Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

Forage Wild Rowan Berries for a Cranberry Substitute (with Swedish Meatball Recipe)

 "sweet" rowan berries 

Rowan berries are acrid and sour and how the heck can you eat them?

Some people believe that they are poisonous too. Which is true, at least a little, because the raw ones contain a substance causing nausea, if too many raw berries are eaten. But in fact, it’s almost impossible to eat a sickening amount of raw rowans, because they do taste awful, really!

Once cooked, they are completely safe to eat and also have lost the acrid fraction of their taste, which then has turned into kind of a pleasant bitterness.

Here, in Atlantic northern Europe, people are quite familiar with using rowans in recipes one normally would use cranberries in. Rowans are a good replacement. Cranberries need very low soil PH and don’t agree with our Atlantic winters. Due to warm Gulf Stream drift towards our shores, it happens, that a change of wind direction from east to west can cause temperature jumps from -20 to + 40 degrees Fahrenheit and back down within a couple of days. Cranberry shrubs would lose their buds once they thaw out and re-freeze. Rowan trees are much more tolerant against “yoyo-style temperatures”.

If you want to pick rowans, go for the plump red ones, the small, bright orange or yellowish berries taste far worse than those. Red and orange berries grow on different shrubs/small trees. They are actually two different kinds of rowan trees, very closely related. Here in northern Europe, people call the dark ones “sweet rowans” though they aren’t sweet at all.

Our Favorite Recipe Using Rowans

It is easily made. It’s a kind of jam we would be eating along with meatballs, venison or fish. Rowans contain lots of pectin, so the only thing you need in addition to make jam, is sugar. About the same amount of sugar (or slightly more) in weight, you have rowans.

Blend sugar and berries and let sit overnight until some juice oozes out. Then process in a blender, until mixture has turned to a pulp. Boil for 5 minutes and put into canning jars. That’s it. If you want a kind of sweet jam to spread on bread or pancakes, you should substitute half of rowans weight for sweet pears.

But of course, I will not let you away without our family’s recipe for meatballs in gravy.

Swedish Meatballs in Gravy Recipe

Kødboller, we call them, and no, they are not Swedish only, though they were made famous by a certain Swedish furniture chain. People all over northern Europe like eating them in winter. Our recipe isn’t for people counting calories, but for those, doing hard physical work on cold winters days.

Ingredients:

• Minced pork and/or beef
• 1 finely chopped small onion per pound of meat
• Pepper, salt, mustard powder, mashed garlic
• Semolina or grits
• Lard for frying
• Cream
• A laurel leaf,
• 2 juniper berries,
• salt and pepper,
• Tbsp soy sauce,
• 2 Tbsp powdered mushrooms (or mushroom extract) per pint of cream.

Directions:

1.Blend meat, onions and spice, add semolina or grits until you are able roll it into small balls smoothly (if you use grits, you may let it sit for a while before you start rolling)

2. Fry meat balls until they are nice and brown. Add cream and spices and boil until cream thickens up a bit.

3. Serve with rowan jam and mashed potatoes.

Cultivating Rowan Trees

Rowan trees (Sorbus aucaparia) need cold climate (cold temperate or subarctic), in Europe they grow north of 52nd latitude or high up on mountains, that’s why another name for the rowan tree is “mountain ash”. Though rowan trees are not related to ash trees at all, but to chokeberries, sorb tree, checker tree and whitebeam.

If you want to plant rowan trees, make sure, they're getting full sunlight all year around. Their natural habitat is forest edges and clearings and the south edge of arctic tundra. They would grow in shady areas alright, but would not bear any fruit. Birds like the berries very much (the German word for Rowans actually translates to "bird berries") and if you want to harvest more than just a few, you may consider covering shrubs with netting.

Rowan trees would grow in nearly any kind of soil and are fairly tolerant to wet ground as well as to drought. Their seeds need cold temperatures to be able to germinate (Rowans are slow starters and it takes quite a lot of patience, to grow them from seeds.)

Here people say if rowan trees are bearing plenty of fruit, a very long or very cold winter is on its way.

