongs you will use to take the jars out of the bath later. Let them sit in the water for 10 minutes to an hour.
    • Remove the jars using your sterilized tongs. Pour out the water and set them right sight up on a paper towel.

    2. Prepare your produce. Choose your pickling product, making sure it is thoroughly washed (check out the “what makes a great pickle?” section below to learn how to pick products for pickling). After washing your produce, double check your recipe for any special instructions for the type of produce you’re handling. For example, cucumbers need a ¼ inch sliced from the blossom end [pic], because the blossom can contain an enzyme that causes unwanted softening.

    3. Choose a tested recipe from a reliable source. Check out a bookstore or your local library for cookbooks and tips about the pickling process. Here are a couple of titles to look for:

    • The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor Packed Recipes for Vegetables for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or Market by Linda Ziedrich
    • The Complete Book of Pickling: 250 Recipes from Pickles and Relishes, to Chutneys and Salsas by Jennifer Mackenzie
    • Pickled: From Curing Lemons to Fermenting Cabbage, the Gourdman's Ultimate Guide to the World of Pickling by Kelly Carrolata

    4. Prepare a brine. A brine is created by boiling water with seasonings and herbs to create a fusion of flavors. Brines use only canning or pickling salt, instead of table salt, and mostly white or brown granulated sugars instead of corn syrup or honey (unless specified by a trusted recipe).

    5. Add food and brine to jars. This step is specific to the type of food you’re pickling. Be sure to check the recipe for the correct way to add your produce and brine the canning jars. All pickling recipes include these instructions.

    6. Seal the Lid. Watch out for air or bubbles, they give room for bacterial growth that can ruin your newly-pickled foods.

    7.  Pick your storage area. Be sure to store pickled items in a dark, cool place. Most pickled items are ready to eat in a few weeks and last several months, depending on your ingredients and pickling style.

    8. Wait it out. You’ll need to set aside some time for the entire process, depending on the recipe. Pickling can be quite an undertaking, so bring along a friend! It’s an excellent experience to share with someone else.


    What Makes a Great Pickle?

    There are few rules for choosing the perfect product to pickle. Executive Chef Paul Corsentino from the National restaurant in New York City encourages us to pickle anything, as long as it’s fresh. Sometimes there are different levels of freshness to consider. For example, some people may want to pickle green tomatoes, because they’re firm and have a more neutral taste, while others may prefer ripe, red tomatoes because of their sweetness.

    The rules of pickling really depend more on your sense of taste than anything. You can pickle vegetables, fruits, meats, and eggs, but remember that pickling brine is acidic and salty, so it’s important to find the right flavors to pair with the brine.

    Pickling 101: The Basics

    Because many of us have the most experience eating store-bought pickles, we might automatically want to think our pickling adventure with something like that. But according to Rebecca Orchant, a professional food writer for the Huffington Post, pickling cucumbers can be more difficult than some other produce items. She suggests starting with things like asparagus, carrots, or mushrooms.

    For a list of unconventional things you can pickle, from watermelon rinds to brussel sprouts, try this list from Good Housekeeping. Or try one of these Recipes:

    Pickled Green Tomatoes

    Lemony Cauliflower Florets

    When your pickles are ready, you can serve them with olive oil and crusty bread, or on pasta for an instant meal. You can also use various pickled items as side dishes, in salads, or on sandwiches for extra flavor.



    When you've become more familiar with the art of pickling, you can get creative! Traditionalists love using dill, but you can add the flavors you love to make your pickles a different experience every time. Make it spicy by adding some chopped chilies or extra garlic, give it some zing by adding mustard seeds, mince it up to make a relish, or make a sweet pickle with sugar.

    The best part about pickling is that you get to choose the flavors and textures you love, so your food storage possibilities can turn from the same old flavors into a variety of bold new dishes you’re excited to eat.


    Have you pickled before? What do you like to pickle? Any tips for those who are new?




