Eating The Way Mamaw Used To Eat

 

As I mentioned in my last post, my family’s diet and eating habits have evolved greatly over the past several years.  Long ago, when it was just the Mister and me, both working full-time, we ate a LOT of take-out.  Bless her heart, the gal at the Chinese restaurant knew my husband’s voice over the phone and knew “no rice” with his meal.  We rarely cooked on weekends because we were busy doing young-person stuff and during the week, though I did cook, it was largely starch-heavy meals eaten in front of the TV.  It’s okay.  I’ll confess it.  Then Angus came along, and 17 months later, our sweet little Petunia and the revolution began.  Perhaps “devolution” is a more appropriate word as we slowly returned to a traditional style of eating that our great-grandparents would have approved of.

So what is traditional eating?  Traditional eating is simply-prepared, whole, nutrient-dense food that our ancestors have been eating for hundreds (thousands?) of years.  Fresh fruits and veggies, unprocessed meats and fish, whole dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, fats, herbs, and minerals.  That’s it.  It’s really no more complicated than that.  I know your hesitations, so I’d like to take a minute to dispel a few myths about traditional eating before we go any farther.

  1. It’s no more expensive than processed food.  You can purchase a whole roasting hen or a package of chicken nuggets for approximately the same price.  One is whole and unprocessed, the other, well…..
  2. It’s not difficult.  It’s no more difficult to bake sweet potatoes than tater tots.
  3. It’s not time-consuming.  The aforementioned roasting hen takes 30 minutes in my Instant Pot and yields several meals plus a stock pot full of broth.  Can you say the same about chicken nuggets?
  4. It tastes good!  When my bestie switched to a whole food diet, she was truly shocked that simply prepared, nutritious foods could taste so good!  And they do, my friends!  When you start with quality ingredients, the finished product will always taste amazing.
  5. You WILL feel better…but maybe not initially.  When you begin to transition to a whole food diet, you WILL go through withdrawals as your body detoxes from the ingredients in your former diet.  But this too shall pass.

If a traditional diet is healthier, simpler and as quick as convenience food, why do we persist with packaged, drive-thru pseudo-foods?  I believe whole-heartedly that it comes down to a bit of fear and a lack of knowledge.  When you’re in the kitchen for the first time staring at that whole, naked chicken, it CAN be a little daunting.  What the heck do you do with it anyway?  So many of us simply did not learn kitchen arts from our mothers or grandmothers, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a lost art and we CAN’T learn.  It just takes patience and persistence.  You can’t be afraid to make a mistake (Praise God for the occasional pizza delivery!) and you can’t be afraid to try again when you DO fail.

So how do we even begin the transition to a traditional, whole-food diet?

Slowly.  Steadily.  Intentionally.

Let me throw out a few suggestions and you can pick and choose which may be good jumping-off points for you.  Can you…

  • Eat at the dinner table tonight?
  • Add an unprocessed veggie to your meal?
  • Begin moving away from white bread towards whole grain?
  • Add a simple, fresh fruit for dessert each night?  (Berries and cream are a favorite here!)
  • Buy a fresh cut of meat instead of a processed or packaged one?
  • Make enough dinner so that you have leftovers for a healthy lunch and can avoid the drive thru?
  • Begin eliminating sugary cereals and packaged breakfast foods?
  • Offer cheese, nuts, carrot sticks for an afternoon snack?
  • Eat at home on Friday night instead of going out?
  • Meal plan for the week ahead so the temptation to have something delivered is lessened?
  • Replace sugar with honey?
  • Shop at a local farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce?

These are just a few of the simplest ideas to get you started but everyone’s journey towards traditional eating is going to look different and will happen at a different pace.  And that’s okay!  You may want to spend a week or two journaling your meals, really looking at your grocery list and paying attention to how your body feels after different types of foods.  Those activities may help you to spot trends that will prompt you to action.  And in a couple weeks, I’ll begin to post our own menu so you can get a feel for what simple, wholesome eating looks like.

