Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sally Fallon Morell: Nourishing Tradtions

While I have been "resting" with a cold I've had some extra time to watch some videos.  This one is particularly interesting!!  First some background on the speaker.

Sally Fallon received a Bachelors Degree in English with honours from Stanford University, and a Masters Degree in English with high honours from UCLA.  Mrs. Fallon is founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org) and editor of the Foundation's quarterly magazine and author of the cook book Nourishing Traditions.

Mrs. Fallon and her colleague, Mary G. Enig, PhD., a world renowned expert on the subject of lipids and human nutrition, draw on a wealth of scientific and anthropological findings that include the importance of traditional broths as a source of minerals and as an aid to digestion, made from the bones of chicken, fish, beef and lamb; of proper preparation of grain, nuts and legumes to neutralize enzyme inhibitors and mineral-blocking substances found in all seed foods; and of ancient techniques for food preservation that enhance nutrient content while supplying beneficial digestive flora on a daily basis.

Mrs. Fallon explains the importance of returning to organic farming, pasture-fed livestock and whole traditional foods, properly prepared, if Americans are to regain their health and vitality, and return to an economy based on small scale organic production and food processing that returns added value to the independent farmer, rather than to large scale food processing conglomerates. (Thanks to Lisa for the heads-up on this great video!)

It's a challenging video. I've had her book Nourishing Traditions on my to-buy list for a long time so it may get bumped up closer to the top now.  Enjoy!

Elderberry Extract - a helpful extract for colds & flu

I'm sick. I caught a whopper of a cold somewhere in the last week and so I have been holed up mostly inside trying to find things to do that take my mind off of coughing and sneezing.

Through a sad set of circumstances I squeezed the last of the elderberry extract out of the jar on day one - there was no more to be had after that as it takes 6 weeks to make.   Elderberry extract has rave reviews on-line for it's health properties.  It's used to support your immune system so you are less likely to catch a cold in the first place and to help you get better faster when you do - I guess I won't now if that's true this year.  At the very least taking a swig of elderberry/vodka before bed should help you sleep better.

For the OH SO complicated recipe:  Take fresh or dried elderberries - I had dried ones purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs.  Place 2 cups in a large jar - I used an 8 cup size (larger than a quart but I could have used a bigger bottle of vodka) and poured a bottle of 80 proof vodka over the contents.  After waiting 6 weeks while it sits on the counter - drink by the teaspoon full.  I put it i the fridge after that but I'm don't think you need to - it just tastes better cold.  I didn't strain out the elderberries as some recipes recommend - I just assumed the longer it sat the better. Maybe fresh elderberries soaked in vodka taste good enough to eat but the dried ones are rather lacking!  For a family that doesn't drink much we managed to finish the bottle I made in December just in time for me to catch a cold.  Next time I will have to make a bigger batch.

I can't say it tastes great but it's not too bad.  It turns a beautiful shade of burgundy and it tastes a lot better than straight vodka!  I am hoping to find a elderberry bush or two to plant but I'm having trouble finding the right one.

Besides echinacea tea with honey, lots of vitamin C and garlic, fresh squeezed lemon juice and  my daily dose of "Triple Mix"  which is what DH calls a powdered juiced vegetable product that we take as a supplement - actually called Trio Max and some rest I don't have any new solutions for the Cure for the Common Cold - except to not catch it in the first place.

Usually when I know someone is brewing a cold I get out the hand sanitizer and place it in a prominent spot.  I also add a teaspoon of bleach to the dish washing water to kill any germs and spraying counters and cleaning with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide makes me feel better!

Any tips you'd like to add??  I want to make a info sheet to hang on the inside of my kitchen cupboards with all the handy tips about what to do when you catch a cold.  My daughter remembered me telling her about putting Vicks Vapour Rub on the bottom of your feet to stop the coughing...I didn't even remember reading that one!  I'll post the final results if you give me some more things to add!

Now I just have to get better so I can sneak back into the liquor store for more vodka so I can make more extract...says the girl who never even tasted vodka until last fall...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Presto vs. All American Pressure Canner Comparison

Well - I've had a year to use my All American canners and I am ready to give a review!  I bought my All American's at Lehman's on a trip to the States last year.  I've had a 23 quart Presto for many years so after that much time I have some opinions!

