Tag Archives: homesteading

  • Pickling 101: The Basics

    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: canning, DIY, homesteading, home food preservation, pickling, self-reliance

  •  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.

     

    -Angela

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

  • Have you ever thought about keeping bees?

    Well, if you haven’t thought about it—or you’ve considered it but haven’t taken the leap—here are four great questions to answer before you decide to become a beekeeper extraordinaire.

     

    Beekeeping for Beginners_Part One

     

    Do I have the space?

    Bee hives themselves don’t take a lot of space; they actually have quite a compact footprint (see this video for a good look at the size and setup of a beehive). But you’ll need to consider the fact that bees will be flying in and out of the hives near ground level—meaning they’ll be flying through your yard right at just the right height to disturb people and pets who may be enjoying some time outside.

    There are steps you can take to direct the bees’ flight path in and out of the hive (placing a bush or other “barricade” a little bit in front of the hive entrance to direct them upward), but space can still be an issue—so be sure to limit the number of hives to a reasonable amount for your acreage (or lack thereof).

     

    Do my family members and neighbors have objections?

    In theory, it’s easy to say that it doesn’t matter what other people think, but because your family and neighbors will likely have (hopefully harmless) encounters with your bees, getting their buy-in is a great idea—especially in suburban locations.

    In more rural locations, or if you have a lot of acreage, you can place the beehives far enough away from your family’s usual haunts that they can easily avoid too much contact if bees give them the heebie-jeebies.

    One of the most important factors when addressing concerns of family and neighbors is allergic reactions. If you’ve got a family member or close neighbor who’s deathly allergic to bee stings, reconsider keeping bees on your property. The risk simply isn’t worth it. And if you don’t know whether you’re allergic, get tested before you get started—a surprise reaction to a bee sting can turn into a scary, even deadly, situation.

     

    What are the zoning laws or other restrictions?

    While it’s kind of a bummer to think that keeping bees might actually be illegal in your area, it’s better to be aware before getting set up than to pay fines and have to call it quits after you’ve got a good colony thriving.

    If beekeeping is against zoning or other restrictions in your area, you may be able to find a local farmer who, if they aren’t already maintaining hives themselves, would welcome someone to set up hives on their land. You may even be able to work out an agreement that allows you to keep them there for free in exchange for honey, beeswax, or a combination of both. Win-win!

     

    Am I dedicated and patient?

    Keeping bees isn’t rocket science, but it does take dedication, patience, education, and planning. If your plan is to get a big, golden payday right off the bat, then you’re probably best off just buying a SuperPail of honey. It can take up to a year to get a colony established and producing enough excess honey for you to enjoy it without harvesting the honey that will sustain the bees through the winter. But if you’re willing to put in the work, the rewards are well worth it.

     

    Think you’re ready to dive in? The American Beekeeping Federation has a few Beekeeping FAQ’s that will help you get think through some of the logistics of getting started.

     

     

    Sound off:

    Do you raise bees? What other questions should beginners consider before starting a hive?

    Are you newly interested in taking up beekeeping? What questions or concerns do you have about getting started?

    We’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

     

    Sources:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/lawn-garden/diy-backyard-beekeeping-47031701#slide-1

    http://youtu.be/zDZDYgBkCx0?t=11s

    http://www.abfnet.org/index.cfm

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: homesteading, raising animals, beekeeping

  • DIY Rabbit Hutch Projects

    Once you've decided to raise rabbits for food storage, the next question to ask yourself is where am I going to put them? Since you are raising rabbits for self-sufficiency, and not as pets, it may be helpful to keep them outside to make that distinction clear (easier said than done, I know.)

    Traditionally, outdoor rabbits are kept in hutches. A hutch is a cage that is usually made of wood and is enclosed with wire mesh. Most hutches have tall legs to protect the rabbits from predators on the ground. You can also build a hutch without legs to keep on a table or, in warm climates, directly on the ground.

    Rabbit hutches are fairly easy to build and serve as excellent DIY projects to complete over the weekend. You can make hutches out of pallets, shelves, and even old dressers.

    Here are 5 great DIY rabbit hutch tutorials from the web to get you started:

     

    Tiny Homesteaders.com “Making Yet Another Rabbit Hutch out of Pallet Crates"

    Space is a very important factor when building a hutch. Since your rabbit will spend a lot of time there, it’s important that they have enough room to move around.  This hutch is a great example of giving your rabbits enough space:

     Rabbit Hutch via TinyHomesteaders

    Photo Courtesy of Tinyhomesteaders.com

     

    Mother Earth News’ “DIY Rabbit Hutch from Wood Pallets”

    When building a hutch, it’s important to have at least part of it enclosed so it will be dark enough when your rabbits need to sleep—or so they can hide if they feel threatened by predators.

