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

Turkish Beet Yogurt Salad: Appetizer from Ayse's Turkish Café

ayseDip_3389

As I described in more detail in my first post, I’ll be the first to say that you don’t need to leave Ann Arbor, Michigan, or nearby Ypsilanti to travel the world, at least by way of your taste buds.

With more than 363 restaurants within a twenty-mile radius of Ann Arbor, plus the draw of the so-called “Ivy of the Midwest” – the University of Michigan – educated and traveled residents and visitors alike have created a perfect storm for gastronomic delight. Added to this, is the widespread appreciation among chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans in the area who appreciate the quality that comes with savoring foods seasonally, locally, made-from-scratch and in small batches. Many are on a first name basis with their farmer-suppliers.

This sense of real food and quality comes as no surprise to us homesteaders and back-to-the-landers who my wife and I have long come to revere, respect and celebrate. We’re amazed by the abundance that comes from their organic backyard growing fields, urban vertical growing walls and bustling kitchens turning out crocks of sauerkraut and stew simmered in slow cookers or sun ovens.

Among the many restaurants I had a chance to try on a recent visit to Ann Arbor, Ayse’s Turkish Café was perhaps the closest to feeling like a home-cooked meal. Many were just like meals served on my farm. Simple, but packed with flavor. While the photos of the dishes might not trend highest on Instagram (as if this really matters when it comes to nutrition, flavor or taste), they're homemade delicious.

 ayse-dolmades_3396

The Café’s unpretentious owner Ayse Uras doesn’t have a menu board, per se, because she keeps changing it based on what’s in season. When I asked for a recipe, I learned many are not written down. The recipes are just in her head. Sound familiar? I can whip up our pesto recipe my memory (but written down, too, in Farmstead Chef). Stuffed grape leaves, spinach borek, rice pilaf, pepper lamb dolma and sultan’s delight with chicken are just a few of her more popular items.

“My dishes are mostly inspired from my childhood,” explains Uras. “Growing up in a small town in Anatolia we only had access to limited seasonal vegetables. Being a farm town, we always had to rely on staples like chick peas, wheats and beans. Now, I try to use local vegetables when available and make my recipes based around those.”

“There are few items that we almost always have daily,” adds Uras. “Others are based on the ingredients available in season. We try to have a beef, chicken, vegetarian dish available every day. Our menu changes continuously. During the [growing] season, we get our vegetables from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. Eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and beets come from several local farms.”

So, after numerous conversations and some back and forth via email, I finally nailed her down on her Beet Yogurt Salad which can also be served as an appetizer dip with some pita bread triangles or chips for dipping, This recipe comes just in time for our first beets ripening in my family’s growing fields. In Turkish, the beet yogurt salad is called pancar salata (pronounced "pahn-jar").

 ayse-owner_3429

Beet Yogurt Salad / Appetizer

Courtesy of Ayse’s Turkish Cafe

Yield: 5 servings

Ingredients

12 medium size red beets
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
5 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
2 tsp salt or more to taste

Directions

1. Remove tops and bottoms of beets, then briefly cook them in boiling water until easily pricked with fork, but not mushy. 

2. Shred the beets with a medium, hand-held shredder. Put in strainer for a few hours to drain as much moisture as possible from the shredded beets.

3. Mix shredded beets, yogurt, garlic, olive oil and salt in a large bowl.  The yogurt will take on the red beet color.

4. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 5 hours.

5. For serving, place beet yogurt salad on a serving plate, garnish with a slice of cooked beets on top and have some pita wedges or pita chips for dipping.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John'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.

Beyond Basil: Experimenting with Arugula and Garlic Scape Pesto

0710171329

While traditional basil pesto is always delicious, I was delighted years ago to sample an “everything but the kitchen sink” pesto at my local farmers’ market that opened my eyes to the possibilities for this condiment.  Virtually anything green and leafy can serve as a base for pesto – from kale to spinach and everything in between; and you’ll even find recipes for pesto made from peppers and other delicious garden treats.  Just start with a basic pesto recipe (like this one from Ball) to get your proportions and experiment from there!

This year I had a bumper crop of arugula right around the time that our garlic scapes were ready to be harvested, so I pulled together this pesto variation and was more than pleased with the results. 

