Lactofermenting for the Time-Challenged

Stainless steel bowl available at Lehmans.com.

All the root veggies are washed well, not a speck of soil remains. Then they air-dry. Use a colander, or spread on your counter on a clean dishtowel. Stainless steel bowl for photo spiffiness only! (Lehmans.com has ’em.)

Alrighty then, it’s that time of year. The garden is starting to really gear up and I have more produce than we can eat before it goes bad. My plan for filling the pantry with wholesome and delicious foods that have less than 5 ingredients, none of which came out of a lab, is working.

Pickling for people disinclined to boil vinegar
So, what is a girl to do with all this bounty?

I know, I’ll lacto-ferment it all. I like lacto-fermented veggies, so does the hubbin, and I really actually find cutting up veggies to be enjoyable. I’m weird that way!

And as a completely unrelated bonus, lacto-fermenting things is so incredibly easy that even I can’t mess it up. Though I thought I had and threw out the first batch I ever made: more on that later.

Lacto-fermenting is what creates sauerkraut, kimchi and cocktail onions, to name some of the more commonly known results of the process.

Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation at Lehmans.com

Make your own healthy, pure lacto-fermented veggies, vinegars, pickles and more! Pick up The Art of Fermentation now at Lehmans.com to get started fast.

It is a bacterial process, utilizing critters that are present in any environment that has not been completely sterilized (it will not work in outer space, so those of you reading this from the Mir Space Station, sorry, try it when you get back home), so yes, when I first got into this process I had to get over my germophobia and embrace the little things (metaphorically speaking). It’s similar to the fermentation that creates alcohol, just with different microbes.

Which brings me to examine exactly how one goes about lacto-fermenting, rather than creating carrot booze accidentally.

We want to attract the right kind of microbe, so we have to create the right kind of environment. Think of it as very, very small game trapping, because the microbes are all there, hanging out together. We want to encourage the lactobacilli, while discouraging the yeasts (alcohol) and other things that would spoil our food. Continue reading

In a Pickle…and Those Darn Tomatoes!

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It's available now at Lehmans.com.

Perfect Pickler: large size fits your 1 gal to 2-1/2 gal wide mouth jar; small size fits your 1/2 pt to 2 pt wide mouth jars.

Beyond Pickles I have always made a lot of pickles. We eat something pickled nearly every day. Pickled beans and beets are our favorites with carrots and cauliflower nearly as popular. We like bread and butter pickles too but by now, last year’s are are getting a bit soggy and nobody likes a soggy pickle. Lately, I have been making a lot more lacto-fermented pickled than traditional canned pickles in brine. We can make a ½ gallon of pickles and eat them over the course of a few weeks and then just make up another crispy batch. The process is really simple too. All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board and some ½ gallon jars. Almost any vegetable can be fermented although a few things don’t appeal to me. I have tried pickled greens and found them, well…odd is all I can say about them. Continue reading

How Do Canning Jar Lids Work?

Canning JarsHow Canning Jar Lids Work Canning jar lids work by forming a vacuum seal during processing. The sealing compound on the lid sits against the jar and forms the all-important seal with the screw band holding it in place.

As the food in the jar is boiling during processing, oxygen is pushed out of the jar. As the food cools the lid will be sucked down and the rubber seal will form a tight seal keeping out air and protecting the food from any further contamination until the lid is removed. Standard canning lids are not reusable. The screw band part can be used over and over but the flat lid is a one-time use. After use the sealing compound will become indented which might interfere with a new seal. Continue reading

Why Buy It When You Can Grow It?

Bull Nose Bell Pepper Seeds - Sweet

Bull Nose Bell Pepper Seeds – Sweet

There’s all kinds of information out there about eating organic foods, avoiding pesticides, and generally, having a good idea about what you’re eating, and what happened to your food before it gets to you.

Sometimes, the information makes a run to the grocery sound like a trip to a chamber of horrors!

How can you be absolutely sure you’re doing the best for your family?

Grow it yourself. Even now, when June’s only 24 hours away, it’s not too late to get some (organic) plant starts or seeds, and get growing!  Continue reading

Molly Made Her First Maple Syrup!

Backyard Sugarin' Book

Want to know more about gathering sap and making syrup? Try Backyard Sugarin’ from Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

The Origin Story
I’m a self-employed stained glass artist, hippie, geek, freak, and hands-on type person.  I just bought a new-to-me house after years of apartment dwelling, and because it was a foreclosure, I had received a “you must fix immediately” list from my friendly neighborhood insurance company the minute I closed on my new abode.  The list was long and non-negotiable. But that list is inadvertently responsible for my lark into maple syrup making.

