Real Food

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Maine Farm and Sea Bio 

Local food has gone mainstream and these days each meal poses a question about the source and sustainability of what’s on our plates. Farm-to-table has become a household phrase, emblazoned on restaurant menus and grocery aisle signs alike. These changes feel authentic, rustic, even artisanal, and intentionally small.

Regional purveyors in Maine, though, have combined forces to move local foods beyond their current niche and into underserved institutional settings. Their statewide initiative, the Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, unites farmers and fishers with distributors and service workers, chefs and consumers. They are gearing up for their first foray into the market, competing head-to-head with some of the largest food industry players in a bid for the University of Maine System food service management contract.

In Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Ron Adams stands in a farm field, a setting that is the picture of agrarian Maine, to introduce the new venture in which he’s playing a directing role as a board member. As the former director of Portland Schools Food Programs, he knows the ropes of institutional purchasing and feeding thousands of mouths every day.

Nearby are the many local producers and providers who, as part of this multi-stakeholder cooperative, will also jointly own and manage the operation. “With increasing demand for locally grown food by consumers and students alike, we felt the time was right to bring local foods to an institutional level,” he relates.

The organizers behind Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative recognize that while markets are filling up with locally sourced consumer goods, institutions lag behind in this trend and opportunity beckons to reach these larger markets.

The other cooperative members by Ron’s side are practitioners who know well what it would mean to scale up local food production. They are ordinary Mainers, low- and median-income producers as well as consumers, who bend to weed around kale and cabbage as they discuss the new venture’s potential impact.

“In addition to providing locally sourced food on an institutional level, Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative will provide farmers and fishermen with consistent demand for their products at predictable and fair prices, enhancing Maine’s rural economies and creating jobs,” notes Marada Cook, who heads up Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative and is a board member of Maine Farm & Sea.

The new cooperative aims to increase community engagement with the university system, and beyond that, to leverage the purchasing power of institutions such as UMaine for maximal economic impact.

Maine Farm and Sea Supporter 

Taking Local Food — and Jobs — to Scale

This goal figures prominently in their discussion and it is part of their strategic plan to provide dining services to hospitals, local businesses, and schools regardless of the outcome of the UMaine System decision. The Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative is thinking big and thinking ahead, and this despite being a start-up formed last year. They are fully equipped to supply a range of major products and will be staffed by talented, experienced food service workers, chefs, and managers.

Six campuses totaling more than 10,000 students are part of the UMaine System contract, and Maine Farm & Sea is ready to provide daily meal service as well as event catering and other requirements of the UMaine contract — all with a hefty portion of local, sustainably-produced ingredients.

Maine Farm & Sea owes its deft positioning to its convener, Jonah Fertig, a developer at Cooperative Development Institute (CDI). He first endeavored to find out how feasible a local, cooperative food system in Maine would be, drawing from other similar experiences in CDI’s portfolio.

The five-year UMaine System contract mandates that 20 percent of food purchased be locally sourced by 2020, a requirement won by an earlier grassroots advocacy effort and one that the Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative recognized would provide them with an advantage over their competitors. Believers in this new venture recognize that Aramark, who currently holds the UMaine System contract, is a tough incumbent.

Maine Farm & Sea submitted their proposal to decision-makers at UMaine on November 4th and was selected as a finalist alongside Aramark and another corporate food provider, Sodexo. They’re awaiting a mid-January decision and are confident that their competitors can’t offer a similar value proposition—and when prices are competitive, that difference can sway decisions.

A Different Model

In the end, it’s this that sets Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative apart. Backed by contributors who are committed and business-savvy, the cooperative boasts a membership comprised of the same producers and consumers whose lives are affected by institutional purchasing decisions. It matters a great deal to their bid — and to their overall mission — that the cooperative is both owned and run by everyday folks. Maine’s institutions can choose to spend locally or they can deny the state’s economy a much needed support system, they explain.

Both Ron and Marada are experts in the impact local food systems can have on Maine’s economy. Under Ron’s supervision, the Portland Public School Food Services Program expanded its capacity, increased healthy food options for students, and added a local foods manager, all of which contributed to the city’s considerable local purchasing. Portland now spends 35% of its food budget on local foods with a goal of 50 percent by 2016. Maine Farm & Sea just issued a report for the city that sets out a plan for providing local foods to local institutions.

Marada grew up picking potatoes on the family farm in Aroostook County, and along with her father and sister turned their family business, Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative, into the largest distributor of local foods in the state. Crown O’Maine is worker-owned and operated, and one piece of a growing movement to keep local jobs and invest in communities.

