Sauerkraut – Thrifty, healthy, and how Daniel eats his greens.

WP_20160327_016

Sauerkraut I think is one of those things that you either love or hate…like so many things in life. We happen to love it but were beginning to be disappointed with the shelf stable jars and in no way were we interested in purchasing the live krauts that can be found in health food stores for a pretty penny. Cha-ching I think not!

I tried making sauerkraut in a large glass crock once before and all seemed to be going well until mold developed and it smelled like death and was infested by fruit flies. I almost got turned off of fermenting right then and there. I had chopped 20lbs of cabbage, packed it, added enough brine, I thought I had a good seal on that glass crock but alas, nope.

THEN I discovered that it is possible to make small batches of raw, LIVE sauerkraut and so that is how I have made it since the zombie sauerkraut fiasco and until I get a suitable fermentation crock

Recently one of the local supermarkets had cabbage for 14c a pound so I bought two heads and here is how you make small batch sauerkraut for the refrigerator OR if you have a cold storage pantry/cellar.

(You can also actually can the jars but this then kills the beneficial probiotics so I almost would prefer to store my whole cabbages in a cellar or underground pantry and then make a few jars fresh as needed).

  1. Gather these things:  One (about 1lb) cabbage, canning salt, canning jars and lids, 1tbs, sharp knife, chopping block. That’s it. Wait, I lied, a canning funnel helps too.
  2. WP_20160327_016Thoroughly wash the outside of the cabbage to avoid transferring bad bacteria from grubby people touching it when you cut with the knife.
  3.  Quarter, core, and slice to 1/4 inch thick to make ribbons of cabbage.

    4. One head of cabbage filled two bowls. Sprinkle 1.5tbs of the canning salt between the cabbage and gently toss and massage to get the salt worked through the layers. WP_20160327_025

5. Let the cabbage sit at room temperature. The cabbage will begin to sink down in the bowl, it will look shiny from the moisture drawing out, and water will pool in the bottom. The salt is drawing water out and this is the sauerkraut brine. This takes maybe one hour.WP_20160327_027

 

WP_20160327_028

See the water pooling?

6. Begin packing the cabbage into the jars once a good amount of water has leached out, about 1.5 hours. Use a spoon to pack those cabbage strands tightly into the jar. The brine will begin to rise to the surface of the cabbage block.

7. I ended up needing one quart, and one pint jar. You could use 3 pint jars. If there is not sufficient brine risen to the top to COVER the cabbage after packing the cabbage confetti in the jar, make up a brine of 4 cups water to 1.5 tbs salt to top it off a little. You can then use a fermentation weight on top of the cabbage to weigh it down OR use a reserved piece of core. You will throw this out before storing and eating your sauerkraut. WP_20160327_046

8. Put the lids on and let sit in a dark cupboard for about a week or two until the desired tang has been developed. You can burp the jars every other day or so to prevent the fermentation gasses from building up and exploding Eu De Cabbage everywhere.

When the sauerkraut is fermented to your liking, store in the fridge to slow the fermentation process and eat!

 

There you have it…3 pints of sauerkraut for about $0.15.

I had about 1lbs of cabbage, and 1.5 tbs canning salt. The jars I always have on hand for canning and don’t factor those costs. I consider my jars the same as having plates.

But you can reuse a store bought pickle jar.

P.S This is how our son who does not like the texture of fresh cabbage will actually gobble up cabbage!

Advertisements

Sad Strawberries – When you are lured by a good deal but they are just plain crap.

WP_20160328_004

Look at those pasty, bitter, sadberries disguised as early summer Strawberries…pfft.

We have all done it and if you are like me you haven’t learned your lesson either. You walk into your grocery store and see swathes of bright red and fragrant strawberries. You pick up box after box inspecting the carton for any that look moldy, soft, gooey, or pale.

They all look pretty good, they smell good…and they are priced at such a good deal it must be an early season glut.

WRONG, they are priced so cheaply because they are pathetic excuses for strawberries and they taste bitter and terrible.

There, I said it. They taste BAD.

For me, this happened 2 days ago. $0.99 for a pound of seemingly good berries. So I bought – TWO boxes, yum yum…hah, wishful thinking. As soon as I cored the first one, they were basically all white inside, not the rosy rich red of a REAL strawberry.

