Real Food

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

Add to My MSN


As an avid home gardener, I love to nurture my crops from seed to harvest, then process the harvested treasures into preserves and sustenance for friends and relatives. In my blogging with MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I look forward to sharing tales of success (and, occasionally, woes) from my personal trenches for gardening, cooking and crafting.

When my husband, children, and I first moved to Ohio, I remember clearly loathing the dead-looking fields during winter. All these years later, I find that not only have I adjusted to enjoying the seasons in all their splendor, but I also look forward to each one with vigorous anticipation. I love seeing the signs as each one arrives: This week brought the saffron crocus up in my bulb bed as the shrubs and trees radiantly wave adieu in all their splendor and retreat into their varying states of slumber.

For me, winter also signals a retreating indoors for a slower speed in lifing — one filled with thoughtful reflection, the finishing up in processing of the foods my garden has gifted me, and returning to my arting. This seems like the perfect time to start sharing ideas and experiences from those busier times of year with like-minded folks in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS audience.

Already in the works are blog posts about some of the treasures I have in my garden (like my ‘Kieffer’ pear tree), exciting harvests from this year (wait until you see my gourds), the winding down of gardening in Ohio, and the revving up of excitement that accompanies spring!

My sister, Shawn, has shared her experiences and views on MOTHER EARTH NEWS for more than a year and insists that it’s my turn. (Between you and me, I think she just wants me to have somewhere else to share the photos of my garden so I send fewer in her direction.) As a preview to my forthcoming cookbook, I have included my favorite beer-infused mustard recipe below.

If you’d like to read the back story on this mustard, visit this post from my personal blog, Humings.

Blythe's Hot Damn Honey Mustard Recipe


• 1-1/2 cups Firemans Brew Brunette (German doublebock-style beer)
• 1-1/2 cups mustard seed
• 1-1/8 cups apple cider vinegar
• 3 Tbsp honey
• 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
• 3 cloves garlic (sliced or diced)
• 2 tsp salt
• 1 tsp of whole cloves (be sure to remove before adding the seasoned beer to the rest)
• 1/2 tsp whole allspice (be sure to remove before adding the seasoned beer to the rest)


1. Pour 1 cup of the beer, the apple cider vinegar, 2 cloves of the garlic, and the mustard seeds into a jar.

2. Bring 1/2 cup of beer over medium heat with the honey, brown sugar, 1 clove of garlic, salt, allspice and cloves just to a boil, and then let cool to room temperature. Remove allspice and cloves via straining.

3. Add this mixture to jar of other ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 48 hours.

4. Process to desired consistency. Taste and adjust spicing as necessary. Add water, if needed.

5. Put in clean jars and refrigerate. This mustard makes a large batch which should hold its taste for 6 months but is still edible for a up to one year if properly stored.

While you’re waiting for more posts from me, feel free to check out my personal websites (linked in my bio page). I’m guessing there’s a little bit there for most folks to find interesting. Oh! And, I’m pleased to meet ya!

Virginia Creeper photo by Blythe Pelhma

Mustard photo by Flickr/kavitakapoor

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging 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.



I love to ferment vegetables in gallon glass jars, which I leave on the kitchen counter so I can watch the colors mellow. I especially like to do this with mixed vegetables.

A mixed vegetable pickle is not only a thing of beauty and an adventure to eat; it’s also a practical use for homegrown produce — in spring or fall, when your garden may provide you only a handful of this and a handful of that, or at any time of the year if your garden is small

What could be easier than combining these handfuls in a jar, adding some herbs and garlic, and pouring over some brine?

You can put what you like in your mixed pickle. In spring, replace the beans in my recipe with asparagus tips. In summer, you might use whole tiny cucumbers or larger cucumbers, cut into chunks. Turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, and radish are all good additions in the cooler months.

If you want your pickles to stand out at a party, add a piece of raw beet to color them a shocking pink.

You don’t really need to weigh your vegetables. Just gather enough to fill your jar about three-quarters of the way to the top. This allows room for the brine to bubble and for a brine bag or other weight on top of the vegetables. For a gallon jar, you need about three quarts of prepared vegetables.

You can be creative with the aromatic ingredients as well with the main ones. I usually use licorice-like tarragon — except in the depths of winter, when my tarragon plant has died to the ground. Thyme and winter savory are always available in the pot on my deck, and they always go well in a mixed pickle. Sweet bay is a good addition, too.

When I made a mixed fermented pickle last week, however, I passed over all of these for young dill that had grown from seeds I’d scattered in late summer, intending for them to sprout in spring. Dillweed has a fresher, less bitter flavor than fully or partially dried dill seed, so I was happy to find a use for the little plants before they froze.

