This past week was a really great one for sales on meat. I bought a ten pound sirloin roast for $2.69/lb, hamburger was $2.19/lb (probably never see that again) and chicken breasts with the bone in was 79 cents/lb. I cut the sirloin in strips, browned them and the roasted them in their own juice. This made eight nice pints with about a pound of meat in each. The gristle and scraps were boiled with some carrots, dried celery and our own tomato bouillon (dry paste-type tomatoes then grind into a powder with an old coffee grinder). After this set for a day day to solidify the fat, I scooped off the fat and canned up six nice pints of broth. The chicken I cubed and cold-packed for another eight one-pounds of meat, The bones and skin were boiled to make a broth. I didn't flavor this because I wanted the fat for soapmaking. Once the fat was skimmed off, I seasoned it with garlic, onion, sage, rosemary and thyme for a nice broth. Again I canned this, making eight pints. I only bought five pounds of hamburger because I feared it was going to be greasy, but it wasn't. With one pound I made a meatloaf for the guys' lunch and the rest was made into Swedish meatballs that I canned. Oh! There was also enough meat culled from making the broths to fill a quart bag of the chicken for the freezer and about a half-quart of the beef. These will make a nice base for pot pies or some soup. When I finished all that was left were the bones and skin. I tossed the bones and threw the skins out for the stray cats.
That took the better part of Friday and Saturday and I was ready to put the pressure canner away when we stopped by our local grocery store. They were having a sale on bacon for 10 pounds for $16.90. Well! I couldn't pass that up! I canned up eight one-pound jars of it. Some of the pieces were quite fatty so I set those aside and later rendered the lard by slowly melting the fat for several hours on low heat. Once strained, this gave me about 3/4 a quart of lard for soapmaking. All the little bits of bacon were culled and I ended up with about a half a quart of real bacon bits.
People always ask, why I don't just freeze my meat. First, I simply don't have a freezer big enough and I don't want to have a separate freezer because they take too much electricity. Secondly, our area is notorious for it's power lines blowing down. Living directly in the path of the wind coming off the Great Lakes means we have some pretty powerful winds. Being in a less populated area means that sometimes we go for days without electricity, not being a high priority for Detroit Edison. Too many times have a I lost produce in the freezer due to an outage. Canned never spoils when the electricity goes out! And lastly, canned meat is very convenient to use. You don't have to wait for it to thaw, it doesn't get freezer burn, it lasts a lot longer than frozen and it's already cooked.
Learning to pressure can is probably the second most important skill you can master in your steps toward becoming self-sufficient, the first being, gardening, of course. It's really not hard. I urge you all to learn it, if you don't know already. There's only so much you can do with hot water bath canning; pickles and jellies and fruits in syrup. The real meat and potatoes (literally) of food preservation is in pressure canning. There's oodles of tutorials on YouTube and on various blogs. And all cannners will come with very detailed instructions. It's simply not that difficult. And the nicest thing about canning your own, is that you control the quality.
ANOTHER THING TO PRESERVE
My stint without a computer has taught me a valuable lesson. Keep written copies! Sure it's convenient just to Google whatever you want but what if your computer quits, or we do get that EMP attack they are always talking about? Or the economy goes so far south that you can't afford the internet? Or even worse yet, they start censoring the internet? Start today making copies of any information that you think you may need or want in those situations; basic recipes, notes on foraging, how-tos on staying warm, building shelter, and making mechanical devices, natural health tips, canning instructions, etc. I call it my survival notebook. You can keep a copy in a three ring binder or just staple them together. It doesn't need to be fancy.
BARE BONES BAKING PANTRY
When the stock market looked like it was going to take a nosedive last week, Ran and I sat down and made out a list of groceries to buy in bulk to see us through hard times. We have the money squirreled away for the purchases just in case. So many of the things: such as,crackers, noodles, tortillas, bread, baked goods, etc. that we buy, can be made just as easily at home and perhaps even better. At least they would be made of wholesome ingredients. Some things , such as pancake mix, boggles my mind. Why would anyone pay to have a little flour, baking powder, sugar and hydrogenated oil mixed together for them, when they can make a far superior pancake in the same amount of time from basic pantry ingredients? This week we made crackers and bread from common pantry items. It took probably as much time to bake them as it would to drive to the store, locate the items, stand in line and drive back home. When you factor in all that plus how much it costs for these type of things, it just doesn't make sense to buy them. Here's a list of a bare bones baking pantry:
flour (plain old white)
baking soda and baking powder
vegetable oil (we use olive)
spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves
molasses (you can make brown sugar by stirring 1 tablespoon into 1 cup of white sugar)
dry milk (I prefer buttermilk for all my baking needs)
With those ingredients, you can bake just about anything with the addition of eggs and milk and butter, although in a pinch you can substitute the shortening for the butter. Heck! You can even use the chicken fat, lard and tallow if things really get rough. I have a couple old, old recipes that call for chicken fat and bacon grease. Simplify, simplify! Just get down to the bare basics of groceries, then buy them in bulk. The less time you spend in the grocery store, the less money you'll spend.