    Related Products:

    Get started canning and pickling with this all-in-one set! #emergencyessentialsLearn the Basic of Canning with this Step-by-Step DVD This pressure canner/cooker safely cans produce and meat for home storage. #emergencyessentials #canning Prepare food for canning, cooking, and dehydrating at home. This strainer helps you quickly process foods without electricity.

    Other Articles You Might Like:

    How to Make Delicious Homemade Jams and Jellies

    Preparedness Skills: Canning Basics

    Preparedness Skills: Different Home Canning Methods

    How to Make Homemade Baby Food from Food Storage


















    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: self-reliance, pickling, home food preservation, homesteading, DIY, canning

  • The Aquafarm™: What is it and How does it Work?

     The Aquafarm: What is it and How does it Work?

    If you want to grow fresh veggies at home, but don’t have the space, we’ve got a cool way to do it. All you need is an Aquafarm™.

    Using the Aquafarm™ (and a Betta fish), you can create your very own countertop aquaponics garden for fresh herbs, veggies, and leafy greens. It’s especially great if you don’t have the space, time, or energy to create a traditional garden or aquaponics system of your own.

    How does the Aquafarm™ work?

    The Aquafarm™ is a small aquaponics system that essentially creates a small ecosystem in your home. Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and vegetables together where each organism helps the other to survive and thrive. It’s symbiosis at its best.

    In essence, as you raise fish in a tank, their waste is used to fertilize the plants you will eat, and in turn, the plants help to clean the water the fish live in, helping the fish stay healthy.

    Here’s how the Aquafarm™ works:

    1. The water from the fish tank is pumped up to the plants into a grow tray at the top of the tank. The plant roots become a “biofilter” that breaks down harmful ammonia in the fish waste and turns it into nitrates that the plants then absorb as food.
    1. After this conversion process, clean water is circulated back into the fish tank—ridding the tank of all the accumulated fish waste.
    1. Your plants grow in the grow trays at the top of the tank, giving you fresh veggies like leafy greens, wheatgrass, mixed greens, and a variety of herbs.
    1. You get fresh greens and herbs with minimal effort.


    What are the benefits of having an Aquafarm™?

    Besides the obvious benefit of the Aquafarm™ (fresh veggies), there are some other great reasons to have one if you’re a fish owner, gardener, or interested in emergency preparedness.

    • First if you’ve ever owned a fish, you know they’re tricky to keep alive. Toxicity, swim bladder, and algae growth are all common problems in a fish tank that affect the overall health of the fish (like I've learned all too well). The Aquafarm™ helps to reduce these problems as the plants help clean the tank.
    • Second because I’m an (unintentional) plant killer, the fact that I don’t have to constantly water the plants or give them plant food works in my favor. All I have to do is remember to feed the fish and nature will take care of the rest.
    • Third the Aquafarm™ will help me get one step closer to self-sufficiency. Use the food you grow to supplement your food storage supplies if you run out or just want fresh veggies.

    So if you’re like me and want your fish to clean up its own tank and earn its keep in your home by giving you fresh veggies, consider getting an Aquafarm™!

    And if you’re interested in building your own medium-to-full-sized Aquaponics system, check out our Aquaponic Gardening series written by our guest blogger and customer, Kevin White. He tells you how to get started and what supplies and materials you’ll need.



    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: aquaponic garden, aquaponics, homesteading, home food production, gardening

  • 10 Simple Steps to Self-Sufficiency

    10 Simple Steps to Self-Sufficiency

    Most of us don’t have the luxury/ability/desire/whatever to be 100% self-sufficient, but there are things you can start doing today that will put you on the road to being 10% or 20% or 90% self-sufficient, and that is a great goal, too!

    1. Get an emergency fund. While most of us can’t completely live off what we grow and make ourselves, being financially secure is a great step on the path to being completely self-sufficient. If you have a financial reserve, you can buy the necessities that you may not have on hand. Aim for 3-6 months of expenses in a high-yield savings account (easily accessible, don’t invest this money in inaccessible funds). Live on less than what you earn, and use the rest for building an emergency fund and investing for retirement. Whether it’s 30%, 60%, or 80% depends on your living expenses and income. After each paycheck, place a specific percentage into your emergency fund until you have 3-6 months saved. Replenish as necessary (but remember this is an emergency fund, not a vacation or “fun” fund). Part of becoming financially self-sufficient is reducing your debt to become debt-free.

