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Honey BeesWay back when, I made mead. I think it was back with Leif Erickson or some guy by that name. Of course, back then we had rotary phones, the Internet existed as ARPANET (look it up), and I was on the cutting edge when it came to computer development. I also stumbled across a USENET post for how to make mead.

Mead-Making: The Early Days

Being the total geek that I am, I got involved in brewing mead and made an amazing 6 bottles of it. I seem to recall that I made a methglyn, that is, a spiced mead, from honey and a bunch of spices – the combination lost for eternity. I think cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger root. Possibly cloves and anise, but I really don’t remember. Sadly, I never continued on and my mead making equipment disappeared over the moves.

I love mead, so it was no surprise when people at cons found out, they started having me try their own brews. One fellow, I kid you not, made jalapeño mead. It was weird. Sweet and tasted of jalapeño without the heat. Not a favorite mead, but definitely interesting.

When I moved to Montana, the first thing I got to try was our honey out here. Seems we have premium honey because of the knapweed – an invasive species that beekeepers brought into Alberta for their hives. The damn stuff is everywhere in Western Montana, but it makes yummy honey.

What clinched it was that I joined a mead group on Facebook and asked questions. The folks were kind enough to recommend that I visit a local supplier and see if I could purchase my equipment without spending a lot.

A Learning Adventure

The equipment you need to make mead is pretty straightforward. You need a food grade plastic bucket for the primary fermentation, a secondary fermentation container (often a 1 gallon glass jug or a 5 gallon carboy), stoppers with airlocks, thermometer, hydrometer, and that’s it. For the mead, you need the right type of wine yeast, yeast nutrient, and maybe Camden tablets (which work to sterilize everything).

I was able to get my food grade buckets for $1 each at a bakery (some places just give them away). I had my glass thermometer from making cheese. I then trekked down to the local wine making shop. There, I was greeted by the shop owner.

Making a Mead Friend

In the past, way back when (cue the "when I was your age..." track), when I first made mead, very few people were doing that where I lived. Almost everyone made wine or beer, if they did make wine or beer at all. I was kind of embarrassed about telling her I was going to make mead. I think it's because most people looked at me funny because nobody heard of it, even in wine making stores.

Well, evidently mead is popular enough in Montana to talk about without feeling like a total geek. (Yes, I'm a geek, but when around muggles, I need to behave like one.) Anyway, the store's owner was delighted to get me started on my project. I now have a one-gallon secondary fermenter (glass jug), a gasket to put into my food grade bucket, a package of yeast for sweet mead, yeast nutrient, a stopper and airlock, a hydrometer, and Campden tablets. (She said I didn't need the Campden tablets or the hydrometer, but I got them anyway). I already have a thermometer that I use for cheesemaking. The cost for that came to about $20. The most expensive things were the hydrometer and the glass jug.

No Knapweed?

Anyway, she and I talked and I received some rather startling news. Unless I want to age my mead for 2-3 years, I shouldn’t use the honey here in Western Montana. See, we have knapweed, and while it makes for delicious eating honey, it imparts a really sharp taste to mead which won’t mellow out for two to three years. So, she actually recommended that I pick up honey at a cheap retailer and use that honey.

Damn, I was so hoping to use local honey. I still can, but alas, not for this first batch.

So I picked up five pounds of who-knows-where clover honey and started to work.

Visiting the Farmer’s Market

I still didn’t give up on the idea of making mead from local honey. Yes, I would have to wait for the mead to settle down, but if I have mead that works in the meantime, I figure I’m good. But for the mead maker in me, I knew having an apiary was out. As much as I would like an apiary, there are some things I feel is probably best left to the people who know what they are doing. The reason is simple. I’ve swelled up with different bug bites in the past and I really don’t want to deal with bee stings in case I actually have a reaction to them. So, courting bee stings is out. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have honey. So, I went to the farmers market to talk to some beekeepers.

What I found was that most beekeepers in the area sell their honey at premium prices. The one place that sells local honey at a sane price isn’t a farmer’s market, but a local natural grocery. I can get local honey there at a decent price.

Next Up: Mead Making!

Stay tune for my insane adventures into mead making.

Maggie Bonham is an award-winning author and publisher. Visit her blog Eating Wild Montana, and her website at Sky Warrior Books. You can visit her Facebook page at Sky Warrior Books and her Twitter page at MH_Bonham.

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.


Returning to the introductions of the sensation of wild mushroom foraging from the article Fungophobe or Fungophile, meet the king of the fungi kingdom, the Bolete. 