FIRST THINGS FIRST, LEARN TO BAKE A LOAF OF PLAIN WHITE BREAD
The first thing you need to learn on your way to food independence is how to bake a loaf of plain white bread. Once you've mastered that, you can go on to other types of breads or make additions of different flours and ingredients, but this recipe will serve you well if it is the only type of bread that you ever bake.
Combine and scald:
1 C. milk
1/4 C. butter
1/4 C. honey
1 tsp. salt
1/2 C. warm water
1 pkg. yeast
1 tsp. honey or sugar
combine and set aside until the yeast begins to bubble. This is called "proofing".
In a large bowl combine the milk mixture and 1 C. of flour. Mix well and add an additional cup of flour. Add the yeast mixture. Add approximately 3 1/2 C. flour. (This is something you learn start with a little less flour and add more if it is sticky. There's so many variables on the amount of flour to use, such as the humidity, the type of flour, etc.)
Knead dough until it starts to fight back. Poke your finger into it and the dough should come back. The dough should be as smooth and elastic as a newborn baby's behind. ;) Let the dough rise. Punch it down and let rise a second time. Punch down the dough and shape into two loaves. Place into well-greased pans. Let rise until the dough forms a nice loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is golden and when you thump on the loaf it has a nice hollow sound. (or use one of those probe thermometer and measure the internal temperature to 185 degrees)
We always try to eat some green leafy vegetables every day, but this past week we had to toss our lettuce because of the Listeria recall. Winter can be hard on us veggie lovers! Now I understand why the pioneers got so excited about the first spring greens! Anyway, I started sprouting my own again. With one batch, I made veggie egg rolls.
CHEAP BEAUTY TIP
Lately I've been concerned about my gums receding. It's just one of the many "joys" of aging. So I've starting oil-pulling, which is supposed to clean all the toxins and bacteria out of your mouth and clean and whiten your teeth. It's simple enough to do. Just take 1 tablespoon (I use a little less because I have a major gag reflex) of organic coconut oil and put it in your mouth. Chew it until it liquefies, then swish the oil around for 20 minutes. Do not swallow the oil! Spit it out into a waste basket (don't want it clogging your pipes). That's it! It really does make your your teeth feel clean. That combined with flossing and brushing twice daily and rinsing with good old Listerine keeps the dentist away!
Every winter I get the desire to make a quilt. The only problem with that is that I'm not a very good quilter and I hate the actual quilting part. I love picking out the fabrics from the scrapbag and I don't even mind the piecing, but the quilting? Ugh! So I made this little doll quilt to satisfy my yearning.
Speaking of scraps. My husband keeps busy during the winter making these wooden utensils.
I'm also knitting a Tasha Tudor style shawl. It's a simple pattern:
Cast on 3 stitches
Knit 1 row
The next row and every row after: Knit 2, yarnover, knit to the end of the row
Continue on in this manner until the shawl is as wide as you like. Cast off.
The size needles depends upon the yarn you use and your patience. Eventually you'll need to switch to circular needles, but I always find knitting with them awkward, so I start out on regular straight needles until the stitches get too crowded. I'm using size 6 and some merino wool that my friend Mary gave me. It will take several hundred yards of wool I suspect, so I wouldn't use expensive wool. I think it would be pretty in a tweedy type. I'll show you a picture next week. It got too dark too soon for me today.
BTW, a yarnover for you beginning knitters is simply bringing the yarn to the front then over the needle to the back, thus creating an extra stitch.
THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK
Wondering when I was going to wind it up, were you?
Made a doll quilt from fabric scraps.
Started knitting a shawl from gifted yarn.
Baked crackers and bread.
Sprouted my own "greens".
Sewed a Christmas present (yeah, I start this early)
"Fixed" my computer.
Mended a vest.
Watched a TV series every evening from a DVD that I bought at the Tractor Supply Company for $3. (Cheap entertainment)
Canned a boatload of meat.
Bought a few things at the thrift store's 50% of sale. (Waiting for the 95% off sale)
Ran did some plumbing rather than call in Jake the Plumber.
Filled up the gas tank for $1.49/ gallon. (Can you believe how cheap gas is?)
Hand washed a wool skirt in cold water rather than having it dry cleaned.
And all the usual things like heating with wood, using the wringer, line drying our clothes, etc.
Well I hope you all have a safe a cozy week. Remember that the easiest way to avoid most winter accidents is to STAY IN THE HOUSE!