Each time I bought a canner I had a hard time deciding which size to buy.  Bigger?? Smaller?? What's the most practical?  Over time I have learned that there are good reasons for each canner and each size.


I'll start with the 23 Quart Presto.  I was able to order it though Home Hardware for around $150.00.  It wasn't far from home so I didn't have to pay shipping.  I hadn't even laid-eyes on a pressure canner in real-life before I ordered it so it was rather a blind choice based somewhat on internet reviews.  No one I knew in real-life pressure canned so I was on my own to figure it out and learn.  I remember how scared I was at first - ha ha!!  I've heard from many others who had the same experience and left the canner in the closet for a year or two before they screwed up the courage to try it.  Hasn't  everyone heard a story about a canner exploding all over the ceiling???  I'm sure it might be possible but if you follow the rules and let the canner de-pressurize before you open it - its IMPOSSIBLE!

My 23 quart Presto holds 7 quarts or 14 pints if you stack them in two rows.  It depends a little on the size of the pints - some older ones are slightly different sizes.  As far as I know this is the biggest size that Presto currently sells. The 16 Quart Presto holds 7 quarts or 9-10 pints. In comparison to the All American it's not too heavy - even when it's full.  It's safe to use on my glass top stove - or any other stove for that matter.  Mine (exactly as pictured except not as clean - ha ha) has a gauge and a weight and apparently you can get a "jiggler" for it.  I'll explain that later.  The seal which needs to be replaced every few years has held up for over 6 years with no problems. 

The down side of my Presto - I wish it was bigger.  If it was just a little taller you could double stack quarts in it - this of course would double your output. I also have trouble with keeping the pressure steady when I use it on my electric stove.  Up - down - waaaay up- waaay down...you can't be more than a few steps away from it the whole time.  I've gotten used to it.  I would guess it would be more steady if it was on a gas stove due to the constant heat as opposed to the cycling nature of the electric stove.

The Presto has served me well and I expect to use it for many years to come.

My All American are absolute brutes.  I bought the canners at Lehman's for about $400.00 because I didn't want to pay shipping - they are very heavy!  I ones I bought hold 14 quarts and 19 pints - meaning you can process twice as much at a time as the Presto!  When I stood in the store second guessing my decision on which sizes because I was dazzled at the choices to buy - I chatted with a few women who were also looking at them.  I asked their advice hoping they would steer me in the right direction.  One woman mentioned that she didn't have help at home (no daughters or family) so she was happy with the smaller canner.  That seemed to make sense for her.  I debated for quite awhile but finally decided to GO BIG OR GO HOME.  I got two model 930 - 30 quarts.  All American's come in many sizes - there are is one size even bigger!!

All American's don't have a gasket.  They are metal on metal so there's nothing to wear out.  Closing the canner takes a little practise - you tighten the knobs a little at a time as you go around the canner so the lid stays level.  AA's also have a "jiggler" - that's what I call it. It's actually a regulator and it releases the pressure a little at a time so the pressure stays where it's supposed to.  Once you get the temperature right you don't have to fiddle with it like the Presto.

AA's can NOT be used on glass top stoves - they are too heavy.  I have a Chef King double propane stove - it's definitely my favourite "stove" for outdoor use.  I also have two kerosene canning stoves for indoor winter use.

So what's MY favourite?  By far the All American's.  I like to can lots at one time but I usually have help.  It depends a lot on what I am canning.  Some items require more preparation.  Canning 14 jars of most things wouldn't be too much in my home!  The quality can't be beat - they are heavy duty and are built so you can hand them down to your kids in your will - if they aren't tired of canning before then!

If cost is a factor - and when ISN"T it - I would buy the Presto first and save up for the All American to be purchased at a later date.  I have NEVER seen one for sale second-hand but if that option opened up I would be careful.  The gauge can be damaged and then the pressure would not be correct. I have still not been able to find a place in Ontario where you can take the canner to have the pressure checked - if anyone knows please let me know.  

Pressure canning is a huge leap forward in being able to preserve your own food. You can process meat, soups, low acid vegetables and everything has ONLY what YOU put in it - no chemicals or preservatives - no impossible to read ingredients.  Healthy and delicious and FUN too - and I promise the canner won't blow up!  What'cha waiting for????