But here’s my last thought:  whatever you do, don’t feel guilty.  Don’t feel guilty for eating processed food or for having served it.  And don’t be afraid because you’re not sure how to change those habits.  Fear and guilt are the muck and the mire that prevent us from growing and changing in so many aspects of our lives.   Don’t let it hinder you from making invaluable changes to the way you eat.   It all takes time, my sweet friends.   If you’re so inclined, start moving your feet forward.  Try replacing one unhealthy diet habit with one healthy one and give it plenty of time to “stick”, then move on to the next.  Slow and steady, my friends, slow and steady.  Til next time—

 

 

Tools of the Trade – Victorio Food Strainer

“Phineas, I know what we’re going to do today!”—(just Google it if you don’t get that cultural reference!)  While my garden hasn’t exactly flourished this year, I’ve been blessed by several sisters in Christ whose garden HAVE done beautifully and so, it’s been a canning marathon here at our country house.  Look at these big beautiful tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, several varieties of hot peppers, cucumbers, green beans and more…and I’ve never been so thankful!

For the next few weeks, tomatoes are going to be on the top of my priority list.  As my children have grown older and we’ve moved towards whole, homegrown foods, our tomato consumption has gone through the roof!  We eat those babies juiced for soups, canned whole for stews, sauced, as salsa, stewed with celery and sweet peppers, stewed with okra, dehydrated.   As my goal is a minimum of 100qts of tomato products, not counting salsa, anything that will expedite the preservation process is a huge plus!

With 3 bushels of tomatoes in the mudroom waiting to be juiced this morning, I tried several different tools to see which would produce the quickest, best quality product with the least amount of waste and this was my favorite:

Victorio Food Mill

 

Deluxe Food Strainer and Sauce Maker by VICTORIO VKP250

It’s a Victorio Food Strainer….

and you can find them online all day long in the $50-75 range, depending on the model you go with.  Mine was a lucky yard sale find for $5.  Whoot!  Can’t beat that!  Anyway, here’s what I liked best about this particular model:  it has a huge hopper for holding produce, it clamps down securely on your countertop, simple assembly and it squeezes the last drop of pulp and juice out of the veggies without a seed anywhere!  It makes thick, pulpy tomato juice, sauces apples without peeling, and it also has interchangeable screens for grapes, salsa, etc.  To be fair, I tried 2 other strainer/juicers I had laying around the house…and ended up throwing one away.  A good quality, name brand electric juicer was a total mess and the old-style food mill passed seeds without fully straining the peels.  I’ll let you figure out which one went straight into the garbage.

While food preservation doesn’t require TOO many specialty items, it will save you both time and frustration if you use the correct tool for the job.  In my opinion, if you’re going to bother with juicing or saucing fruits and veggies, you’re either going to HAVE a Victorio food strainer or you’re going to NEED one.  Give it some thought, do some research and let me know what you decide!  Til next time—

Save The Tomato Seeds

 

One of the skills our grandparentals practiced was seed-to-seed gardening.  It was a beautiful practice that we have unfortunately forgotten but that I’m encouraged to see gardeners beginning to practice again.  The idea behind seed-to-seed gardening is that you start your plants from your seed stock, allow the plant to mature and then save seeds from the mature plant for the following season.  It’s a simple concept that has many benefits.

1-It’s free!  After you buy or trade for your initial seed stock, you never have to buy it again.  I’m using seed from plants I bought 10 years ago and in theory, should never have to replace that seed stock.

2-You KNOW the quality of your seed.  No questioning whether the seeds were treated or whether the plants were healthy.

3-You’ll have seed perfectly adapted to your microclimate.  If you save seeds from a plant that *thrived* in your location, you can be assured that the seed from that plant will produce thriving plants next summer.

4-You’re protecting a dwindling resource.  It’s estimated that just a handful of companies OWN nearly all the seed stock available globally.  That scares me, because whoever controls the food, controls the people.  Conspiracy theories aside, we’ve lost an estimated 90% of seed species because we’ve given up saving seed.  We can’t bring those species back, but we CAN protect what remains.