Marion Gabriela Wick lives on a secluded, 3.5-acre homestead in North Frisia, Germany where she guides tours to the European Wadden Sea National Park and the salt marshes located almost at her doorstep. She has been instrumental in protecting Wiedingharde Beach’s unique “fruity heritage” made up from thousands of wild and heritage fruit trees and shrubs growing along roads and trenches, around fields and farm houses, planted by generations of farmers trying to protect their cottages and grain fields from the regions very harsh weather conditions. Read more from Marion at The Fairies Garden and about her local beach at Südwesthörner


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Annie's Salsa Recipe for Canning and Freezing (with Video)

Jarred salsa

This salsa recipe is the result of hard work and collaboration between a gal named Annie and her local State Extension Service. This delicious recipe is very special because it’s approved for canning using a boiling water bath. Being an approved recipe means that it was put through rigorous kitchen chemistry testing to be sure it is safe for this purpose.

Over the past several years, there has been a renewed interest in home canning. It’s an affordable and pleasurable way to “put up” the bounty from your own organic garden and other seasonal produce.These colorful jars typically contain superior nutrition and taste, when compared to commercially prepared goods.

I think this resurgence is wonderful!!  However, as a long time canner since the 1980s, I am honestly alarmed at the glut of UNTESTED canning recipes circulating around the internet. If botulism spores float into a jar filled with a recipe that isn’t quite acidic enough, you could have a real health crisis on your hands, a risk that I personally would never take.

So for your safety and for that of your family, I urge you to only use tested recipes such as the ones posted on the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website, nchfp.uga.edu. State Extension Services at State Universities may also have approved recipes, such as Annie’s Salsa.

Here is a factsheet that you may find interesting: “Can I can my own salsa recipe?"

I created this short YouTube video in order to help guide you through the process.

Annie's Salsa Recipe

Ingredients:

• 8 cups tomatoes; peeled, chopped, drained (not overly drained)
• 2 1/2 cups onion, chopped 1/4 inch
• 1 1/2 cups green or red peppers, chopped 1/4 inch
• 3 to 5 jalapeños, chopped 1/4 inch
• 6 cloves garlic minced
• 2 tsp cumin
• 2 tsp ground black pepper
• 1/8 cup fine sea salt
• 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1/4 cup sugar (optional)
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 5 percent
• 2 cups tomato sauce
• 1 cup tomato paste (optional)

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Instructions:

1. Mix all ingredients together.

2. Bring to a boil, then boil for 10 minutes.

3. Pour into hot pint jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

4. Seal and process in a boiling water canning bath for the following minutes:

• to 1,000 feet processing time is 15 minutes

• 1,001 - 3,000 feet - 20 minutes

• 3,001 - 6,000 feet - 25 minutes

• 6,001 - 8,000 feet - 30 minutes

• 8,001 - 10,000 feet - 35 minutes

Notes

1. Novice canners, please educate yourself at National Center for Home Food Preservation.

2. Feel free to adjust the heat of this recipe by including more or less hot peppers. However, the total amount of chopped peppers (hot and sweet) should not exceed 1-3/4 cups. It’s a good idea to wear gloves when handling hot peppers.

3. The amount of herbs, spices, salt and sugar can be reduced or eliminated — but not increased.

4. The density of the salsa is a consideration; for safe canning purposes it should be thicker than juice but not as thick as catsup. It should be thin enough so the chopped vegetables are suspended in the liquid.

Freezing: This recipe freezes very well also! If you decide to freeze Annie's Salsa, the recipe can be safely altered, i.e. you could add more cilantro, etc.

A big hug and thank you to Annie for generously sharing this recipe! And a special thanks and shout out to Dave and all of the other “wise ones” for tirelessly answering questions in the Harvest Forum on GardenWeb.

Judy DeLorenzo is a holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She completed a 3-year course called Transformational Energy Healing, studied homeopathy, earned a certificate from eCornell in Whole Foods, Plant-Based Nutrition, and is currently studying herbalism through Rosemary Gladstar's Sage Mountain. Her approach as a holistic health practitioner is to carefully look at the complete picture and suggest solutions that promote the person’s innate ability to self-heal and maintain vibrant health. You can learn more about Judy DeLorenzo and her healing practice at Biofield Healing, enjoy her blog A Life Well Plantedand also her informative YouTube Channel. Read all of Judy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Fermenting Garlic: Let's Look at Some Varieties

 

It was late Fall when most of the seed garlic was tucked into the long rows that Mary Alionis, queen bee of Whistling Duck farm, brought nine varieties to my fermentation space in order to compare how the different varieties react in ferments. (These were the players — 'Wonha', 'Chimayan', 'Siberian', 'Romanian Red', 'Kishlyk', 'Aglio Rosso di Sulmona', 'Sliverskin', 'Creole', and 'German Red' — who’ll you’ll be introduced to properly in just a moment.)

