8 Reasons Old Cookbooks Are Important

old teakettles

by Gaye Levy, Backdoor Survival
Reposted with Permission

A couple of months ago I was going through some old boxes tucked into the hidden recesses of my garage and I stumbled upon a box of old cookbooks.  Since I learned to cook long before the age of computers, most of my self-taught efforts came by way of these cookbooks. I started to collect cookbooks in high school and little did I know then what I know now: old cookbooks are important. Continue reading

Cowboy Chili Is Hearty, Homemade Fast Meal

Royal Blue Enamelware Bowls at Lehmans.com

Any soup is tastier in Royal Blue Enamelware bowls. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

Chili is a hot favorite at the Johnson household, but since we both work, time can be an issue. The crock pot doesn’t always get set up on a workday morning, or we’re out of our stash of browned hamburger in the freezer.

But Cowboy Chili doesn’t need cooked all day. In fact, you can whip it up in about an hour. It’s rich, chunky, and scoops up well on corn chips. (I favor the lime-flavored ones made by our neighbors at Shearer’s.) Continue reading

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

Heirloom Ice Cream Makes For Cool Summer Fun

Lehman's Homemade Ice cream freezers

Buckets of homemade ice cream, all made by my family!

Making ice cream for the 4th of July has been a tradition with our family since my mother’s father was a kid. Even though both my grandparents are gone now, their kids are keeping the tradition alive.
We had to push the gathering to July 5th this year, but my mother and 3 of her 5 siblings plus spouses, children and grandchildren all gathered for a family cookout that, as always, ended with ice cream. Because one of my mom’s brothers now lives in my grandparents’ house, we are still gathering at the same house we have been going to for well over 40 years. Continue reading

Our Wandering Cowboy’s “Waffling” Through The West

Pure Mexican Vanilla

Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

One of the best things I’ve been able to do while looking for the perfect cowpony is perfecting my ability to cook various dishes, both on the range and in town.
I put this rich–but tasty!–recipe together on my spring travels, and it’s so good. You can make it in your own kitchen!

Bread Pudding and Waffle Dessert with Walnut or Pecan Ice Cream

Bread Pudding/Custard:
8  large eggs
1  teaspoon salt
2  cups sugar
5   and 1/2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2  pound French bread
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
4  ounces butter, (1 stick), melted

Continue reading

High Octane Oatmeal Revs Up Your Whole Day

We flake our oats right before we cook them.

We flake our oats right before we cook them.

My husband and I agree on most things.  We love the off grid-lifestyle, the hard work and the rewards.  One thing we haven’t ever agreed on is breakfast.  I like eggs; he likes bagels.  He likes cold cereal, even in winter.  I don’t.  Most of the time, we go our separate ways for breakfast.  Except when it comes to oatmeal.

For us, oatmeal is a winter food.   As soon as the cold weather hits, I’ve got my food grinder out with the cereal flaker attached, making fresh oatmeal for him to cook.   My husband is the keeper of the oatmeal.  He cooks it better than I do and it’s a real treat to have him make my breakfast once in awhile.

Cocoa Indulgence Warms Chill Days

The Double Boiler

The Double Boiler will warm your coca gently, with no scorching. Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

It’s snowing again. Great, white flakes drifted lazily at first. Now they are coming thicker and faster and the wind is beginning to blow a bit. One by one, my obligations for the afternoon have cancelled. No one wants to brave the elements if they can avoid it and suddenly I find myself faced with a free afternoon. Time for  music and hot cocoa.

I make a couple of different kinds of hot chocolate. I have a mix that I make in bulk and give away as gifts. It’s quite good, certainly better than any commercial mix I’ve tried, but I find myself hankering for something special, indulgent, something that says SNOW DAY!!!!

Pure Mexican Vanilla

Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

I warm 2 cups of rich milk in a small saucepan (or a double boiler) over very low heat. While it’s heating, I chop of 5 ounces of really good chocolate. Semisweet is too sweet and bittersweet not sweet enough. A mix of the two is about perfect although you can use bittersweet chocolate and add a bit of brown sugar to taste. Add that to the milk and stir until the chocolate melts. Be sure you never let it boil. Just let steam rise from the top. Letting a vanilla pod steep in the milk for a bit is a real luxury but a ½ teaspoon of extract will suit too. I like a swirl of heavy cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

If you are going to go to the trouble of making hot chocolate from scratch rather than spooning a powder into a cup and adding hot water then you should also indulge in a pretty mug. Put your feet up. Turn off the ringer on the phone. Ahhh…. Bliss!

Homemade Sweets For Valentine’s Day!

Sure, there’s still time. All you need is a double boiler, some chocolate, a few well-chosen things to dip into that chocolate, and some patience.

Parchment paper works well as a cooling area/landing pad. You can move the chocolates easily off it once they’re set.

Lehman’s offers two models, the Double Boiler, and the Stainless Steel Double Boiler. I prefer the Stainless Steel Double Boiler because of its squared-off lid handle and three-ply steel lower pan. They’re well matched, though, and choice comes down to small preferences. Continue reading

Put Some Honey In Your Beat-The-Bug Arsenal

Tonn's Pure Honey

Tonn’s Pure Honey is non-pasturized, perfect for infusions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, influenza is everywhere. We’ve had a round of it in our house, and it wasn’t fun. I can’t remember the last time we drank so much hot tea– my poor hubby, who was trying to stay warm, drank it by the gallon, it seemed. I drank it strong and a little sweet, to stay awake if he needed something. It was long week, and we used lots of honey and lemon in the tea.

As he began to feel better, I started wondering how I could do the honey-lemon-tea thing more efficiently. After all, I didn’t want to have to run to the store for more lemons to squeeze every time I turned around twice. So I did a little research, and stumbled on this wonderful tutorial on making infused honeys. Continue reading

Home-Rendered Lard Isn’t Your Momma’s Shortening

Lehman's 65th Cookbook

Lehman’s 65th Cookbook

I grew up with big cans of shortening in the pantry. You know the stuff. It was a white and fluffy, food-like substance, completely devoid of any redeeming characteristic beyond its scary ability to last forever. Lard, I had learned was an awful thing. Rumor had it that lard would land in your stomach and immediately turn it into a solid mass and lodge right in your arteries.

Then a few years ago I read Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, and my relationship with lard was transformed. The timing was perfect as we had just begun to raise our own pigs and I had many pounds of pig fat to render, leaving me with many quarts of gorgeous lard. My biscuits were lighter, my pie crusts perfect. It was a wonderful thing.

We just had our pigs butchered and once again I had six big bags of fat to deal with. Since I had some extra time I decided to run a very informal experiment to see if any one of the three ways I usually render the fat was superior to another. I have rendered in the oven in large roasting pans, on the stove top in a cast iron Dutch oven and in my slow cooker. I will confess that I also wanted to get the job done in one day rather than spread it out over several as we are renovating the kitchen and I had only a small window of time with the kitchen to myself. Continue reading