Note: One trick I also picked up lately is blanching the greens before putting all of the ingredients into the food processor.  While the tip is usually given as a trick to keeping your pesto brighter in color, blanching basil can decrease the flavor a bit too much (see this discussion on Kitchen).  In this recipe, I like blanching the arugula because it can take a little bit of the bitterness out of the leaves, especially if they are overgrown (mellowing the flavor is a good thing in this case).  Thus, my compromise is blanching the arugula leaves, but not the basil.

Recipe: Arugula and Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups packed arugula
4-5 garlic scapes, chopped
15-20 basil leaves
¼ c lemon juice
¾ c grated parmesan cheese
½ c toasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

0710171334a0710171336

Step 1: Blanch the arugula.  Bring 3-4 quarts water to a boil in a large stock pot.  Add the arugula leaves and immediately stir to immerse them all.  Leave in for about 15 seconds then remove them and transfer them immediately to a bowl of ice water.  Once they have cooled down (30 seconds or so) remove them from the bowl and squeeze out the water.  You’ll end up with about a ball of greens a little bigger than your fist.

0710171349

Step 2: Process.  Put the arugula, chopped garlic scapes, basil leaves, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until well blended/chopped.  Then, with the food processor still running, gradually add the oil through the access tube.  Finish off with a few pinches of salt and a dash of pepper.

Step 3: Use or Store.  Use immediately as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or sandwich spread.  Can be stored in the fridge for a few days, or frozen in ice cube trays or canning jars (be sure to leave space for expansion).

0710171353a

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.


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.

3 Common Herbs, 3 Uncommon and Tasty Uses (with Black Bean and Corn Salad Recipe)

We cooks tend to get into ruts and don’t even realize brilliant new culinary tricks hiding under our noses. Over the years, I’ve occasionally learned new ways to use some of my favorite herbs with delicious results.

Rosemary for Grill Seasoning

Take, for example, rosemary: This fragrant herb grows in most North American planting zones. In some cases, the plant resembles a bush more than a mere splotch of green in the garden. Some of the best ways to deal with an overabundance of rosemary is to dry it and store for use in the kitchen. However, one of the biggest flavor punches is obtained by burning up the excess sprigs.

rosemary bush

Rosemary bush gone wild

Start by cutting a few branches and then let them dry for a couple of weeks, or speed up the process by laying the sprigs out in the sun. Next time you fire up the barbecue, either gas or charcoal, get ready to produce a fragrant cloud of rosemary smoke. I throw a couple of 12-14 inch sprigs of dried rosemary on the coals about ten minutes before chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, or beef are finished cooking.

The flavor reminds of sunny days on Santorini Island eating some of the best lamb in the world scented with rosemary. Best thing is the rosemary doesn’t even have to be fully dry for this application. Sometimes I’ll even spray the sprigs with water so they don’t burn up too fast.

If you live in planting Zone 7 or higher, you probably have rosemary that threatens to take over your garden every year. Clip the abundant branches and dry them. Once dried, they stay usable a year or more if properly stored in a dark, cool, dry, place.

dried rosemary

Rosemary springs dried for grill flavoring

Thyme as Salad Topping

Thyme is one of my favorite herbs. Here again, if you live in Zone 7 or higher chances, are you have thyme come back year after year. Every spring for a month or so one variety or another seems to burst into pretty little flowers. These tangy little buds are great for garnishing salads, grilled meats, or sautéed chicken breasts. My favorite way to eat them is tossed with a salad, or used as a salad topper. The flowers add lots of flavor to salads dressed in vinaigrette-type dressings.

Thyme flowers

Thyme flowers are suitable for salad toppings

Coriander: Cilantro's Seed

Another common herb is cilantro. Known for bolting and being useless just days after becoming harvestable in size and flavor, many gardeners just shake their heads and pull the bolting herb. But wait, let that baby grow into the gorgeous little bush it wants to be and enjoy the flowers on salads. You can also let cilantro go to seed.

Wait until it has developed seeds, then use in one of two ways. I like to take the green seeds and toss them in stir-fry dishes or soups. The other method is waiting until the bush has gone brown and dry.

cilantro in bloom

Cilantro plant gone to seed

Then after a week or so in its brown stage, harvest the seeds. I spread out newspapers on a table indoors and rub the seeds free of the branches. Then I roll the seeds into a brownie pan or sheet pan and collect them for use as coriander. Why buy coriander if you can easily grow your own? Use in any number of Indian dishes like coriander rice, chicken tikka masala, or tandoori spice mix.

green cilantro seeds

Cilantro seeds-coriander

You might find even more ways than I have to use excess herbs from your garden. Experimenting with herbs like these beats being in a cooking rut.