    2. Start a garden. Whether it’s a bag of potting soil with a few tomatoes growing out of it, or a perfect, huge organic garden, every little bit helps! This list of great gardening books with short summaries of their contents to get you started. There are all kinds of gardening methods from square-foot to pots, and there is sure to be one that fits your budget and space. On social media you can join groups about gardening in your area; these groups can be a ton of help in getting you started. Or ask an expert like your seed supplier, local master gardeners, or your neighbors who are pros).

    3. Edible landscaping. Beyond an actual vegetable garden, you can landscape your yard with things you can eat! Better Homes and Gardens has a great article about this. Edible landscaping includes fruit trees and shrubs, vines, groundcover, flowers, herbs, and more! You get a beautiful yard, and you can eat it!

    4. Compost. There is one thing a lawn is great for (besides playing on), and that is green material for a compost pile. OrganicGardening.com has a great basic instruction guide for building a compost pile. Essentially, you need “brown” (dead leaves, newspaper, dead flowers –carbon-rich) and “green” (plant-based kitchen waste, grass clippings – nitrogen-rich) materials, a shovel-full of garden soil, and some room, and you will have great compost for feeding your garden or edible landscape.

    5. Preserve what you grow. Once you start harvesting things from your yard and garden, you need to know how to preserve your bounty to use during the off-season. It does take time, but it saves a lot of money on food. This can include canning, freezing, drying (read our post Preparedness Basics: How to Use a Dehydrator), pickling, smoking, and more.

    6. Learn How to Cook from scratch. Once you have a bunch of great produce and other plants from your edible landscape and garden, you need to know how to cook with these great ingredients. Pick up some cookbooks and start experimenting. Turn that backyard bounty into healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals for your family. You can also learn to make your own dairy products like cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream. Check out our article, Cheese Making 101: A Basic Guide to get started. Making food from scratch could save you big money since the prices on these items always seem to be going up!

    7. Bake your own bread. Bread, especially the whole grain kind, can be expensive—sometimes costing over $4.00 a loaf! You can make bread at home for around $.50 a loaf (plus you can control what you put in it). This will save you money and help you be more self-sufficient (and it’s delicious). You can also read our post 6 Reasons Why you should Grind Your Own Wheat to learn the benefits of adding home-ground wheat to your homemade bread.

    8. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Being self-sufficient is also about frugality and learning new skills. You can make your own cleaning supplies for a fraction of the cost of store-bought bottled cleaners. Bring out your inner-chemist and mix up these cleaners from Living Well, Spending Less. You can also make your own personal care products like these from Keeper of the Home.

    You can also fix-it yourself. Learn how to do simple plumbing and electrical work, paint your own deck, etc. (You can also learn to [reuse “trash”] for new purposes. It can be a lot of fun!) And, of course, you can always ask yourself “Do I really need that?” before buying something new.

    9. Walk and bike. Not only does this give you a workout, it will save on car insurance, gas, and maintenance. This can take more “time,” but if you plan it right, it can be your workout and it can help you to spend less on your shopping trips because you can’t carry as much back and you won’t be at the store as often.

    10. First-Aid equipped. There are a lot of natural remedies for the small things that ail us (things you can grow in your edible/usable landscape!). Become familiar with plants and herbs that can help you treat your own minor medical problems. Learn to use essential oils (if they interest you). And don’t forget a good, fully-stocked first-aid kit that’s easy to get to. It’s also good to have a smaller one that’s portable (in case you need to carry it with you somewhere).


    There are lots of easy things you can do to start or progress on the road to self-sufficiency, even just taking small steps to become more self-sufficient today can help you in the long run.

    What are your best tips and top ideas to start (or continue) on the road to self-sufficiency? What’s your next step?










    Posted In: Insight, Planning, Uncategorized Tagged With: survival skills, homesteading

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