Unlike traditional companies that generate profits for far-away shareholders, cooperatives such as Maine Farm & Sea reinvest in local economies by returning profits to their members: the workers and consumers who use the co-op. Those same people control decision-making in the co-op, and their concern for their community is a motivating factor to make decisions that keep Maine’s economy healthy.

In a few short months they’ve swelled to over 125 member-owners. The organizers of the new cooperative emphasize this difference. Buying local is important, they argue, and Maine’s institutional buyers will have larger impact by sourcing their local foods from a business such as Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative.

Photos by Nathan Broaddus

The Cooperative Development Institute was founded in 1994 with the explicit mission to foster an inter-dependent dense network of enterprises and institutions that allow us to meet our needs through principled democratic ownership, and that care for community, combat injustice and inequity, and promote conscious self-governance. The cooperative economy is embedded within and helps create a cooperative society aware of its place in a cooperative ecology. Go to the CDI website to learn 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.



Making your own glace citrus peels is easy. Instead of wasting your money on those tubs of peels available in stores for holiday baking (and who knows how much high fructose corn syrup is in those tubs?), make your own when the best citrus is in season.

You can save the peel from lemons, oranges, grapefruit and pomelos as you eat them.  Just toss the peel into a zipped plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator up to 4 days. I used Jacques Pepin’s method as guidance here.

Candied Citrus Peels Recipe


• citrus peels from 4 or more fruits, including either thick-skinned oranges, pomelos, lemons or grapefruit
• 1-1/2 cups cane sugar
• more sugar for rolling the peel
• water, preferably filtered


1. Use a small knife to score the peels into 6 or more segments. Pull off the peel, keeping the thick, cottony white part. Reserve the peel, refrigerated, and eat the fruits.

2. If you want to do lime peel, don’t mix that with other fruits; do limes separately. Candied lime peel is a delicious sweet to nibble and is also wonderful in zucchini marmalade.

3. When enough peel is accumulated and you are ready to candy, put the peel sections in a big pot, stainless or ceramic are best, and add water to cover. Bring the water to a full boil and boil for 30 seconds. The first boil, the peel wants to float, so push it down with a spoon, keeping it submerged as best you can.

4. Drain off the water and refill the pot with water to cover the peel. It won’t float so much the second time. Again, bring to a full boil for 30 seconds. Drain.

5. Put the peel back into the pot and add 1 ½ cups of sugar and 8 cups of water. Stir and bring to a boil, stirring a couple times to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat down and keep the pot at a low boil. Lemon peels take about 1-1/2 hours. Navel orange peels and the thick peel of pomelos take more time, about 2 hours. Watch carefully toward the end to make sure the syrup doesn’t scorch.

6. By now, the peel should be translucent and the syrup very reduced and thick. If the syrup still looks thinner than maple syrup, continue to cook until it’s more reduced. Set out a wire rack with a cookie sheet or parchment underneath. Remove the peel to the wire rack and let it drain and dry. Depending on the humidity, this can take 24 to 30 hours.

7. When it feels just sticky, roll the pieces of peel in a pie plate full of sugar. Put it back onto the rack to dry.

Store the peels in either jars or a plastic zipper bag in the refrigerator for months, until you are ready to use them. For long storage, they do freeze well. Again, waste not: Store the remaining rolling sugar for the next time you candy citrus peel. Pour the remaining syrup into a small jar and use it as a simple syrup for making lemonade.

You can dice the peels to use in fruit breads like stollen or panettone, preserves and mincemeat; I use scissors for this. Strips can be dipped in chocolate for a delicious sweet. Small jars of the candied fruit peel make a welcome gift.

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 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.


Drying and Roasting Peppers

While I’ve never tried that old foot-warmer recipe of adding hot chili powder to my shoes, I can attest to the heat some peppers can rub off on us. I found this out the hard way a couple of decades ago.

I grew some jalapenos next to my sweet bell peppers. I’d been improperly informed that they wouldn’t cross-pollinate. The truth hit my bare hands when I was chopping a tainted green bell for some fresh salsa and ended up with my hands burning until the next morning. Suffice it to say, I have not repeated that particular mistake. My sweet peppers are now always grown some distance from any containing heat.

I have friends and relatives who swear their appetite for hot peppers keeps them healthy. They insist no germ in its right mind will reside in the same body as one cleansed with heat. While I’m not sure there is science to back this up, I do vividly remember my dad downing a bowl of jalapenos every time we went out for Mexican food. I also remember him turning bright red with sweat beading up on his forehead every single time.

