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1/26/2015

ruby red grapefruit

It's ironic that citrus season is in the middle of winter. I associate oranges with California, grapefruit with Texas, orange juice with Florida, limes with Mexico. Those are all sunny, summery locations, not the snowbound frozen tundra I find myself in these days. So I celebrate citrus while it's here because when summer comes to the north, oranges just aren't that great.

Preserving citrus is a bit of a challenge. While I know folks that dehydrate sliced fruit, that just isn't that appealing to me. I want something that captures that juicy, bright, bitter-sweetness of the citrus. My go-to preserving techniques are marmalades and alcohol infusions, with liqueurs being one of my favorites. Nothing says summer like a cocktail with a shot of citrus liqueur, be it a margarita, sidecar, french 75 or cosmopolitan.

Grapefruit makes amazing liqueur. Because the big fruits hold on to their acid and juice much longer than oranges, you’re sure to get a good grapefruit at the store. I despise buying citrus that turns out to be insipid, pithy and dry. What a waste! This grapefruit honey liqueur is sweet, tart and bitter all rolled into one, making it perfect cocktail material. I’ve included a variation on the Salty Dog cocktail below, with the grapefruit flavor turned up to 11. You can use this liqueur in place of orange liqueurs like triple sec or grand mariner. It would work great in this Triple Orange Margarita recipe from my blog. Just replace all the orange with grapefruit.

grapefruit honey liqueur

Grapefruit Honey Liqueur Recipe

Ingredients:

• 2-3 large pink or red grapefruits
• 1 1/2 cup honey
• 2 cup vodka

Instructions:

1. Remove the peel of one grapefruit with a peeler, leaving the white, bitter pith. Place peel in a clean quart jar.
2. Juice the grapefruits until you have 1 1/2 cups of juice or more.
3. Combine the juice and the honey in a sauce pan over low heat, stirring to dissolve. Bring mixture to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
4. Add the cooled syrup to the quart jar along with the peel and fill to the top with vodka.
5. Store in a dark, cool spot for at least a month. Strain and bottle.

Yield 1 Quart.

Use Grapefruit Honey Liqueur in any recipe calling for Orange Liqueur (recipe on the blog). It will kick your cocktail up a serious notch. Or make the Sweet and Salty Dog Cocktail below.

Sweet and Salty Dog Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup gin
• 1/4 cup grapefruit honey liqueur
• 1 cup grapefruit juice
• lime wedges
• salt for rimming

Instructions:

1. Twirl the lime wedge around the edge of two tall collins glasses, then dip the glass edges into kosher salt.
2. Fill the classes with ice cubes.
3. Divide gin, grapefruit honey liqueur and grapefruit juice into each glass and stir.
4. Give it a squeeze of lime and add the lime wedge to each glass. Enjoy!

Tammy Kimbler is the blogger of One Tomato, Two Tomato. A cultivator at heart, Tammy’s passions lie with food, preservation, gardening and connecting to her local community through blogging and urban agriculture. She eats well and love to feed others as often as possible. She currently resides with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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



1/26/2015

apron

There is something to be said about the satisfaction of doing something yourself-and that also holds true with making wine. No matter where you live, how much or how little wine you intend on making, or what type of wine you choose to make-there are several steps that need to be followed if you wish to make a “drinkable”, enjoyable wine. The actual process of making the wine takes place over several months time, but these are the basic steps that must be followed.

1. Purchase, or grow, the grapes that will be used. In the Midwest, Michigan is the state most conducive to successfully growing grapes. However, if you live an area that is not so great for grape growing, then there are numerous companies that you can purchase grapes from. Generally, they are shipped in from California. Making the determination what type of grapes to grow, or if they will grow in your own backyard, is quite a task itself. Any questions about your local soil and suitability could probably best be answered by a Horticulture hotline, of sorts. For example, in Illinois, we can call the University of Illinois Extension Service, “Master Gardener” Program. Programs such as this can usually be found through the horticulture department of your local college or state university.

2. Grapes must be brought to room temperature.

3. Clean and sanitize all equipment.

4. Leaving stems on (for addition of Tannic-natural preservative), put grapes into barrel for fermentation. Sometimes grapes will be de-stemmed depending on the type of grape, ripeness and wine style.

5. Crush grapes. The romanticized version of stomping the grapes with your bare feet in a large oak tub may sound fun and steeped in tradition, but not a very effective process. A wine press is used to extract juice from the crushed grapes. There are a number of different styles of presses used, but they all serve the same purpose. It is important to crush the grapes without crushing seeds and stems, which would add additional tannins to the wine and thereby change the flavor.

6. Add sugar and warm water. Sounds simple & yes it is. Some wine makers add yeast at this point, but the natural bacteria on the grapes provide a method of fermentation without adding yeast. Some wine has added sulfites, also. This is also a personal preference and wine can be made without either yeast or sulfites.