Item number 3 on their “Fix immediately” list was “tree trimming”, and in the midst of pruning a rather stately specimen, my partner and I noted that there was liquid coming from the pruned branches, similar to the amount one sees from a drippy faucet. Thank goodness for Google and smartphones, because we established within a few minutes that the tree in question was a sugar maple, and that another variety of maple was also on the property.  I read that any maple can produce sap for maple syrup, but that the sugar content varies by species.

Since I tend to find domesticity that results in stuff I can eat a rather cool concept given my self-employed artist status and hippie tree-hugging ways, I thought it would be nifty to try making maple syrup, especially if I could find the supplies to do it  around the house.  I mean, I can’t remember phone numbers for squat, but prices on food? Sheesh… I know how much maple syrup costs, and with the aforementioned (and expensive) list of “must fix immediately” decided that beyond the novelty of it, maple syrup making would be pretty cost-effective in terms of the time invested.  Continue reading

Is “Oven Canning” of Dry Goods a Safe Way to Preserve?

Freezer Storage Container boxes

Airtight freezer containers are equally at home on the pantry shelf. In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Have you heard about ‘canning’ dry goods to ensure long-term storage? Today’s piece comes to us from The Ohio State University Extension in nearby Wooster, Ohio, and deals with that very topic. OSUE’s Linnette Goard, Associate Professor/Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family and Consumer Sciences, tells us below how to handle long-term storage of staple goods safely.

First, let me say that “oven canning” is not a safe way of preserving our food.  According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, “oven canning can be dangerous because the temperature will vary according to the accuracy of oven regulators and circulation of heat. Dry heat is very slow in penetrating into jars of food. Also, jars explode easily in the oven.” Continue reading

Homemade “Fast Food”

Ball Blue Book

The Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving. Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio. (Want one now? Click on the photo. )

During the summer months, I do a lot of canning. We have been fortunate that the garden has done well for the last 2 years. We thank the horses for that!  They keep us in clean, organic fertilizer. With the abundance of produce, I have had the opportunity to experiment with canning partial or entire meals. We try not to buy processed foods. I try to make everything. Condiments, sauces and everything else.

Meal Bases

We canned a lot of stews (vegetarian) and soups last summer in anticipation of these cold nights when I would be just too exhausted to cook. I packed stew vegetables and broth in jars with seasonings and pressure canned them. Squash, beans, potatoes, carrots, corn, and peas all went into the jars. If desired, for a more complete meal, pasta or beans could be added when the jars were opened. We made pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, salsa and spreads along with the usual pickles, kraut, jams and jelly.

When canning vegetables for stew, I don’t typically use a recipe. Since it’s just vegetables and seasonings, it’s pretty easy. Using a pressure canner, just about anything can go in.

Essential Glass Pie Plate

Essential Glass Pie Plate, available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

We don’t eat meat and although I know meat is often canned, I don’t know about canning it with vegetables. I think I would prefer to add it at the time of cooking.

When making soups for canning, I don’t use very much water. Making my soups really thick and then adding a jar of water when cooking means twice as much soup when it’s cooked. I sometimes use recipes just as a place to start. I like the Ball Blue Book of Preserving for that. It’s full of information on canning, freezing and drying food as well.

Dessert

What about dessert?  If I could make pie filling and can it, then we would have fresh pie in the winter, without much fuss at all. Apple seemed like a good start. Most of the recipes call for cornstarch. Canning cornstarch just doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. So I made my pie filling without it. A note on the jar to add the starch when I make the pie keeps me from having a very runny pie.

Proper Preparation Pays Off

Now, it’s finally winter. There are the normal chores, but I am also writing again and taking some online classes. I’m really busy and often too tired to cook. Those soups and stews are coming in handy and so are the desserts. Yesterday, I made an apple pie. Using the usual crust-lined cast iron skillet, I heated the pie filling and added the cornstarch. I filled the crust and baked it for 40 minutes. It was easy and fresh!

Although we grow a good garden and have a lot of canned food, we still purchase some fresh vegetables during the winter. We always look for sales and purchase a little extra to go into the freezer. Usually it’s vegetables I didn’t grow, like eggplant or didn’t grow enough of, like bell peppers. I found red bell peppers on sale last week and made roasted red peppers, packed them in canning jars, added olive oil and a little garlic and froze them.

I cook a few times a week. Always making more than we can eat, we freeze the leftovers so that we don’t have to eat the same thing for days. Freezing meals really helps out around here. Frozen “fast food” allows us to have more variety in our diet and keep a good supply of winter “comfort food” like sweet potato soup and chili. Freezing Canning Jars

I’m sure most of you know this, but I only found out this year that some canning jars can be FROZEN! (Click this list to see if your jars measure up. Not all jars are freezer safe. –Editor)

I pack our leftovers into jars and into the freezer they go! This keeps those canning jars in use all winter long. The LIDS* can also be re-used for freezing. I know they can’t be reused for canning, but now we get more than one use out of them by freezing them!

