Author Archives: Wilson Foedus

About Wilson Foedus

WilsonWilson grew up learning how to cook from scratch from his Italian Nonny, which sometimes meant he couldn't sit on the vinyl slip-covered furniture until the homemade pasta was dry. He is a certifiable food nerd and believes that preparedness is part of healthy living.

Home Economics, Deer Processing and the Value of a Buck, Part II

Home Economics Part II: Dear Processing and the Value of a Buck

Home Economics

Deer Processing and the Value of a Buck, Part II

Up here in cold country, venison in the freezer is good insurance.  That not only applies for beautiful NW Montana, but for anyone who spends the short afternoons of Autumn boiling hog bodies, dragging a deer carcass or plucking feathers only to tirelessly cut, chop and/or grind up meat.  If that is you, you know the value of food put up for the winter.  The subject of home economics is indeed one often learned by watching others or it might be taught by the unavoidable mathematics of stores on the shelf divided by mouths to feed. 

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Home Economics, Deer Processing and the Value of a Buck, Part I

Value of a Buck part 1

Christmas came and went this year with splendid simplicity and great memories with family and friends.  Chaya and I took some time to pick up some books that are perpetually on the night stand throughout some of the busier parts of the year.  One topic that has always been of interest to us here at Pantry Paratus is the subject of Home Economics, and so I was especially curious when I came across a tweet by Michael Pollan citing this Huffington Post article

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Off-Grid Micro-Hydro Homestead

Off-Grid Micro-Hydro homestead

Microhydro Electricity Unplugged

 

 

Microhydro, its simplicity is so attractive.  So, you have always wanted to do it . . . go off grid and be self-sufficient.   What does it actually take?  From everyone I have spoken to who actually has done it, the answer seems to be, “Take your estimated cost for time, energy and money and triple it.” 

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Two Is One and One Is None: What is your Single Point of Failure?

Two is One and One is None: What is Your Single Point of Failure?

Some technical difficulties range from “Wow, that was annoying,” to the type of events that can make you want to lose your religion.  The constant prompts to “listen carefully as our voice menu options have changed” annoy me, because I am constantly caught up in the spin cycle of man’s evolution for automated phone answering systems.  Compare that to having your hard drive fail on your laptop; this can bring you to the point of finding out whether you are as emotionally well adjusted as you think you are.

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Preserving Summer’s End (Part 2)

Preserving Summer’s End (Part 2)

Making the best of the sunshine last through the winter

I like fruits and vegetables all year round.   Since I am not living in the Southland but am in Montana,  I need to find a way to preserve the best of summer for the rest of the year.  I showed you how I dehydrated the bulk of what I bought at the farmer’s market in the first blog in this series; now I want to wrap up the dehydration and cover some fermentation.

Produce from Farmers' Market

Truth be told, I like dehydrating the best.  In fact, Chaya was just teaching about it at the Zone 4 Live! event in Pray, MT!  Dehydrating is my favorite because it is so hard to mess it up.  I love a nifty kitchen gadget, but the simplest one that I own is the Excalibur Dehydrator.  It is the work horse for DIY food preservation.
Chaya adds: “Wilson is right, it is hard to mess up, and once you own the dehydrator there is no recurring costs to it.  It preserves more of the nutritional value than any other preservation method and the food has a shockingly long shelf life.  You can’t beat it!”

 

Parsley & Basil

Dehydrated Parsley

I am going to combine these two herbs into one section because to process them is identical and I made an error in taking the photos.  Here it goes . . .

Cutting Parsley

First thing I do is to cut the parsley.  This is not all that scientific, and you need not worry yourself with how even the cuts are.  Once the parsley comes out of the dehydrator you can crush it up to be as small as you like.  For now, I am just going to chop and drop it right onto the mesh dehydrator tray.

Weighting Down Herbs

Weigh down herbs by adding a mesh lining on top and placing

something like chopsticks on top.