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Marathon canning with friends

I was looking forward to the pressure canning marathon for several weeks - myself, my daughter and our friends -  a mom and three teenage girls - got together for a day and we had a blast.  Our friends had never canned before so we were starting from the beginning.   We canned chilli, spicy kidney beans, spicy chickpeas, potatoes and chicken  soup.  

First of all I wouldn't recommend doing this until you've had some simple canning experience under your belt because this much pressure canning takes some extra organization - a bigger kitchen and work space wouldn't hurt either!

I was able to put all my canners to the test - all three - at the same time.  I have a 23 quart Presto and two 30 quart All Americans.  I can't use the AA's on my glass top stove because the combined weight of the canner the water and the filled jars would probably crack the stove top. I've had to try several different methods for these heavy-duty workhorses.  I tried an electric hotplate.  It worked but it took HOURS to come up to the pressure.  Not worth the time and effort.  I have two kerosene canning stoves but I am having trouble with the wicking system - they apparently work GREAT but I have yet to use them.  (long story!)  These are supposed to be my "winter - option".

What I do use is amazing!  It's a Camp Chef two burner propane stove on legs.  This is by far the best way to go!  The gauges are easy to turn up or down incrementally so you can get the heat just right.  The stove is big enough and heavy-duty enough to handle to the two large canners and all the weight with the jars and water inside.  I really like this stove.  

NOW - as we all know propane should NOT BE USED INDOORS.  We set ours up in the far-back-room with the back door wide-open because the weather was much cooler than it was supposed to be.  I had hoped that would solve the pollution problem - but it didn't work as well as I hoped.  Eventually we figured out that putting a huge fan in front of the back door to draw the fumes out helped a lot but it wasn't perfect.  Next time they will go outside for sure!  

I'm hoping to set up an outdoor kitchen this summer under a canopy to keep the canning heat outside - I'm still thinking about how that might work the most efficiently.

The two All Americans were "out back" about 25 feet from the kitchen and the Presto was on the stove in the kitchen.  We did most of the chopping and cutting and jar filling at the dining room table and carried the jars out in wash basins to the canners.  I was worried about that step but there were many hands and it DID make the work light so it worked out fine!

We set up a table in the far-back-room to place all the finished jars on.  We covered the table with a towel and had towels ready to cover the jars as soon as they were lined up.  It wasn't freezing in that room but it was cold and I wanted to minimize jar breakage caused by the temperature extremes of the hot canner and the cold room.  We didn't experience any problems when we used the towels.

Some things to think about when organizing canning with a crowd:

  • Before the canning marathon get your recipes ready and make a list of everything you will need including every teaspoon of spice and salt - you will go through more than you think you will!
  • Remove everything non-essential from your kitchen counters.
  • Have the recipes written out so everyone knows what to do next.
  • Soak the beans overnight if you're doing beans!
  • Prepare the chicken or turkey before canning day.  I cooked mine the week before and froze the de-boned meat and the broth.
  • Get out every bowl and container you own - you will need them all and wish you had more.  I get snarky comments from my kids when they put the dishes away sometimes about the amount of bowls I own.  At canning time they are all in use!  (I told-you-so!)
  • When making multiple recipes you will also need every pot you own and wish you had more.
  • Make sure your tea towel/dish cloth drawer is full - you'll use lots of them.
  • Pull out all the paring knives, vegetable peeler's  chopping boards, strainers and other tools you will need and put them on the largest surface area you have - ie your kitchen table.
  • Having a hotplate for extra "stove-space" is very handy - I bought one from kijiji.
  • Have multiple timers available.
  • Have ONE person in charge of the timers!!
  • Keep the kettle full of boiling water - as soon as it's empty - fill it again.
  • Try to have the "next-step" in mind so you are always thinking ahead.
  • Explain all the canning "rules" before you start with as much detail as you can think of - especially if you are working with first-time canners.
  • Wash dishes as you go.
  • Don't forget to take breaks!

My day began early as I decided to start preparing a canner load of chilli before our friends arrived.  I had everything ready so that the load was finished just as they were arriving.  This allowed me to show them the whole process - albeit starting with taking the jars OUT of the canner and then quickly getting things ready to fill it again.