Garlic Fermentation Trials

We trialed each variety as a whole clove pickle that was fermented in a brine and as a lacto-fermented paste which was dry fermented with salt. It was fascinating to watch the process unfold. After the first 4 days, there was already a lot of fermentation action.

The brined garlic pickles had varying degrees of activity by variety. The 'Chimayan', for example, bubbled all over the place where as the 'German Red' showed little sign of fermentation. This was also true of the pastes. The 'Chimayan' was darker while the 'German Red' showed the least color change. Some of the other pastes were varying degrees of pink. The 'Creole' was the bubbliest.

As the ferments progressed, each one went about its progression through the stages at its own pace, despite all other factors being the same. But the real test was the flavor. They were “technically” finished in about a month; however, because of refrigeration constraints, I kept them in a root cellar at around 58 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 months. They were still delicious and had incredible depth of flavor.

Results and Tasting Notes

Wonha: This garlic is an Asiatic variety from North Korea, and while it is a hot and spicy fresh garlic, it ended up being the best all-around for its mild balance of flavor. The paste has a mild flavor with sweetness, and the pickles have a wonderful floral sweetness.

Chimayan: These are rich and earthy when fresh (and yes a big bulb with large cloves). When fermented this garlic paste takes on an herbal, spicy flavor. The pickled clove is sweet and the brine is exceptionally fizzy.

Siberian: The paste made from this variety is smooth with fennel notes (I know odd, but tasty). The fermented clove is spicy, not as sweet as some of the other varieties. Strangely, it is also the only one that seemed a bit fibrous.

Romanian Red: This is a productive, strong-flavored, fresh variety. Fermented, it offers a nice balance of flavor. The paste has light citrusy notes. The brined cloves are average flavored.

Kishlyk: This garlic is from Uzbekistan. It produces large bulbs, and the fresh flavor is quite tasty. As a fermented garlic the final paste is a caramel color with a pure sweetness. The pickled clove is also very sweet.

Aglio Rosso di Sulmona: This garlic is from the Abruzzo region of Italy and is known as a pickling garlic. Fresh, it has a sweet delicate flavor. Interestingly we found it to have a slightly bitter flavor (not unpleasant but noticeable) in both the paste and the whole clove pickle. The brine of the whole clove pickle is sweet and syrupy and is one of the tastiest brines.

Silverskin: One of the big advantages to fermenting this garlic is the large bulb size (less bulbs to peel). Another plus is its long storage period so you can use it all through the winter and spring in any ferment. The paste has a mild flavor at first with heat that comes on slowly. The whole clove brine has a most amazing rich flavor, while the cloves themselves were a little boring (like all the flavor just dropped into the brine).

Creole:  This garlic hails from the Mediterranean  and is an all around good garlic to grow, store, and ferment. The paste has a light heat that comes on slowly and the brined clove stays nice and spicy. The brine itself is thick, sweet and syrupy.

German Red: This is a rocombole variety that is spicy when raw. It also has a very nice scape that ferments beautifully in a pickle or paste. The bulbs are also medium to large which is handy for big production. This variety produces a very nice ferment with a clean garlic flavor in both the paste and brined whole clove. The paste is sweet and mild with a curry-yellow color.

It is time to plant garlic and any kind will give you an amazing convenient probiotic condiment. Check out a recipe here.

Kirsten K. Shockey is a post-modern homesteader who lives in the mountains of Southern Oregon. She writes about sauerkraut and life—but not necessarily in that order. She’s written a complete book of Fermented Vegetables and forthcoming Fiery Ferments maintains the website Ferment.works.


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.