So let me encourage you to try your hand at saving seeds.  Today, as we’re in the midst of tomato season, I’ll give you instructions on saving tomato seeds.  They’re one of the few plants that have special requirements in order to utilize the seeds.  Most plants just need the fruit to dry on the vine or stalk (beans, peas, corn, etc) in order to collect viable seeds, but tomatoes are just a bit different.  Not difficult, just different.  Here we go!

First, you need to choose several “perfect” examples of your favorite variety. You want the best possible genetics involved, so pick fully-ripe tomatoes from healthy plants that thrived in your region.  I used a big, homely Cherokee Purple tomato in this picture.

 

Next slice your tomatoes open to access the seedy goo. I’m sure there’s a technical name, but we’ll go with goo. The goo has chemicals in it that prevents seeds from germinating, so to have viable seeds, we need to remove the goo through fermentation.  Don’t get squeamish on me…it’s an easy process and I promise you won’t poison yourself or your family.   Use your finger or a utensil to scoop the goo from several tomatoes into a glass or pint-sized Mason jar.

 

 

Third step, fill your jar 1/2-2/3 full of warm water. You need some headspace, but you also need plenty of water for the goo to float in. Cover the jars with a baggie or plastic wrap and poke a few holes so the goo can breathe. Scared yet?! Now set the jars in a warm, sunny windowsill and leave it alone for a few days.

 

 

So now the magic happens. After you add the water and allow everything to be still, the goo will float. After a few days, you’ll notice white, moldy spunk on top of the water. That’s good news, my friends! After a few more days, you’ll begin to notice seeds dropping out of the goo and laying on the bottom of the jar….those are your viable seeds. Give your jar a little swish, allow the seeds to settle and then carefully pour the yucky water out.  Carefully, friends.  You don’t want to lose viable seed AND you don’t want fermented tomato goo to spill on your clothes!  Trust me!   What you should have left in the bottom of the jar is individual, clean seeds. Carefully pour them onto a sheet of parchment paper or a paper plate and allow the seeds to dry completely.  This could take a few days, so don’t rush it.  If you package damp seeds, you’ll have moldy sprouts in no time.   Once they’re dry and ready to store, put the seeds in an airtight package like a sandwich baggie.  I love the little seed bead bags you can purchase in the craft section at Walmart, but baggies are fine too.  Now label your package and store it in a cool, dark place.

That’s it, my friends!  You’ve successfully saved seed stock for the next growing season.  Now wasn’t that fun?!  Til next time….

Back It Up, My Friend

As you can tell from the past few posts, food preservation is a passion for me.  You know I love gardening, crocheting, beekeeping…all that stuff is great fun, but feeding people, man alive, that’s where my heart is, so I jumped right in with both feet!  Mea culpa!  But now I want to stop for just a minute to offer you some thoughts on why learning/refining these heirloom skills is so blooming important.

At no other point in time has our culture had such access to unprecedented information, but we lack wisdom and motivation to apply that knowledge. We are materially wealthy, but spiritually destitute. We have thousands of Facebook friends but are socially isolated. And at no time in our Nation’s history have we (collectively) been more dependent on government and large corporations for our everyday survival. In so many ways, we’re removed from the very qualities, habits, and practices that our Nation was forged upon.

I often wonder what would happen if we had to face situations that our grandparents and great-grandparents had to face.  Would we be able to survive a Depression? A World War and the accompanying food rationing?  Would we be able to make do with only what we had?  Few could, most wouldn’t.  And that’s frightening to me.  Let’s see what we can do to change that fact and get back to those simple, wholesome practices that sustained cultures for eons:  preserving food, planning ahead, fiber arts, DIY, gardening, building community, reducing waste. 

My hope is to see you develop skills and friendships that will better enable you to provide for your family in an honorable manner. I don’t want you to learn a skill just for novelty’ s sake, but because it will nurture, provide for or protect your family, in good times as well as in times of hardship. Paul has some pretty harsh words for people who don’t provide for their families(1Tim 5:8) but we are so blessed to have examples such as the Proverbs 31 woman, Ruth and Esther to model our patterns of life after.