7. Stir and begin fermentation process. (can take anywhere from 10 to 21 days depending on temperatures and conditions)

8. “Punch down the Chapeaux”-skins and stems rise to the top, must be stirred back into the liquid. Any undesirable bacteria will subsequently be killed by being stirred into the alcohol.

9. “Racking”-transferring product to glass container: Carboy. This needs to be done about twice to help remove the sediment from the wine.

10. Siphon into bottle, cork and age in bottle for a minimum of 6 months for Reds and somewhat less for Whites.

funnel

There you have it, 10 easy steps for producing wine. Anyone who has made wine will tell you there is no guarantee that your wine will come out delightful and wonderful each and every time. There are many variables and it is not an exact science. That is why it is considered an art. When it is crafted to perfection and it comes out the way you want it to, then it is oh so right! Cheers!

Dave & Joan, whom we met in my last article, provided me details and first hand information on what is involved with the wine making process. . Shown here they give us a look at some of the processes involved for crafting a delicious wine on your own.

Speak the Language: Commonly Used Terms in the Wine Making Process

Racking - term used to describe transferring juice/wine from one container to another. Used primarily to take out sediment and also to introduce oxygen for part of the fermentation process.

Alcoholic Fermentation — process by which active yeast changes sugar into alcohol.

Cap — during red-wine fermentation, the skins float to the top forming a cap. This cap needs to be stirred back into the fermenting wine.

Punch down the Chapeaux — (or Cap) the process of resubmerging the cap back into the fermenting wine.

Carboy — large glass bottle (usually 3 to 5 gallons) that can be used to ferment wines in.

Lees — Sediment that forms & settles to the bottom of the Carboy.

Tannins — Naturally occurring compounds found in grapes that can contribute to an astringent/bitter taste in the wine.


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



1/23/2015

Butternut squash are an important winter food, the rich orange flesh delivering vital nutrients in a sweet and velvety goodness that can be utilized in a variety of ways.

I use a pressure cooker to quickly process the squash, enabling me to deliver a delicious dish literally in a matter of minutes. As soon as the pressure cooker comes up to pressure I remove it from the heat.

winter squash
Butternut squash reaches the perfect softness in minutes when processed in a pressure cooker.

scooping out
When the pieces are cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out easily with a spoon. If the skin has been cooked sufficiently and is very soft, another option is to process with the skins, preserving all of the nutrients.

blend until smooth

Blend the squash to the desired consistency, adding the liquid remaining in the pressure cooker or water, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time.

Remember that most butternut squash soup (or pie) recipes call for additional liquid, such as any milk or creamer alternative, or in the recipe below, coconut milk.

Process the puree' until all lumps and texture have disappeared and the mixture is smooth and creamy.

soup

Ingredients

• 6 cups butternut squash puree'
• 1 16 oz. can coconut milk
• 1 tbsp minced ginger
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp garlic powder
• 1/4 - 1/2 onion, cooked until carmelized
• Optional: 1/2 tsp red curry paste

Instructions

1. Saute onion until clear.

2. Add to blended squash along with all other ingredients.

3. Heat and serve.

4. Option: Thinly slice 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery and steam in a separate pot to speed their cooking. Add to the soup when soft. Garnish the bowl with a spring of cilantro.

You'll be amazed at the deliciousness of the coconut-ginger combination with the rich flavor of the butternut squash. Enjoy!

For more tips on storing winter squash. check out my other blog post for MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Douglas Stevenson is a long term member of The Farm Community, one of the largest and oldest ecovillages in the world. He is the author of The Farm Then and Now, a Model for Sustainable Living sold in MOTHER's Notable New Books. He is also the host of GreenLife Retreats, including The Farm Experience Weekend and workshops on organic gardening, sustainability, and living the green life!


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



1/22/2015

Stock Simmers in the Pan

Most of us at MOTHER EARTH NEWS are steeped in a passion to waste nothing. When it comes to chicken, I use everything but the cluck.

This tasty chicken stock is easy, delicious and has the added benefit of filling your house with a delightful aroma that will make your kids and dogs go a little cra-cra. If that isn't enough, chicken stock is free. Just round up that carrot that may be too limp for salad, that half of onion you want to use up, and whatever herbs and spices you have on hand.

Once you have made your stock, you can use it right away for soup by adding noodles or rice and some chopped vegetables. Or freeze it to use later.

Making chicken stock:

1. The first step is to scrub your hands and work surfaces with hot soapy water. Break the chicken carcass apart and put the pieces in a pan with enough water to just cover the bones. Bring the water to a boil.

2. While you wait for the water to boil, chop up a carrot, stalk of celery, onion and whatever other vegetables you have on hand. If you like garlic, add that too, along with a grind of salt and pepper.