Now, I have never seen this written in a book anywhere, but I believe that I can save you some frustration here.  I take one extra mesh dehydrator tray and put it on top of the cut herbs.  When either parsley or basil are hydrated, they will not blow away in the moving air from the dehydrator fan.  However, after the moisture is removed, they will migrate to the front of your dehydrator and if you are lucky you can sweep up the best parts in the bottom of the dehydrator. Chaya recommends using paraflexx sheets underneath; although not necessary, sometimes the small dehydrated bits fall through the mesh; it’ll keep your dehydrator cleaner and make it simpler to jar the dehydrated herbs. If you try this method (I added the chop sticks for extra ballast) you can keep almost all of your herbs and not experience an attrition like I described.

Finished Dehydrated Basil

When you are getting the finished product into the jar, you will inevitably get some on the table or counter which is not a big deal, just sweep them up and add those to the jar.  Other than that, you can see that this is $1.50 in parsley—try getting that on the spice aisle in the grocery store!  This is really the way to get fresh herbs into your diet through the winter at a fraction of the cost.

Sweeping up Parsley

 

Montana Kimchi

Adding Onions to Kimchi

So, I would love to tell you that this is a secret family recipe that was passed down to me, but that would not be true.  Actually, this came from some adverse times when Chaya and I were very poor.  We would ask the produce people at the local grocery store to put aside the “trim” from that day in a box and we would pay some nominal fee for it.  What is trim?  That is what they pick from the produce displayed in the grocery store and throw away because it is not visually appealing; what was not edible for us was a treat for the chickens, ducks, and goose.  So, if you do not mind bruises or a few brownish spots, then you had a real bargain.  From these boxes of produce we started making “Trim-chi” which was upcycled to “Montana Kimchi” later on and has remained with us as a favorite.

Use Exterior Leafy Green

While we are not starting with oozing onions anymore, we are still working off the premise of not wasting anything (actually, my Italian Nonnie would be very proud if she were still alive to read this).  Here I am starting off with the exterior green tough layers from the cabbage.  Since I bought this at the farmer’s market, and I know (because I could ask her) that they did not spray it with pesticides, therefore the outside leaves are edible*, so I cut them up and toss them in the mixing tub.

Cut Cabbage into small wedges

When it comes to cutting cabbage for fermentation, the best tool hands down is a food slicer.  However, I wanted to show the manual method here and one particularly useful trick is to cut the dense cabbage in small wedges.  While my OCD tendencies would make me want to slice it uniformly into thin bands (thus, my affinity for the food slicer) all the way across the head of the cabbage, this works out to be cheaper than therapy and more efficient for food preservation.

Cabbage for Kimchi

Do you recall from Part 1 where I had you set aside the stringy root bits and carrot tops?  Here is where we use them.

Carrot Tops in Kimchi

As the saying goes, “It’s all good for Gumbo.”  Well, I do not actually venture into putting squid into my Montana Kimchi, but just about anything is good to add and carrot roots and tops are no exception here.

Chard in Kimchi

 

I did the same with the chard leaves and stalks, the green chive tops of the onions.

Adding Chard to Kimchi

Just about anything is good to add try apples, garlic or hot peppers; I have even heard of people using potato peels.  Fermentation is equal opportunity goodness. 

Where dehydration is pretty generous and hard to mess up and baking bread is more of an exact science, fermentation falls somewhere in the middle for level of difficulty.  There are a few things that you want to know upfront: you will mess it up at least once, always provide for oxygen (avoid anaerobic conditions!), let the bacteria do the work and have patience.

Non-iodized salt is important

In this particular batch, I am counting on the lactobacillus on the cabbage and chard to start the process, but to help it out and to keep the other bacteria at bay I need to lower the pH.  To do that I am adding non-iodized salt (canning salt, sea salt from Pantry Paratus, or kosher salt will work) and kneading/mixing thoroughly by hand.  The salt has two functions: lowers the pH to create an acidic environment that the lactobacillus can work in, and it draws moisture out of the vegetable matter to create a liquid solution.

Splash of Wine-Vinegar

You will be surprised at how compact the vegetable matter becomes after the salt starts to work.  As the water follows the solute (salt), you will also notice a lot of liquid at the bottom of the bowl or tub in which you are kneading this—this is a good sign.  For this batch, I am adding just a splash of a home-fermented wine vinegar with mother mixture to lower the pH and get the fermentation party happening quicker.

