Our Office SCOBY, Part I

2015-12-17 11.14.13

Fermenting. It’s one of our customers’ favorite old-time skills, hands-down. And we’re so glad to be able to supply the crocks, lids, boards, jars and even books to help you get started. However, while our store regularly has demonstrations and classes on how to ferment your own sauerkraut and kimchi, we hadn’t dabbled too much in the fermenting world here right in our office. Until now.

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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

Sauerkraut, Lehman’s Style

Doug recommends washing cabbage well, and trimming off the limp leaves before quartering cabbages prior to shredding.

Make homemade sauerkraut? Yes, you can! It’s not only delicious, it also contains many more beneficial bacteria, enzymes and nutrients than most store-bought kraut. It’s really, really “good for your gut.” In this article, one of Lehman’s own shows you just how easy it is:

Doug Hamelink’s homemade sauerkraut is a popular dish here at Lehman’s! His wife, Kathleen, is a long-time customer service rep for Lehman’s. Doug has come in to help out during seasonal rushes. They’re definitely part of the Lehman’s family. Our warehouse staff took Doug’s recipe and made kraut last year, using products right off the shelf, including fermenting crocks and stompers.

Doug has been making sauerkraut the old-fashioned way for over 30 years. “When my wife and I moved to the farm back in the ’80s, an older fellow that was a neighbor out there taught me how to make kraut.”

Doug’s kraut is highly sought after here at Lehman’s. He took some time to describe his methods for foolproof fermented goodness. 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

Always wanted to try ___? Start smart with a kit.

Our starter set includes everything you need to make several batches - enough to wash more than 800 loads at less than 7¢ per load.

Our starter set includes everything you need to make several batches of homemade laundry soap – enough to wash more than 800 loads at less than 7¢ per load.

Contrary to popular opinion, it just isn’t possible to make a living selling some honey, maple syrup and candles at a farm stand. I have to do other things — many, many other things — to avoid leaving home and hearth to pay the bills. I do a fair bit of writing and I teach a lot of workshops. Some have to do with my work with children impacted by abuse, neglect and foster care (my other life) and many are focused on teaching traditional skills like soap making, candle dipping, food preservation and making herbal salves and ointments.

I teach classes on how to do these things the traditional way, but I’m definitely not a purist. In fact, I’m a big fan of beginner’s kits. There are all kinds of kits available for all of the skills mentioned and just about any other you can think of. In fact, I got my start in mastering a lot of skills by purchasing said kits. Continue reading

Very Cool Customers … and Their Stories

karen g at may daze

Organic Gardener Karen Geiser enthralls a crowd at Lehman’s May Daze Celebration this past spring.

Organic gardener, author, blog contributor, and mother of five, Karen Geiser, is no stranger to country living. She shares her expert advice with customers just as if they have pulled up a chair on her front porch. . . and all the while shelling peas, pitting cherries, or churning butter (depending on what is in season on her farm). 

We always enjoy hearing about fascinating customer connections that happen in our store. And Karen certainly has the pleasure of interacting with many visitors and hearing their stories!

Here are some recent tidbits she reports:

  • Last week I met folks from Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil (Must have been Latin America day).
  • A fellow from Pennsylvania visits frequently and always tells me about his garlic (which he got from me) that has won several blue ribbons at the county
    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family's Jersey cow.

    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family’s Jersey cow

    fair.

  • This week there were many good conversations over edible weeds – around the table were an herbalist from New Mexico and a family from West Virginia who really knew their plants.
  • An interesting couple from Virginia who has lived off grid for many years visited the store to finally buy the luxury of a gas refrigerator – mainly to have ice. It’s hard to believe they could live without a fridge for so long, and they described how they can their butter.
  • This week a lady said she was there from Robinson, IL because she heard me speak at the Master Gardener conference over a year ago. She had no idea she would run into me, and we had a good laugh together as she told me about the things she grew because I recommended them (like mouse melons). I helped her figure out other places to hit for her first adventure in Amish country. She said some of her girlfriends have visited Lehman’s after the conference, too. 

Stop by Lehman’s on Thursdays, from April through early November to visit Karen and learn from her wealth of hands-on knowledge. 