3. This is yet another time that growing herbs on a sunny windowsill pays off. To make my stock, I clip a few sprigs of fresh parsley and rosemary. The fragrance just from snipping them off the plant brings back memories of last summer ... and helps me cope with the cold weeks before I start seeds for spring planting.

Parsley And Rosemary In Winter

Add all your vegetables and herbs to the pot and bring the temperature down to a friendly simmer. Depending on the size of the bird, it takes about 90 minutes to extract all the goodness from the bones and vegetables.

Strain the stock through a fairly fine sieve into a shallow container that will allow the stock to cool quickly. If it's chilly outside, I put it on my potting table to cool (out of reach of my dogs). Skim any fat off that rises to the top. At this point, either pour into a freezer container and label, or put the stock back on the stove to make a soup that will put summer in your family's hearts.

You can read more about Dede Ryan's other writing at Dede Ryan's blog.


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



1/21/2015

Growing on at least three continents and available to forage even when there's snow on the ground, henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and other plants in the Lamium genus are a too-often ignored wild winter food.

Edible Lamium 

How to Recognize Henbit and Other Edible Lamiums

All Lamiums are in the mint family, and like other members of the Lamiaceae have square stems (roll a stem between your forefinger and thumb and you'll feel the four distinct sides) and opposite leaves (the leaves attach to the stem in aligned pairs).

The leaves of both henbit and other edible, similar looking plants in the Lamium genus (all of which share the unfortunate common name deadnettle) are 1/2 to 2 inches wide, and can be oval, spade or heart-shaped. The leaves have deeply scalloped margins. Henbit leaves attach directly to the stems and the upper leaf pairs can appear at first glance to be one round leaf surrounding the stem. Other Lamium species have short leaf stalks, but the leaf shape is similar. The deep veins give them an almost quilted appearance. There are hairs on the leaves.

The pink or purple flowers grow in whorls in the leaf axils (where the leaves join the stems). The petals of each small flower are fused into a 1/2- to 2/3-inch tube.

Henbit and other dead nettles are low-growing plants. The lower stems sprawl on the ground and can root where they touch soil. But the last few inches of the stems usually grow upright. Henbit likes disturbed soils and often shows up as a garden and farm weed.

L. purpureum, known by the common name red dead nettle, is a close relative of henbit that is just as winter-hardy, widespread, and has similar uses in the kitchen. As its species name suggests, its leaves are tinged with a reddish - purple color. This is especially true at the tops of the plants.

Best Ways to Eat Lamiums

Lamium plants may be in the mint family, but they don't taste anything like mint. Rather, they are relatively mild leafy greens that can be eaten raw or cooked.

I think henbit and other Lamiums are best when combined with mild-tasting wild winter greens such as chickweed or cultivated leafy greens. Henbit holds up well to strong seasoning: garlic and/or ginger are good choices depending on the direction your recipe is taking. You can also use it to replace the spinach in Greek spanakopita recipes.

Best Way to Harvest Lamiums

If you harvest just the top few inches of the stems of this species, you are in no way threatening the plant's survival. In fact, henbit will grow back even bushier and more tender if you harvest this way.

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.


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



1/19/2015

Like many of you, my motivations for canning and preserving are varied. I like the control canning gives me over my food. I like knowing that the food my family eats is high quality and chosen by me, with no unsafe "non-food" surprises lurking in the bottom of the can.

I like the fact that the food I can not only tastes better than the same item purchased at the grocery store, but is healthier than its commercially canned cousin too.

And sometimes food nostalgia drives my canning/preserving. If you grew up in the 1950s or 60s you may fondly remember spiced apple rings. In an age when boxed spaghetti and sauce and brightly colored Cool-Aid (with cyclamates!) were de rigueur, spiced apple rings held a special place, served with Sunday dinner or on special occasions.

Spiced Candied Apple Rings 

Over the years they seem to have fallen out of favor, along with the artificial coloring that made them almost beet-red. But spiced apple rings add the perfect touch to a winter-friendly comfort food meal. The other night I served them with stewed beans and a pasta casserole to rave reviews from the grandchildren. They are also a good accompaniment to chicken cutlets or pork chops. Since fresh apples are still available, winter is the perfect time for this canning project.

Safe Home Canning

Before starting any canning project, it’s always a good idea to brush up on home canning safety tips. Lessons learned at Grandma’s knee might no longer be considered safe. MOTHER EARTH NEWS has published many canning articles that help keep us up-to-date, including the very helpful Home Canning Guide. You can also find a step-by-step water bath canning tutorial on my Seed to Pantry site.