After fermentation gets under way, expect your brine to get cloudy. The cloudiness doesn’t mean your pickles are spoiling. Even the appearance of yeast or mold on top of the brine is little cause for concern, provided you keep the vegetables well immersed and skim off any scum promptly.

If you use a brine bag as described in the recipe, no yeast or mold will be able to grow. An airlock provides similar protection. It allows the bacteria in the pickle to release carbon dioxide while preventing airborne microbes from contaminating the brine.

At least one company, Cultures for Health, sells gallon glass jars whose plastic lids are fitted with winemaking airlocks. With such a setup, you’ll also need an appropriately sized weight (Cultures for Health sells those, too).

Mixed Fermented Pickle Recipe

What I call pickling salt (it’s usually labeled “canning and pickling salt”) is fine, pure sodium chloride. If you would prefer to substitute a coarser kind of salt, such as kosher, measure it by weight instead of by volume. But don’t substitute table salt, which has additives that could discolor your pickles. Yield about 3 quarts


• 1 pound cauliflower or broccoli florets
• 2 sweet green or red peppers, cut into squares or strips
• 1/2 pound whole young snap beans
• 1/2 pound shallots or pickling onions, peeled, or larger onions, cut into chunks or rings
• 1/4 pound tiny carrots, or larger carrots cut into rounds or thin sticks
• 3 garlic cloves, slivered
• 2 to 3 tarragon sprigs
• 2 to 3 thyme sprigs
• 1⁄2 cup (4.7 ounces) pickling salt
• 3 quarts water
• 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar


1. Toss all of the vegetables together, and pack them into a gallon jar, distributing the garlic and herbs among them. Dissolve the salt in the water, and pour enough brine over the vegetables to cover them. Add the vinegar.

2. Push a gallon-size freezer bag into the top of the jar, pour the remaining brine into the bag, and seal the bag. Make sure the bag presses against the glass all the way around. Set the jar in a bowl, to protect your counter and cabinets in case of a spillover. Store the jar at room temperature.

3.Within three days, if you look close, you should see tiny bubbles in the brine. After a week, you might start tasting the vegetables. They should be fully fermented in two to three weeks, when the bubbling has stopped and they taste quite sour. At this point you should remove the brine bag, cap the jar, and store it in the refrigerator.

4. The pickled vegetables should keep in the refrigerator for several months.

Linda’s books, Joy of Pickling, Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, and Cold Soups, spring from both her experiments with produce from her vegetable garden and orchard and from her studies of culinary traditions around the world. Linda develops products for Crisp & Co., a pickle manufacturing company based in Delaware, and teaches preserving classes. She devotes much of her volunteer efforts to promoting good eating as a founder and coordinator of the Santiam Food Alliance, as an Oregon State University Master Food Preserver, as a board member of Slow Food Corvallis, and as a member of the Oregon Ark of Taste committee for Slow Food USA. She also blogs at A Gardener’s Table.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging 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.


Still basking in the glow of a successful Thanksgiving dinner, our thoughts move on to our Christmas Eve Feast. We stick with tradition for the most part on Thanksgiving. We did tweak a few things – a boudin and cornbread dressing, homemade green bean casserole (no cans of soup or fried onions here), a smoked then fried turkey, and a pumpkin pie from real roasted pumpkins with a brûlée topping. Throw in a sweet potato pie from homegrown sweet potatoes, and you had the makings of a really great meal. Nobody left hungry, and everyone took home a doggy bag.

For Christmas Eve, we try to get creative and have some fun with the meal. What originally started a few years ago as a “Feast of the Seven Fishes” evolved into a “Feast of the Seven Dishes” when we found out the family was not really that crazy about eating seafood in general, let alone seven different seafood dishes. Last year’s feast poked fun at the whole gluten-free, locally sourced, artisanal, name the farmer pretensions, with tongue-in-cheek paragraph long descriptions of each dish and its ingredients.      

This year’s menu is still under development, but one thing is for sure, we are putting together a charcuterie platter that will include several items we have made ourselves. Charcuterie is a branch of cooking dedicated to the preservation of meat. It encompasses many different types of processes and techniques. Most of the techniques can be readily used by the home cook. Some special ingredients and equipment are needed while things like a second refrigerator definitely make the process easier.

Testing the recipes has become an important part of our preparation. When putting together a multi-course meal like this for a large group, getting the timing down for the preparation and plating of each dish is important. Can anything be done in advance? When does the oven or the fryer need to be turned on? Does course three clash with course four and more? If preparing your own cured meats, you also need to make sure that you allow enough time for the meat to be ready. For this, my first year preparing home cured meats, I chose recipes utilizing a short curing time.