I remain unconvinced that I would enjoy such an experience. For me, eating is for pleasure and savoring taste sensations. I also believe our shared healthy constitutions are more due to strong genes, not necessarily his consumption of jalapenos.

Because I love to taste the textures and flavors of my food, I tend to walk away from the heat of peppers that obliterate everything else in the dish. This preference for steering clear of spicy heat is what made our youngest ask me throughout this past season why I grew several varieties of hot pepper that I refused to try. Laughingly, I explained that it was to see if I could. I also like the challenge of figuring out what to do with them once harvested.

I gave many away to friends and family who love hot peppers. I also dried them (see top photo, left side), and ground them into powders for future usage (bottom photo, middle row, jars). I roasted some for freezing, though those pictured (top right) are sweet, red cupid peppers. And I tried something new for me—I fermented them. By the way, you may notice blue painters tape in some of the photos. This is absolutely my go-to item for labeling because it can be moved from container to container during the fermenting process.

I served the fermented, super-hot Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce with our appetizer tamales at ThanksGaia (the name I use for Thanksgiving). There were a few brave souls who tested it — some deemed it too hot, others took some home. I didn’t touch the stuff.

Side note (yet more repurposing, covered in last week’s blog post): I also save my pepper seeds, drying them on old, expandable window screens (if you look carefully, you can see one as background of the right side of the bottom photo). I keep them carefully separated and labeled, then package them with labels until it’s time to start my seedlings—and the cycle begins again.

30-Minute Chili

I wanted to work up a recipe to share that was quick, easy, and used some of my new pepper creations. When ending a busy and productive day, I love a recipe with healthy ingredients that can be thrown together and ready to eat in minutes.

I am definitely one who likes to use what I have on hand rather than having to find and ferret away some obscure, fancy ingredient that exists only in specialty stores in big cities or online. I urge you to substitute at will if you haven’t preserved your own hot peppers this past year.

30-Minute Chili Recipe

1. Brown and crumble in your pot:
• 3 sausage patties (optional)
• 1/2-1 lb lean ground beef

2. Add, saute, and stir in completely:
• 2 tsp garlic, chopped (a couple of cloves… more if you prefer)
• 2 tsp granulated onion (or ½ fresh chopped onion… more if you prefer)

3. Add and warm through on simmer (about ten minutes):
• 2-15oz cans of beans (I love using one can of organic black beans)
• 15 oz can tomato sauce
• 1 pint salsa (this was my homemade mild salsa... if you’re using store-bought, I suggest using a brand without added sugar)
• 1/4 cup fermented Numex pepper sauce (I used my own slightly hot sauce, a can of diced chiles or jalapenos could be substituted)

Salt, pepper, and chili pepper to taste

Serves 2

1. Top with grated cheese, sour cream, dab of salsa, and sprig of cilantro or sliced avocado
2. Serve with cornbread—I make a gluten-free version, but that’s another story
3. Great paired with Oktoberfest beer

If you are so inclined, use this article as a reason to venture into an area of gardening or cooking that you haven’t yet tried. I know I’ll be fermenting peppers again. I also have a few new varieties to check out, thanks to participating in the seed exchange. Bring on the fun and adventure!

Photos by Blythe Pelham

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, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.


Lisa Kivirist, co-author of Homemade for Sale, eager to sell her baked products in Wisconsin

Nearly every state in the country has some form of cottage food law on the books, allowing you to sell “non-hazardous” food products made in your homestead kitchen.

As I write about in my previous blog, many homesteaders take advantage of the growing number of farmers’ markets to sell their products, one of the most widely accepted venues for sales of cottage food products.

However, while some of the laws can be broad and sweeping, others can be narrow and restrictive.

If you live in a state with no cottage food law, don’t throw in the kitchen towel. Get active with the cottage food movement in your state. Every cottage food law passed in the last decade has resulted from an initial individual citizen organizing others in their state to come together to get the bill passed, with the help of the state representative who sponsored or co-sponsored the bills. The laws are inspired by the artisan bakers, picklers or jammers, just like you.

Likewise, if your state law is limited — if, say, you want to sell cookies but your current law only allows you to sell high-acid pickles and preserves — then you too will need to take democracy by the horns and advocate, lobby and amend an existing cottage food law to include such items. Or, depending on your state’s legislative protocol, this expansion may require a full new cottage food law.