Since we try to reuse or repurpose as much as possible, this was a huge discovery for me!  I don’t have a big freezer, but the jars seem to fit better than other containers and there is a lot more food in my freezer. In case you didn’t know, here are the Ball/Kerr jars that can be frozen-

  • 4, 8, or 12 oz. jelly jars.
  • Wide Mouth Pints or Pint and a half- (I think they are 24 0z).
  • Don’t freeze the regular mouth jars or the quarts.

Pre-Mix Baked Goods

Another really good way to keep those canning jars working in the winter is to store pre-measured dry ingredients for cake, bread, cookies or other baked goods. I mix the dry ingredients for a few items and store them in canning jars on the shelf. Then when it’s time to bake, mix in the wet ingredients, add the dry mix and bake. It’s as easy as getting it out of a box, but it’s all homemade goodness. Canning jar lids can be reused here, too.

Just about any food can be made into “fast food. ”  It can be canned or frozen or prepared and stored. It does take some extra work, but it sure pays off in good, healthy meals that can be prepared quickly and easily. It takes the pressure off when there’s no time to cook. That’s important to me. Besides, we live 35 miles from town and we work here, at the ranch. That’s 70 miles to go to pick up a pizza.

Nobody delivers.

*Lehman’s doesn’t recommend using standard lids and bands in the freezer. Plastic Storage Caps for Canning Jars are safe for use in the freezer or refrigerator.

Use Up Those Leftovers…Can You Find ‘Em All?

Glass Bakeware with Storage Lids

Glass Bakeware with Storage Lids

We are just finishing a kitchen update, just as I get the urge to settle in, hunker down and nest up for the coming winter season. The wallpaper and paint was dingy and faded and the windows had long needed replacing. The panes were still the wavy, mottled glass used in the 1800’s and so inefficient that frost inside was an everyday occurrence.

Large, easy to read outdoor thermometer

Giant Wall Thermometer will let you know when baby, it’s cold outside. Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, in bronze or gold.

My husband pulled out the old windows and installing triple paned models that are already making the kitchen warmer. Together, we’ve spent hours stripping wallpaper, and now Bruce is busy making a paneled piece to sit on the bottom of the walls while I search for paint in the right shade of blue for the top.

The only other change we are making is replacing our very old refrigerator with a much more efficient model. I’m making a resolution now to keep this one more organized. It occurs to me a lack of organization is responsible for more wasted food than any other single thing.

I could weep for all of the times that a bowl of pasta or package of carrots got lost in the back of the refrigerator and found only after it became too foul for anything but the compost heap.

I am not just throwing away money when that happens although I am doing that; what I am also doing is throwing away life’s energy and the gifts from our good earth. It’s sinful to me and I am determined to do something about it. Continue reading

Talking Turkey About Raising Turkeys At Barefoot Farm

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman's guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman’s guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

We’re Not All Martha Stewart
It’s tempting, when you read a blog post, to believe that the farming life is all fun and accomplishment. Who, after all, is inclined to write about their mistakes and disappointments? Well me, for one. If I only wrote about my successes, I would run out of material in the first week.

Here’s the truth of it. A whole lot of my life is just one disaster after the other. I may write about digging parsnips but I’m not going to waste a lot of ink on how many got eaten by voles. I will tell you about making cheese but not spend a lot of time on the many times my efforts fed the pigs rather than people. And don’t get me going on the fruit. My strawberry pictures were gorgeous but I’m not posting the pictures of the joys of trying to get the row covers on in the wind.

So when I tell you all about the pleasure of canning turkey and how good it tastes and how convenient it is to have all the lovely jars filling up the shelves in my pantry please know that there is more to the story than a lovely afternoon in the canning kitchen. Continue reading

Apples Everywhere: Cider, Slices, Sauce & Juice

Worth the investment! Cider presses are available at Lehmans.com now.

Worth the investment! Cider presses are available at Lehmans.com now.

We live in one of the most apple-rich areas of the country. The back roads are lined with abandoned apple trees and the state forests often have old orchards where apples are free for the picking. Bruce and I put in a small orchard 8 years ago and our own trees have begun to bear fruit too, so it seemed only sensible to add an apple press to our wish list of tools and equipment. But alas, the price seemed beyond us for a sturdy one that included an apple crusher as well as a heavy duty press.

Eventually, we teamed up with three other families and bought a press to share. It has turned out to be a wonderful experience for all concerned. Because we have the sheltering summer kitchen with electricity and running water, the cider press is there year-round, ready to go. Continue reading