Pack Kimchi into jars

Lastly, I packed the Montana Kimchi into half gallon jars using a wooden spoon handle to compact it. You may be wondering, “How much salt do I add?”  The answer is, “to taste,” but to be more precise, you will see the water draw out and it should cover what is being fermented.

Cover with Fluid

If you feel that you need to add a splash of water to cover it, then you may need to re mix and add more salt.  The better solution is to just add the salty water that you have just extracted by kneading the mixture.

Dehydrator Yield

Here is the whole project completed.  It took about two hours for the Montana Kimchi and the rest of the food was processed as I had room in the dehydrator over the next few days–and this is the sum total of the $18 in produce I purchased at the Farmers’ Market on a rainy day.  All in all, I love to see this on my shelves as a reminder of peace of mind that comes from forethought.

You may be wondering, what the dish is for under the half gallon jars?  As the salt continues to work, you will see the liquid start to seep out of the top of the jar, this is normal.  For this reason, and to let the carbon dioxide out, we just loosely put the lids on and the bands are only on there half a turn.

 

 

Pro Deo et Patria,

Wilson

 

P.S. As a public service announcement and reminder, nothing goes to waste.  If you cannot use it, your soil can so compost it.

*The lady at the farmer’s market stand actually said to me regarding the cabbage, “If you see any green friends crawl out, just pick them off.”  I replied, “If the bugs do not want to eat it, why would I?”  Moral of the story: shop locally!

 


Proviso:

Nothing in this blog constitutes medical or legal advice.  You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes.  Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.

Preserving Summer’s End (Part 1)

salting zucchini for the dehydrator

Preserving Summer’s End (Part 1)

How to Dehydrate: Apples, Zucchini, Onions, Carrots

If you are like me, you loathe paying $4 for mealy tomatoes in January.  There are two things that really put me over the edge about that: one is that tomatoes are cheaper in the summer, much cheaper! And secondly,  a January tomato from the store does not even taste like a tomato.  So, I have done all that I can over the years to leverage food preservation to our advantage because I really like tomatoes, but not at $4 lb!

$18 at the Farmers Market

In the last blog, I gave a shout out to all the people faithfully manning the booths at the farmer’s market, we really do appreciate it.  In the above picture, here is my haul for $18—not bad.  Now to preserve it all.  As a reminder, nothing goes to waste.  If you cannot use it, your soil can so compost it.

 

Apples

Dehydrated Apples

The first thing that I processed was the apples by running them through the dehydrator.  In retrospect, I wish that I would have done the herbs first because they go so quick, but are so aromatic that they can impart flavor to other things in the dehydrator like the apples and should be dehydrated alone.  But back to the apples: here is how to do it:

 

Apple Peeler

We use this apple peeler from Pantry Paratus, but you can check out our other great apple tools in our Fruits & Nuts section.

 

You will find that nutritious apples with dense juicy flesh dehydrate best when they are sliced to uniform thin slices.  The best way to do this is the apple peeler.  We leave the skin on as fiber is always good to have, but if you like them peeled by all means the apple peeler and slicer will make you wonder why you ever did this with a paring knife.  It’s also great fun with kids.

 

How to dehydrate apples

Next, I take the “apple spring” and run a knife down one side to cut the coils and make the rings from the coil-sliced apple.  To control the amylase sugar browning on the apples, I dip them in lemon juice (about a ¼ cup to 2 cups of water).  Chaya juiced & froze an entire box of lemons earlier in the season; I used that but I also used the stuff from the grocery store too.

Dip in lemon juice

I happen to have this handy thrift store glass cup (picture above)  which is exactly the size of the apples so that I can economize my lemon juice and make it go further.

 

Apple Rings

Before

Dehydrated Apple Rings

After

 

I like to do my apples low and slow.  That is put them in the dehydrator on low heat for a longer period of time.  To me, the apple rings are dehydrated and ready to put away when they have a noticeable click and bounce when you drop them on the table.  I like mine to snap when you break them, but other people like theirs chewy so pull them out of the dehydrator when you like their texture.