Whatever your goal, make sure you have these three elements in your toolkit before diving into the democracy pool:

1. Collaborative Spirit

Consider collaboration the yeast that rises to the occasion and brings cottage food legislative change to life. We home cooks harbor business dreams and kitchen expertise, but we lack the deep pockets and big checkbooks others might have to influence politicians. Therefore, we need numbers. Numbers of people, people who vote. We need to demonstrate to our elected representatives the strong and widespread interest in cottage food law and the positive entrepreneurial impact it will have on our state’s economy.

Some key places to seek collaborative partners include:

Your State Representatives

Your first call should be to the representatives in your district. In most states, this consists of two elected officials: one from the state senate and one from the state house of representatives, just like on the federal level. Whether or not you voted for them, these elected officials should be your most loyal champions, since you’re their constituent.

You’ll probably deal with your representative’s aides and not him or her directly. Don’t feel slighted. The legislator’s staff forms the influential group that gets things done in that office. Staffers can also give you a snapshot of any pending cottage food legislation and other history, like past failed attempts at passing a similar bill. Your state representative most likely will have a small staff of a few people. The best option would be to connect with their chief of staff or the person who covers issues related to the department of agriculture or commerce.

Connect with Supportive Organizations

Is there an existing statewide group that could adopt and champion your cause? This will help tremendously to provide both organizational strength as well as legitimacy to your proposed legislation. The more you can prove to representatives that the cottage food movement is a big deal with strong impact potential to your state’s economy, the better your odds. Affiliating with a kindred-spirited non-profit group will help. This will often be a sustainable agriculture advocacy group, since cottage food fits their mission of supporting family farms. Such an organization may also bring experience in the lobbying front and have a policy or government relation’s person on staff to assist and advise.

Network with other Food Entrepreneurs

The pulse of your plan for cottage food law change comes from others just like you: fledgling food entrepreneurs who need this legislation to bring their kitchen business dreams to life. Do a thorough check to see if anyone is already organizing in your state and join forces. Start a Facebook page or a webpage to connect and keep an e-mail contact list to get information out in a timely manner, especially when the bill is up for a vote and you need volumes of calls urging support to representatives across the state.

2. Plan

When you gather these partners, particularly your state representatives and kindred organizations savvy in the legislative process, get an immediate sense of the legislative schedule and how your proposed bill fits in. Most state governments operate under a fairly tight and specific schedule dictating when they meet for a vote and approximately how long it takes to shepherd a bill through the vetting process beforehand.

This vetting process often includes committee meetings where the bill is discussed and the pubic is invited to provide testimony. Of particular importance, these committee meetings provide an opportunity to organize supporters who, with their oral and written testimony, influence the committee to support the bill. If the committee does vote for it, the bill then moves to a full vote in either the state assembly or senate.

3. Patience

Realize your state legislature might only meet once or twice a year to vote on bills. If your bill doesn’t make it through committee in time, it may have to wait a year, only to start the process all over again. The democratic process can really drag. Occasionally, however, bills are “fast-tracked,” usually because the process has been greased by outside campaign donations, political maneuvering or other monetary influences.

The cottage food movement by its very nature does not have big lobbying bucks or deep pockets behind it, so it may creep along like a glacier. We can foster patience and determination while simultaneously advocating and championing the grassroots, people-driven story. Get your inspiring tales of food businesses that such legislation would jumpstart out to the media. Write an op-ed for your local or state newspaper, a sample of which is featured on the Homemade for Sale website.

Apply a supersize dose of patience if your proposed legislation fails. Ready yourself for a good fight on the next round.

4. Take it to Court

Another route you can go in your state is to pursue the third branch of government: the judiciary. You can work toward making a case in front of a judge and seek a “court opinion” or “ruling” that strikes down an unconstitutional state law preventing you from selling cookies or another “non-hazardous” food product.

Lisa Kivirist (co-author of Homemade for Sale) has joined forces with two other women farmer friends to work with the Institute for Justice to bring a lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture over the right to sell cookies and other baked goods made in a home kitchen.

Here’s their story captured in a video produced by the Institute for Justice that is representing the three women farmers:

For more about how to start a food business from your home kitchen, pick up a copy of the September/October 2015 issue of GRIT Magazine that contains a more detailed article about doing so. Or you can catch one of our talks at an upcoming MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair in 2016. We'll be both speaking at the Fairs in Asheville, North Carolina, West Bend, Wisconsin, Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, and Kansas.

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

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.