With that in mind, I want to give you an idea what the next few months will look like. Although I’ll be touching on a variety of topics, the remainder of summer will be heavy on food posts: how to grow it or catch it, how to prepare it, how to forage for it and how to preserve it. We’ll also hit on gardening and perhaps natural cleaners.  This Fall (in a few weeks…yikes!), we’ll transition to “cool weather” information and activities such as quilting and crocheting, cold weather prep, bread baking and frugal holiday ideas.

As always, I welcome your feedback and encourage your involvement. And as always, I hope you will be bold enough to ask for assistance as you begin the process of learning a new skill. My best to all of you.

Dehydrating Produce

While we’re on the topic of food preservation, let’s talk about dehydration for a minute.  Beginning with fresh herbs in May, our dehydrator runs almost non-stop through November, as we dry the last of the orchard apples. Benefits to dehydration: extremely long shelf life, requires very little shelf space, makes quick, nutritious snacks, reduces food waste, adds intense flavor without unnecessary fluid, foods retain fresh “uncooked” flavor….and so many more reasons. Now is the time of the year to find dehydrators cheap at yard sales and excellent prices on food to be dried.  I’ll just give you a quick overview for now and we’ll talk about the specifics later.  There are several ways to go about dehydrating food: in a modern dehydrator, in a low oven, or with screens in a warm, ventilated area.

I’m going to shamelessly plug the modern dehydrator because it’s simplest, quickest and will yield the most dependable results.  Dehydrators range in price from $30 at discount stores to hundreds of dollars for top of the line.  There’s no shame in starting with the $30 version.  It’s missing some of the perks of the “Cadillac” Excalibur-brand dehydrator, but the theory is the same; warm air circulates around food to remove water creating an inhospitable environment for bacteria.  This is my preferred method of dehydrating as it’s practically set-it and forget-it.

My great-grandmother Pearlie used an enclosed porch in her eastern-Kentucky home to dehydrate food.  She’d set up screens (think old window screens) on tables, place the food in single layers and cover with cheesecloth to protect the food from gnats and houseflies.  This was an effective, albeit, time-consuming method that has been used for eons.  All you need is a well-ventilated space, a rack or a screen to allow airflow and some sort of fabric to protect the food from flies.  This method takes the longest and you risk spoilage, particularly during humid, still seasons, but it also requires practically no equipment.

The third method is using an oven on it’s lowest setting for 8-12 hours.  This is the method I’ve had the least success with.  No matter how low I set my oven, inevitably, I end up with scorched food, so I’ll just leave this method alone and you can do your own research.

There are just a couple steps to dehydrate food.

–First, choose the freshest produce available. Rotten fruit will yield rotten results.

–Second, peel (if necessary) and slice or chop to create the highest amount of surface area.   This will allow the produce to dry more quickly and give you more consistent results.

–Third, some many fruits and veggies require a pretreatment to prevent browning and destroy enzymes that could compromise the quality of the dried food. Different foods have different requirements, but typically it’s just a dip in salty or acidic (lemon juice) water or blanching, which is just plunging raw food into boiling water for mere seconds then removing and drying.

–Fourth, put the treated food in single layers in your dehydrator or on screens or racks and process for the prescribed amount of time. The drying time will vary depending on the produce and method used.   Apple slices will take 12-24 hours (in a dehydrator), herbs and leafy greens, mere hours.  When you think the food is thoroughly dry, feel it.  Apples will be firm and leathery, herbs and greens papery, onions and peppers will be hard as little stones.

–To store your dried produce, cool to room temperature and place in an air-tight canister or canning jar. You can also place in sandwich baggies and drop them in the freezer for optimum “shelf” life.

To enjoy the food:  dried fruit can be added to cereals, eaten out of hand or rehydrated with water or juice or stewed.  Veggies can be rehydrated and added to casseroles or thrown dry into soups and stews.  The texture won’t be quite the same as fresh, so plan accordingly.

Here are some links you may find helpful:

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry.html  Very reliable site, lots of how to information as well as recipes. Covers everything from fruit and veggies to seeds and jerky.

http://www.pickyourown.org/dryingfoods.html  Plenty of useful, seasonal information.

http://momwithaprep.com/101-dehydrating-recipes/!   101 recipes to help you use all that delicious dried produce!

Til next time!

