Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Preserving Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds


Dave and I are happy to announce that the new book, "Food Storage: Preserving Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds" is published now and available at in both kindle format and print.  This is the sequel to "Preserving Meat, Dairy, and Eggs".  We've spent the last several months working on this one, and now we're starting on "Preserving Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes", which we hope to have out by the end of the year. 

We both have a lot of real-life chores in our gardens and kitchens, as well as all the other normal work and goings on, plus families that include kids and grandkids.  But we have a lot of fun working on these books in between everything else. 

Dave is amazing in his tireless experimentation with food preserving in his "lab-oh-rah-tory" (kitchen) and I appreciate his contributions.  I have tons of emails I need to dig through and post of the "Dave's Kitchen" series we were featuring earlier on in this blog.  When we thought we were done with this book, he thought of a bunch more stuff...

"Lemons can be candied just like oranges.  The rind tends to be a little tougher but they go great in some recipes that call for lemon zest, like cakes, fruitcakes, bread or rice puddings and even for "Lemon Chicken"."

"Cranberries can make good sweet or savory pickles. The savory type of cranberry pickles are OK but the sweet are very good."

"Walnuts in honey. My daughter has, on several occasions, lightly roasted walnuts, put them in jars and poured (very) hot honey over them and they are really good after they've sat for a while to let the honey soak into the nuts. We have 1 jar that"s been on the shelf for a couple years and they appear to still be good (still sealed). Out of the jars she's done only one failed (started to ferment) but I suspect she didn't heat the honey hot enough or didn't get the jar cleaned well before adding the nuts and honey."

"Nut butters. I have made nut butter(mostly Sunflower) by running seeds through my grain mill(hand cranked).  I have a set of steel burrs so it doesn't make a mess that cant be cleaned up."

"Canning Bananas, If you add enough lemon juice to the banana "mush" it can be water-bathed. It isn't really just canned bananas done that way but it is pretty good. The ones I've done that way didn't sit on the shelf very long, "I" ate 'em all! lol."

"I don't remember if I ever mentioned it but "sulfuring" dried fruit will keep the pests away if it is stored in containers that aren't sealed (ie.. oatmeal boxes) or aren't bug proof."


Out of all those months of notes from Dave, plus my own experience and research, we put this book together, and we hope you enjoy it!  We welcome comments, questions, and suggestions about the book or anything related to prepping, food preserving, or this blog.


(NOTE: It looks like the Print version won't be available for another day or so.  It's done with the publishing process and just taking longer for Amazon to post the Print book information. Sorry for the inconvenience.  Meanwhile, the kindle version is available now.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Canning Potatoes

We grow a lot of potatoes.  It's one of the things, along with other root vegetables like carrots and onions, that grow well in our cooler northern climate.
This is me digging our potatoes.  They're a staple food for us over the winter.  By the time we're done digging we usually have five or six bushels of potatoes.

I spread them on old sheets on our living room floor for a few days to dry.  Some people spread them outside (if at all) but we have too many wild critters who would help themselves if we did that, plus nights that could drop below freezing at the end of summer. 
When they're moisture from the ground has dried and their skins are a little cured I pack them into wooden boxes with handles and move them to our root cellar.  They keep very well until about May, when they start sprouting eyes.  When that happens I break off the eyes and bring them in.
Some are saved for planting but the rest are dehydrated to use over the summer.  These are cubed, dried potatoes packed into jars, but I also dry them as slices and shredded potatoes, and I've put dried, mostly-cooked potatoes in the blender and made my own instant mashed potatoes.

 I tried canning them a couple times thinking it would be handy to have potatoes ready-to-go for quick meals in the summer, but they were only good for mashing when I opened the jars.
Then a friend of mine told me she was writing a book about canning potatoes.  I didn't think that would be a very long book, but she said she was going to include several recipes for using canned potatoes, both homemade and store-bought canned potatoes. 
Okay, I thought.  That's more like it.  I can always use more recipes because I get tired of my own cooking.  And she's often told me what she was making for dinner and my mouth would water.  I wish I had her knack for creativity in the kitchen.
She published her book and I read her recipes and I thought "aw man, that sounds really good!" as I read each recipe.  I opened a jar of my potatoes and tried one of the recipes and it was 'oh my goodness' good, and it was fast and easy:
Potato, sausage, and egg breakfast burritos
1 pound ground sausage
1 quart diced canned potatoes
1 dozen eggs
Pepper to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese
Flour tortilla shells
Brown sausage (drain), add scrambled eggs, and cook until eggs are thoroughly done, stirring to scramble as you cook them. Drain and add diced potatoes. Add pepper to taste. Scoop onto warmed tortilla shells and top with shredded cheddar cheese.