Finding the right recipes is very important. Preserved meat recipes need to be properly vetted and tested to make sure they are safe - because a case of food poisoning is not the Christmas gift you want to give your guests. Make sure your recipes come from reputable sources and then follow all directions closely. Once done, closely examine the final product - if there is any doubt about its safety, throw it out.

An important note about meat preservation food safety: Many of these recipes (including some in this post) use “pink salt”. This pink salt is not the Himalayan Pink Salt used in cooking and various home remedies. This pink salt, perhaps better called curing salt, contains nitrite, which changes the flavor of the meat, preserves the meat’s red color, prevents fat oxidation, and inhibits bacterial growth. It is an essential component of any dry cured, and many wet cured, meats. It is 6.25% nitrite and 93.75% sodium chloride. In large quantities, nitrites are harmful, which is why the salt is dyed pink so it is not confused with table salt. Do not ever ingest it directly and use only the small amounts stated in the recipes.

Our Christmas Eve charcuterie platter will have 3-4 meats on it, possibly a cheese (that will be homemade next year), some homemade pickles, some home grown oranges and our homemade sourdough bread. The acidity of the pickles contrasts beautifully with the preserved meat and the tangy sweetness of the oranges. The smooth creaminess of the fat in the preserved meat contrasts nicely with the crunchy sourdough crust. I have been using the Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. Here are a couple of recipes that I have tried.

Cured Pork Belly

I used a small piece of pork belly to test this recipe. The flavors were intense and the aroma very earthy. The key in serving is to slice it as thinly as possible. This is a good, simple recipe to get the charcutier in you started.

Cured Pork Belly


• Basic Dry Cure (see below)
• 3-6 bay leaves
• 1-2 bunches fresh thyme
• ⅛ - ¼ cup black peppercorns
• 1 ½ - 3 ½ lb pork belly


1. Cover pork belly in Basic Dry Cure.
2. Put in a plastic bag along with the remaining ingredients.
3. Remove the air from the bag and seal.
4. Weight down with about 10 pounds of weight.
5. Refrigerate for 10-14 days. Check to see if it feels dense and stiff. If not, put it back in the cure for a couple more days.
6. Remove from cure, rinse then pat dry.
7. Wrap in two layers of cheesecloth and hang to dry in a cool, humid place, around 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-24 days.

To serve: Slice thinly as you would prosciutto. Serve with bread and fruit.

Ruhlman’s Basic Dry Cure1

• 1 pound kosher salt
• 8 ounces sugar
• 2 ounces “pink curing salt”

Save any extra cure and use as needed.

Duck Prosciutto1

I had never heard of processing duck meat in this way until coming across recipes in several cookbooks. To further experiment with the flavor, I smoked one of the cured duck breasts with the turkey on Thanksgiving. This is a dead simple recipe requiring salt and time. Both the smoked (Left) and non-smoked (Right) versions were fantastic, with the smoked being slightly more tasty. It all just melts in your mouth.

Duck Prosciutto


• About 2 cups of kosher salt, or as needed
• 1 whole duck breast, skin on, split in two halves
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper


1. Put about 1 cup kosher salt down in a plastic or glass container.
2. Lay each half breast down on the salt, making sure the halves do not touch. Completely cover each duck breast with salt. Cover container with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hrs.
3. Remove both pieces from the salt and rinse. Dry with a paper towel. The flesh should feel dense.
4. Dust both sides of each piece of meat with white pepper.
5. Wrap each half breast in a single layer of cheesecloth and hang to dry. I used a cheesecloth “sock” like the ones used to smoke sausages.
6. Hang to dry in a cool, humid place (50-60oF) for about 7 days or until the flesh is stiff but not hard. I used a wine refrigerator set at 50oF.
7. Once done, remove the cheesecloth, wrap each half duck breast in plastic and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several weeks or more.
8. I smoked one half of the duck breast using pecan wood for about an hour.

To serve: Again, slice thin and serve as you would prosciutto.  We served it with homemade sourdough bread and fresh picked oranges after the “photography session”.

I hope this is helpful in either getting you started or giving you a few new ideas for the holidays and beyond. I have been very surprised by how easy it can be and by the high quality of the final product. It does require some forethought and most importantly, proper respect for each step so you produce the safest product possible.


1 Ruhlman, Michael, and Brian Polcyn. Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005.

Ed is a Biochemist for NASA in Houston. His free time is filled with gardening and an ongoing list of Food Preservation Projects with his lovely wife, Jennifer. You can read more posts from Ed here and contact him at via emailHe is always looking for comments, new ideas and suggestions.