 

Zucchini

Dehydrated Zucchini

 

I know, I know.  I am probably the only person who cannot grow zucchini well, but these beauties are actually going to make one of my favorite snacks—zucchini chips!  Careful though, you do not want to eat too many of them, they are higher in fiber than you think!

zucchini

First thing is first, slice them up into discs.  Since zucchini dehydrates so well, you do not need to worry (as much as with other foods) about uniformity, but just get them onto the tray.

lighltly salt the zucchini

Next for zucchini chips, I like to lightly salt them.  You will be surprise how little salt you need here.  If you are putting zucchini away for long term storage, skip the salt as it will not be optimal for storage.  If you feel adventurous, sprinkle some garlic powder on them as well for a real treat.  Still not enough?  Find your favorite fresh herbs and make a pesto, dip the zucchini discs in the pesto, then dehydrate them.  I will bet that you cannot eat just one!

Dehydrated Zucchini on tray

Zucchini (especially with the light salt) dehydrates very quickly, so you can usually turn these around in a day or less.

 

Onions

Dehydrated Onions

These onions from the farmer’s market were so tasty, we were eating them like an apple.  Usually, this indicates low sulfur in the soil, but I am not complaining here.  Actually, I found a new side salad dish: fresh lentil sprouts, some finely chopped fresh farmer’s market onions, light sea salt, parsley and some nutritional yeast to taste.  Wow!

Cut Onions

Slice the onions and lay them out on the tray.  I was not all that particular here, so the object is to just get them onto the tray.  Since they shrink so much, you can overlap them if need be.  This may mean that you have to break them apart at the end, but the increase in throughput makes up for it.

 

Dehydrated Onions

 

Chaya adds: It’s hard to explain, but the flavor seems to get even better.  If you are from the Midwest, you remember those chemical-laden onion-things that people put on green bean casserole, right? Well, these are better, way better.  Very nearly a candy.

 Carrots

Dehydrated Carrots

The last thing that I wanted to show you today is the carrots.  These were itty bitties that the kind lady at the farm stand gave to Bugaloo, my daughter,  a token for how brave she was to even come out with her rain coat and boots.

Shred Carrots

The first thing that I do is to pick off the stems (which are actually related to parsley and are edible) as well as the stringy root bits and I set them aside.  Stop by for part 2, and I will show you what to do with those.  Since these carrots were so small, they were hard to shred.  You can dehydrated carrots sliced, too, but Chaya prefers them shredded because they rehydrated much more thoroughly and quickly.

 

Shredded Carrots

Shredded carrots can be placed directly on the tray.  Actually, I just shred them right over the mesh dehydrator mat—done!  If you are going to cut the carrots into coins, I recommend blanching the cut slices first, then dehydrating them as this will prevent case hardening.

Dehydrated Carrots

Come back next time for Preserving Summer’s End Part 2.  I will show you how to dehydrate herbs (read: $avings!) as well as my Montana Kimchi.  See you then!

Pro Deo et Patria,

Wilson

 

Knives

 

P.S. Do you know what the difference is between these two knives?  Why is this difference important for dehydrating?  Leave a comment with your answer.

 


Proviso:

Nothing in this blog constitutes medical or legal advice.  You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes.  Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.

Shout Out to the Farmer’s Market

The Farmers’ Market

Making the most of the harvest for the winter’s pantry

 

Shout Out to the Farmers Market

It was late August, and the temperature went from summer in the 90’s to autumn– raining– in the high 40’s.  I do believe that our eggplant got a case of frostbite; at least the leaves seem to indicate so.  We had not yet fully gone “all in” on our summer food preservation so the untimely weather had me at the Farmer’s market, since our gardening was lackluster this year. 

 The downside is that it was very cold and wet, and only a few booths were open.  Trying to find the upside, I took some photos of all of the colors that struck me on the cold, rainy day.  If beautiful, brightly colored veggies cannot make you happy on a dreary day, then you may be too far gone for this blog. 