Spiced Apple Rings Recipe

Ingredients:

• 5 pounds of 2-1/2-inch diameter apples
• 8 cups water
• 2 tbsp vinegar
• 4-1/2 cups sugar
• 2-1/4 cups water
• 1/3 cup red hot cinnamon candies
• 1/2 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
• 1 lemon, sliced
• 1 tbsp whole cloves
• 1 tbsp whole allspice berries
• 1/2 tbsp ground mace
• 5 or 6 pint canning jars

Instructions:

1. Peel and core the apples.

2. Slice into 1/2-inch rings.

3. Add apple rings to a large pot filled with the 8 cups of water and 2 tbsp of vinegar (prevents the apples from browning).

4. In another large pot (6-8 quarts) combine sugar, 2-1/4 cups water, red hot cinnamon candies, cider vinegar, lemon slices, cloves, allspice and mace.

5. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat. Be sure to stir almost constantly so the sugar doesn't burn. Reduce heat and let simmer 3-5 minutes (the candy should be dissolved by this point). Drain the apple rings and add to the syrup.

6. Gently stir the apple rings into the syrup and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Fill 5-6 clean, hot, pint canning jars with the apple rings. Strain the hot syrup to remove the whole spices and lemon. Pour the strained syrup over the rings leaving 1/2-inch head space. Wipe the jar lips with a moist paper towel, add lids, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

7. As you can see the rings are not bright red! Although they will continue to absorb the red coloring as they sit, if you really want the apples to be bright red, add a few drops of red food coloring to the syrup mixture.

If you find the thought of artificially colored candies unpalatable, substitute 4 cinnamon sticks for the cinnamon candies. The rings will not be red, but will have the same warm cinnamon flavor.

Like any pickled product, the apple rings will be better after sitting for 3 weeks. This recipe was adapted from the Heinz Successful Pickling Guide.

Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at Seed to Pantry.


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



1/15/2015

dragon fruit

One of the most unusual looking fruits in the store, dragon fruit bursts with color and nutritional benefits. From a healthier heart to stronger bones and even a tougher immune system, this little fruit has a positive impact on your body. Dragon fruit, also known as a pitaya, comes from a cactus – and it's also easy to grow.

Health Benefits

High-fiber, low-calorie foods are a dieter’s dream, especially when they taste good. Even if you aren't trying to slim down, dragon fruit offers myriad vitamins and minerals such as fiber, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C.

The flesh of the fruit is riddled with tiny black seeds. The edible seeds of this fruit contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Even though this fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth, it doesn’t contain any complex carbohydrates.

It doesn't stop there, though. There are quite a few home remedies that involve dragon fruit. It can also be used to treat acne and relieve sunburned skin.

DIY Dragon Fruit

Even if all previous attempts at gardening have failed, it’s likely you’ll be able to grow your own dragon fruit. Start with a self-pollinating variety for even easier maintenance. Unless you want to wait a few years for your cactus to bear fruit, skip the seed stage and just use a stem cutting.

Once you've acquired a stem cutting, allow the cut end to dry over. Keep the cutting out of sunlight for this time period, too. Allowing the cut end to seal up helps to prevent fungal infections that can occur if you plant the cutting without first letting it heal. This normally takes about a week.

Now for the hard part. Plant the cutting in potting soil – only between 1 to 2 inches deep – and set the pot in a sunny window. Remember, this is a cactus, so you only need to water it once every two weeks. If the soil dries out, don't panic – it’s supposed to.

Eventually, the cactus will develop wispy tendrils sprouting from all over its surface. Congratulations, you have a healthy plant! If you've ever grown ivy before, you'll recognize how strong these little roots can be. They will happily latch on to nearly any surface, so it's important to provide the plant with a trellis.

Move the cactus to a larger pot, but no bigger than 25 gallons. Keep the soil high in phosphorus but low in nitrogen. You can buy soil with these qualities or make your own. Once repotted, gradually move your cactus into more and more sunlight.

Your goal is for the cactus to have at least half a day of sunlight, with a full day as the optimal amount. Keep in mind that moving the plant too quickly into direct sunlight can have adverse effects.

Care and Maintenance

It's important to encourage the dragon fruit cactus to grow up instead of out. That means that you need to remove many of the roots from the sides of the cactus – leaving the tendrils on the top of the plant – to encourage upward growth. Also, make sure that you're directing the stems towards their trellis as it grows.

Continue this process until the cactus is at least 2 feet tall. That might sound big but, in order to bear fruit, the cactus will need to build about 10 pounds of mass, so it needs plenty of room to grow.

Your goal is to get the cactus to flower, and these flowers will produce fruit – unless they need pollination – in about a month.

Even though dragon fruit is easy to grow, it does take time – so don't wait to get started. Have patience and don't worry, this is one of the few plants that you can forget to water for a few weeks at a time. Soon you'll have healthy snacks at the ready.

Photo by Flickr/tippi t


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












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