Photos by Jennifer Hudson

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging 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.



Authentic Stollen is moist, buttery and crammed full of dried and glace fruits and nuts. 

I like to get my Stollen made and in the freezer Thanksgiving weekend so I can relax knowing the most important baking for my family is done.  Soon, the commercial and store-baked “stollen” will begin to appear in the stores, and it’s as dry and tasteless as a slab of styrofoam piled an inch thick with confectioners sugar. If you’ve ever sampled it, you are now in for a revelation.

I started many years ago with a recipe from Helen Witty’s Fancy Pantry, a good book to have,  and I stay roughly with her dough recipe, but I’ve made a lot of adaptations over the years. 

Don’t let the length of this recipe deter you! There’s nothing too difficult for a beginning bread baker. I’ve broken the recipe down into small steps and sections.

I do hope you’ve made the almond paste recipe in my previous post. (Yes? Great! It’s “ripened” now and ready to fill your delicious Stollen.)

This recipe makes two Stollens, about 1½ pounds each.

Stollen Recipe


Feel free to adjust individual fruits a little for what you like best and have, but be sure there’s peel included.  You want a total of about 2½ cups of fruit and peels plus 1 cup of nuts.

• ½ cup dried cherries, your own or bought.
• ½ cup dried Pineapple, your own or bought, cut into 1 inch wedges
• ¼ cup glace lemon peel dice in ¼ inch dice
• ¼ cup glace orange peel in ¼ inch dice
• ¼ cup Citron in ¼-inch dice
• ½ cup dark raisins
• ½ cup gold raisins
• grated zest of 1 orange*
• grated zest of 1 lemon*
• 1 cup pecans or walnuts, broken
• about ½ pound almond paste
• plus some pretty almond pieces and whole nuts for garnish
• a little rum or brandy to moisten the raisins or cherries if they seem dry
• 1¼ cups whole milk
• ¾ cup cane sugar
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) in all, divided among 2 steps
• 5 - 6 cups all-purpose flour, in all, divided among 2 steps
• 1½ Tbsp yeast: SAF Gold yeast if available**
• 2 eggs
• 2 tsp best vanilla extract
• ½ tsp almond extract
• 1 tsp grated orange peel*
• 1 tsp grated lemon peel*
• 8 - 10 ounces almond paste, your homemade or bought
• ¼ to ½ cup confectioners’ sugar (optional)                                 


Prep all your fruits, moistening or draining as necessary, and mix them together in a bowl.  Break or chop the nuts. Prepare the orange and lemon peels.** Have the almond paste sitting out to come to room temperature so that it’s spreadable.

Make the Sponge

In a small pot, add the sugar and salt to the milk, put in ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, cut into a few pieces. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the butter is melted. Let this cool down to 115° F.

In the bowl of your mixer, using the paddle blade, stir the yeast into 2 cups of the flour.  When the milk mixture has cooled enough, add it to the flour and mix, making sure there’s no flour left in the bottom of the bowl, then add the eggs and beat until you have a nice, smooth batter.

Cover the bowl, and let it rest until doubled, about 45 minutes, longer if your kitchen is cool. It will look very fluffy.

Finish the Dough

Switch to the dough hook of your mixer. Mix in the grated peels*, the extracts and 3 cups of flour. Machine knead for a few minutes until the dough forms a nice ball and looks smooth and satiny. If the dough seems too wet, you can add in some of the last cup of flour, bit by bit.

If your machine is a heavy-duty 7-quart, you can add in the fruits and nuts now. If not, or if you’d rather, turn the dough onto your well floured kneading board. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rest 5 minutes.

If you haven’t yet added all the fruits and nuts, knead them in now. Pat the dough into a 12-inch circle, pile on the fruits, roll it up and then knead, poking back in pieces trying to escape. If the dough feels too sticky, knead in a little more of the flour. Well developed, the dough will no longer stick to your board.

Again, let the dough rest 5 minutes, covered with a damp cloth. You already let the sponge rise fully, so you don’t need a bulk rise, just this 5-minute rest.

Almond Paste Filling

While the dough rests, stir and soften the almond paste. If it’s just too stiff to manage, you can gradually add a beaten egg white.

Shape the Stollen

Divide the dough into 2 halves (sometimes I divide unevenly, depending on the recipient). Pat each piece into an oval about 10 inchs by 12 inches, again poking any escaping fruit at the edges back in.

Put the almond paste on just behind the crosswise center mark. I put spoonfuls on the dough and gently spread it into a more or less solid strip. You can use your fingertips for this; wet them and the paste won’t stick.