     Rabbit Hutch via Mother Earth News

    Photo Courtesy of Mother Earth News

     

    Monsterguide.net “How to Build a Rabbit Hutch”

    Since rabbit hutches require regular cleaning (we’re talking on at least a weekly basis), make sure your hutch is built in a way that provides you with easy access to get the job done—like this one.

    Rabbit Hutch via MonsterGuide dot net

    Photo Courtesy of Monsterguide.net

    Bettaliving.org’s DIY Rabbit Hutch Plans

    This step-by-step guide (with in-depth instructions and pictures for each step) is a great source if you want to build a hutch on the ground. Rabbit hutches built on the ground are better to use in warmer climates, but even then should provide a way for your bunnies to take shelter from predators or rain.

    Rabbit Hutch via BettaLiving.org

    Photo Courtesy of Bettaliving.org

    For Urban Homesteaders: DIY Project: Nicole’s Modern Bunny Hutch

    This hutch is made from an altered dresser. It’s a great method for building a hutch if you live in an apartment or don’t have yard space for a traditional hutch.

    Rabbit Hutch via Design Sponge

    Photo Courtesy of DesignSponge.com

     

    Looking for more tips on building a rabbit hutch? Check out these links:

    http://www.amillionlives.net/build-a-rabbit-hutch-protective-shelters-for-the-bunnies-dwelling.html

    http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/getting-a-hunch-about-rabbit-hutches.html

     

    Have you ever made a rabbit hutch? What’s the best setup you’ve found?

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: rabbits, DIY, homesteading, raising animals

  • The following 2 recipes (submitted by Lynn from Canada) are a great way to rotate and use your powdered milk:

    Yogurt with blackberries

    YOGURT BY THE GALLON

    Ingredients:

    4 Cups Dry Milk Powder

    4 Quarts Warm Water

    1 Cup Starter

    Optional compliments (freeze dried fruit, jam, vanilla, etc.)

    Preparation:

    Mix the milk powder with the water in a blender until smooth. Heat mixture to a scald over stove top in large pot or in a crock pot (not too hot or it will kill the yogurt's live culture). Watch so it doesn't burn if you are doing this on the stove top. Cool to room temperature (lukewarm to the touch with your finger in it counting to 10. Or if you have a thermometer...till it reads about 120 degrees F).

    Add the following and mix well: 1 Cup starter (plain yogurt or freeze dried yogurt starter or saved yogurt from your previous batch - this needs to be renewed after a month or the taste becomes sour).

    Put into a gallon glass jar with a lid and place in some kind of hotbox (wonder box or thermal box) in a warm room for 12- 14 hours until thickened. If you don't have a hotbox, leave it in your crockpot, unplugged, and wrapped in a large towel to keep warm. You can also put it in a cooler wrapped in warm towels.

    Once thickened: Refrigerate up to 12 hours. May need stirring before use. It does thicken more as it is refrigerated. You may add freeze dried fruit, jam, or a bit of vanilla for flavored yogurt. However, remember to set some plain aside first if you are going to use it as a starter for the next batch.

    Hint: Freeze your remaining purchased plain yogurt in ice cube trays to have on hand for the next batch's starter when needed. Good for 6 months in the freezer.

    Enjoy!

     

    HOMEMADE CREAM CHEESE

    You can also make homemade cream cheese from your own yogurt that you've made. Take one cup of yogurt and place it in the center of a clean TERRY face cloth or a CHEESE cloth (these are sold at your local food store) that is laid over a small bowl. This cloth will act as a "strainer" for your yogurt. Fold the cloth up. Then take a rubber band and wrap the rubber band around the cloth just up past the point where the yogurt comes to. At this point it will look like you've wrapped up a tennis ball in a cloth with a rubber band to hold the "present" closed. Then take a hanger and hook the rubber band onto the hook of the hanger. Hang the hanger up on your kitchen cupboard door knob or hang the hanger onto a large pot or something strong enough to let it hang. Place the small bowl under your wrapped hanging yogurt and let it just hang there to drip the liquids out for 4 hours.

    If you want to (and are home), you can just give it a gentle squeeze now and again to softly wring out some of the liquid. But that step is not necessary. You can just leave your yogurt hanging for 8 hours if you want to while you are gone to work, too. After this there will be liquid in your bowl. Open up the cloth.....you will find a round soft ball of plain CREAM CHEESE! It's THAT simple! Keep refrigerated once this is completed. You can always flavor it with a little bit of sea salt and dill or a little pepper or whatever favorite seasonings you like. You can use it on crackers, breads, toast, bagels or flavor it with fruit extracts instead of the seasonings.

    Enjoy!

    Thank you Lynn for these great recipes and tips!

    Bagel with cream cheese

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, skills, homemade, Food Storage Tips, DIY, homesteading