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 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

Rabbitry, Part 2: Step by Step Guide to Tan an Animal Hide

Old Hickory Skinning Knife

Old Hickory Skinning Knife

In this article, the author discusses how she’s using the skins of the rabbits she butchers for meat. This article may not be appropriate for all readers.

My adventures in livestock this past season means that I have four sheep hides and four rabbit hides in my basement, waiting for their opportunity to be put to use. I have tanned two rabbit hides so far, with varying success, but I thought I’d add to the many voices online that explain the hide-preserving process.

There are several methods of tanning hides—you can use bark from trees, high in tannins; you can use acid to pickle the hide; or you can use a “brain-tanning” method, which is what I have been doing. The key in the whole process is to take the skin of the animal, which is perishable and will rot, and preserve it by keeping bacteria away and keeping it soft and supple.

Step by Step Guide for How to Tan a Hide:

Ball Preserving and Pickling Salt

No iodine or additives. Ball’s Preserving and Pickling Salt is ideal to help preserve skins. Available at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio

  1. Get the hide off of the animal. If you skin the animal while it is still warm, you should be able to remove the skin with your hands—it is attached only by a thin nearly-liquid membrane called the fascia.
  2. Spread out the skin and flesh it. If you’ve removed the skin using hand power rather than knife power, you’ll have very little flesh left on the skin—mostly just a layer of membrane. When I do a rabbit hide, I spend about half an hour going over the hide with a spoon and making sure any membrane I can get off is off. That helps in the future suppleness of the hide, since membrane left on the hide can harden to a bit of a crust.
  3. Salt the hide. This is an important step, and one I didn’t take seriously at first, for preventing bacterial growth. I lay out the fur, flesh side up and fur side down, and spread non-iodized salt liberally over the whole thing, making sure every bit of the flesh side is covered. The salt will draw out moisture and make the environment inhospitable to the kinds of organisms that would want to eat the hide. (Salt can be re-used, too.)
  4. Let the hide dry for at least a couple days. A rabbit hide should end up dry enough to stay flat when you pick it up. However, a salted hide can stay that way for months and months—it will be preserved and nothing will eat it as long as it stays dry. It just won’t be nice supple leather until the following steps.
  5. Scrape off the salt and soak the hide in fresh, warmish water. Don’t remove the hide from the water until it is soft everywhere.
  6. Tan Your Hide

    Tan any home-raised animal hide! Available at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio

    Squeeze the water out of the hide and stretch it in every direction. The skin is made up of overlapping and intertwining fibers that go every direction, so in order to have a supple finished product, we need to make sure that the hide gets stretched in every direction.

  7. Mix a solution of egg yolks and water. For a rabbit fur, I use one egg yolk and about a half cup of water.
  8. Rub the egg yolk solution into the softened hide. The oil from the egg yolks is going to keep the hide soft, when it coats all the fibers in the skin. The water is just the vehicle for getting it to penetrate the skin.
  9. Work the hide—that is, stretch it in all directions—until it dries. You’ll start by squeezing any excess egg solution out, and then you’ll stretch it, bit by bit, with your hands. Rabbit skin is very thin, and it’s easy to tear holes in it.  It’s not the end of the world—your first tanning is always an experiment. The hide is dry when it is no longer cool to the touch—it’ll take several hours, and is more quickly done close to a heat source. If you stop stretching the hide before it is completely dry, it will end up hard and not supple.
  10. Re-egg as necessary! The great thing about tanning is that it’s fairly forgiving. If your end product is hard, just do it again and incorporate what you’ve learned into the second time around.
  11. Smoke the hide. Once it is soft and supple, your hide is finished but not weatherproof. Smoking it creates a chemical reaction that will preserve it much better in the long run.  You can smoke the hide over a smoky fire with a skirt around it.  (Disclaimer: I haven’t done this part yet. I’m waiting for spring and a big batch of hides to smoke them all at once!)

So there’s hide tanning! In my experience, you can read about it all you want online, but in the end it makes the most sense to just try one. Once you’ve tried, you will understand the textures that have been described, and the pitfalls. Jobs that involve hand work are best learned by hand work. And when I have access to hides and a willingness to learn a new craft, there’s no excuse not to do it!

The Aladdin Lamp: An Emergency Essential

Aladdin Emerald Lincoln Drape Oil Lamp

Aladdin Emerald Lincoln Drape Oil Lamp

One of our merchandise department folks sent this piece along to share how he and his family used their Aladdin lamp to get through the recent “polar vortex” cold snap. (And they’re using them again this week, ’cause it’s still cold!) He’s an expert on Aladdin lamps, and you can use his tips for your lamps too!
                                                                               –Karen Johnson, Editor, Country Life

The view from Lehman's offices: the cold weather keeps the snow around.

The view from Lehman’s offices: the cold weather keeps the snow around.

I live in northeast Ohio and we just came through one of the coldest spells in Ohio history. Temperatures dipped to well below -10° F with wind chills hovering around -30° F. In the course of one 24 hour period, temperatures dropped from 45°F to -8° F. Ouch! Today the temperature is 16° F and it feels warm.

Of course these drastic temperatures were accompanied by power outages, lack of pressure in natural gas lines and other calamitous incidents where things broke or didn’t work as intended. As a result, many people were, perhaps, not “left out in the cold,” but “in the cold” nonetheless.

As I watched some of these people huddling together to try to stay warm with no light and no heat while being interviewed on TV, I felt sorry for them, and the thought occurred to me that, all they really needed was one Aladdin lamp and their cold and light problems would be over. I’m sure you’re incredulous. An Aladdin lamp? Really? It’s true, and I’ll tell you why. Continue reading

Apples Everywhere: Cider, Slices, Sauce & Juice

Worth the investment! Cider presses are available at now.

Worth the investment! Cider presses are available at 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