Pings of Satisfaction

It was a beautiful, busy day here at the Lynch’s Country House.  After much delay, my tomatoes and green beans have finally begun producing in large enough quantity to can for winter, so this week has been a flurry of string, snapping, skinning, chopping, simmering and sealing.  My friends, if you’re new to the world of canning, there are fewer things as satisfying as the PING of a sealed jar and few things are as simple as water bath canning.  Trust me on this one.

It’s getting late in the season, but let’s just jump into this and talk about simple canning!  Water-bath canning (WBC) is the method for canning high-acid produce (apples, peaches, pears, berries) or for veggies to which a strong acid such as vinegar, citric acid or lemon juice has been added (Ex: pickles, salsa).  WBC is a very simple, very safe method for canning that requires very little equipment and is typically a confidence-building first step into the world of food preservation.

Equipment is minimal.  You need canning jars and a water-bath canner, which is nothing more than a deep pot with a lid and a trivet that keeps your jars from sitting directly on the bottom of the pot.  You can find these new at Walmart or Rural King, or pick them up inexpensively at yard sales.  If you go the yard sale route, inspect the bottom of the canner for holes and be sure there’s some kind of trivet or rack and a lid.  Other necessary equipment is a ladle, funnel, lids and rings and a jar lifter; there’s an inexpensive kit at Walmart that has all these things for under $10.  Once you’ve made this investment, the only thing you’ll have to buy is lids as needed.

By far, the easiest canning recipes are pickles and applesauce.  I won’t give you exact steps, but an overview.  I want you to see that if you are able to cook the simplest meals, you can WBC.

To make pickles, you slice cucumbers, salt them and allow them to sit and “weep” for a short time. This reduces their water content and makes for crisper pickles.  After they’ve wept, you rinse the salt and pack the cucumber slices into pint jars.  The next step is to create a vinegar-based brine, which is nothing more than bringing vinegar, water, salt and (sometimes) sugar and spices to a boil and then carefully pouring it over the sliced cucumbers.  Wipe down the rims of the jars, add the lids (finger-tight) and carefully lower the jars into a canner of simmering water.  Most pickles require 10 minutes of simmering.  Remove the jars after the prescribed time and set on a cooling rack or cookie sheet to cool.  Easy, right?

To make applesauce, you must choose a variety of apples that cooks down to mush.  Certain apples will, certain apples won’t, but it takes very little research to figure out which is the best varieties for sauce.  To make the sauce, you peel, core and roughly chop the apples and put them into a pot with a very small amount of water.  Cook them over low heat until they’re saucy and then sweeten and flavor to taste.  (We love cinnamon and ginger added to ours.)  Ladle the hot applesauce into pint jars, clean the rims and put on the lids.  Carefully place the jars into a canner of simmering water and process for the required amount of time (typically 10 minutes).  Use your jar lifter to remove the jars from the water and let them cool on a rack or cookie sheet.

Seriously folks, that’s all there is to it.   Of course there are a few other small steps along the way that you have to follow, but for the most part, that’s it.  The acid and heat kill any bacteria in the jars or on the produce, and will keep your food fresh and delicious for a year or more.

I DO have one caveat for you: You NEED reliable, up-to-date sources for recipes and instruction.  When you delve into the canning world, you’ll find folks who don’t follow recommended procedures and justify it with comments like “Well, this is how my Grammy did it and she never killed anyone.”   Well friends, my Mamaw smoked the dried beans off Catalpa trees and gave babies whiskey for their colicky tummies and didn’t kill anyone—but that doesn’t mean it was safe.  While modern canning is very, very safe, you must stick to tried and true recipes and procedures or you do risk sickness.  So, after that warning, let me give you some of my favorite books and sites.