Black Bean and Corn Salad with Fresh Green Coriander Seeds

Ingredients:

• 3/4 cup cooked black beans
• 3/4 cup cooked corn
• 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
• 1/4 cup diced fresh tomato, optional
• 2 Tbsp minced jalapeno, optionals
• 1 Tbsp fresh green coriander seeds
• 1-2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 Tbsp minced chives or green onion
• 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
• salt to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon
• 1/2 avocado, optional

Directions:

In a bowl, mix all ingredients except avocado and chill for 30-60 minutes, if desired. Gently stir in avocado pieces and serve.

Note: Fresh oregano makes a lovely addition to this salad. Chop abut one tablespoon or so and mix well.

Kurt Jacobson has been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt's travel blog, TasteofTravel2.com. Read all of Kurt'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.

Farm-to-Table Food Travel Hotspot: Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan

freds-sampling_4108

“Food travel” is hot. And there are few places where you can embark on a culinary journey around the world with chefs and restauranteurs featuring cuisine from the far reaches of the globe, learn the art of cheese making, sip the world’s finest teas, or sample a selection of microbrews made in the brewery on the other side of the bar where it’s served.  Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as Ypsilanti and the surrounding communities celebrate the seasonal and local abundance. The chefs, bakers and food purveyors share the stories behind every dish, jar of sauerkraut, glass of beer, bottle of wine or spirits they make.

The breadth of the culinary scene is impressive. There are over 363 unique restaurants and eateries in the Ann Arbor area alone, fifteen breweries, three distilleries, six coffee roasters, several wine sommeliers, one of only five tea sommeliers in the US, seventeen artisan bakeries, three creameries and ten specialty food companies.

Added to this are numerous cooking classes offered by leading food purveyors and a vibrant farming community that supplies a year-round farmers’ market including several vendors selling cottage food products, numerous food co-ops and an exclusively local, year-round, direct-to-consumer market and coffee house called Argus Farm Stop. From my perspective, as a small-scale farmer, every town and city in America needs their own version of an Argus Farm Stop so we farmers can get out of the distribution and logistics business and focus, instead, on the growing.

A Food Travel Destination

According to the World Food Travel Association’s 2016 Food Travel Monitor Report, 93% of travelers have engaged in a unique or memorable food or drink experience, other than just eating out, in the past two years. They may have visited a cooking school, participated in a food tour, or gone shopping in a local grocery or gourmet store. In the Ann Arbor area, you can do it all – and much more.

“Certain food and beverage products and foodie experiences underscore an area’s sense of place because they can be unique to the area in question,” explains Erik Wolf, Executive Director of the World Food Travel Association. “An area doesn’t need to be famous for a product like Parma, Italy’s claim to fame with ham and Parmesan cheese. It can something as simple as the best burgers in 300 miles, or apple pie still made using grandmother’s recipe. As long as the food, beverage or experience is unique for the area, it can attract foodies.”

“The interest in local, artisanal, craft ingredients and their pedigree has surged in the past ten years,” adds Wolf.  “This is partly due to the influence of the media, but also from consumer demand. We want to know everything about the products we buy and ingest.”

The spectacular symphony of often times interwoven food and beverage artisans, cheesemakers, brewers, chefs, farmers and fermenters that call the Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti area home make understanding what we’re eating easy.

Here’s a round-up of just a few of the many culinary hotspots not to be missed, next time you’re passing through the area. If you have a thirst and hunger for global cuisine prepared with local ingredients, leave some time in your travel itinerary to wander from bakery, creamery and coffee house to restaurants, breweries and a bar on wheels as it snakes through the thriving downtown business district, cross-crossing Main Street.

TasteCauliflower_3988 

Global Tastes Served with Local Ingredients

The confluence of residents and visitors attracted to the tidy, tree-lined streets spawned an array of dining options as diverse as those who live or visit here. From Korean to Moroccan, from a Jewish deli to Turkish café with dishes that taste like they came out of a home kitchen, made from scratch, taste buds are tempted everywhere.

For breakfast, Fred’s take on California cuisine is mostly organic, local, super fresh and nourishing. This bright, hipster spot turns out smoothies, acai bowls, avocado toast, sweet potato nachos and breakfast burritos.

Travis Schuster, farmer-turned-chef at Ollie Food & Spirits, demonstrates with every dish his talent for showcasing whatever is in season. Who better to direct the menu than a former farmer? Nature controls the menu here, where he offers heartland comfort foods, like turnip mushroom dumplings and spring tartine of mushrooms, grilled asparagus and radish.