Vegetables at the Farmers Market

As it turns out, Pantry Paratus, Inc. started out in a farmer’s market years ago.  It was prior to our website launching, but we were passionate to get our products into the hands of people who wanted to preserve their food, too.  All through the cold wet spring in Northwest Montana, Chaya set up the booth, passing out free samples of Tattler lids.  All throughout the desert-dry summer, Chaya offered breadbaking troubleshooting to anyone who asked while Bugaloo (still in her two’s) fought against taking a nap in the sloping backseat of the truck.  In the dead heat of summer when there was no respite from the sun, we built our brand.  So shopping a farmer’s market now brings about a bit of nostalgia, perhaps even moreso on a day like that. 

Root Veggies

 We had been strategizing all summer long with whom we would make the big end-of-summer bulk food push.  Chaya has a very tender spot for businesses that support people with disabilities, so the booth selling tomatoes will likely be selling us at least four cases of tomatoes to dehydrate and to make into sauce for the winter (we like pasta)–it is work program for people with disabilities.  I  found a farmer who pasture-raises his pigs, so we reserved a whole hog with him.  We have enjoyed produce from some very industrious youth, and some cases of apples (of which some are in the dehydrator as I type this) from the couple who drives them all the way in from a no-spray farm in Washington State. 

Carrots in the Rain

But this day I was just there for the basics; I needed to pick up some produce for a dehydrating demo class that Chaya is holding at the Zone 4 Live! event in Pray, MT next week.  $18 was the arbitrary amount that I had in mind to get, and also happened to be the amount of money in my pocket.  So I shopped around and here is what I took home. 

Summer Produce

This picture does not do justice to the scale; that is over 1/2 of our dining room table.  Not bad all told, and all of it went to use.  This is actually the secret multiplier to making summer last—do not waste anything!  Any bruised spots, stems, cores, or dried ends go into the jar in order to later go out to the compost pile.  Some other tougher bits and peels go into a bag in the freezer for Chaya’s totally free homemade broth.  Sharon Peterson from Simply Canning has a blog on how to make stock, too.  

Compost JarCompost Keeper available at Pantry Paratus

Nothing goes to waste.  Why?  Because we are taking the best exports of from a farm into our home as our inputs, and what a shame it is to not use all of it.  And, in the next two blogs I can show you how to make use of those left over bits that may not seem all that tastey . . . come back and see us for Preserving Summer’s End Part 1 and 2. 

Zucchini at the Market


Pro Deo et Patria,

Wilson


 

 Proviso:

Nothing in this blog constitutes medical or legal advice.  You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes.  Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.

 


 

Wilson’s Book Review: The Pantry, by Catherine Seiberling Pond (plus giveaway!)

  Book Review: The Pantry, by Catherine Seiberling Pond

Plus A Giveaway: Get a Signed Copy of The Pantry

 

 

It is no secret, Chaya and I are smitten with a great kitchen.  You can have a great and functional kitchen without the entire catalog of fancy plug in gadgetry with French sounding names, but you cannot get by without a functional pantry—call it the unsung hero of a homestead.  Yet, I had never put a lot of thought into where the term “pantry” came from or what the history might be behind it. 

 

Let me say this upfront, I loved this book.  It chronicles the history and history-shaping role of the modest pantry.  From complete rooms with thoughtfully engineered construction to regulate temperature, or economized movement to simple utilitarian converted closets, the pantry is indeed a noteworthy fixture on a homestead. 

 

The Pantry, a book review

 

At Pantry Paratus, we love all things having to do with the pantry.  Recently our last surviving grandparent passed away, and it is largely to her credit that I associate my sense of thrift and propriety when it comes to the value of the pantry.  Whereas today people who keep shelves of Cool Whip and Ricotta cheese containers cleaned, stacked and sorted by size might find themselves on some reality TV show, to my Italian Nonnie preserving everything was just part of how her large family made it through the Great Depression.  Two generations ago, putting food away was about as hip as shoveling snow or cutting the grass—you just did it.  And it is that no nonsense approach that Catherine Seiberling Pond captures so well in this book that helped ground me today with the wisdom of my blue collar immigrant roots.