Add Variety and Fun from Garden to Table with 'Yard-Long' Beans

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Each year, after envisioning a layout for our garden, we make a list of the seeds we need to buy at our local garden store. We browse the racks staring at beautiful pictures of bountiful produce and inevitably add to our list with a handful of impulse buys.

One of our traditions is looking for something new and unusual that we haven’t grown before. Okra, Red Kuri squash, and Romanesco cauliflower have all shown up in our garden as a result. This year, my husband went for the fun factor and picked up a package of “yard-long” beans.

What are Yard-Long Beans?

The yard-long bean is also known as a Chinese or Asian longbean and can often be found in Asian grocery stores. The variety we grew was 'Orient Wonder' by Botanical Interests, but you’ll find varieties of this bean available from a number of seed companies. While it can grow close to 30 inches long, which was very exciting for our 6-year-old to imagine, it is actually more pleasing if picked between around 12 inches, while the skin is still smooth and the seeds have not begun to thicken. Rest assured: A foot-long bean is still pretty fun to pick and prepare!

The plant itself is also quite lovely in your garden, growing up a trellis or bean tower like any other climbing pole bean. It can reach 9-12 feet in height, so be prepared to give it the space it needs to reach its full potential (for additional technical information, consult this guide from the USDA).

Cooking Yard-Long Beans

Preparing yard-long beans is a bit of a different story from other types of pole or bush beans. Our first attempt made us think that these beans were a little too tough for our tastes. While we enjoyed the entertaining task of eating the full foot-long bean, we were less than pleased with its texture.

On our second attempt, I did a bit more research into Asian recipes that are better-suited to the dense texture of these beans, like this one. They hold up really well to a high heat stir fry, and are wonderful with garlic and soy sauce or even a little heat.  This time we enjoyed their texture, and no longer expected them to taste like “regular” beans — the result was much more pleasing and inspired to freeze a batch away for winter meals.

And yes, you can in fact cut them into more manageable pieces, but where’s the fun in that?

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Carrie Williams Howe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about being an authentic, participatory leader in various settings. She is a contributing editor at Parent Co Magazine. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’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.

Oatmeal-Raisin-Nut Cookies

 

Many of you know that I love oatmeal bread, but what you may not know is I love oatmeal cookies even more. I have tweaked, added, experimented, and generally tuned my recipe, until I’m fairly confident it’s the best Oatmeal-Raisin-Nut Cookie recipe there is. At a recent picnic, my suspicions were confirmed — comments were in the rave category. All 2 dozen disappeared — there weren’t even any crumbs.

These cookies make a large, 3-inch “fat” cookie, nothing chintzy here, but a good healthy dose of cookie heaven. For the picnic, I made a double batch, feel free to do so, but there would have been mutiny if I didn’t make some for the family. Those cookies are long gone, but there have been several hints for “more.”

They are also good keepers, if they last that long, and freeze well too, at least, I’m assuming they would, as none have never made it that far. For those of you who are nut allergic, just leave the walnuts out. You will still have a really fantastic cookie. 

Oatmeal Raisin Nut Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

• ¼ cup demerara sugar (if you can’t find it, just use dark brown)
• ½ cup dark brown sugar
• ½ cup butter, softened
• ¼ cup shortening
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp baking powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• 1 egg
• 1½ cups quick cooking oats
• ½ cup white flour
• ½ cup whole-wheat flour
• 1 cup raisins
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• Granulated sugar
• Water glass

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix all ingredients except oats, flour, raisins, and nuts.

3. Stir in flour, oats, raisins, and nuts.

4. Drop or pat dough into a “patty” at least 2 good-sized tablespoon at a time, about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. I tend to be generous, and if you want the three-inch monster cookie, you might want to use more.

5. Flatten the dough or patties to a little less that ½” thick with a water glass, the bottom dipped in granulated sugar. This gives the cookies a uniform thickness and some sparkle.

6. Bake until light brown, about 10 minutes. As ovens vary, this may be more or less, just use your own judgment. Remove quickly from cookie sheet and let cool on wire racks.

Yield about 2 dozen 2-3 inch cookies.

Important Notes: You can use other kinds of oats as well, the last time (the ones in the photo) I did a 50/50 mix of large flake and rolled. The water glass will start picking up the sugar after it’s been used once or twice on the dough.