The King Bolete, Boletus edulis, is robust in both size and taste. Rotund like a little piggy, the Italians call them Porcinis.  Thick and meaty, the Porcini lives up to its name.  Many varieties of this species are edible, including: King, Queen, White King, Butter, Admirable, Zeller’s, Birch, Orange Birch, and Aspen.  I can only attest to the edibility and deliciousness of the King and Queen, as they are the common types that are grown nearby.

Boletes are an unmistakable type of mushroom. Fat stumpy bodies, with giant caps and a spongy under layer are immediate identifiers. The cap of the King Bolete is brown to yellow-brown, red-brown or dark red; while the cap of the Queen Bolete, (Boletus aereus) is darker brown. When fresh, the surface of the cap is firm; if old, it is fluffy and spongy. For both the King and Queen varieties, the stalk is at least 1-inch thick at top, white to brown and the surface is finely netted. The flesh is white, and does not stain blue or brown when cut. The taste is mild or nutty, never bitter.

Where and When to Find

Boletes are typically found on the ground in woods, and on the edges of the wood. Most often, they are clumped in groups. I tend to find them near conifers, but they are also located near oak and birch. Sparse patches of Boletes will be found in the Spring, but the mass crop grows in late summer/early fall when the weather starts to turn a little cooler and moisture precipitates the air.

Three types of toxic Boletes exist: Slender Red-pored, Red-pored, and Satan’s. I have never seen any of the three, but they are distinguishable by their red sponge layers and bluish stain bruising on the flesh.

Cooking with Boletes

If you have found and identified a true bolete, a happy dance is in order. Make sure the cap is firm. If it is spongy, look close for tiny white to yellow wiggly lines. Maggots! Don’t despair. I don’t prefer maggots in my mushrooms, but you know the old cliche on desperate times. You can soak the mushrooms in salt water to help remove the creepy crawlers, but that often lends to soggy shrooms. Another option is to simply pick them out. If there are too many to count, chuck it and try again. The best Porcini is one that is found as a shrump—it’s bald head puffing beneath the surface of the forest floor. Most often the shrumps are maggot free, firm, and delectable.

To clean, gently rinse off dirt from the cap, and scrape the remaining dirt from the stem with a vegetable peeler. The spongy layer under the cap needs to be removed. It can be used to make broths, but should not be consumed itself. Once the mushroom is clean, cut the cap where it connects to the stem. The cap should be sliced downward to show off the beautiful curving feature. The remaining stem can be sliced or diced.

I love the versatility of cooking Porcinis, as they are fabulous dehydrated, cooked fresh, or frozen for future use. If dehydrating, I remove as much moisture as possible then crush them to a powder added with salt, or reconstitute later with water to flavor winter dishes. Cooking fresh, I dry sauté the mushroom until all of the moisture has cooked out, and then at the end I add a dab of heavy cream. The cream immediately absorbs into the porcini and the flavor is out of this world! If freezing for future use, I dice into 1/2-inch pieces, and toss the bag directly into the freezer. No pre-cooking is needed. To cook, thaw and sauté as described above. Porcinis are an excellent meat substitute as they are hardy in and of themselves, but they also go excellently atop steak or chicken if you are more of the carnivorous type. The ideas are virtually endless; just never consume wild mushrooms raw. Our bodies do not contain the right enzymes to digest.

In warmer climates, there may be a few lingering Boletes to add to your foraging palette. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I have bid adieu to the wonderful fresh flavors on my plate, reminiscent now in powdered or frozen form. Gone are the days of 50-lb harvests, only to return in 10 months. Don’t deprive yourself any longer if you’ve never feasted on a fat Porcini. Find it, try it, love it. 

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.



Fall Apple Orchard

Apple season is in full swing so now is high time for preserving apples for the rest of the year. The list of preserved apple goodness is dizzying, but here are ten of my favorites with something for everyone, including apple jelly, jam, pickles, dried apples, applesauce, apple butter, hard cider, chutney, leather, and pectin. Whew, that’s a lot of apples! Even if you only pick a few of these fabulous recipes to make, you’ll have apple treats well into the winter.

Preserving Fall Apple Recipes

Apple Jelly, by David Lebovitz 

Apple Pie Jam, by Mrs. Wheelbarrow

Pickled Apples, by Putting up with Erin

Dried Apples, by One tomato, two tomato

Naked Applesauce, by The Dutch Baker's Daughter 

Slow-Cooker Cran-Apple Butter, by Eating Rules 

Apple Cherry Cider, by One tomato, two tomato

Apple Green Tomato Chutney, by Blue Kale Road

Apple Pie Fruit Leather, by Tammy Kimbler

Apple Pectin for Jam, by Jeannine Ansley

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.



One of my all-time favorite foods is lamb gyro. Yes, I know, it’s basically fast food. This knowledge did not stop me from serving it at my wedding.