They were hard. Grainy. Flavorless, and yet still managing to be very astringent.

Obviously the answer to sadberry syndrome is to grow your own since there is NOTHING in this world like home-grown, picked when actually ripe, pesticide free strawberries. But we are in the middle of moving house and I have none of my own growing.

But what do you do if you cannot grow or have been lured into buying a crap box of sadberries?

THIS is what you do…

A.) Make a jam and concentrate those traitors down with some sugar.

OR

B.) Macerate them until they are bearable as BELOW:

WP_20160328_006

  1. Core and quarter the sadberries.
  2. Sprinkle with 1/4tsp black pepper (yes, I’ll get there…)
  3. Toss in 2tbs of Balsamic vinegar (I use Raspberry Balsamic).

The black pepper enhances any trace of sugar actually present in the fruits and the balsamic does the same while also drawing a little water out and so concentrates the sugar that might be lurking in the fruit. SIMPLE. You could of course douse them in actual sugar or honey but this is a little better for you and you can save the honey for other treats.

There, you can turn disappointing, aggravatingly sly, tasteless sadberries into something tolerable so that you don’t waste them.

WP_20160328_007

Your next step, is figure out how you can grow your own strawberries. I think almost anyone can grow them at home since they do very well in containers as well as wild ground.

They are also initially cheap to start a patch or series of containers.

Here are the ones that I am ordering for our new house http://www.starkbros.com/products/berry-plants/strawberry-plants/all-summer-long-strawberry-plant-collection I have grown all 3 varieties at some point of another and they do well even in our dry high desert in zone 8. This collection comes with Honeye Strawberry June bearer, Ozark Beauty ever bearer, and Sparkle June bearer. These plants will give you a steady supply between them over the strawberry season…and they are $18.16 for 75 plants so I think that is an amazing deal.

Keep watch in the coming months for when I not only order my strawberry plants but also order other  start up seeds, trees, canes, and roots for various fruits and vegetables for our homestead. I will link up with my YouTube with videos of planting and maintenance…and later harvest and storage – and yes, even cooking.

So that is my tip for improving store bought strawberries that are just a bit, nay – a lot – crap and a source for a great price on berry plants. Don’t need 75? get a few friends together and split the cost for a SWEET DEAL.

 

**My blog is not yet monetized nor do I benefit from posting links to items that I buy/prefer/or plan to buy. The items featured on my blog are what I genuinely see value in**

Taking the Leap…House Hunting!

As a military family, we have been too scared to try to buy a house for fear of being relocated. So, we made do with rented homes…and for 13 months, our travel trailer!

Here are some pictures from the gardens I have grown in the two homes we have rented while at our current duty station.

FIVE YEARS have passed at this duty station and a re-enlistment. Due to my husbands job, there are two other bases that he could get sent to…one is a 4 hour drive away and the other about 8 hours.

So yes, we took a huge leap and decided to buy a property to call our own. Who knows how long we will be here wasting money on rented homes and so we did it.

It is scary.

We spent a few weeks hunting and found a home and if all goes to plan it will be ours mid April

**so good vibes will be appreciated!**

Now, what if he gets orders? THAT is a very scary and dreaded concept now we actually decided to start being adults and buy a home. If he gets the base 4 hours away, he would live there in our camper for the work week (remember, we lived in it before) since he would only be ‘home’ to eat, sleep, and bath. He is quite content with that. Since we do not see much of each other during the work week, he would come home for the weekends so that we would not be forced to SELL or RENT the house out. He can also pick up home cooked meals on the weekends to freeze, home canned items, and garden food.

But HOPEFULLY that won’t happen…and especially hopefully he won’t get the base 8 hours away because we would likely have to rent or sell – lets just not go there ok?

Our PLAN is to make as many extra PRINCIPAL payments we can each year and the big hope is to pay off the mortgage quickly so we 100% own it and will always have that.

BESIDES – do you know how much interest we could avoid by living modestly now instead of stretching a mortgage over 30 years? It was over $70,000 in interest lost compared with paying it over 8-9 years.

