Fall’s Deep Cleaning Solution

Black Bucket

Inside or out, The Black Bucket does the hard work! At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Every season, we deep clean at our house. It’s mainly because I have allergies, and because we share our space with four cats. (Yes. It gets interesting.) One of the best cleaning “solutions” I use is one that my grandmother and my mother taught me: a solution of water, vinegar, and baking soda. It’s easy to make, and I put together enough for a day’s work–a couple of gallons all together. It doesn’t really “keep”, so make it every time you need it.

Generally, I make it in a plastic bucket. Granny always said not to use a metal bowl, because it might discolor both the paste and what you’re hoping to clean. Only mix this in plastic or non-reactive glass or ceramic.

It works well on hard plastics like porch furniture, outdoor toys, and pool toys too. We used it on vinyl screens too. Don’t use it on metal screens–the vinegar can promote rust! I speak from personal experience here…and replacing a few metal screens in my time. Continue reading

Tomatoes: Keeping Beyond Canning

The quality you want from Lodge, in a great preseasoned steel skillet! In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

The quality you want from Lodge, in a great preseasoned steel skillet! In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Try these ideas

Since tomatoes are the number one most popular vegetable for the home gardener, most of us find ourselves with a glut of them before the season is over. Canning takes care of a lot, but sometimes we can’t even give them away fast enough once they get into production mode. When that happens, it’s time to think seriously about what to do with the excess.   There’s always the compost pile, but who wants to waste a good tomato?

Frozen Green Tomatoes for Frying

If you like fried green tomatoes, it’s a simple fix to freeze them for later. Slice them uniformly just as if you were going to fry them, then dip them in whatever mixture you like. Lay them out on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and freeze until they’re firm. You can then put them in freezer bags or containers and remove them individually when it’s time to cook them. Don’t let the tomato slices thaw before frying, but place them quickly into a hot, oiled skillet. They will taste as fresh as if you just pulled them off the vine – a real treat on a snowy winter day!

Making tomato sauce with Roma

Roma Food Mill in action at Galen Lehman’s place. Get your own at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Frozen Tomato Sauce  If you have a lot of tomatoes and want to can tomato sauce or make ketchup, but can’t stand the thought of adding even more heat to an already hot summer’s day, puree your tomatoes and get them ready to make sauce, then freeze the puree until the warmth from the stove will be welcome!   When you’re ready to can, thaw the sauce and cook it down until it’s ready and that’s all there is to it. If you don’t want to can it, cook it down first and freeze it in one or two cup portions.

Cookie Sheet

Neutrally non-stick, our recycled steel cookie sheets works hard for you in the kitchen! At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, and at Lehmans.com.

Freeze Whole Tomatoes  But don’t freeze them in a lump that you have to hammer apart when you only want one or two. Instead, remove the skins (or not, if you don’t mind them), core and place on a wax paper or parchment paper covered cookie sheet in the freezer until they’re solidly frozen. Remove them quickly and put in freezer containers or bags, then you can simply use as many or as few as you need.   Since tomatoes thaw and then reheat quickly, just plop them into your stew or soup or leave in a dish long enough to thaw for other purposes.

5 racks, food dehydrator

Electric food deyhydrator works for fruit/veggie leathers too. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

Still have more? Sun dried tomatoes are a specialty, but you can make them easily. They are exactly what they sound like: Dried in the sun. A dehydrator is excellent for this, but you don’t even need that. A flat surface that can be protected from insects–a cloth will do it.

Slice the tomatoes thinly and uniformly, place them where they won’t touch each other and leave in the sun, covered by a cloth until they are leathery to crisp. (Keep your cloth in place with clothes pegs or binder clips!) Store tomatoes in a closed container, and keep in a cool, dry place. Check them now and then as they tend to absorb moisture. If they do, you can redry them in the sun, or dry them out again in the oven. Use a very low temperature, leave the door open and watch them so they don’t burn.

You can even dry tomato “leather” to use as sauce in cooked dishes. Make a puree of the tomatoes and cook it down as much as you can to speed the drying process, then spread it on a leather dehydrator sheet. This is a solid sheet, usually of plastic that won’t let the liquid seep through. Use a plastic sheet over a tray in the sun if you need to, but it will take longer than a dehydrator or sun-drying sliced tomatoes.

When the leather is finished, you can store it in sheets, break it up or pulverize it in the blender for a tomato bouillon of sorts. Be aware that if you pulverize it, it will turn hard after awhile. A little cornstarch mixed in well before storing will prevent that.   Don’t waste even one of those precious globes that you worked so hard to grow!

 

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

Farmer Hannah Sees Low Impact, High Return With Olive Oil Lamp

Make Your Own Olive Oil Lamp Kit Large for Pint Jars

The 6-pack Large Make-Your-Own Olive Oil Lamp Kit fit pint mason jars, and are just like Hannah’s. Also in Small (half pints) and Votive sizes. At Lehmans.com.