But the roots of the current Ann Arbor foodie scene go back several decades. Since 1982, Zingerman’s Deli, started by Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw, has been a staple of the gourmet food scene in Ann Arbor. Artisanal breads, a spectacular selection of fine cheeses, meats and olive oils are just a few items this global emporium offers (they ship, too). Their meal-sized sandwiches feature from-scratch sauces, dressings and fresh breads, with their corned beef Reuben a top seller. Of course, their sauerkraut comes from local The Brinery, headed up by the jovial David Klingenberger, Chief Fermenting Officer. Besides sauerkraut, his company makes fermented hot sauces and kimchi, all made from ingredients sourced from regional farms.

Nearby, you can visit Miss Kim, a restaurant specializing in Korean and Vietnamese food made with ingredients sourced locally from many farms, food artisans or purveyors. While it started as a food cart and is now among the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, Miss Kim had me with the first bite of their Bahn Mi sandwich stuffed with slow roasted five spice pork shoulder. Like most of the restaurants striving to source locally, the names of the growers and producers are listed right on the menu.

Chef and owner Danny Van at Taste Kitchen serves up his take on global cuisine prepared with local ingredients. Think: braised daikon radish with a green curry or my favorite, roasted cauliflower with fingerling potatoes, grilled zucchini and a red pepper sauce. Or you can watch the show behind the counter at Mani Osteria & Bar with their pizzas made in a wood-fired oven, handcrafted pastas and other Italian tapas. For truly hardcore local and sustainable sourcing, you can’t go wrong at Chef Brandon Johns’ Grange Kitchen & Bar, where 90 percent of their ingredients come from local farms.

Foodie Experiences

I’d argue that dining at many Ann Arbor area restaurants are, in fact, an experience in themselves. Wait staff and servers are eager to share and explain the dishes or drinks, their preparation, their sourcing and so forth.  But learning about the craft of cheese making at Zingerman’s Creamery -- which makes all of their cheeses from local cow’s or goat’s milk – or baking scones at a cooking class offered by Fustini’s that focuses on olive oils and vinegars takes it to a whole new level.

As one of only five Tea Sommeliers in the United States, Lisa McDonald can read her tea leaves like few others.  Her Tea Haus in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Market & Shops is a cornucopia of aromas and flavors, with an entire wall devoted to air tight containers holding her exquisite black, oolong, green and white teas. Linger here for the lowdown on growing regions, processes and the politics of tea. For an hour, I joined her on the journey to distant lands when sampling her Assam Mokalbari black, Darjeeling Steinthal black, China Milky Jade oolong, Japan Sencha green, China Lung Ching green and China Fancy Peony white teas. Bliss in a cup.

For other tasting “classes,” savor a glass of wine from several northern Michigan vineyards at VinBar or grab a seat at the HOMES Brewery to sample the sour Leafy Leaf Drops, hoppy Same Same Different IPA, King Cold Brew ale and Bang Down stout brewed on site by head brewer Nick Panchame and the rest of his team.

With High Five Pedal Tours, I pedaled my way through the city with stops at bookstores (I’m an author, after all) while enjoying locally roasted coffee from Mighty Good Coffee. Our group of sixteen pedalers finished at the award-winning Ann Arbor Distilling Company, a boutique distillery that goes from grain to the glass, producing gins, vodkas, liqueurs and brandy with Michigan-sourced ingredients. Our nightcap was a white Russian made with Ann Arbor Distilling Co.’s own Spaulding’s Coffee Liqueur.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently,9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living”. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John'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.

Einkorn: Recipes for Nature's Original Wheat

Einkorn Wheat With Bread Loaf

Photo by borosara

Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat written by Carla Bartolucci is just as much of an interesting read as it is a wonderful guide for cooking and baking with einkorn. To turn its pages inspires you to spend days in the kitchen losing yourself in enjoyment creating the foods that you’ve read about and crossing your fingers that they look like the mouth-watering photos taken by Clay McLachlan.

As Carla explains in the book, “the content of gluten in einkorn is actually similar or even higher than the levels of gluten in modern wheat” but because “neither of the two gluten forming proteins behaves as it does in conventional wheat, the gluten in einkorn can be tolerated by many people with sensitivity to wheat.” This book isn’t just good news for the gluten sensitive. I have found einkorn to be deliciously satisfying and a far cry from the flavor sacrifice often associated with “healthier choices.”