Maybe it’s the memories of street-cart gyros in Greece—by far the best deal in Athens at just over one Euro for a soft, plump pita stuffed to the brim with meaty deliciousness and a cold Mythos lager to wash it all down—or maybe it’s just that the idea of heavily spiced strips of meat, speared, compacted, and roasted on a spit before being shaved onto plate or pita awakens a carnal hunger within me. Either way, I’m licking my lips.

I’d always wanted to recreate the gyro experience in my kitchen, but with two small kiddos and a fairly restricted budget, a giant, fire-dwelling spit is not something my home can currently accommodate.

Not to be completely defeated, I developed this home-kitchen-friendly “Gyro” recipe that fills the void and then some.

I love the flecks of tangy feta running throughout each slice, but if you would prefer a more classic look and taste, feel free to save the feta for a side salad or pita stuffer.

Feta-Studded Lamb Gyro

• 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
• 1 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into chunks
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 tbsp dried oregano
• 1 tbsp onion powder
• 1 tbsp smoked paprika
• 2 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
• 1 tbsp freshly minced garlic (or 1 1/2 tsp granulated)
• 1 egg
• 4 oz feta, crumbled
• finely chopped parsley for garnish, if desired

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a Pyrex loaf pan. If desired, cut a strip of parchment paper to fit along the length of the pan with the edges sticking out a few inches over the short sides, creating “handles” for easy removal of the loaf after cooking.

Place all ingredients except feta and parsley in a food processor and process until the mixture is very well blended and looks somewhat like meat-dough, pausing to scrape down the sides about half-way through. Add the feta and pulse just to distribute.

Scrape the meat mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let rest 5-10 minutes before lifting or turning out onto a cutting board (run a knife around the edges first to loosen if necessary).

Slice thinly, sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired, and enjoy over rice or vegetables or tucked into a pita with tzatziki sauce, hummus, and sliced tomatoes. Opa!

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, TX. More of her work can be found at, a blog about food, life, and love. 

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.



Apples are like a blank canvas. They can be sweet or tart. They can be crisp or savory. Apples connect us to our heritage—who doesn’t know the Johnny Appleseed story?—yet are a modern trend too (note the increased interest in alcoholic sparkling ciders). Apples are as patriotic as a food can be: they go in apple pie and provide us with close family activities too, like the annual apple pressing.

We tuck apples into sweets like candied apples, apple tarts, and applesauce. We spice them up in recipes like spiced crabapples and apple butter or even rosehip-apple butter. Apples add a little something extra to savory dishes too like the delicious apple-turkey casserole my mother made every year with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Apples sing when combined with cinnamon and other warm spices, rum or brandy, and nuts. So I decided to use them all and update my old cinnamon roll recipe. I used two old-fashioned apple varieties, Golden Delicious and Jonathan, but any apples would work in this recipe. Personally I would avoid extremely sweet apples like Fujis or Honeycrisp, but I that’s because I prefer less sweet cinnamon rolls. That’s also why this recipe avoids the traditional frosting and uses a caramel drizzle instead.

For the Sweet Rolls

• 1 cup lukewarm milk
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 tbsp instant dry yeast
• 2 eggs, room temperature
• 3 Tbsp butter, melted
• 1 tsp salt
• 4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the Spiced Apple Rum Filling

• 2/3 cup brown sugar
• 1  tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground allspice
• 1/2 tsp ground cloves
• 2 tbsp butter
• 1–2 tbsp dark rum or brandy
• 2 large apples, cored and diced
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

For the Caramel Icing

• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 1/2 tbsp milk

Making The Sweet Dough

1. In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine milk, sugar and yeast. Let sit until foamy—about 5 minutes.

2. Add eggs, salt and melted butter. Beat to mix. Add flour, one cup at a time, until dough holds together.

3. Knead dough 4-8 minutes or until shiny and smooth.

4. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours.

5. Gently deflate the dough and turn out onto a floured surface.

6. Roll into a 13-by-15-inch rectangle.

Making The Apple-Rum Filling

1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.

2. Add the rum or brandy and stir to combine.

3. In a small bowl combine the spices and brown sugar.

Making the Spiced Apple Rum Rolls

1. Brush the butter-rum over the rolled out dough.

2. Sprinkle with the sugar-spices mix.

3. Sprinkle the diced apples and nuts over the sugar mix.

4. Starting at the short end, roll the dough up tightly, like a jelly roll.

5. Cut the roll into 12 equal sized rolls.

5. Place in a greased 9-by-13-inch pan.

6. Cover and let rise another 1/2 hour.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

8. Remove the cover from the rolls and bake for about 35 minutes, or until rolls are slightly brown and cooked through.

9. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes.

