4 Ways to Eat Like a Farmer

canned tomatoes- ball jars

As a vegetable farmer, all season long I’m confronted with too much abundance — it’s absolutely overwhelming. In winter, though, it can feel like the opposite if I don’t prepare. So the question for me is, how can I manage the abundance of summer so that I can enjoy it into the winter?

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The Ultimate Fast Food: How to Can Meat

Pressure canning is the only method recommended safe by the U.S.D.A. for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and fish. Our pressure canners are the highest quality and a lifetime investment. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Pressure canning is the only method recommended safe by the U.S.D.A. for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and fish. Our pressure canners are the highest quality and a lifetime investment. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

I was chatting with a friend the other day about the price of food and the busyness of canning season. She confessed that she has been wasting a lot of money on take-out food as she has kids in several sports and spends a lot of time on the road. She said that, while she applauded my dedication to food preservation she could not see herself as ever having the time. That’s so interesting to me because I see food preservation as the biggest time and money saver in my life. Continue reading

Everything But The Squeal: Rendering Lard

rendering lard1

When you raise your own animals for meat you develop a special relationship. We provide the best forage and food, abundant fresh water, shelter from the elements and respect. We know the butcher and participate in the processing of the meat and we use every bit of the animal possible. What doesn’t feed people feeds other animals or our soil. We use everything but the squeal. Continue reading

How To Can Venison (and other wild game)

Pressure canning is the only safe way to can venison and other meats. Find the right sized pressure canner for your household at Lehmans.com.

Pressure canning is the only safe way to can venison and other meats. Find the right sized pressure canner for your household at Lehmans.com.

You’ve had a successful hunt. You have carefully field dressed and cared for your meat. The choicest cuts are wrapped and frozen. Tenderloins are just waiting for that perfect marinade. Jerky has been seasoned, dried and ready for snacking on the next outing.  So what else is missing? Home canning.

There are several reasons I have grown to love canning the venison and elk that my guys bring home: Continue reading

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5 Skills Your Grandparents Had – And You Should, Too

sock darner

A sock darning ball makes it so easy to repair socks or gloves. Slide the large end of the “ball” end into the sock to support the area needing repair.

Talking to my grandmother is always enlightening, but especially so when she speaks about living through the Great Depression. She was the baby in a family of seven children and has many memories of those hard times. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” is an axiom that has stuck with her for 85 years, and a good reminder for all of us Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Gen Y’ers, Millennials and so on.

Generations ago, almost everyone had the following skills and many, many more. Some will save you money, some are eco-friendly, some are healthier for you and almost all will come in extremely handy in an emergency or power outage. Here are a few simple ways to start doing something with your own two hands, today.  (Your grandparents would be proud.) Continue reading

Water Bath or Pressure Canners: What Works for You?

Ball Blue Book Food Canning Guide

Ideal for beginning or experienced home canners–The Ball Blue Book has the best and most up-to-date home food preserving information. Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

When folks new to canning start out, one of biggest questions asked is this one: which kind of canner should I use? And the answer most often heard is this one: “Well, it depends. What are you canning?”

As frustrating as that might be, that fuzzy answer isn’t out of line.

It really is important to know what you’ll be canning. Depending on the acidity level of the food, different processes and methods are used. Continue reading

3 Signs You Might Be A Canning Addict (Which is a GOOD Thing)

It started out so innocently. A glut of tomatoes, so many that I was feeding them to the

Our Amish-made Water Bath Canner holds a whopping 15 quart jars or 27 pint jars! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Our Amish-made Water Bath Canner holds a whopping 15 quart jars or 27 pint jars! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

neighbor’s pigs and giving them away to total strangers, led me to my first experience with canning. An elderly friend from church let me have dozens of jars she no longer needed and showed me the ropes. We used an old speckled canner I found at a tag sale. I will confess to a bit of trepidation the first time I opened a Mason jar of sauce and fed it to my family. I watched anxiously for signs of food poisoning. But…nothing happened. Well, nothing but a newfound sense of power. It occurred to me that with a small handful of seeds and a bit of land I could feed my family delicious tomato sauce all year long.

squeezo

Made in the USA for almost a century! Squeezo All-Metal food mill, at Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

1. Scavenging.
After that I was unstoppable. I scavenged every yard sale and swap meet I could find for jars and canning equipment. I got a Squeezo and a second canner. I bought my first canning guide (The Ball Blue Book) and then a second and a third. The shelves in my pantry groaned under the weight of diced tomatoes, applesauce, raspberry jelly and pickled beets.
When my husband questioned my habit I assured him I had it under control. I didn’t buy anything I didn’t really need and nothing that wouldn’t end up paying for itself many times over.

2. You’re canning MORE than just sauce and jam.
Then we got chickens.

A neighbor was moving and offered us his flock laying birds provided we would also take his roosters. There were three of them, old and mean-tempered and good for nothing but freezer camp. The problem was that I had no room in my freezer as it was just past harvest. The same friend who taught me the finer points of water bath canning offered to show me how to can my roosters. She had the equipment and goodness knows I had enough jars. I’ll skip over the part where mama learned to butcher a chicken and get to the fun part.