Fold the dough over, forming a half oval with the bottom edge just forward of the top.  Transfer your loaves carefully to baking pans lined with parchment, pulling them into a slightly curved crescent shape.

Proof and Bake

Set your loaves under your proofing cover, or cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until about ¾ increased in size. Because about a third of the loaf is fruits, only the dough portion will double.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When the dough has risen so it doesn’t spring back from a touch, melt the ½ stick of butter and carefully, with a light touch, brush the loaves.

Bake for about 45 minutes, turning halfway through. If the loaves seem to be browning too fast, tent them with aluminum foil to slow the browning. Internal temperature should be about 190°.

Remove from the oven and let your loaves rest a few minutes to firm and then slide them onto wire cooling racks. Brush them again with melted butter.

To store the loaves, wrap in plastic wrap and then put into a zipper bag. Stollen freezes well; wrap in foil and be sure to use a freezer-grade zipper bag. Stollen keeps very well securely wrapped and in a zippered freezer bag.


If frozen, give the stolen time to thaw on the counter. Then gently heat at 250° for 10 minutes. It is traditional to give the loaves just a light sifting of confectioners’ sugar before serving. Please, just a dusting.

* I always keep orange and lemon peels in the freezer. I do a couple big oranges or several lemons at a time so it’s always available. Here’s how: Peel the fruit with a peeler then toss the peel into the mini processor with just a couple tablespoons of sugar. Process until the peel is finely ground. Scoop the peel into a ½-pint canning jar and store in the freezer. You’ll get all the peel, none wasted, and about 2 teaspoons of this will be enough for recipes that call for the grated zest of one orange or lemon. Peel done, eat the orange and freeze the whole lemon for the next time a recipe includes “juice of one lemon”. Frugal and handy, the zest keeps for months in the freezer.

** SAF Gold yeast works better for doughs that include a lot of sugar or butter. It’s not absolutely necessary, but nice to have. You can find it online from King Arthur.

Photo by Flickr/Whitney

Wendy Akin is a 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 Best Blogging 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.


Hunting and fishing isn’t for everyone, I realize that, and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone who’s a vegan, vegetarian, a member of PETA or just opposed to the age-old practice for whatever reason. But what I would like to do is share with interested readers, hunters included, how hunting and fishing helps me provide my own food and move a step closer to a sustainable life here on my farm. I’m already growing organic, heirloom vegetables, raising free-range, pastured chickens and eggs, and pretty much living off the land now. Living off the land is something I believe in, so I’m doing a little preaching, I suppose. I’m not the first one who’s hunted this land, either, evidenced by the multitude of arrowheads and spear tips piled up everywhere.

Our Native American ancestors lived off the land much the same way I hope to before I head for the great funeral pyre. Venison was one of their staples and has become a contemporary delicacy in many fine restaurants — and honestly folks, if you’ve ever had my mesquite grilled backstrap with mushroom gravy, you might just pack up and head for the woods yourself.

Hunting as Family Tradition

My grandfather was my original hunting buddy as a youngster of about 10 years old. Dad-O, as he was known to the family, owned 132 acres near Antelope, Texas, and the small town’s namesake was fairly close to the truth when it came to hunting wild game, albeit the game was more whitetail deer, turkeys, and wild hogs than antelope, but they were plentiful. Dad-O also had the best fishin’ hole in ten counties. A 5-acre lake when it’s full, this watering hole was then, and is now, my home turf. Full to the creeks and willow-overgrown channels with large-mouth bass, channel catfish, and plenty of baitfish, I must have fished every summer with my Mom’s dad until I was in high school. The lake dried up recently during the years-long Texas drought, but after a monster spring of rains, she filled up and even went over the spillway, so I’ve been restocking it with the same fishy menu as before.

I had a lot of fun fishing, wolf hunting (actually coyotes), deer hunting and just being outdoors with my grandfather. His old hunting buddies were usually there to listen to their hound dogs track down a raccoon or coyote, never missing an opportunity to claim that their best dog “got one tree’d, ol’ Sally’s baying up a storm.”

When the dogs had a varmint cornered and began their yelping, we would load up in the pickup truck or head out on foot to catch up to the quarry and pack of hounds, then finish the deal. Back in those days, ranchers allowed the locals to hunt on their land to help keep the predators at bay. Coyotes are fearsome creatures, conniving in their ways to steal a baby calf or sick heifer. That’s how hunting them got started — a fight over food. Same with us two-legged critters.