With three canners to fill it took all of us working to make it happen without wasting too much time in between loads.  Our goal was to get all three canners filled twice in the 6 hours between lunch and dinner.  Each load takes approximately three hours from filling the canner to pulling out the finished product when you count the canner getting up to pressure, the canning and then waiting for the pressure to drop again. We almost made it!  

Our final weekend tally was 21 pints of chilli with meat, 11 pints of vegetable chilli, 27 quarts of layer chicken soup, 23 quarts of spicy kidney beans, 7 quarts of spicy chickpeas and 8 quarts of "french fries".  Almost 100 jars of lovely ready-to-eat food and one huge pot of soup that incorporated all the leftover food.

This is a great way to get a LOT of canning done in a short amount of time.  I already have someone up for a marathon peach and pear canning session this summer - bring it ON!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Springtime mess and baby lambs

It feels an awful lot like spring outside today!  The sun is shining and everything is melting into muddy pools of mess.  The baby lambs are bounding around in the paddock and the ducks are pooping on the back porch.

I wonder sometimes if I have given you a romanticised version of life on the farm.  I am about to burst the bubble!

This week has certainly been a taste of spring.  It's been a little warmer each day - getting to above freezing most days which make working outside much more pleasant - and LOTS more muddy. (I am pretending that we won't get any more snow but I am probably just fooling myself) The back hallway where we come into the house and leave our barn clothes is also the main entrance to our home.  Right now it's dirty-with-bits-of-hay-and-shavings and full of poopy muddy boots.  Right outside the door is the ducks favourite place to hang out because it's out of the wind and it faces south so it warms up and melts there first.  I often look out the kitchen window to see 6 or 7 ducks splashing in the melting snow and talking to the cats.  They get along really well with the cats trying to get friendly and the ducks mostly ignoring them. The ducks are always trying to get the last of the cat food as well so there's lots of flapping and noise when they fly up on the table - I've already mentioned the poop.

The walkway to the driveway was an ice covered slope until DH and son sprinkled it with a mixture of sand and salt from the local works department depot where you can get it free for the taking.  We were not aware of the salt until it was too late - it's not my first choice because the damage to the grass and it's not great for the ducks or chickens feet either. They did such a good job but went completely overboard on the amount required to do the job.  Now the walkway is a muddy mess - but it's not slippery!

The driveway is all slop.  Half frozen and half mud we just sorta tiptoe through it to get where we need to go - thankful that there is plenty of snow to walk through to clean off our boots afterwards.

The eaves-trough leak right above the main entrance to the barn so now there is a puddle big enough for the ducks to swim in right in front of the door.  You need to be careful not to slip but quick enough not to get too many icy cold drips down your back from the melting roof.  The water from this new little pond backs up and runs into the barn creating another muddy icy patch to navigate.

Oh joy!

The other day through a series of mishaps most of the sheep got loose.  As I came out of the house all I could see was the whole flock running down the driveway towards me headed pell-mell back to the paddock. Even little Opal - 5 days old was running with sheer abandon through the mud and ice.  If sheep could grin - I'm sure they were all grinning.  What fun for them - not so much for me. 

This morning we needed to dock the lambs tails.  We should have done it sooner but it's a two person job so I was waiting for my daughter to be at home.  The best time to do tails is when they are still confined to the lambing jug.  After about day 4 those cute little buggers can run faster then I can!  We managed to catch the first two without too much trouble but Opal gave us the run around.  I'm sure it would have been comical to watch.  

Yesterday was a sad day as we said goodbye to Freddy - the first lamb born on the farm last spring.  We sold him to friends of ours but neither of us has a truck or a trailer so we had to get creative.  We made a temporary "holding cell" in the back of the van and placed an old piece of carpet on the bottom to catch the mess.  My son and I managed to get JUST Freddy out of their pen and tied an seatbelt-like strap around his belly.  He was not impressed but we had to move him from the barn up a slippery hill and into the van.  There's no driving down there in the winter time.  It was quite the show!  Freddy fought us all the way as we pushed-pulled-dragged him to the van and hoisted him in.  It was like taking a very strong naughty dog for a walk!  All went well and out home made "holding cell" did the job really well.  I am still looking forward to the day we have a proper trailer!

For all the muck and mess I wouldn't trade living here for the world!  Isn't she sweet!!