I was lucky. My friend actually knew about canning safety. Not every old-timer does. Some people are still water bathing meat for three hours and thinking it’s enough. It isn’t. All low acid foods like meat and vegetables need to be pressure canned to prevent the deadly disease, botulism.

I was nervous, much more nervous than I was when I canned the tomatoes. It took hours

Pressure canning is the only method recommended safe by the U.S.D.A. for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and fish. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Pressure canning is the only method recommended safe by the U.S.D.A. for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and fish. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

to go through the whole process of canning using equipment that looked like it was about to launch to outer space, complete with dials and whistles and whooshing steam, but at the end of that long day I had jars and jars of gorgeous chicken bubbling away in golden stock. Two days later I opened a jar, thickened the broth with some cornstarch and added poultry seasoning and more pepper, then ladled the steaming chicken over a bed of buttery mashed potatoes. We finished that meal by sopping up the remains of the gravy with slices of bread. I don’t believe I have ever eaten a better meal. The chicken was moist and tender and best of all, it was a breeze to throw together after a long day of farm chores.

If I was crazy about canning before, now I was a canning addict. I canned stew beef and sausage patties, potato chunks and ham soup. I canned soup stocks and chili beans. I realized that my weekly shopping trips slowed to monthly and I was spending less and less on each trip. After Thanksgiving I bought turkeys at bargain basement prices and canned them all up.

3. You need an extra kitchen.
Eventually, I outgrew my kitchen and my husband, a huge canning fan himself now, built

Find books about canning, preserving, making cider, sauerkraut, root cellaring, dehydrating and MORE at Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Find books about canning, preserving, making cider, sauerkraut, root cellaring, dehydrating and MORE at Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

me a dedicated canning kitchen out by the garden, complete with running water, a propane stove and electricity. I spend many a happy hour out there, listening to music, reading one of my newest canning books and listening to the comforting sound of hissing steam as I prepare the food that will nourish my family for the next year.

I started out with dozens of jars. Now I have hundreds. I have switched from metal lids to reusable plastic ones (they really work!). I have a ½ dozen canners and books. Do I have books! Information is critical, and I want the latest and the best. Canning has grown from hobby to vocation as I now teach canning classes across the country. Am I an addict? I guess I am … but this is the best addiction ever. I am able to feed my family great food for far less than supermarket prices. I support my local food shed and I spread the word every chance I get. Canning is cool!

One-Skillet Farmstead Breakfast with Canned Potatoes
What would a canning piece be without a good recipe? Just plain boring. It’s all about the food.

Every year I can up several loads of potato chunks. I peel them, pressure can them and

Delicious bacon in a can is so convenient! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Delicious bacon in a can is so convenient! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

wait for a cold morning when my husband is clamoring for something hot and satisfying when he comes in from morning chores and the kids are extra hungry.

In a large cast iron skillet, fry up a pound of bacon. After the bacon has released some of its fat, add a diced onion. Just before the bacon gets crisp, pour off most of the fat and add a jar of drained potato chunks. Make sure they are drained well. You don’t want any liquid hitting the hot fat in the pan. Stir until the potatoes start to brown. Add in ½ dozen well beaten eggs and stir until the eggs set. Grate some sharp cheddar cheese over the top and let it melt. You will not have leftovers.

Eat Local All Year: Plan Now for Preserving Season

It’s easy to eat local in Massachusetts in August. Sweet corn, vine ripened tomatoes, tender green beans, creamy milk and abundant eggs make consuming local food a treat. canned cherriesBut come the dark days of January, that local diet is a lot harder to manage. That’s what food preservation is all about. You take what’s cheap, plentiful and delicious at the peak of its freshness and preserve it for later use. Preservation is all about manipulating the environment of food so it retains its goodness for months or even years.

Food has a lot of enemies. Microorganisms (mold, yeasts and bacteria) are enemies of food. So is physical damage (one bad apple really will spoil the whole bag). Enzymes that cause food to ripen don’t halt their work when food is harvested. They continue to work until that lovely cantaloupe becomes a sodden mass destined for the compost heap. Food preservation works by controlling the temperature (freezing and root cellaring) removing moisture (dehydrating) or killing mold, yeast and bacteria and then protecting from further contamination by removing and excluding air (canning). You can also change the environment of food by adding salt, sugar or vinegar. Continue reading

Riding Out the Storm

Unless you live in a cave, you are by now well aware that the Northeast was pounded by KathyHsnowa storm last week. It was a whooper if you live near the coast, a doozy if you lived a bit inland, and little more than a nuisance for those of us in the Western-most regions. There is a lesson to be learned from the hit-or-miss pattern of snow and wind, and that’s that the forecast models are not precise. Weather people do a good job, but you really never know.

Always, just in case, we take storm preparedness seriously. I find that is far better to have things ready that I don’t need than it is to need something major that I don’t have.
The preparations begin with water. We can manage 10 days without power for water. Even so, it isn’t something we can afford to waste, especially if the power is out for a long while, and many more people than usual have to access the water supply form the main Continue reading