10. Turn rolls out onto a cooling rack and cool completely—or as long as you can stand it!

Making the Caramel Icing

1. In a small saucepan, bring the butter, milk and brown sugar to a boil.

2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Beat in the powdered sugar.

3. Drizzle icing over the cooled rolls.

Since these rolls are not too sweet, they make a wonderful breakfast, brunch or late afternoon snack. Enjoy with a cup of tea.

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. 


So you want to know how I made homegrown-homemade Ancho-Chili Powder? It took a year to make. Here’s the timeline:

Spring 2013: buy Ancho-Chili Powder for making chili, and enjoy it. I used quite a bit of it. Think to self: hey, I grow peppers, bet I could make my own. This was the moment of inspiration. The moment of inspiration is an important part of the steps it takes to make something, right? So this was the beginning.

December 2013: Its seed-ordering time. Catalogues are on the kitchen table and piled on the coffee table. Lists are being made, reflections on what to keep, what to drop. What to add. “Hey, Phil, order some ancho pepper seeds. I want to make some chili powder.”

April 2014: Plant seeds in a tray. Add water and sunlight, the works.

May 2014: Plant seedlings into the garden. Wish them luck.

July 2014: Harvest green Ancho-Chili peppers, they are called Poblanos when fresh. Grill em. Leave some on the vine to ripen. For chili powder.

September 2014: The peppers are starting to ripen to red. Harvest the red ones. (Wear gloves when cutting them open! I learned the hard way, with burning skin for a day.) Cut the peppers open, clean out the seeds, slice into thin strips, dehydrate in dehydrator until they snap in half. Bendy is not ready.

Blitz into powder in a coffee grinder dedicated to herbs, a Vitamix or other high power blender, or a food processor. Store in a glass jar in a dark place (spice cabinet).

October 2014: Make my first crock of chili with homegrown homemade ancho chili powder! 

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to

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.


Gardening in a small space means that some crops must make way for others as the seasons change. Beans are a prolific crop that add nitrogen to the soil and pack nutritional punch. They're a snap to grow, easy for kids to plant and harvest, and can be sculpted into teepees or shade trellises for shorter crops. In my Zone-7 garden, I was able to harvest a sizable crop throughout September. The beans would've happily produced a few more handfuls through October, but I was eager to plant my fall crops in their stead.

I grow both shell beans, or "shellies," as my grandmother would say, and snap beans. Shell beans are typically cultivated for their dry seeds. They can remain on the vine until their pods are dry, or they can be brought indoors and dried in an oven or on a window sill. Shell beans tend to have thicker pods than snap beans. Common shelling beans are cranberry, fava, great northern bean, scarlet runner, and black-eyed pea. Snap beans are usually harvested earlier in the season and include green beans, bush beans, haricot vert, and sugar snap peas. However, there is quite a bit of crossover in how the beans are harvested and eaten. 

I like to experiment with different varieties, and this year I grew purple podded pole beans (snap), sugar snaps, Cherokee trail-of-tears (heirloom snap or dried), and scarlet runner beans. 

When it was time to remove the beans from the garden, I they were in various stages of maturity. Not one to waste a perfectly edible home-grown vegetable, I decided to shell the overly plump snap beans and saute the immature shell beans. The results were delicious any way I cooked them. 

First, I separated the dried Cherokee trail-of-tears and purple podded pole beans from those that were merely swollen and those that were still small. In order to shell the plump, but still tender, pods, I broke off the tip of the bean and ran a fingernail down the seam to separate it into two halves. The red Cherokee trail-of-tears revealed glistening black seeds that were firm but not dry. The purple podded pole beans produced white seeds. When combined, they made quite a colorful duo. 

I harvested some fresh sage from the garden and rounded up some garlic. I sautéd the garlic in a little olive

oil, before adding the beans to the pot. I wanted the beans to simmer, not boil, so I added just enough water to cover them and mixed in a bit bouillon. After about 20 minutes, I added the fresh sage and allowed them to cook for five more minutes. The result was out of this world. I hope you'll enjoy it, as well. If there are leftover fresh shelled beans, simply store them in the freezer until you're ready to use them.

The dried beans were easy to pop out of their shells. I'll store them in a paper bag in the pantry and use them in hearty fall soups and stews. 

The snap beans that were still small are versatile. I like to steam them for about 2 minutes and eat them slightly crisp, with just a hint of lemon and pepper added. 

Brenda Lynn is the author of, a blog devoted to small-space, organic vegetable gardening, native plants, and beekeeping. She is a free-lance writer, garden coach, and outdoor educator in northern Virginia, where she lives and gardens in her suburban backyard

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.

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