Of course this only works if you chose a home below your top end budget so you aren’t extending yourself. But for US, a huge priority was being mortgage free as quickly as possible so we have the FREEDOM to have a home that 100% is ours, we can sell it and own all the equity, or we can rent and bank on it if we decide to move elsewhere.

It will be a thrifty and spend conscious time but we will have much more security  later on and choices if we own our home. It is lucky we enjoy “simple” pleasures like camping, hiking [shed hunting, scouting, foraging], hunting, fishing….because we won’t miss more spendy activities in favor of paying the mortgage down.

Plans aside though, it is still scary. 

So stay following us on Old Soul Homestead because I will be not only sharing our homestead journey and the tasks and skills associated but I will ALSO be sharing ways to be thrifty. Thrift and Homesteading go hand in hand really, especially when you are first starting out.

          www.thewarinmykitchen.com                          boomergirlsguide.blogspot.com

After closing day, I will share what we were looking for in a homestead, roadblocks that needed investigating, and resources that are available to you as a Homestead hunter.

Do you have a house hunting story to share? Comment below.

If you like my posts so far, please do follow:

 

Vanilla Cookies – Internet down and Library is Packed!

12400669_10209240475747838_8856396543293927139_n

Winging-it Vanilla Melts

My name is Amy and I am a book-aholic. I have a huge thing for reference books.

Normally when my husband asks for something sweet, I pull one of my books and bake something. BUT, we are moving out of our rented house and ALL of my books are in storage.

So the internet would be my second choice, but it was acting up. GAH! I need a cookie recipe!

The pioneers and homesteaders of yesteryear would have had “receipts” of hand written and often family recipes – or – they would have applied their knowledge of other baking skills to what they needed and hoped for the best. That is exactly what I did this afternoon.

Some would say “winging it”, I call it “creative inventiveness.”

This is what I came up with from my head and it turned out great. It is somewhat like a sugar cookie but more chewy and melty than a traditional sugar cookie. I think this one is going to be one I enter this year at the fair. I was quite pleased with myself. But not pleased with how many I ate…

Makes 18

Ingredients:

  • 5tbs butter, softened.
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, scraped of seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

Method:

  1. Cream butter and sugar until smooth, beat in egg and vanilla seeds.
  2. Gradually incorporate flour and baking powder and coconut milk.
  3. Wrap dough in film, refrigerate 30 minutes.
  4. Roll to 1/4 inch thick, use a canning jar to cut circles. Use white sugar to roll with, this gives the cookies a crust.
  5. Bake at 375F for 11 minutes on a lined cookie sheet, no need to grease.
12189532_10209240475707837_1243713686843346650_n.jpg

A crackle crust, slightly chewy, and they kind of melt in your mouth too.

A Hairy Dog and My Hand Craft Fetish

THIS is Moose and you will likely see a lot of him in my blog posts and later my YouTube videos. He is a Mummy’s boy and is always hanging around wherever I am.

11988405_10208256228142263_4945115735682705426_n

His weekly shedding…yes…year round.

In January 2011 we decided we wanted a dog…well, I decided and my Husband agreed we could go “look”. Well, we went to the animal shelter in the next city since we were shopping for a bed (oh yeah, we had moved from England to New Mexico about a month beforehand) and in among a whole mess of adult yapper type breeds was “Rover”.

He was a distinguished little guy, sat bolt up right with his floppy ears to as much attention as they would allow and his little tail wagging across the floor. All the chaos of the yapping and he was silent and had those big brown eyes that just looked honest.

We took him home that day.

166240_1843072235446_5588623_n

8 weeks old and helping to unpack the house.

Potty training was a breeze, took him to the door one time, went outside one time, praise for pottying…one time. Lesson learned. He learns tricks and skills VERY quickly.

Since he is a rescue we are not 100% sure of his breeding and have never got around to getting the doggy DNA kit but his Mom was a Shepherd mix. She had been found stray and then her puppies were found. She had prolapsed and sadly did not survive but Moose was the last of her puppies to be re-homed.

From all the research, I think he is part German Shepherd mix, part Great Pyrenees…and here you will see why…

 

He has FUR for days. I brush him a few times a week and get handfuls of soft, downy, under coat.