Einkorn also “contains 200 percent more lutein than modern wheat, the same antioxidant that gives egg yolks their yellow color. When compared to durum wheat, einkorn has 50 percent or more manganese, riboflavin, and zinc and 20 percent or more magnesium, thiamin, niacin, iron and vitamin B6, all essential nutrients.”

The first 21 pages of the book, both interesting and concise, explain everything you would want to know about einkorn: tips for working with einkorn and genuinely helpful techniques that may seem counterintuitive to the seasoned baker, but prove – in practice – to work very well. Many of the recipes include variations to bake with either sourdough or yeast and I utilized both with great success. Unlike so many cookbooks that feature exotic ingredients and impossible ambitions, Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat is both beautifully illustrated and comprehensive with no detail overlooked.

The No-Knead Overnight Artisan Loaf is a rewarding place to start for someone familiar with bread baking (especially Italian style breads) but also a great introduction to working with einkorn, even for someone who’s trying it for the first time. The book also has great tips on how best to store each type of loaf, but mine didn’t last more than 24 hours on my kitchen counter – lazily wrapped in a tea towel – because we gobbled it all up.

The last recipe I tried was the Two-Hour Dairy-Free Sandwich Loaf and I’m pleased to say that not only did it take no more than two hours from start to finish but the rise and flavor surpassed my expectations.

From sourdough crackers to Korean dumplings and olive oil wine cookies, this book has a surprisingly broad array of well seasoned recipes. What makes Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat  truly unique is its commitment to maximum nourishment through ingredients and techniques that have long been forgotten but really aren’t a sacrifice. This cookbook is in a lot of ways a roadmap back to real food. Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat has earned itself a permanent place in my kitchen. Find your copy in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store.

Einkorn Cookbook Book Cover

Lindsay Williamson is a mother to two beautiful boys, keeper of bees and backyard chickens, baker and fermentation enthusiast. She is the co-owner of Farmhouse BBQ–a BBQ pop up and catering company that specializes in 100% oak smoked, grass-fed brisket. She is also the homesteading instructor at Haywood Community College in Clyde NC. You can contact her via email at lindzwilliamson@gmail.com. Read all of Lindsay'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.

This Revolutionary Food Sealing Method is Making its Way into Homes Across America

food sealer

We know that food does not last forever, but with the right tools, we can certainly prolong its shelf life. Using food sealers is a new way of doing just that. 

Vacuum sealing reduces the oxygen out of food packaging and extends the lifespan of your food sources significantly. This food storage method works by slowing down the deterioration of food sources by reducing atmospheric oxygen, and creates an anaerobic environment that limits the growth of aerobic bacteria or fungi, and prevents the evaporation of volatile components.  

Due to the lack of oxygen in the sealed package, dry, solid foods like brown sugar will not dry out, freshness in sealed dry herbs extended, foods that are high in fats and oils will not go rancid, and insect infestations in dry goods will not occur. This food storage method also conserves space for additional food storage. Also, you can also use the sealer to seal non-food items to protect against oxygen, corrosion, and moisture damage. For example, you can vacuum seal unused oxygen absorbers for future food storage, matches for camping trips, medication, emergency forms, etc. 

Pros and Cons of Mylar Food Storage

With all the seen advantages, there are some drawbacks to this food storage method. Most notably, the sealed bags are not completely impervious to air. There have been multiple accounts of users saying after a few years; the bags can begin to leak. When leaks occur, the opened seals allow oxygen, insects and other enemies of your food to enter. One way to reduce leakage is to ensure that the foods you seal are not overly bulky or have sharp edges.

I have sealed beans, rice, coffee beans and popcorn and have never had a break in the seal (this is years after sealing them). In my previous article, I outlined how to use a multi-barrier method for storing food. If you add sealed foods to a 5-gallon plastic bucket, this would protect against the concern for breaks in the packaging and introduce enemies of your food.

Moreover, rather than using a food sealer for long-term storage, you could utilize it for short-term food storage. That is if you plan on using the food item within 6 months to a year before any danger of an air leak. Another issue with this storage method is there are dangerous bacteria associated with vacuum sealing perishable goods that you should be aware of before use. A way to circumvent this is not to seal perishable food items. 

Most Common Issue with Mylar Bags

Sealing liquids has also posed problems for some users. When freezing packages of liquid foods, many have run into the problem of liquid getting sucked back into the vacuum sealer. You can avoid this in one of two ways: 

1. One is to fill the vacuum bags and freeze them without sealing. Seal once the contents are solid and they won’t leak into the guts of the sealer.

