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Collecting Cockles: A Galician Women's Tradition

Collecting Cockles Berberechos 

An hour into our first road trip to hunt down traditional recipes on the western coast of Galicia, we strike gastronomic gold in the form of Galician cockles, locally known as berberechos.

Upon descending a winding road which hugs the hillside slopes of Muros y Noia, we come upon 100 individuals bobbing up and down in the bay water near the seashore. We park the car below the pines, take off our sneakers, roll up our jeans and head into the low tide. About 200 meters out, we realize that the floating individuals are all women and they are raking the seashore for cockles.

Within 5 minutes of entering the water, we have a group of Galician women teaching us the tricks of their trade: how to hold and drag the rake, how to identify if the cockle is big enough for harvesting, and how to keep your bucket from falling over. When we ask how to cook the cockles (hoping for an invite into a local’s kitchen and a traditional recipe) a husky woman with a hearty chuckle and whole-hearted grin, grabs two cockles in her hand and uses one to pop the other open. She plops the naked, squirming mollusk in her open hand and says we either steam them or eat them raw…with a wink she pops one into in her mouth and we follow her lead.

In Galicia, the fisherwomen, aka mariscadores, have been harvesting berberechos for generations and generations. Traditionally, the men in this region would spend their days fishing in the deep ocean in boats while the women would stay on the shores to collect the clams and cockles. Berberechos is considered a predominately matriarchal trade which is handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. Throughout various times of the year, these women venture to different parts of the coastline raking away until they fill their buckets with berberechos. They then rush over to the weighing station to sell their berberechos before the daily quota is met! 

What Exactly is a Cockle?

Cockles are tiny, edible bivalve mollusks which are found in regions throughout the world. In the USA, we would consider a cockle a type of clam — they are bilaterally symmetrical, heart shaped when viewed from the end, only grow in salt water, and are part of the Cardiidae family. The Galician government intends to help maintain the Cockle harvesting tradition by conserving the cockles through sustainable regulations. The local government has size limits, daily collection limits, and continually tests the water for toxicity levels.

Check out our short film to experience the cockle harvest with The Recipe Hunters in Galicia!

Leila and Anthony are The Recipe Hunters. They travel the world in search for age-old, traditional recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. On their travels, they volunteer on organic farms, small homesteads, and family farms, where they learn about sustainable agriculture. In May 2015, Leila and Anthony cofounded Culinary Heritage Corporation, a nonprofit with the mission to promote culture through food. Follow The Recipe Hunters of Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Making and Using Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

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Last year we had about 50 pounds of apples to preserve. I made apple sauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling. Then I figured that I would try my hand at making hard apple cider. I decided not to pasteurize my crushed cider, and rely on the natural yeast strands to ferment my cider. I did everything right, so I thought. When it was time to finally taste my bounty I took a big swig only to discover that I had successfully brewed 5 gallons of apple cider vinegar. I was about to dump the entire batch, but that went against everything that I stood for in my quest towards self sufficiency.

I remembered that I used ACV when canning salsa to prevent bacteria growth, and recalled my grandmother’s kitchen smelling of her vinegar cleaners. There had to be other uses for it as well. I started by investigating what exactly is apple cider vinegar? It is made by taking crushed apples, and adding yeast. The sugars ferment into alcohol, just like when making wine.

The word “vinegar” actually means sour wine in the French language. Bacteria is then added to the alcohol which causes further fermentation, and produces acetic acid, which is what makes it vinegar. Apparently my apples held a natural bacteria that skunked the entire batch.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Cleaning

Commercial cleaners have been linked to respiratory problems, and increased cancer risks for humans and animals. As a mother of 4 I often worry about the chemicals that my children are exposed to. I see their little hands on the floors, and on the glass and think about what is being transferred to their skin, or even worse, to their mouths.

Commercial cleaners have been linked to respiratory problems, and increased cancer risks for humans and animals.

Apple cider vinegar replaces the need for almost every surface cleaner in a home. For a streak free glass cleaner, hard surface disinfectant, and hard floor cleaner mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. This mixture can be added to a spray bottle, or even to your steam cleaner for hardwoods and tile. ACV also will naturally eliminate odors on surfaces. A mix of 50% ACV to 50% water eliminates and cleans urine from wet beds, or pet stains in carpets.

Add ACV to your toilet water overnight, and scrub in the morning. You can add ACV to your dishwasher to replace detergent as well. One of the best cleaning tricks I have discovered is placing a bowl with 1 cup water and ½ cup ACV in the microwave, and heating for 5 minutes. Let stand another 5 minutes, and then wipe the greasiest microwave clean with ease. This will take that microwave at the office, the one that has 5 years worth of exploding hot pockets baked into it, and make it sparkle.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Beauty

ACV can be used on sunburns, acne, to fade bruising, and to eliminate dandruff. For red sunburn skin simply add 1 cup of ACV to a warm bath to lessen redness. After washing your face you can apply using a cotton ball to increase your skin’s PH, and reduce blemishes. You can also rinse your hair and massage onto your scalp to sooth dry scalp, and make your hair shiny. For the hair rinse simply mix 1 tbsp ACV to 1 cup water, and rinse your hair once a week with the solution after shampooing.