 

The Amish farmwife, in her almost total self-sufficiency, is a fine modern example of how American women used to exist on farms.  Farmwives of the past began to embrace the conveniences afforded to them in grocery stores and with modern utilities and appliances.  Mormons, too, have long advocated having a storeroom with a year’s supply of saved foodstuffs and provisions.  People in communes and those in the back-to-the-land movement were also avid food preservers.  Where canning was once a necessity on the farm, especially before freezers were available, it now continues as a pleasant pastime for some (p. 34)

 

The author as a little girl in her "pantry"

 

I found myself turning page after page to find out how the humble pantry went through medieval times, to colonial era of America with its trademark Yankee ingenuity, through the Industrial revolution, wartime rationing and even the suffrage movement did not leave the pantry unchanged.  Yet with all of these changes we still feel the effects of the pantry on our families, politics and even literature.  Fun fact: Emily Dickenson used to write poetry in her pantry (p. 43).

 

The Victorian period ended with the struggle for the right to vote, while at the same time there was a crescendo in the home economics movement.  It presented a domestic struggle that continues today—can women have it all and have it at the same time?  As long as our kitchens are in order—and sinks scoured everyday (as the Beecher sisters preached)—and pantries well stocked, the answer is probably yes (p. 47).

 

We do not have war rations today or anything like it—heck, you can go right down to your big box store and load up on all of the CAFO meat you want.  So it begs the question, how did our ancestors make it?  Answer: they leveraged the ebb and flow of the seasons and saw the pantry as the store.  When Chaya posted her late grandmother’s chocolate syrup recipe, it helped me to put into perspective how recently it was in this country where people had to live with a prominent civil defense mindset under the threat of the atomic age.  In America not too long ago, it was then as it is now in dozens of other countries around the world, the pantry is the first line of defense; and that reality was not lost on me as I read this book page by page, cover to cover. 

 

Grandma's Pantry 


You have heard Chaya say it many times, “Your Grandma knew how and you can too.”  Think of this book as an anthology of many centuries worth of Grandma innovations beautifully rendered in beautiful pictures and well written text.  If you love the pantry as much as we do, then I would highly recommend picking up a copy of The Pantry directly from Catherine Seiberling Pond for $14.95 (shipping included).  These are beautiful books and would really make a nice gift for anyone who loves kitchen self-sufficiency.  Be sure to sign up below to win a signed copy of the book from the author!

 

I leave you with this poem from page 71:

A Bride’s Pantry

There’s a dear little pantry that pampers a bride,

Its walls are of yellow, its window is wide,

And airy blue curtains coquette in their pride

With crisp, crinkled things in the garden outside.

 

There are quaint little jars with blue labels displayed,

For red currant jelly and plum marmalade;

There are vegetable soldiers in tin coat parade,

Plump jugs of sweet cider and muscadine-ade.

 

Oh, the goodies galore that a bride can devise—

Fat gingerbread bunnies with black raisin eyes,

Spice cake and pear salad and cinnamon pies,

To foster the pride in a certain man’s eyes.

 

So when you are planning a little house, new,

Be sure there’s a pantry with curtains of blue,

And a wee kitchen garden spread out to your view,

To grow with your singing and smile back at you.

—Hazel Harper Harris, American Cookery, 1925

 

 

 

Wilson

Pro Deo et Patria

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Works Cited:

Pond Seiberling, C. (2007). The pantry. (p. 45). Layton: Gibbs Smith.



Photo Credits:

Catherine as a little girl used with permission from Catherine Seiberling Pond

The Pantry, book cover used with permission from Catherine Seiberling Pond

Grandma’s Pantry taken from the public domain (found on p. 75 in book)

 



For Further Reading, check out Catherine’s other websites:

http://www.catherinepond.com/

http://www.farmwifeatmidlife.blogspot.com

http://www.growcaseycounty.blogspot.com

http://www.inthepantry.blogspot.com

 



Proviso:

Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice.  You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes.  Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.

 

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