Sue Van Slooten teaches cooking and baking classes at her home on beautiful Big Rideau Lake, Ontario, Canada. She specializes in small classes for maximum benefit. Follow her homesteading adventures and check out her class offerings at www.SVanSlooten.com. If you wish, you can email Sue atsuevanslooten@icloud.com. She would be thrilled to hear from you! Read all of Sue’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Growing Fresh Food From Supermarket Scraps

 

Cherry tomatoes grown from seeds which we saved from store-bought tomatoes.

There is no doubt it’s always best to buy high-quality seeds from a reputable source. It’s reliable, you know exactly what you’re getting, and the germination rate is high. Why, then, bother to plant vegetables from supermarket scraps?

Simple: It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s incredibly fun and satisfying to take something that would otherwise end up in the garbage bin (or at best, in the compost pile) and turn it into a source for homegrown food.

Many people mistakenly think that supermarket vegetables are sterile. Not so – if you plant fully developed seeds from ripe vegetables, they will grow and produce with proper care. However, many of those vegetables are hybrids, so you have no way of knowing what you’ll get until you try.

Growing Tomatoes from Store-Bought Produce

I saw a perfect illustration of this when I planted seeds from fancy purple cherry tomatoes my husband picked up at the store. The plants grew very well and flowered quickly, but when the tomatoes began to develop, I noticed two distinct shapes: Roughly half of the plants produced perfectly round fruit, while the other half gave me elongated tomatoes. This was because the mother plant had been a hybrid and, thus, didn’t breed true.

On the other hand, these were still highly edible tomatoes.

Bell Peppers, Melons, Beans, and More

Besides tomatoes, we successfully grew other vegetables this way, in particular bell peppers and melons. Dry beans, too, will many times sprout and grow readily – I use them as green beans. Right now, I have some very nice coriander growing in the garden, from seeds bought at the spice department. I thought I’d try to plant some just for the experiment. Only about 30% grew, but it didn’t matter, as I had so many and got them so cheaply.

Saving seeds is not the only way to use those store-bought leftovers to grow fresh food. A few potatoes I completely forgot about sprouted in the warm kitchen and, since I had nothing to lose, I planted them and they grew vigorously (until they were killed off by a frost, but that’s another story). I planted some sad, tired old onions and got beautiful green onion leaves to use in salads. I planted garlic from cloves, and even got a scrap of celery growing again by placing the bottom in the water until it sprouted roots.

Bottom Line

Leftovers from store-bought veggies can be utilized in ways other than compost or chicken treats. They can actually be given a new life in your garden or in pots on your windowsill. Try it and let the fun begin.

The above was an excerpt from my book, The Practical Homemaker's Companion (also available in e-book format).

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Connect with Anna on Facebook, find her as SmallFlocksMom on Earthineer, and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna'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.

Inventory Your Food Preservation

 

People ask me how many jars of tomatoes I preserve by canning. My answer used to be: I can however many cans I can can. That was when I did all I could, never approaching my pantry goals. “As much as possible” was a simple goal. An inventory of my jars and freezer packs didn’t seem necessary.

Then came a year when I made too much pesto for the freezer. I had surplus pesto for the year, but I ran out of canned tomatoes. That was wasted effort. I was inspired to keep a food preservation inventory.

I needed inventory information to focus my efforts. Last year’s numbers would prompt me to stop shredding zucchini when enough is enough and move on to the next crop. But how does one know when enough is enough? With a little documentation on the side of the frig, I collect valuable record-keeping data.

I post a paper on the side of the refrigerator and log tally marks of each product I preserve, whether it goes in the freezer, in the jar pantry, or in the spice drawer. I add notes about needing more or less for the next year-- whether I ran out before the next season came around, or if I preserved too many.

I now have a nice to-do list for the growing season. I know how many bags of shredded zucchini and blanched edamame to freeze. How many flats of oregano to dry. How many jars of salsa we used last year and when we ran out.

Ideally, create your preservation inventory as you produce and tuck away products. However, autumn is not too late to gather an inventory of jars and freezer packs, before you start digging in.

To read my other food preservation posts, click the link at the bottom of my bio.

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.