ACV is also used in aiding weight loss. Taken daily is can lessen sugar cravings, aid in digestion, increase energy, and boost metabolism. Mix 1 tbsp per cup of water, and sip throughout the day.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Healing

ACV is also great for fighting toenail fungus, bug bites, eczema, skin rashes, and disinfecting cuts. Your pets can also benefit from the use of ACV. ½ cup of ACV to 1 cup water rubbed into their skin or applied using a spray bottle will deter fleas. 1 tbsp can also be added to their water to improve overall health.

When I was sick as a child my father would heat up a mug of hot water, add 1 tbsp ACV, 3 tbsp raw organic honey, and a cinnamon stick. This hot drink soothed sore throats, and cut the strength of the cold or flu almost immediately. If we felt a cold coming on he would make us the hot remedy, and often times we were able to head it off before we ever got really ill. This is excellent for strep throat as well.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Health

There are many health benefits to ACV, so many in fact that we should all be taking a tablespoon of ACV daily. ACV can relieve gout, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increases liver function, reduce blood glucose levels in diabetics, promote the growth of healthy gut flora, and ease constipation. ACV has anti-inflammatory properties, and overall boosts immunity in your body.

I ended up making my own by accident, but ACV is sold wherever groceries are sold. I highly recommend finding an organic unfiltered brand, but I also love that a two dollar bottle can clean and disinfect my house, ease a cold, heal a wart, and supply us with so many other health benefits. I use it for every room in my house, and every member of my family, and that botched batch of hard cider ended up being an enormous blessing.

If you are interested in making your own apple cider vinegar, here is an easy and delicious recipe.


1 wide mouthed quart jar
2-3 apples cut into cubes
1 tbsp organic sugar

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1. Add cut apples to jar, sprinkle with sugar, and fill with enough water to fully cover the apples.

2. Place a cheesecloth or thin cloth over the jar, and fasten with a rubber band to allow for the mixture to breath.

3. Place in a dark spot for 4 weeks.

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4. After 4 weeks strain the liquid into a clean jar, discard the apple pieces, and cover with the cheesecloth.

5. Allow the strained liquid to sit in a dark area for another 4-6 weeks.

6. Seal the jar and you are ready to start using your organic homemade apple cider vinegar.

Melissa Souza lives on a 1-acre, organically managed homestead property in rural Washington State where she raises backyard chickens and meat rabbits and grows plums, apples, pears, a variety of berries, and all the produce her family needs. She loves to inspire other families to save money, be together, and take steps toward self-reliance no matter where they live. Connect with her on Facebook.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Drunken Cherries Recipe

Home Preserving Drunken Cherries

Cherries are my favorite fruit, so when the season begins, I bring in many pounds of them to make this delicious French-style preserve and to put up in several other methods.  (Please see last summer’s post about pitting cherries, making cherry-pit cordial, and more recipes to make the most of cherry season. And also a recipe for glaceed cherries.)

I put up these cherries at the beginning of the season to let them rest and soak for months. Come the holiday season, I’ll transfer them to small jars for gift giving and festive desserts.  They’re wonderful over a plain custard, compatible ice creams, plain cakes, creamy cheeses or just spooned into a small dish for a light dessert. You won’t process these cherries. They’ll keep just fine for months covered with alcohol in a big jar.

I use a half-gallon jar to make enough for my needs — you can make any size you need, simply multiplying the recipe. I double this recipe. Buy or pick plenty of cherries, because we know some will end up in your mouth as you’re pitting.

For the liquor, I use equal parts vodka and brandy, with a measure of the Cherry Pit Cordial I made last summer. Different cultures use different liquors to their taste — in France, marc is favored, Italians might use grappa and so on. One year, I made this with bourbon and it was very good, but I don’t think Scotch would work.

If you didn’t make Cherry Pit Cordial last year, do make it this year with the pits from all the cherries you’ll use. It is absolutely delicious, something like Amaretto and also works very well substituted for Kirsh in cheese fondue.  Go here to learn how.

Recipe for Drunken Cherries

Ingredients for 1 Quart:

• 4 pounds cherries
• ¾ cup of cane sugar
• ½  cup vodka
• ½ cup brandy
• ¼ cup Cherry Pit Cordial
• 1 vanilla bean


If you double the recipe, just the one vanilla bean is enough.