I use a brush like this:  Carding Brush #308  [http://www.amazon.com/Newhouse-Specialty-Co-Carding-Brush/dp/B004YES258/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1458676958&sr=8-1&keywords=dog+fur+carding]

So my thoughts now, as a lover of knitting, crochet (and general hand crafts) I started thinking what a waste it was to keep tossing that silky, puffy “wool”. Often I would throw it outside much to the delight of the local birds.

This is a thrush of some kind, I am not too familiar with all the local birds even after 5 years in this state but I will find out for sure. They made a mud and stick bowl on this ledge and then lined it with his fur that they found in our yard.

As of today 3/22/2016 they have one egg. {I did not touch the nest at all to take these photos}

So I got to thinking, the birds select his fur for their nest linings because it is warm and soft…much like angora….

AHA! I am going to start collecting his brushings and attempt to spin the fur into yarn.

Watch this space for more posts on this subject later on and perhaps a video on my soon to be YouTube channel.

Comment below if you have ever used dog fur for spinning, what spindle/carding brushes/needles do you like to use?

11905779_10207769901784408_4189790714200271987_n

Oh…we also had a 3 month old baby!

 

 

So you want to Homestead…

produce My FIRST harvest. Not particularly spectacular; a deformed bell pepper, a few radishes, some super bitter sun scorched cucumbers, just two ears of corn that had maybe 30 kernels pollinated…but the cherry and pear tomatoes were gorgeous! It wasn’t much but to me it was a huge deal and was the high that led to be literally addicted to gardening.

Since I was a little girl I have wanted a home farm so I cannot really remember when I first thought – hey, I want to homestead – but after getting married I knew that homesteading was going to be my goal and I am just very lucky that I have a spouse who supports the madness and actually wants in on it too… provided there are fresh tomatoes for as much of the year as possible!

11424757_10207221017902654_5121941254151902711_nSometimes they don’t turn green before the cold but thanks to the Southern states we can make pickled green tomatoes if we don’t make them fried.

So what do you do when you want to be a homesteader? Well its not often an instant endeavor and it is a lifelong learning process. You may be in a city with only a balcony, you may live in an apartment but near enough to a community garden, the suburbs may be where you call home or you may already live in the country. It doesn’t matter where you are, there are SO many things you can learn and do wherever life has you right now.

In no particular order, here is a list of things that you can do to nourish that Old Soul of yours:

  • READ – I can not over emphasize enough how truly valuable your local library is. They will have all manner of books that can teach you skills and history. Our local library has a ‘local’ section where we can find books specific to our area such as managing the soil or growing a particular cash crop. One of the books that I loved so much that I bought is The Encyclopedia of Country Living [Emery] . 517s6+KwtLL._SX383_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

  • RRR (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) – Our ancestors would have been outraged at the amount of packaging and “throw away” fashion or appliances we have today. But we don’t have to be driven by the consumer nature that seems to be normal for our times. Reduce how much you put into the landfill by using something as simple as a cloth bag for your groceries or switching from paper towels to washable rags. Reuse or re-purpose before you throw something out such as keeping condiment jars for storing spices or dried fruit in. Recycle by turning a felted woolen sweater into boot cuffs.glass-255281_960_720

[Image https://pixabay.com/en/glass-glasses-bottles-255281/]

  • COOK – Now I understand that everyone schedules differ but you will get immense satisfaction by making at least one meal a day from scratch and if you have this homestead bug then you probably do this already. This could be as simple as foregoing pre-flavored oatmeal in favor of making your own from plain oats and adding fruit and nuts to it yourself or it could be as elaborate as never buying anything that is not a whole food (raw and in it’s natural state).

11855751_10207651905034563_6919084175842897675_n

  • GROW – Get your hands dirty either in containers on your balcony and grow some herbs OR turn your lawn into a food garden (local covenants allowing). While you are learning, getting your thumbs green with a few containers will teach you a lot about gardening even if you don’t yet have an actual in-ground garden.

485492_10201401444416954_1645691733_n

  • YOUTUBE and BLOGS – there is a plethora of knowledge out there and book knowledge is only one level. Find some YouTube speakers and Bloggers that cover topics that you are interested in because personal experiences can fill in what reference books miss. Historically we would have learned skills from family and neighbors but many homestead skills are being lost and so like-minded people can be your internet ‘family’ and we can learn a lot from our peers.