This was even faster and easier for me.  I had browned a pound of sausage the morning before, to make biscuits and gravy, and packed up half of it and put it in the fridge.  So all I had to do was scramble the eggs, add the leftover sausage, and follow the rest of the directions and we had an almost-instant and very delicious breakfast.
And that's only one of the really terrific recipes and ideas in the book.  She also included the directions for making caramelized onions, which I've never had but looks really good.  I can't wait to have more adventures cooking out of this book.
If you're expecting to have a lot of potatoes this winter, you might want to take a look at this book.
PS: She also gives a lot of great tips such as not to cube your potatoes too small
when you can them, and she'll tell you why!
Please leave comments or questions below, or by email at:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fruit Leather - successful experiment

(Update below)

A reader responded to my last post about the perennial prepper garden with this comment:

Thank you for today's post.  Don't forget, when you have both a dehydrator and an over abundance of fruit, you can make fruit leather.
Have a great day,

What an awesome idea!  It might be especially good for hard-to-dehydrate fruits like raspberries.  Don't get me wrong, it's not hard to actually dehydrate raspberries but I haven't had success with rehydrating them and using them.  They have turned into hard little balls that stayed somewhat hard and chewy when I re-hydrated/reconstituted them. 

But fruit leather might be an excellent way to dehydrate raspberries and other fruits.  I'm going to get right on that over the weekend, and expand this post to include directions and pictures for making fruit leather, for those who have never done it, or who just want to see how I do it.  I only have one fruit leather tray so I often use wax paper to line my dehydrator trays to make more at a time.

Please drop back by this post after the weekend and see what I've added. 

UPDATE:  The raspberry fruit leather is delicious.  It took three days for it to dry in my oven with just the pilot light for heat, but it came out great.  It's tasty and it's a beautiful red color.

I decided to make a small batch for the trial, so I used 2 cups of raspberries, half a cup of sugar, and a quarter cup of water.  I heated them in a pan and simmered them until they thickened a little.

Then I lined a cake pan with parchment paper and poured the raspberry goo into the pan

I put it on the bottom shelf of our oven.  Our oven uses propane and has a pilot light, which
keeps the oven around 95 degrees.  I put the pan on the bottom shelf so that it was closer
to the heat from the pilot light.

It took three days before the top wasn't sticky any more, so I carefully peeled it up from
the parchment paper.  The underside was still sticky but there was no
sign of mold, which was a concern since the raspberry goo was at
a low-ish temperature for so many days.

I put it on a dryer screen with the sticky side up to finish drying it.
I'm sure this would have dried faster in an electric dehydrator.  If you don't have fruit leather trays for your dehydrator racks you can use parchment paper or wax paper to line your racks/trays.
The taste of the raspberry fruit leather is mouth-wateringly flavorful!
Please leave comments and questions below, or email them to me at:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Perennial Prepper Garden