1. Wash, stem and pit the cherries, reserving the pits in a pint jar.

2. Partially dehydrate. Load the cherries onto trays of the dehydrator. I love my Nesco dehydrator that lets me set the temperature. I set it at 135 degrees Fahrenheit and in 4 hours, the cherries are shriveled but still moist.

3. Transfer the cherries to a canning jar and add the sugar. Shake the jar, roll it around to distribute the sugar. It will take a few hours sitting on the counter, occasionally shaken and rolled to finally get all the sugar mixed and beginning to form a syrup. When the syrup is beginning to form, add the vanilla bean down the side of the jar and then add all the alcohol, topping the jar so all the cherries are submerged.

4. Cap the jar with a plastic lid or use a piece of plastic wrap and then a two-piece lid to seal the jar. Give it a good shake to combine the liquors. For a day or two, continue to shake and roll the jar to get the sugar completely dissolved.

5. Store the jar of cherries in a cool, dark cupboard for at least a month, better for several. As the holiday season arrives, transfer the cherries and liquor to appropriate jars.

6. Don’t discard the vanilla bean — it still has lots to give. Pat it dry and put it in a jar of sugar, put it in a small bottle of either vodka or brandy to make your own vanilla extract or use it in any recipe the calls for a scraped bean. Likewise, if you use vanilla beans in custards or such, don’t discard the scraped pod but put it into a bottle of liquor to hold it for another use.

Container Pot Garden On Porch

Dehydrate More Cherries!

Be sure to dehydrate plenty more cherries. They store beautifully packed into zipper bags in the freezer just to be safe. A pound of cherries will yield about 1 cup dried to raisin consistency. You’ll want several cups to use for fall and holiday baking.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Frugally Bulk Up Your Pantry Like a Pro

Supermarket Produce In Grocery Cart

In this day and age, getting ahead financially can be difficult. Thanks to our plummeting economy, extra money may not be as readily available as it was in the past and the majority of your paycheck may already be destined for other uses. It is important to keep your finances in mind when you are planning a food pantry and search out frugal solutions rather than break the bank.

In my last post, I stressed that there are options out there in your food pantry planning. You can purchase your food items in bulk to save money, or buy a little at a time and find deals along the way. Like a squirrel storing food for the winter, this method lets you purchase smaller amounts of food over time to amount to a large stockpile of food to rely on. Either option works. You just need to decide what is best for you and your food storage needs.

Where to Find Bulk Food Items

As many of you know, having a food storage is an investment that may not always come cheap. One of the best places to buy bulk, shelf-stable foodstuffs that I have found is at the Latter Day Saints food storage warehouses.

This church has opened its doors to non-members to create a more prepared community. They have cases of cases of canned dry goods like beans, rice, dry milk, etc., available and the beauty of it is it is already packed and ready for long-term storage. This frees up so much time!

Here’s a link to their locations. As well, purchasing the larger, bulkier bags at Costco, Sam’s, or Walmart is also very economical, but make sure you transfer your food items into long-term storage containers to protect your food investment because the flimsy plastic packaging they are currently in cannot stand up to long-term storage.

How to Stock Up a Little at a Time

Make your pantry planning a priority by shifting your mindset. It takes time and effort to find the best deals around town. Those deeply discounted items can save you lots of money in the long run, and it is in your best interest to spend time hunting them down.

Many stores go through cycles of discounts, coupons, and clearances. Asking grocery store managers when these cycles are can help you to create a calendar of frugal pantry buying.

As well, locate grocery store outlets. These hidden gems have food items that are already discounted, and then there could be sales on top of the existing discount. That is a home run for food purchasing. If you happen to be health conscious, many of these stores have organic and natural foods on their shelves that you can purchase too.

The dollar store is another diamond in the rough that you can take advantage of. There are many brand name food items costing a mere dollar that you can stock up on. Luckily, dollar stores have found their way into or near every town in America, so you should have no problem finding your local store.

In my last article, I mentioned the importance of staying organized in your shopping excursions. So, when you are hitting these discount stores, stay focused on the well-rounded food pantry you are trying to create and try to resist bulking up on junk food or items you do not need.

Next time, we will talk more about how to store your food items for long-term and avoid any pests along the way.

Tess Pennington started Ready Nutrition as a way to help her family live more economically. She is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster, and the highly-rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing, and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. Subscribe to Tess’ newsletter, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Soy/Coffee BBQ Glaze


In this third, and final, installment on what to do with leftover coffee, this one is right in time for BBQ season. (Mocha Fudge Sauce)This is super simple, quick to make, and tasty. It’s a dark sauce, almost dark mahogany in colour that goes incredibly well on chicken and pork. I precook my chicken and ribs, then husband Bob puts it on the grill, where, armed with a brush, bastes the meat for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. His theory is chicken always needs something, so he is quite generous with the sauce. I also like a lot of sauce on ribs. 