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html This is the holy grail for all things canning related. It covers both WBC and pressure canning, as well as other forms of food preservation.  This is a very trustworthy site and you can depend on the information you find here.

http://foodinjars.com  Once you’re comfortable with the essentials of canning, you can find some great, creative recipes and ideas here.

http://pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm#POGhwwwoOkZyLDE8.97– Great seasonal information to be had here.

https://www.amazon.com/Ball-Blue-Book-Guide-Preserving/dp/B00OEJZSNW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494079355&sr=8-1&keywords=ball+blue+book   If you only buy one book, this has to be it. You can find it at Walmart, Rural King or Meijer (seasonally) and it covers everything from WBC applesauce to pressure canning Beef Stew and everything in between.  It covers every single step from start to finish and includes color pictures.  Buy one, my friends!  If you can’t afford one, I’ll share mine with you.

Now, go can something!  Til next time…

The Paradox of Seasonal Living

 

You can count on it as sure as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.  September 1 means pumpkin spice everything.  Facebook will be flooded with advertisements and recipes for pumpkin spice candles, coffee, cupcakes, tea, candies.  And then as dependable as the tide, along comes December 1 and a wave of icy peppermint-flavored confections.  As March approaches, we’re so over peppermint and in its stead, the earliest of spring berries.  They call it seasonal eating.  I call it marketing wizardry.  We have a very narrow, very romantic idea of what it is to live seasonally.  Yes, it involves our palate but the immediacy and the sensuality are pure American distortion.  The paradox of seasonal living is that while your feet are in one season, your eyes and mind are on the next.  Real, true seasonal living is to cling the living hope that the next season WILL arrive, in its order and in its time, just as it always has.

Right now, it’s early August here in Central Ohio, the height of our growing season, but our focus isn’t on the summer garden.  Of course, there are veggies to can and herbs to dry and that will all be attended to, but our focus now is on stacking firewood, airing quilts, thinning the turnips we’ll harvest in November and beginning Christmas gifts.  When December arrives with its all things peppermint and the last-minute scramble to buy the perfect gifts, we’ll be gathered around the fire, snuggled under fresh, warm quilts perusing the seed catalogs that arrive mid-month and dreaming of those first red buds on the Maple trees that mean spring is close.  January and February, we’ll spend our month planting hearty greens in their little starter trays, in anticipation of the March or April thaw.  In March, we plant our tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, because the heat of July will be here soon.  As I said, it’s a strange paradox.

There’s a rhythm and a hope that accompanies seasonal living that goes well beyond the immediate gratification of pumpkin spice coffee in September.  Our bodies crave that rhythm, just as they crave sleep when they’re tired and food when they’re hungry.  Our bodies crave the light, sweetness of spring berries, the cool crisp of summer greens, the starchy warmth of fall pumpkins. We crave seasons of rest, seasons of refreshment, seasons of growth…but it’s the hope of that next season that sustains us.    Til next time, with hope…

Filling The Pantry

We’re in the height of food production season here in central Ohio and already the pantry in my old farmhouse is beginning to fill and fill quickly.  We’ve finished with pickles and jams for the year, and green beans and tomatoes are just beginning to pick up.  Within the next 2-3 weeks, my kitchen will be filled with the constant humming, splashing, clattering, hissing and pinging of full-scale food preservation and I must tell you—I rarely feel more productive than I do during that time span!  There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see my grandmother’s old Mason jars filled with fruits and veggies that will nourish my children through the long, gray winter.  You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy Mason jars—and that’s almost the same thing!

In a normal year, I put up an average of 500-600 quarts of food and in an exceptional year, 800-1000.  It will vary greatly based on what’s left in the pantry from the previous year, which crops my garden grows in abundance and whether I’m able to trade, barter or buy with other local gardeners and farmers.  But that hasn’t always been the case.  I remember very clearly my first pantry; I was 20, living in my little second story apartment and I canned strawberry preserves.  I was never so proud of a dozen Mason jars in my life!  Now with a husband and 2 tweens in the house, those dozen Mason jars of jam wouldn’t last us more than a few weeks, but it set me on a path of planning ahead and using what was available during one season to supply the rest of the year.

And that’s all it comes down to, friends; planning.