 

So there are my first tips to stoking that homestead fire in your heart and you might have noticed that the key theme is knowledge and practice.

The more you know before trying to go whole hog the more comfortable you will be. The wonder of homesteading is that there IS so much to learn but if it is something you have passion about then it is not a chore.

Learning and practicing SKILLS will be the key to success on your homesteading endeavors and the more you can learn on the way the better equipped you will be.

Plum Jam and Saying Goodbye.

That first taste of rich, sweet plum jam from a spoon – because who had time to make toast before enjoying the taste of summer. Not just any summer either, an English country summer with the crisp smell of fresh cut grass, the subtle warmth of the mottled sun through the trees, and the sound of doves and robins as your great grandmother calls you in for cake.

Nanny Green always had a tin of cake or biscuits at the ready and whenever we went to visit you never left hungry – EVER. She was a lovely, kind, warm lady of whom my memories are few but never fading. I was 5 when she passed away and I remember my Nan bringing round a couple of things from her house. An old egg cup for me to keep and a jar of Nanny Green’s plum jam. Nanny Green you see raised children through the war and was still of the mind set to make your own and put things up. That last jar of plum jam with luxurious flavor from something so simple will never be beat nor replicated.

When somebody makes something from scratch I believe part of them stays with it – their essence, love, and honesty. That last jar of her plum jam, the jam you could eat from the spoon, was a bittersweet treat and  a last hug of her love and I remember when Mum told me it was gone.

At age 5 I vaguely understood death. I knew that we would never see Nanny Green again and it was clear that that last jar was the last, but only the last made by her hands for you see – when our ancestors pass on they are never gone entirely. I can’t speak much on spiritual terms but I do believe that when they pass away they are only really gone if we fail to remember them and although Nanny Green’s plum jam is over 20 years in the past, her legacy is not. Nanny loved to cook and showed her love for family with her food and that passes on through generations. My Nan cooks, my Mum cooks, and now I cook. I teach our sons to cook.

One day I will have a plum tree and finally get around to making plum jam just like Nanny. Now, I have canned a lot, and I mean a lot and have even won county fair ribbons for some of my canned goods but as yet I have not been able to bring myself to can plum jam because nothing could shine a light on Nanny Green’s and especially not store bought plums. So when I make it, it will be from our garden and from my kitchen just like hers and a piece of her will shine on as I enjoy that jam in her memory.

Consider your ancestors recent and past and repeat history by learning a skill they had and it will bring you much closer to your heritage as well as enriching your everyday life. 1009685_10201998255016846_47614296_o

The Homestead Heart

“You have such an Old Soul.”

A phrase I have heard quite a few times from various people; teachers, elders, my peers. What does that even mean anyway?

I suppose when you sort of fit in -yet don’t – because you love people but not everything about people. When you are somewhat a loner but value some good visiting time with a select few people. When you love everything about the past yet you were never there in the flesh, only in spirit. When you are fascinated with history but not from the textbook viewpoint but from the raw living side of history whether that be your grandparents era or many generations before.

People say that reliving the past is a bad thing but how can getting back to our roots ever be bad when it brought us to where we are today. Modern life is just a scratch on the surface of what has made us who we are and frankly the modern world does not impress me as much as the trials and tribulations that our ancestors endured. Sure I appreciate some modern things; modern medicine to some degree is wonderful and in others is a dubious step forward, modern transport is convenient but to what cost,  modern agriculture provides and abundance of food and yet still so many are malnourished while being obese, and modern telecommunications brings us to blogs like this and near instant access to knowledge but can also open us to time wasting, danger, and fraud.

So what could be so bad in stepping back in time to appreciate the simpler things in life? Homesteading is one way to do just that and it creates a mindset of reverence and appreciation for what we have and what exactly it takes to get what we need or want. If you have an old soul you will be drawn to old time skills, tips, wisdom, and past times and I hope that you find that here as I share our family journey to homesteading.

Homesteading is in the heart and it can be found in the inner city or the wide open country. It can be found in the business woman in the city who bakes her bread from scratch or the stay-home dad who grows a garden. It doesn’t matter where you are, homesteading is in your heart and here we can explore various aspects and experiences that will hopefully appeal to your homestead heart and old soul.