Growing Great Asparagus

asparagus tipsI’ve been learning a lot about permaculture in the past decade and while I subscribe to many of the theories, I do worry that many people who could benefit are turned off by the intensity of people teaching the subject. You don’t actually need classes or certificates nor do you need to dig up your entire backyard. It’s possible to engage in permaculture just by using plant varieties that will provide a source of food over decades.

One of our most productive, perennial food sources is asparagus. We put in bed in many years ago. Each spring we indulge. We eat asparagus steamed, roasted and chilled with a vinaigrette. When we tire of eating it fresh, we dry some (read on for how-to) for winter soups and pickle some, too. Asparagus is also easily frozen.

How to Start and Maintain an Asparagus Bed

A well-planned, well-maintained asparagus bed will produce every spring for decades! Asparagus needs full sun and should begin in a spot with a rich, sandy loam. It gets tall when it goes to seed, so don’t plant it where it will shade other sun-loving plants. You can start from seed (I have a tray of seeds starting right now) but you’ll wait a long time for your first meal. Most people choose to start with roots. They are usually sold in bunches of 25.  Continue reading

Root Cellar Blues? Time to Make Sauerkraut!

Premium Late Flat Dutch Cabbage

Grow your own cabbage this year! Heirloom seeds available at Lehmans.com

 It has been cold here. It isn’t really out of the ordinary, -10 degrees in January is pretty typical but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. My root cellar doesn’t like it either. It’s a fine dance we do, keeping the door open just enough to keep the temperature above freezing but not so high as to trick the carrots into thinking spring is here and it’s time to sprout.

It is so important to check the food down there. Today I find that I have cabbage and carrots that must be seen to and apples that must be used up. The apples are easy. We love apples and onions caramelized with some butter and maple syrup and poured over pork chops. The cabbage and carrots are going to be fermented. We are kraut crazy around here. I got one of those dandy little air lock tops and lids for my ½ gallon Mason jars and now I can make kraut without getting the brine all over. Bruce bought me a mandoline for Christmas so I’m going to break that in too. I do love my little gadgets!

Triple-bladed cabbage cutter makes quick work of slaw or sauerkraut. At our store in Kidron, Ohio or Lehmans.com.

Triple-bladed cabbage cutter makes quick work of slaw or sauerkraut. At our store in Kidron, Ohio or Lehmans.com.

I cut the cabbage by hand but we love our carrots in slivers and that’s where the mandoline comes in. I make the mixture about 1/3 carrots and 2/3 cabbage. For 2, ½ gallon jars of kraut, you need about 5 pounds of vegetables. It can be any mixture you like. I sometimes add a bit of garlic, some beets or Daikon radish if I have it. Today it will be straight cabbage/carrot. 5 pounds of vegetables will need three tablespoons of salt. It is really important to use good salt. It should be coarse and not iodized. There are so many lovey salts to choose from, some pink, some grey, but I have made many a jar of kraut with just kosher salt. I put my salt in a bowl and sprinkle as I go so the salt is fully incorporated. As you put the cabbage/carrot mixture in the jar, tamp it down tightly. This helps draw the water out of the cabbage and creates the brine. I use the wooden reamer from my old-fashioned food mill. You have to really push it down. Once the jars are full you should start to see the liquid rise to the top. You should re-tamp the kraut every few hours. If, after a day, the brine has not covered the vegetables, you can mix a tablespoon of salt to a cup of water and pour it

Himalayan Pink Salt: Rich mineral content makes it pink. Ideal for fermenting. In glass jar, 18.6 oz.

Himalayan Pink Salt: Rich mineral content makes it pink. Ideal for fermenting. In glass jar, 18.6 oz.

over the top. This happens if the vegetables are older as they simply have less water in them.

Now let the kraut sit in a cool place to ferment. I check it every few days. You will see a bit of scum on the top. Just skim it off. It won’t hurt the vegetables as long as they remain submerged. The warmer the spot, the quicker the fermentation will be. When you reach the right level of tang for you, refrigerate your kraut and enjoy.

The brine is full of healthy lacto-bacillus. If your stomach is feeling iffy a table spoon is a great tonic.

Happy New Year!

From all of us at Lehman’s, our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

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