Those nights out under the stars, cooking on a campfire, waking up early and heading for the deer blind, and then later in the day setting up for a family fish fry, undoubtedly sealed my fate. I still love to hunt, sit around the campfire, and cook outdoors, especially something I grew or harvested directly from the land. From what I’ve read, hunting, fishing and gathering have been around for a few years, which leads me to believe it’s something I should be doing.

Wild Game is a Culinary Experience

Cooking wild game takes a little practice as deer, hogs, turkeys and waterfowl are usually leaner than factory-raised meats, and that’s a good thing. Wild game is plentiful, especially wild hogs, so I eat all of it. In an attempt to soften, even enhance their culinary image, I have started referring to wild hogs as “Permaculture Pork Chops” and “Grass-fed Bacon Bombs.”

Hopefully people will be swayed into foregoing the pricey, chemically-polluted, store-bought pork in favor of free-for-the-taking wild pigs. (More on the “free” part of that pork chop statement in another installment of hunting and gathering food.)

Hunting and trapping wild hogs isn’t for city boys, proper British ladies, or pen ropers. They are dangerous beasts, willing to sever your femoral artery should you get close enough to one of their “cutter” teeth, or tusks. On the bright side, they do turn out extremely tasty once you get them over a bed of coals.

The Importance of Humane Hunting

Hunting wild game is fun for me. I eat everything I hunt and kill — no exceptions. If I don’t have a clear shot at a whitetail deer, I pass it up and wait for the next one. About 15 years ago, I bought a Remington .308 rifle off my buddy who owns a pawn shop, and since then, I rarely miss. Several years of experience has taught me to be accurate and make a clean kill.

Wild hogs are tough critters, so you don’t want them thrashing about, running into trees when they are only wounded. First of all, it’s inhumane and secondly, the more they thrash, the more hormones they produce which adds to the gamey taste so many people don’t like.

Processing Wild Game

Processing the game takes time and must be done in a fashion as to keep the meat as clean and free of hair and waste as possible. That gamey taste can also be mitigated if you know how to properly process a deer or hog. Take care to keep the blood, excrement and any dirt away from the meaty portions (rear hams, front shoulders, top loins). Like anything, it takes practice so I suggest you begin filling up your freezer this year.

Hunting season in Texas opened the first Saturday in November and I had a herd of deer show up in the wheat and rye field on Sunday morning around 8:30. I took two does with two shots, tagged them and filled out the Parks and Wildlife paperwork on my license, loaded them in my truck and headed for my processing shed. After that lengthy and somewhat odorous task was completed, I began the butchering of the hams, shoulders and loins. Thirty-five pounds of prime cuts (loins and ham steaks) and 15 pounds of sausage meat are now in the freezer, which adds up to approximately 100 meals. Keep in mind a small portion plate of venison top loin at a fancy joint like Jackrabbit Slims would run you $30, without the Five-Dollar Shake.

All I can tell you is try some wild game. It’ll be free of antibiotics and growth hormones, unlike what the factory-farming corporations are offering you in their store-bought meat. In 2009, The Mayo Clinic published a paper declaring that wild game was in fact more healthy than most store-bought cuts of meat:

“In general, wild game is leaner than domesticated animals, because animals in the wild are typically more active. In comparison to lean cuts of beef and pork, game meat has about one-third fewer calories (game birds have about half the calories) and quite a bit less saturated and total fat. Cholesterol for wild and domestic meat ranges from 50 to 75 milligrams for a 3-ounce serving — with wild game tending to be in the lower end of the range,” stated Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. of the Mayo Clinic.

 If you like wild game, find an experienced friend to take you hunting. If you like hunting and you want to go full boar, so to speak, visit me in Texas and I’ll do my best to make sure you go home with a cooler full of wild game meat, ready for the dinner table.

Sustainability includes providing food, so as long as the wild hogs and deer keep coming, I’ll always have plenty to eat. If you’ll give it a try, chances are you’ll enjoy some type of wild game on the dinner table as well. Happy Hunting!

RD Copeland is building an off-grid weekend B&B retreat in Texas with straw-bale and earth-plaster cabins, fresh organic meals, permaculture instruction, workshops and more! See his bio page for contact info, and click here to read all of RD’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging 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.



Read all posts from The First Feast series here.

There is an old saying, “It’s called hunting, not shootin’.” 

The message in the words is meant to demark the difference between shooting at a target range versus hunting in the woods. At the range, you can fire all day. When you are hunting, you get one shot—two if you are lucky. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but whomever did was lying.

It ain’t called shootin’. And it ain’t called hunting either. It’s called waiting, and waiting…and waiting...and waiting.