Red Raspberries
When we bought our property ten years ago one of the first things we did was to start planning our perennial prepper garden.  We researched all the fruit trees, bushes, and plants that would grow here in our zone, and spent hours dreaming our way through all the seed catalogs.  It was July when we closed on the property and we had much to do before winter, so we didn't do any Fall planting, with one exception.  We dug up part of the root of a rhubarb plant at the property we sold to move up here.
That one piece of rhubarb root did well, and over the years we dug off more of the root as the plant spread, and we now have at least a dozen bushy plants that come back every year.  The downfall of rhubarb is that it takes a lot of sweetener to make it pleasant to eat.
When spring arrived we happily ordered fruit trees and berry bushes. We bought 3-year asparagus roots and strawberry plants from a local nursery.  Our climate is too cold for most nuts, and the ones that will grow here have been hard to obtain.  The years when we had the money to order them, they were out, and the years when they had them in stock were years we didn't have the money to order them. Those are hazelnut and chestnut.  We did plant an English Walnut tree but it came back from the roots every year and still does, nine years later.  It's never made it taller than a foot.
What we did plant was two varieties of apple trees (four trees total), three cherry trees, blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, and the previously mentioned asparagus and strawberries.  We spent the summer clearing brush, rocks, and stumps for a garden spot, and hauling manure, old hay, and old leaves to compost.  We enclosed the entire garden and orchard area in a fence 7' high, to keep out the deer, rabbits, and bears, with an electric wire around the bottom and top, powered by a solar fence charger.
This far north and this high on the mountainside, the fruit trees leaf out around June 1st and the leaves start turning by the first of September, so it's a very short growing season.  We have blossoms around the second week of June, and they've frosted more years than they haven't. 
The apple trees grew well, and six years after planting them we had our first few apples.  That winter rabbits got through the fence and girdled three of the apple trees, damaged the fourth apple tree and all three cherry trees.  The damaged trees recovered, the girdled ones died.  That was really heartbreaking.  All those years of carrying water to those trees in 5-gallon buckets, watching them grow, and anticipating apples...and *poof*, with the nibble of rabbits, 3/4 of our apple crop was gone. 
We replanted them and we're waiting again for apples.  That was three years ago, so we've got a few years to go.  The apple tree that survived is producing well.
If this was a post-SHTF situation we'd have been in serious trouble to have a blow like that to our food supply.  It's not the only thing that didn't produce as planned.  We've re-started the asparagus three times and we finally have a good patch growing.  We've planted blueberries twice and I think this time they're going to make it.  The blueberry plants are now in their fourth year, still less than two feet tall, and have never produced or had a blossom. 
The cherry trees are nine years old and we've only gotten a handful of cherries.  We planted two more of another variety and in their third year they started producing.  The Manchurian apricot bush we planted kept growing up from the root every year, so after about five years I pulled them out.  Same with the elderberries.  I planted four elderberry bushes and they're for cold climates at least one zone colder than ours, yet they also came back from the root each year instead of growing into nice tall bushes. 
What has done well here?  Number one by far is the red raspberries.  My bushes are 6' to 7' tall in places, and I have three official patches.  The plants keep coming up by the dozens all over the place.  I've given away hundreds of new-growth raspberry plants, and continue to do so.  They're thornless, which is wonderful.  My blackberries are thorned and they're so bad it's like they reach out to grab your clothing.
For about a month I pick at least a gallon of raspberries a day, and during the peak of harvest, which is the first couple weeks of August here, I've picked more than two gallons a day.  I haven't found a good way to dehydrate them, so most of them get canned.  When I dehydrated them I ended up with hard little red balls.
Second best is strawberries.  The Tristar ever-bearing do fantastic here.  They're definitely not everbearing up here, but during the few weeks they produce, the berries are large, sweet, and plentiful.  The junebearing strawberries I planted did not produce well and eventually died out.
Blackberries grow well here but the berries don't ripen until Fall and most don't make it before we start getting serious frosts.  Grapes never have survived here, even the 'cold' climate grapes.  We do have wild Oregon grapes that are tart but make great jelly.
There are vegetables that will reseed themselves and they're bi-ennial.  We leave some of our carrots to go to seed the next year, and by having different patches in different years of their life cycle we usually don't have to buy seed or plant carrots.  The problem is that they come up among everything in the garden and we have to be careful weeding when they're little. 
So what's the bottom line here?  Well, for one thing, do your homework and plant carefully.  Select the plants and trees that will grow best in your climate.  Watch out for micro-climates.  Our property is 500' higher in elevation than the valley below us, and about a  zone shorter in growing season.  It's not just cold that you need to watch for.  It's the number of days in the growing season too.  Cold nights, even when it doesn't frost, will slow growth and production.
Start as soon as you can so you can make sure your plants will do well.  Just because a nursery says it will grow and produce in your area doesn't mean it will do well in your garden.  And that's something to watch out for too.  Just because something will grow doesn't mean it will produce.  One of our neighbors planted a nectarine tree because the store insisted it would grow here.  It did.  For almost a decade, and it's never had anything but leaves on it. 
Another reason to get started as soon as possible is in case you have to try again, like we did with asparagus and blueberries.  I'm pretty sure the problem with the blueberries was the soil, but I'm not sure what went wrong with the asparagus.  We followed the directions to the letter.  The first time, most didn't come up and the few that did really struggled.  The second time most of them came up but died back and didn't re-grow the next year.  The third time most send up a few spears, and they came back the next year with a few more, and now in their fourth year, we have an abundance of asparagus.  We did the exact same thing each time. 
If there are serious gardeners in the area, try to ask them what varieties do well in your area.  Sometimes they'll give you "starts", like I do with my raspberry plants.  And if anyone out there wants some raspberry bushes, I'll send you plants for free if you'll help with the postage.  I've pushed about as many as I can on friends and neighbors, and they run like people in other parts of the country do when someone approaches them with an armload of zucchini!  Gee, if I could I'd trade a few gallons of sweet, organic raspberries for an armload of zucchini!
I very much welcome comments.  It would be nice to widen the information base and hear from other parts of the country.  Though even if you're my neighbor down the road and have something to add, I welcome that too!
Please leave comments or questions below, or email them to
Thank you!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Computer! (Or: Back in business!)

Hi Everyone!  I'm happy to say that I've finally got a new computer!  The one I just replaced spent more time froze-up than working, and it would 'time out' before loading a page or uploading a picture.  Several people talked me through things that might have helped, but the computer was just old and tired.
Now I have this new computer that seems so bright and fast, but I'm having to learn *gasp!* Windows 8.  I've figured out how to bring up internet screens, so that's all I need for now.
Thank you, to the people who emailed with ideas and offered tech support.