Braised lamb shanks, pilaf and steamed broccoli

I have to say I tried lamb once as a child. My mother made a roast of some sort and I hated it. It tasted like soap to me. That may have been the only time she made lamb, because I don't remember having it again until 20 years later, when my then-mother-in-law made these lamb shanks for dinner.

I'm not a fussy eater by any means, but I was a little worried after my past experience. Of course I would never let on that I wasn't enjoying the dinner she'd prepared, but I have to say that of all the things I've eaten in my life (and I'm not afraid to try anything), lamb was the one thing I did not like. Not one bit.

Well... obviously I was surprised and delighted with the meal, as I've been making this dish ever since and it always turns out delicious. The only person I've served it to that didn't "like" it refused to taste it, so that doesn't count. :-)

I've heard that sheep/lambs will not eat grains, soy or other "feedlot garbage," only grass, so it would stand that they are all pasture-fed and therefore produce a high quality, highly nutritious meat. All the more reason to love this meal.

I usually make a brown rice-Einkorn wheat berry-barley pilaf as a side dish with the shanks, which uses the pan drippings from the lamb as extra flavoring. Any leftover meat is saved and made into Scotch broth, and the bones are saved in the freezer with beef and pork bones to make bone broth.

Scotch Broth!

Lamb shanks can usually be found in any grocery store that sells lamb meat in other forms (chops, steaks, stew meat). I will buy shanks whenever I see them and then freeze them for future use, just in case there's none around when I decide to make this recipe. I've also asked store butchers if they have shanks in their freezer if there's none on the shelves. Sprouts has been especially good about retrieving shanks from their freezer.

Garlic slivers inserted in the meat.

Braised Lamb Shanks

Serves: 4


• 4 lamb shanks
• 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
• 2-3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 package of fresh oregano, chopped
• 1 package of fresh mint, chopped
• 1 whole unpeeled lemon, chopped
• salt & pepper to taste


1. Using a paring knife, pierce lamb shanks and insert garlic slivers into meat.

2. Heat olive oil in a lidded deep pan, electric skillet or dutch oven and add lamb shanks. Place oregano, mint and lemon on top of lamb shanks. Brown the shanks/seasonings, turning frequently.

3. Pour in 1/4 cup water. Cover with lid, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours, turning over meat about every 1/2 hour (spoon seasonings on top of meat) and replacing water if necessary. If making the rice pilaf, that can be made at any time and set aside (see pilaf recipe to proceed).

4. After 2 hours, remove shanks from heat. Pan drippings can be deglazed with more water to be used as a gravy, or used in the pilaf recipe. Serve and enjoy!

Printable recipes can be found here:

Lamb ShanksBrown Rice PilafScotch BrothBone Broth

Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado.  When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban Farmer. Read all of Deb's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.


When you have more freezer space than time, freezing tomatoes whole is a great way to preserve the harvest. Sometimes I just don't have time to process the tomatoes. I toss them in the freezer, sometimes on trays, sometimes in bags. With the skins on. No prep is needed!

The cost of this speedy, no-work preservation method is your freezer space. Whole tomatoes take up a lot of space. If space you have, even temporarily, then go for it. On our farm, we have chest freezers, so I can dedicate some space to tomatoes. Later, when I have time in the fall or winter, I condense them down into sauce.

Frozen Tomatoes

And remember: Freezing whole tomatoes is for the harvests that just didn't make it into the stock pot. The ones you can't bare see go to waste. The ones that are sitting on the counter or in the processing shed and making your eye twitch because you are getting ready for a trip or a busy spell. You could let them rot, toss them to the chickens or toss them in the freezer. Easy decision and done.

It is not a solution for the bulk of tomatoes. I process about a hundred quarts of tomato puree and salsa, plus tomato sauce in the freezer. If I froze every tomato whole instead of concentrating them into jars during the growing season, I would have to fill a barn with freezers.

So here I am, making tomato sauce in January like it is a summer day. Those frozen tomatoes are turning into a treat for me. The kitchen smells like summertime as I simmer tomatoes all day on the stove top. Frozen tomato globes are piled up on the countertop. Red, pink, yellow and orange.

I run them under hot water, or set them in a bowl of hot water, and the skins slip right off. I do not defrost them first, or they will become a gloppy mess. I can scrape off blemishes with a knife, but this is limited with frozen tomatoes. I fill a big stock pot with frozen skinless tomatoes, a little water at the bottom to prevent scorching, and start heating them up. They defrost and then simmer in the pot, all day long.