2. Another way is to refrigerate the dish until it has thickened. Some sauces and soups will gel when cold. When it has done so, fill the bags and vacuum seal per instructions. Another option is to freeze in temporary containers and then slip the blocks of food out and repackage and seal.

 Please keep in mind that vacuum sealing is not a substitution for the heat processing of home canned foods, nor is it a substitution for the refrigerator or freezer storage of foods that would otherwise require it. 

Knowing all the tools available for food storage will help you make the best decision for your food storage needs. Food sealers are readily available and is found at many superstores. While I would not use this for a long-term food storage option, I have used it as a short-term food method, and it stores beautifully. We have also used it to seal camping supplies (matches, socks, etc.). In my next article, we will talk about why you should consider adding dehydrated food to your food pantry.

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. Read all of her 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.

Make Homemade English Muffins on the Griddle

English Muffins With Homemade Jam

When it’s too hot here in Texas to use the oven for very long, I turn to baking some breads on a griddle.  An electric fry pan or griddle that allows you to set the temperature works best for these.

We can griddle-bake English muffins superior in quality and flavor to the store-bought and save quite a bit of money with very little work. I figure these homemade English muffins cost about 10 cents each, using best-quality flour. Making up your own breakfast sandwiches will be an even greater saving.

Toast English muffins for breakfast with your homemade jam and use them to make breakfast, lunch, or even supper sandwiches with bacon, ham or sausage, egg and cheese. Use muffins under creamed chicken a la king. When English muffins are this quick and inexpensive to make, you’ll come up with more ideas.

Special Equipment

You can make English muffins without any special equipment, freeform in a stovetop skillet, but an electric fry pan or griddle and muffin rings will give you a traditional finished look. I have just 4 rings and that’s fine — they bake so quickly it’s all done in less than a half hour. You can order rings from King Arthur or Amazon or even make your own, cutting 1 inch slices from a can of the appropriate size, about 3 ½ inches in diameter. Be careful, though, of sharp edges.

I use my stand mixer with the dough hook. Even though the dough is wet, it still needs a lot of mixing. I mix up the starter, pull a plastic bag over the bowl and then continue on in the morning. Less work, less fuss, less cleanup.

Homemade English Muffins Recipe

Yields 8 to 10 muffins

Ingredients for the starter:

• 6 ounces (1 ½ cups) all purpose flour

• pinch of instant yeast

• 6 ounces (¾ cup) water

Starter directions:

Stir the starter ingredients together to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl and set it on the counter to develop for at least 4 hours, better overnight.

Ingredients for the dough:

• 7 ½ ounces all purpose flour (not quite 1 ¾ cups). Use part white or traditional whole wheat if you like.

• 1 tsp instant yeast

• 1 tsp fine sea salt

• 2 Tbsp non-diastatic malt powder (or cane sugar)

• 2 tsp baking powder

• 6 ounces (¾ cup) warm whole milk  (baby bottle warm)

• a little soft butter

• Optional:  a little cornmeal if your griddle is not non-stick

Dough directions:

1. In the mixer bowl, put all the dry ingredients and give them a quick stir. Add the warm milk, turn the mixer to “stir” until the dough comes together, then continue on #4 setting for another 5 minutes. Scrape the beater, cover the bowl, and set it aside on the counter for at least an hour, until it’s doubled in volume and quite puffy.

2. Set up your griddle and heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. With a pastry brush and a bit of soft butter, lightly grease your muffin rings. Set the rings on the griddle and, if your griddle is not non-stick, put a pinch of cornmeal in each.

3. Now, fill the muffin rings about 2/3 full. You can use an ice cream scoop or just a big spoon. Keep a small bowl of water next to the batter and dip your scoop, then drop the batter into the ring. Be sure to wet the scoop each time so the batter doesn’t stick to it.

4. Bake the muffins for about 10 minutes until they begin to look dry on top. Peek to see if it’s browned. Flip the muffins over with a turner and then ease off the ring with small tongs or just the edge of the turner. You can now refill that ring and continue baking.

5. As the second side of the muffin browns nicely, press lightly with a finger; if it pops right back, the muffin is done. Remove the muffins as they are ready to a wire rack and cool completely. The muffins are better on the second day, so let them rest in a plastic bag to “mature”.

6. The next day, use a fork to split the muffins. If you won’t use all the muffins right away, freeze them in a zipper bag.

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.