I am constantly in a quest to see what I can produce to satisfy my own needs and wants, rather than relying on an outside source.  I try to use an ethic of intention rather than of convenience.

A lightbulb with a switch is certainly a convenient thing, and I use them a lot.  Of course, I try to only keep lights on in rooms that I am occupying, and then only enough to do what I need to do. If I’m cooking or cleaning and using a large space, I need more light than if I’m sitting in one spot and reading or writing, for instance.

When I saw Lehman’s olive oil lamps, though, I was intrigued.  Maybe it was the fact that all you have to do is put a wick in a mason jar with oil, which satisfies my “make-do-with-what-you-have” sensibility.  I was intrigued enough by the idea to obtain a kit. Continue reading

Sweet Tea Concentrate Kicks off Holiday With A Bang

Limited Edition Ball Collectible Green Jars

Any quart canning jar will do for your tea concentrate, even the new collectible green jars from Ball. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

Our guest blogger, Sharon Petersen of Simply Canning, has passed along the best idea! She makes sweet tea concentrate, so she can always serve her family fresh, cold iced tea. It’s so easy that we’re wondering why WE didn’t think of it before now!

Her recipe:
1 quart boiling water
1 family sized tea bag or 2-3 regular tea bags
2/3 cup sugar
Dump the sugar into a quart canning jar, and pour the boiling water over it, so the sugar dissolves. Pop in the tea bag (or tea bags), and let steep to the strength you like.

Cover the jar, and store the concentrate in the refrigerator.
To serve: Pour concentrate into gallon pitcher. Fill with ice water to make one gallon. Stir well.
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

Blogger Kathy And Family Break Free From Plastic Bags

The Ecobags Shopping Tote is 19"Wx15-1?2"H, made from recycled canvas, and is available at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

The Ecobags Shopping Tote is 19″Wx15-1?2″H, made from recycled canvas, and is available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Plastic bags are ubiquitous in the United States!  We use 100 billion plastic bags each year. That number is too large for me to wrap my mind around. The retail industry spends $4 billion on these bags. That’s an awful lot of money for something that generally lands right in the trash stream.

Less than 3% of plastic bags are recycled in the USA. Plastic bags are petroleum products. Producing this volume of bags contributes to air pollution and energy consumption. It takes 1000 years for a polyethylene bag to break down. It’s important to note that bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means they break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits. Once they contaminate the soil or waterways they enter the food chain where animals consume them. This contributes to the endangerment of many at-risk species. The reality is that 1 billion seabirds and mammals die each year because they consume plastic bags. It’s a  slow and painful way to die. Right now, fewer than 5% of US shoppers take advantage of reusable bags but we can change that. Continue reading

Celebrate Dairy Month: Whip Up Some Neufchatel!

Making Cheese, Butter and Yogurt Book

Over 10,000 years of cheese making (plus butter and yogurt making) wisdom is contained in this bulletin. Outlines in detail everything you need to know – from equipment and ingredients, to pasteurizing your own milk, to great recipes for fresh, wholesome, delicious dairy products you make right in your own kitchen. By expert cheesemaker Ricki Carroll

Ricki Carroll Home Cheesemaking from lehmans.comKathy Anderson is an enthusiastic cook, and always enjoys a challenge. “Cream cheese,” she said. “How hard could it be? It’s a soft cheese, so the most it’ll take is time.” Below, she shares her adventure, step by step, including how she handled the purchase of a major ingredient! (She’s lucky: her Brownsburg, IN-area dairy delivers to her door!)

Prep: March 31, 2014

I ended up determined to try Neufchatel recipe from Home Cheese Making. I had intended to make Cream Cheese, but somehow had spaced on the fact that I was getting milk, not cream. Since I had the milk, I went for Neufchatel, which is make from milk rather than cream, although the finished texture is similar to cream cheese.

  • Received two gallons Pastures Delights Dairy raw whole milk:
    One gallon from 26-Mar-2014; one gallon from 30-Mar-2014.

I had no pot large enough for two gallons of milk, so I decided to experiment.  I would make two batches of identical cheese, with the only variable being the milk’s date.  From here on:

  • “Silver” refers to the batch prepared in the stainless steel pan, with milk dated 26-Mar-2014.
  • “Orange” refers to the batch prepared in the orange enameled cast iron pan, with milk dated 30-Mar-2014.

 

Process

  • 6:15 p.m. – Set both pans on heat at setting 5 on my stove, a medium heat.  Stirred both pans frequently to distribute heat.
  • 6:26 p.m. – Silver over 80°F; probably 87°F at the highest.  Removed from heat and continued to stir to bring down temperature.
  • 6:27 p.m. – Orange batch at 81°F.  Removed from heat.
  • Cheese starting kit: mesophilic and thermophilic starters, rennet powder, wax, more.

    Lehman’s Cheese Starters and Supplies pack includes mesophilic starter and rennet. See more at Lehmans.com.