I’m hunting private land in New Smyrna beach, on a ranch with 1,200 acres of woody swamp land. To maximize my time, I’m doing two-day combo hunts. In the wee hours of the morning, I’m going after deer. In the evening I’m going after the wild boar. What I’m actually doing, however, is waiting. Waiting for dinner to politely show up, stand still and let me take my shot. Neither the deer, nor the hogs are cooperating.

My first weekend out I’m in a deer stand twenty feet in the air. I’m trying to be silent and focused, but I’m providing an early Thanksgiving meal for mosquitoes and deer flies. I’m using a Therma-Cell and wearing a Rhino-skin shirt (designed to prevent mosquitoes and ticks from getting to your skin) neither are working this morning. All I can focus on is the incessant buzzing in my ears and around my face. If I’m not waving my hands around my head to get rid of the bugs, I’m looking at my phone praying for 11am to arrive so I can take the midday break. When 11 hits, I’m out the stand quick as lightning, rushing to Gander Mountain to buy more bug spray, and mosquito netting for my head.

I stop home, look in the mirror and freak out. My face looks like I have caught the bad end of a UFC fight. I count no fewer than eight large bumps on my face. I find three more on each wrist.  There is no doubt in my mind that if I don’t get a Benadryl in my system, I’m headed to the ER.

Nonetheless, I head back out for the evening hunt. I’m more prepared. The bugs leave me alone.

So do the hogs. I don’t see a thing. Ditto for the next morning. I do not see any deer. At the midmorning break, I leave and tell the guide I’m skipping the evening hunt. I’m tired, frustrated, and itchy. I call it a day; animals-1, Kiara-0.

Two weeks later I’m back in the woods. I’m more upbeat. I’m prepared for anything the bugs can throw at me. My guide sets me up at a different location. The woods are thicker with clear game trails. There is even deer sign; rubs against trees and hoof prints in the mud. I’m excited, and that lasts for the first two hours. Then I’m back to just sitting in a tree hoping each sound is a deer. I’m bored and start thinking, “I don’t enjoy this type of hunting.”

The nature of hunting is that you don’t know when or if the game will show up. When it does, you might miss your shot. At this point all I wanted was a shot. I desperately wanted at least a chance to fire my bow. Desperate people do desperate and silly things.

Last Try

When I decided to go out a third time, I was scrambling for a solution. I needed something to bring the deer to me. I thought about deer calls, but that’s an Elk hunting approach. Baiting was out of the question. It’s not legal in Florida.  Then my eyes fell on the scent baits in the store.

If you are not familiar with scent baits, they are formulated to smell like does. The bucks think it’s a female running around the woods, and comes over to check them out. The problem is that this scent is either real or simulated deer pee essentially. Buying deer urine and carrying it in your chest pocket has always seemed rather wrong to me. However, as I said, desperate measures.

I bought a small bottle and headed out to the deer stand. The guide sends me along a trail that crisscrosses to a path where deer sign is abundant.  I decide to hang the scent attractant about 20 feet from the deer stand. I should have put my gear up in the stand, and then come back down. Instead, I’m rushing. I want to get the scent out on a tree and move to the stand without having to come back down again.

I throw my bow between my legs, so my hands are free to open the bottle. That’s when it happens. I go from being lunch for bugs to being another casualty of Murphy’s law. My backpack slips down my arm at the same time a deerfly bites my wrist.

I slap at the deerfly, forgetting that my hand is holding the deer scent. Milliseconds later it’s all over my hand and lower arm. I nearly bite my tongue off trying to keep from cursing.

I’m covered in deer scent. Sticky, smelly deer urine. Do I need to mention that I’m in the woods with not a sink or bathroom near? All I have is my water bottle. I up-end the bottle, pouring all the water on my hand and use my pants as a towel. I’m sure none of that helped.

Nonetheless, I head to the stand. There’s nothing I can do except curse mentally. I’m ticked off, and feel like a deer better not show up, because I’m gonna take this anger out on it.”

I needn’t have worried. None showed up.

Kiara Ashanti is originally from the cold state of New Jersey. He attended college in sunny Florida and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Speech Communication. He loves taking on new projects and is the author of over 200 articles ranging from trading securities, politics, social policy, and celebrity interviews. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging 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. 



Read all posts from The First Feast Project series here.

When I set out to replicate the First Feast of the Pilgrims and Indians, my aim was to grow the vegetables and hunt the meats. Fulfilling the project appeared straightforward enough. Add the vegetables they ate to my garden, and go out and focus on catching the animals — easy-peasy. It was not my intent to experience even a sliver of the frustration the colonists felt that first year after they arrived on these shores. Yet, frustration is exactly what I was feeling as the growing season in Florida began.