There’s exactly one generation between me and family members who survived World War II, the Great Depression, coal miner’s strikes, joblessness, devastating weather…and they survived by planning ahead and practicing common-sense preparedness.  Blessedly, we don’t have to worry about those things so much now.  Now we wonder about rioting, hacking that can wipe out bank accounts, contaminated food and nation-wide recalls.  Having a full pantry of local or homegrown food provides a necessary layer of security in what was, is, and will always be, a topsy-turvy world.  And practicality aside, our grandmothers understood the value of taking a raw ingredient and turning it into a quality, wholesome product that nourished both body and spirit.  We’ve lost that understanding, but we can learn it again!

If you’re new to the ideas of gardening and food preservation and you’re considering taking the plunge in 2018, let me give you a word of advice:  Start thinking about it NOW.

Look at your eating and spending habits and determine where you could make the biggest impact.  Are tomatoes a staple in your home?  Jams?  Pickles?  Does your family eat green beans 3X/week?  Those are excellent places to start your food preservation adventure.  But don’t stop there.  Do you LOVE specialty salsas?  Make your own.  Are food allergies a concern in your home?  Make your own products and eat with confidence!  Do you love giving handmade gifts during the holidays?  No one is going to refuse a jar of your homemade apple butter!  (I once traded homemade apple butter for a treadle sewing machine, but that’s a different story!)

This is also prime time to consider the necessary equipment and education.  There’s a yard sale on every corner this time of the year and Mason jars can be found for little to nothing.  (I pay no more than $3/dozen and frequently far less.)  Farm stores such as Rural King and Tractor Supply will be clearancing their canning supplies to make room for holiday items, so take advantage of those discounts!  Local extension offices and farm stands frequently offer food preservation classes at low cost -or free- and this is also a perfect opportunity to visit your local farmer’s markets to get to know the people growing food around you.  Check the discard bins at your local library for inexpensive canning books.  Order online catalogs to familiarize yourself with the various types of tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers and herbs.  And if you’re going to try your hand at gardening, begin preparing your garden spot by killing off the grass and enriching the soil with compost.  This is no time to be idle, my sweet friends!

I know this may seem like daunting first steps to those who have no experience in gardening and food preservation, but we’re going to take this one little bite at a time.  In the coming weeks, we’ll break each of those bullet points down so you can confidently look ahead to the 2018 growing/canning season.  Til next time!

Hello, You Big, Beautiful World!

Welcome to Learn The Legacy, a place to rediscover the skills that would have made Ma Ingalls proud!  My name is Andrea and I’m on a mission to teach traditional, time-honored, heirloom skills to a new generation.  I’ve always had a passion for the timeless arts practiced by my grandparents but I began refining those skills in earnest in 2004 when I left the work force to become a full-time, stay-at-home mom.  A little 10X20 garden became my contribution to our household economy and as many things do, it snowballed.  Gardening led to freezing, canning and dehydrating, to foraging, maple-sugaring, beekeeping, seed-saving, fiber arts and a myriad of other traditional skills that kept my hands busy while the children were napping.  But a funny thing happened along the way: my mommy friends began to ask me to teach them what I knew.  They wanted to know how to can jam, crochet a hat, cane a chair, grow tomatoes, make soap.  Skills that had been the backdrop of my life were totally foreign to them.

“My people are ruined for lack of knowledge…” Hos 4:6

Somewhere in the past century, we’ve stopped passing down practical wisdom.  Somewhere, our priorities changed and a legacy of invaluable knowledge was lost.  As a result, we have generations of people who don’t know the first step to growing food, creating a warm home, providing shelter and hospitality. (This is in no way a bash on the individual but an indictment on an entire self-absorbed society.)  It’s time to change that, my friends and it’s my desire to show you the way!

My goal is simple:  to pass on to you what has taken me a lifetime to learn!   At Learn The Legacy, you’ll find practical ideas for the home, garden, kitchen, family and craft room.  No pretentious, superfluous projects that require a Masters to accomplish; but wholesome, simple, nourishing, worthwhile skills that our grandparents and great-grandparents would have recognized and approved of.  We’ll talk food preservation in all forms from the basic to advanced, simple DIY, gardening from seed to seed, crochet, cooking and baking from scratch, eating on a budget, self-sufficiency, and whatever other topics happen to trip our collective triggers.  Most importantly, I hope to show you that “it’s no bad thing to celebrate a simple life” – Tolkien

Til next time, my friends!