    6:30 p.m. – Both batches at 80°F.  Added to each:
    1 packet Mesophilic Starter
    1 tsp. Rennet, mixed from 3 drops Concentrated Vegetable Rennet dissolved in 1/3 cup cool water.

  • Stirred to mix.
  • Placed both pots in oven for safekeeping. (We have two cats and two dogs, one of which is a Great Dane mix. Conveniently for him, his head is counter height. This is not so convenient for us.)

April 1,2014

  • 6:30 a.m. – Checked both batches.  They didn’t look “like yogurt” as specified in the recipe, so I let them sit.
  • 5:44 p.m. – Checked both batches using an offset frosting knife.  Thickness and texture looked good.

 

  •  Set up for draining:  Cut ½ piece butter muslin for each batch.
  •  Carefully ladled slices of Silver curd into butter muslin in mesh colander.  Noticed that in addition to the curd being amazingly opaque and creamy-looking, there was a noticeable yellow layer on top.  Maybe because the milk was of such good quality, there was extra butterfat?

Splitting the Batches

Turns out ½ piece butter muslin wasn’t close to having enough capacity for a 1-gallon batch where you end up with 100% soft curds instead of cut curds!  The batch filled the colander to the brim, and I didn’t have enough overlap to pull the corners up and start draining.

  • Second set up for draining: Put ½ piece cheesecloth in large red baskets so remaining curd could drain.
  • Transferred Silver curd till it filled the red basket.  This left barely enough slack in the butter muslin to create a hanging bundle, using kitchen twine.
  • To keep consistent, repeated the entire process (put everything into butter muslin; then transferred part to red basket) with Orange curd.

Tied hanging bundles to kitchen cabinet handles, placing bowls beneath to catch whey.

  • Placed baskets in oven for safekeeping, set on a baking sheet to catch whey.
  • 9:26 p.m. – Had over 1 gallon whey, including the baking sheet being full and hard to move without spilling.  Collected all whey into large pan.

April 2, 2014

  • 6:36 a.m. – Had 1.75 gallons whey.  Collected all whey into large pan.  Didn’t like how hanging batches were draining; they still seemed very soft.  Cut them down (left bundles tied) and placed the bundles in mesh colanders set over bowls to catch the whey.

 

  •  6:00 p.m.: Unwrapped all batches. Tested texture and moisture by scooping out a spoonful of each batch.
  • Texture, best to less optimal (all were still excellent):
  1. Orange basket
  2. Silver basket
  3. Orange hanging
  4. Silver hanging
  • Transferred all batches to individually labeled containers.
  • Stirred hanging batches (individually) to try to equalize texture.  There were still lumps; probably need to whisk them.
  • Collected all whey for final time.  Total was a bit more than 1 ¾ gallons.  Will use on plants.

Weighing and Tasting

Orange basket:  1 lb., 2 7/8 oz.  (18.875 oz.)

Taste test, orange curd basket batch.

Taste test, orange curd basket batch.

Silver basket:  1 lb., 3 ¾ oz.  (19.75 oz.)

Taste test. Silver curd drained only.

Taste test. Silver curd drained only.

Orange hanging:  1 lb., 8 1/8 oz.  (24.125 oz.)

Taste test, hanging batch, orange curd.

Taste test, hanging batch, orange curd.

Silver hanging:  1 lb., 4 ¾ oz.  (20.75 oz.)

Silver hanging curd batch, finished in colander. Taste test.

Silver hanging curd batch, finished in colander. Taste test.

Total weight:  5 lb., 3.5 oz.  (83.5 oz.)

  • Orange batch total:  2 lb., 11 oz.  (43 oz.)
  • Silver batch total:  2 lb., 8.5 oz.  (40.5 oz.)

I tasted all batches.  Other than texture, the only difference I noticed was that the basket batches were less tangy, perhaps from having less whey remaining.  All batches were tasty.  My favorite for both taste and texture:  Orange basket batch.

Conclusions

  • Fresher milk (4 days younger) did have a higher yield.
  • Recipe estimated yield was 2 pounds per gallon, so I imagine the high-quality raw milk is responsible for the significantly higher yield than the recipe estimate.
  • This recipe (and maybe all soft-curd recipes?) benefits from going into a basket/colander directly instead of being hung first.
  • No point in cutting butter muslin or cheesecloth into smaller pieces, unless to line very small molds.
  • Tasty and awesome!

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

Not-Quite-City-Chickens 1: Birds Flourishing In New Homesteader’s Care

Blackie and Rampage push the cat litter box around like a toy.

Blackie and Rampage push the cat litter box around like a toy.

Lehman’s fan Brianne and her partner Eric are in their second year of not-so-urban homesteading at their place 20 minutes from downtown Fayetteville, NC.

The young couple is proud of the progress they’ve made raising chickens.

“Last year was our first year with the chickens,” said Bri. “They needed a new home, and we had the space. Eric and I rebuilt a hand-me-down large chicken tractor for them, and we took apart old computer monitors, using the casings for roosting boxes, and tossed in a huge pet crate that the girls just love.” Continue reading