2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/3 cups cold, leftover coffee
½ cup tamari sauce, I used the gluten free one*
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, and heat until bubbly and thickened.  That’s it!  Goes good with chicken and pork, but if you want to use it on beef as well, go for it. This makes two cups.

*I prefer the gluten free tamari as a matter of taste, but you can use regular, or plain old soy sauce, any type you like. 

You can follow the further adventures of Sue or sign up for a class at her website: or email:

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

New Website Uses Health Data To Track Food-Borne Illnesses


Everyone loves going out to eat at their favorite local restaurant, but when a pleasant meal ends up with you sick or even in the hospital, a lovely evening can quickly become a nightmare. While your local health department regularly inspects all the restaurants in your city, it can be difficult to access these inspection reports promptly.

That’s where Dining Grades comes in — a new website that keeps track of popular restaurants and makes it easier to make a decision about where you’re going to eat tonight. What makes Dining Grades different from other websites?

What’s Behind That Door

Finding the safest place to eat isn’t always easy — the dining room might look pristine, but you have no way of knowing what the kitchen or food prep areas look like. Rodents, pests, food that’s being improperly prepared or improperly stored, or food that is being transported at an incorrect temperature all put you at risk of acquiring a food-borne illness. In the U.S., more than 48 million people get sick every year from food-borne bacteria — roughly one out of every six people in the country.

Making the Right Choice

Sites like Dining Grades are an invaluable tool to help you make the right choice when deciding where to dine. You can search restaurants by city or by name, and see their average food safety rating, as well as the results of all of their recent health department inspections. While the site does not provide the details of these inspections, it also provides tools to allow you to both rate the restaurant and to report suspected food-borne illnesses.

While just having this information isn’t always enough to avoid a bad batch of food at even highly rated restaurants, it can help you avoid places that might look good, but are perpetually rated poorly by their local health department inspectors.

Too Much Information

Some could argue that providing all this information to the public isn’t in the best interest of the businesses themselves. Some restaurants, after being closed for violations, have ended up closing their doors for good, because even a temporary closure is enough to cause the public to lose confidence in even their favorite eateries.

While public reviews and inspection reports might be detrimental to the businesses’ reputation, these details are essential to help patrons make smart and informed choices about where they choose to eat.

Preventable Illnesses

The most tragic thing about food-borne illnesses, especially those that end in the death of those afflicted, is that they are almost always preventable. By observing proper food storage and preparation procedures, restaurants and food sellers can prevent the growth of bacteria that leads to these illnesses. With 48 percent of food-borne illnesses being traced back to restaurants, it is the restaurant owner’s responsibility to ensure that all food prepared in their kitchen is safe and ready for consumption.

Just storing both hot and cold foods at the proper temperatures and avoiding cross-contamination can do much toward the prevention of these illnesses, and restaurants that cannot or will not comply with these procedures should be closed down until they are able or willing to make the necessary changes to protect their consumers.

While the average consumer isn’t going to be inspecting kitchens, there are tools available to help diners make the best decision to avoid food-borne illnesses. Take the time to research a new restaurant before you head out to eat a meal — it could mean the difference between having a pleasant dinner with the family and ending up in the hospital with a preventable food-borne illness.

Photo credit: Image by Rawpixel -

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Spring Vegetables that Scoop and Wrap

A fun way to eat your vegetables is to use them to scoop or wrap a delicious filling or dip. The kids who come to the farm delight in vegetables they can get their hands around. It is like magic when you grow a vegetable that serves as a spoon and can be eaten right along with the rice it is scooping! I will share a few of my favorite spring vegetables that make great wraps, spoons, and scoops. Members of the CSA at my farm have been enjoying the first few weeks of harvests in May and June, and these vegetable crops are some of the highlights.

Lettuce Cabbage

Fun Jen Napa Cabbage is a cabbage variety with mild delicate leaves like lettuce and white crunchy stems like celery. We call it lettuce cabbage at our farm. Chop it up and you have a complete salad. With its big wide leaves, it also makes an excellent lettuce wrap. Saucy chicken cooked in the crock pot makes a delicious filling. Or anything spicy and ricey.

Bok Choy

Bok Choy is similar, with its celery-like spoon at the bottom and green leafy vegetable top. We use bok Choy as edible spoons. My kids prefer their vegetables raw and crunchy. They use edible spoons to scoop up anything saucy, spicy, and ricey. Bok Choy spoons also scoop up hummus or ranch dressing. Anything you want to scoop can be scooped with a Bok Choy spoon.

Salad Turnips

Hakurai turnips are not your ordinary turnips. They are delicious, crisp, white turnips that are delicious raw. Peel and slice them and use as scoops for dips, or toss chopped pieces into salad.

Whether you are looking for a fun vegetable to grow in your garden or buying some seasonal produce at the local farmer’s market, try these varieties of edible spoons and healthy wraps.

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm's Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.