Andrea

 

 

 

 

Detox For The New Year

 

 

Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a safe and warm holiday last night and that you’re as excited for the new year as I am.  I feel like 2018 has some great things in store for my family and I’m eager to see it begin!

Anyway, I have to confess something to you:  I’ve eaten really, really badly the last few weeks.  Really.  As a rule, my diet is low carb and sugar/grain free, but man alive!, that wasn’t the case this season!  I played pretty fast and loose with holiday meals, indulged in a little too much of my Sweet Petunia’s delicious baklava and by Christmas Day, I was feeling it.  I didn’t gain weight, but I just felt MEH.  Sluggish.  Bloated.  Grumpy.  Frumpy.  Undisciplined.  Unsatisfied.   Does anyone else know that feeling or is it just me?   If that’s your experience too, don’t feel ashamed about it.  It’s so stinking easy to get into that cycle of anticipation and indulgence that it takes real effort to throw the brakes on that cycle!

So here’s my solution:  detox soup.  Now understand me, I’m using the word detox a little differently than others.  I don’t think there’s anything magical about this pot of soup.  It’s absolutely nutritious, full of vitamin-rich veggies, beneficial fats and lean proteins, but it’s just soup.  You may lose a pound or two, may feel a bit less sluggish, but it’s not going to undo months of bad eating overnight.  That said, there’s a reason our Grannies made soup when we were sick, down, overwhelmed or needed comfort.  What I find is that a big pot of simple, hearty soup in the lull between Christmas and New Year’s resets my mind and taste buds and readies me for the return to normalcy.   It detoxifies my mind of constant indulgent food thoughts, reminds my taste buds what plain, home-style food tastes like, and helps to regulate blood sugar, satiety and digestion after the wild ride that was Beggar’s Night/Thanksgiving/Christmas.

The great thing about this recipe is that the variations are endless.  I prefer this version because it’s low in carbs and full of satisfying ingredients that we generally always have on hand…but you can mix it up any way you like:

  • Don’t like collards?  Try kale, cabbage or spinach.
  • Prefer vegetarian?  Skip the meat entirely and substitute veggie broth.
  • If you enjoy grains or beans, throw in a handful of barley or a cup of Great Northern beans.
  • Swap out the Italian herbs for bay leaves for an “earthy” flavor.
  • If you love carb-rich veggies, throw in some carrots or a couple red skin potatoes.
  • If you’re iffy on the sun-dried tomatoes, use a fresh tomato or eliminate them entirely and replace with roasted red peppers, chipotles in adobo sauce or dried Ancho peppers.
  • Top it how you like!  I love a few dashes of green Tabasco sauce, but a dab of pesto, chopped avocado or a few shreds of parmesan cheese would also taste amazing!

Ingredients for Detox Soup

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 8-12 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 4 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 cups yellow squash or zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cups chopped greens (I prefer collards as they hold up to cooking without becoming mush)
  • 2 Tbsp red/white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried basil/oregano/Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon and olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock, then add the cauliflower, collards and chicken. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the squash, green beans, basil and pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the vinegar and season to taste.

These cooking times are a bare minimum to get the veggies tender and the chicken warmed through, but if you want flavors that you recall from Grandma’s cooking, don’t neglect a long, slow simmer! I prepare this soup in my big red Dutch Oven and after the initial cooking time, I set it on the woodstove for the afternoon.  The slow, even heat melds the flavors and creates a rich broth that is so satisfying.  If you don’t have a woodstove, the same results can be achieved in an Instant Pot set to warm or on a back burner turned very, very low.

When I’m detoxing from holiday eating, I enjoy 2 big, hot bowls of this soup each day, along with a fat/protein-rich breakfast and snack.  I also try to eliminate all dairy and my favorite sweets and treats (berries, flavored coffee and pecans, for example).  After several days of eating in this manner, I feel like “me” again.  Instead of craving baklava, chocolate and carb-heavy dishes, my body and spirit are satisfied with simple flavors and healthy treats (like homemade yogurt topped with pecans) .

How do you readjust your body, mind and spirit after the indulgences of the holiday season?