One of the primary obstacles I knew needed to be overcome was the long growing cycle for some of the vegetables. Winter squash and corn each require 75 days-plus to harvest. Collard greens and peas require 60 days-plus to harvest.

I needed to get my veggies into the ground, but summer heat was dragging itself into the fall season. August and September were recording average temperatures in the nineties. The only plant the heat was good for was my sweet potatoes — which I had planted late, because they were a last-minute addition to the menu. I knew the temperatures were too high, but I needed to get things into the ground. I started some plants off in my house, like my corn and collards, and planted the cuttings for them. I also planted the squash, tomatoes, and yard-long beans.

The yard-long beans started off wonderfully. Natives of Asia, the heat does not bother them that much. In short order, I had beans ready to harvest. Despite the heat, my corn, greens and squash started great, too. By the end of September, my gardens looked lush and green. My corn was reaching for the sky beyond all expectations of the other members of the community garden. Each day and week, I began patting myself on the back.

Then disaster began to strike. Yard-long beans are delicious. You should try to grow them. You ought to isolate them from everything else, too, because they are aphid magnets. I expected this problem. I grew them last year, and so was aware that aphids would be an issue. I did not expect, however, that the number of aphids would double. By the middle of October, my beans were long, covered with aphids and an ant highway system.

I used insecticide soap, sprayed them off, and yes, even an organic insect killer. All it did was contain them, but not enough. I got enough beans to eat and set aside for Thanksgiving but not before the aphids began traveling to the other plants.

I planted winter squash last year, and so was also familiar with the issues I would have with it. Pollination would be an issue. Ants, which meant aphids, would also be a problem. I tried to solve the former with planting African basil and borage near the squash. Unfortunately, the borage did not sprout and the basil did not take off. There were no bees or butterflies coming to visit my plot.

So I resigned myself to hand-pollinating the squash. A great idea before I got a new job that kept me busy during the afternoon hours. I found myself missing when the female blossoms would open. I was able to finally get two pollinated, and two squash began to develop. The excitement my gardening partner and I felt was bursting. Yet, the aphids were beginning to multiple, and I saw leafs with holes in them.

I started spraying aggressively. It did not work. A week after the two squash appeared, the leaves on 80 percent of the plant were devoured by caterpillars. The squash, which I had covered in a pantyhose stocking, also had boreholes in them. The caterpillars had eaten through the stocking and into the fruit. The squash was ruined. The plant beyond saving. I would not have any squash from the garden.


Finally I see squash.

My corn, which had started off so well, reached a ceiling of development. They also had not gotten enough pollination. I just did not have enough of them in the garden to produce cobs that would fully develop. Other gardeners did warn me, but I thought there was a way. I was almost correct, but almost only counts in horseshoes and grenades. After taking one cob off to examine, I could see the corn was there, but soft and flat. It looked like skin left in the sun for seventy years.

My other plants — kale, greens, peppers, tomatoes — were doing well. The lettuce in my plot and indeed in all the plots at the community garden, bolted. The plot next to my own had seven beautiful romaine lettuces one week. The following week they went soaring toward the sky.

The first year the Pilgrims settled in America was a hard one. Their crops did not grow. They made it with the help of the Indians. I cannot imagine the fear of needing crops to produce but watching them fail. After all, needing your food to grow in order to eat and feed your family is a stress I have never felt. Nonetheless, I think I can understand the frustration level the Pilgrims had trying to grow their crops.

I cannot remember the last time I felt so stifled and frustrated as when I was looking at my squash. I felt powerless to do anything to salvage the situation. As I took down the squash at both my garden locations, "ticked off" is the best word I can use publicly to describe how I felt.


Thanksgiving dinner for little green caterpillars. 

I also wanted to end the existence of all caterpillars…and aphids.

As Thanksgiving crept on us, I was able to successfully grow my carrots, beans, greens, peas and sweet potatoes, though not many of the latter, in time to use for Thanksgiving.

I would have to buy the squash, corn, onions, and garlic. As promised and directed by my parameters, I bought the produce from local farm sources. Lake Meadow Naturals farm in Ocoee provided some of the vegetables, while some of the others were procured from a local market named the Wild Hare. Lake Meadows is a farm the grows most of the produce they sell. Wild hHare is a market that sources its produce from local farmers in the central Florida area.

If I had to grade myself on the vegetable portion of the project, I’d give myself a C for the result. And a solid A+ for frustration and disappointment regarding the items that did not pan out.

Kiara Ashanti is originally from the cold state of New Jersey. He attended college in sunny Florida and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Speech Communication. He loves taking on new projects and is the author of over 200 articles ranging from trading securities, politics, social policy, and celebrity interviews. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging 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.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.