Tag Archives: DIY

  • 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.

     

    Equipment

    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.

     

    Experiment

    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?

     

    -Lesley

     

    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

     

     

    Sources

    www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/how-to-pickle_n_3512573.html

    www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/seasonal/surprising-things-you-can-pickle.

    www.foodrepublic.com/2011/07/27/5-things-know-about-pickling

    www.chefs.edu/Student-Life/Culinary-Central/November-2009/Anything_pickle

    http://nchfp.ega.edu/how/can_06/prep_foods.html

    www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-symon/pickled-green-tomatoes-recipe.html

    www.almanac.com/content/pickling-tips-and-recipes

    www.simplycanning.com/sterilizing-jars.html

    www.seriouseats.com/2012/07/pickling-recipes.html

    http://www.thekitchn.com/pickling-salt-what-is-it-and-do-you-need-it-193108

    http://www.hobbyfarms.com/food-and-kitchen/you-can-pickle-that.aspx

    https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/pickles/salt.html

    http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/backyard-gardening/how-to-pickle-vegetables-and-fruit.aspx

    http://www.countryliving.com/cooking/about-food/sterilizing-canning-jars

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

  • 8 Ways Duct Tape Could Save You in a Bind

    People always joke that duct tape fixes everything, but did you know that it could potentially save your life? In a survival situation, duct tape can have many uses, and here are just twelve ways to use this adhesive wonder in a number of emergency situations you may encounter.

    8 Ways Duct Tape Could Save You in a Bind

    1. Patching holes/Sealing – Rip your tent while assembling? Hole in your siding? Missing a shingle? Duct tape is the perfect way to patch holes, seal items, or make emergency repairs on just about anything (like, for example, a tent whose zipper breaks in the middle of a rainstorm… not that I’ve ever had that happen to me).

    2. Medical Uses – Duct tape is a great resource for first aid. You can use it to make bandages (it might hurt a little pulling hairs, but that beats bleeding to death), provide padding on a blister, or even splint an ankle in an emergency. You can also make an emergency duct tape field stretcher!

    3. Make Cord/Rope – You can easily twist long pieces of duct tape together to form a rope or cord. This can be used to hang clothes to dry, hang up a bag out of reach of pests, or any other number of uses (including a belt, if you’re desperate).

    4. Waterproof/Insulate – While this could apply to just about anything, it’s specifically helpful with shoes, especially in the winter. Just wrap duct tape around the shoe to form a barrier from water and provide extra insulation.

    5. Cup/Bucket – Duct tape can be used to fashion a watertight cup, bucket, or even a bowl/plate if you need one. Check out the Norwegian Bushcraft video below to learn how to make a small bucket from duct tape that can hold water, but can also be used to gather food or other necessary items. (The tutorial begins about 27 seconds in to the video).

    6. Weapons and Hunting – Even if you have more ammo than you think you’ll ever need, eventually it’ll run out and you’ll have to resort to something besides a firearm. You can easily create a spear by using duct tape to fasten your knife or broken piece of glass to a piece of wood. You can also improvise an arrow as shown in the video below.



    7. Transportation – Duct tape can be used to repair the exterior and interior furnishings of vehicles, but you could also create a kayak out of PVC pipe and duct tape (and a few other household items)! Duct tape can even help repair leaks in a regular kayak or canoe.

    8. A Place to Sleep – Here’s an example of a hammock made out of duct tape (although I would suggest using something stronger to support if you plan on using it long-term or for more than 120-150 lbs.). Or fashion yourself a tent if you’re desperate!

     

    There are a lot of other uses for duct tape; what are your favorites?

     

    -Michelle

     

    Other Sources:

    http://www.happypreppers.com/duct-tape.html

    http://www.backdoorsurvival.com/duct-tape-for-survival/

    http://offgridsurvival.com/duct-tape/

    http://survival.outdoorlife.com/blogs/survivalist/2012/06/25-practical-survival-uses-duct-tape

     

     

     

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: duct tape, DIY, Survival Tip, Survival, skills

  • Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery Bag

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    Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery bag

    Any of you with diaper-age children already know the crucial importance of keeping plastic grocery bags on hand at all times. As a dedicated bag toter, I found myself vindicated this week by no less than Backpacker Magazine, whose online slideshow, “Survive With a Plastic Bag,” has got me thinking of other uses for this ubiquitous resource.

    Backpacker’s six tips include some predictable, but still helpful waterproofing ideas, as well as some not-so-predictable ones, like using the plastic bag as a windsock or a whistle. I’m more than convinced I need a handful of these in my hiking pack and emergency kits. But just a little more digging unlocks the further utility of the plastic bag. Here’s just a sampling:

    • Survival Common Sense lists a bunch of different kinds of plastic bags—everything from Ziplocs to garbage can liners—and shows what you can do with them. I like the wallet-sized fire starter, in particular.
    • Outdoor Life’s Survivalist blog has a great little write-up on how to use a standard plastic grocery bag to collect water in the wild. Hint: it doesn’t even require digging a hole!
    • The Master Woodsman (we don’t know who he is, but we like his site) dedicates a whole article to the big, black garbage bag. His super impressive list of uses for the bag includes some shockers. On your own, you might have come up with the idea of making a shelter or lining a sleeping bag with a garbage bag. But would you have known that you can make a mattress, strong cord, or even glue out of one? Yeah, me neither.
    • In possibly the biggest mind-blower, this YouTube clip shows how to boil water in a plastic bag! I’m not going to pretend to understand why the bag doesn’t melt or ignite, but the guy in the video successfully hard-boils an egg in one over a bed of blazing coals. In a plastic bag!

     

    If you’re still not convinced (Really? What does it take, people?), check back on these previous posts to see still more ingenious ways to put plastic bags to use for emergency preparedness.

     

    Have we missed anything? What other emergency or survival uses do you have for these fantastic plastic bags?

    -Stacey

    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Magazine Ben Fullerton

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: DIY, Survival, skills

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