Purists will simmer off the water to retain the most nutrients, but I have been known to pour off some of the water to make a thick sauce quickly. You can't squeeze the seeds out of frozen tomatoes, so this sauce has seeds in it. When the tomatoes are completely thawed and soft, they could be run through a food mill to separate out seeds and cores. But I just run a handheld immersion blender through the stock pot for a smooth, beautiful sauce. My big stock pot made five quarts of thick sauce.

Tomato Sauce

Freezing whole tomatoes also works well on a small scale. A bag of small whole tomatoes in your frig-top freezer is a great resource. Take one out, peel it under hot water in two seconds, then toss into a sautee pan with your stir fry. It is a quick easy way to add a bit of tomato to a dish. The processed alternative is freezing tomato sauce in ice cube trays and keeping a ziploc bag of cubes in the freezer.

Perhaps this tomato-saving tip is not a solution for your whole harvest, but it will save your harvest in a pinch.

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 here and the farm's Facebook Page. Learn more about House in the Woods Farm online.

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.


This dough makes up in 10 minutes and then rests overnight in the refrigerator. It’s supple and easy to work with as you bake up your choice of American or European pastries, light as a feather.

I like to make a couple batches on a cold winter day and keep them in the freezer, ready to bring out whenever I need something special.

Dough Recipe


• 2 cups unbleached pastry flour or whole wheat pastry flour
• 1/2 cup cane sugar
• 1 tsp fine sea salt
• 2 scant Tbsp SAF GOLD yeast*
• 1 stick butter, melted
• 1 cup water
• 1 tsp grated orange peel**
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 3 eggs
• 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1. In your mixer bowl with the paddle blade, stir together the pastry flour with sugar, salt and yeast.   In the microwave, melt butter in 2 cup measure cup, add water and heat until all hot, about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Pour liquid into bowl of dry ingredients, stir in and beat a minute, then add in eggs, peel and vanilla and beat for 2 min.

3. Add the all-purpose flour, stir in and beat until smooth. The dough is very soft, more like brownie dough than bread dough.

4. Put dough into a bowl or tub at least large enough for the dough to double, and refrigerate overnight. It will rise and fall during the night, but will still be puffy.

American Cinnamon-Pecan Sticky Buns Recipe

Makes three square pans, 8 by 8 inches with 9 buns each, or one 13-inch square with 25 buns


• 1 recipe refrigerator dough (see above)
• 1/2 cup melted butter
• cinnamon-sugar mix: 1/2 cup of cane sugar with 1 tbsp Vietnamese cinnamon
• 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

Pan glaze

• 1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
• 1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
• 1 cup brown sugar, packed
• 1 cup pecans


1. Melt the butter in a 2-cup measure, add the syrup and brown sugar, stir well.

2. Spoon a generous amount into the pan and cover the glaze with pecans. It’s nice to have a whole pecan placed for each bun and then some broken pieces between.

3. On a well-floured pastry cloth, roll the dough to 12 by 20 inches, brush with melted butter, fold in thirds (letter fold). Repeat roll, butter and fold 3 times. The dough is now layered like a Danish pastry.

4. Put dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour or so.

5. Take out, flour lightly and again roll out the dough; try to get the dough to 18 inches square. Brush generously with beaten egg and cover heavily with cinnamon-sugar. Wait a minute for the cinnamon and sugar to absorb the egg and be sticky. Then, roll the dough up into a log and slice ¾-inch thick.

6. Place in prepared pan, leaving a little space for spreading. Let rise until well doubled and quite puffy. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a bun snaps back when pressed gently.

7. Remove to a cooling rack and promptly place a plate or cutting board over the buns and invert, then slide back into the pan so the pecan glaze is on top. Turn them over, even if you’ll freeze them, or they’ll never come out of the pan right.

These freeze nicely. To serve, let the buns defrost, then cover with foil and reheat gently in a low oven.

‘Brioche Raisinee’ French Raisin Snails Recipe

Makes 18 4-inch snails, just like the ones in French bakeries


• 1 recipe refrigerator dough (recipe from above)
• 1 cup melted butter
• 1-1/2 cups raisins
• coarse Demerara sugar


1. On a well-floured pastry cloth, roll the dough to 12 by 20 inches, brush with melted butter, fold into thirds (letter fold). Repeat roll, butter and fold 3 times. The dough is now layered like a Danish pastry.

2. Put dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour or so. Take out, flour lightly and again roll out the dough.  Spread the raisins over the dough and use the rolling pin to press them into the dough. Roll up the dough lengthwise.

3. Using a very sharp knife, slice a scant 3/4-inch thick and put the slices on a parchment lined cookie sheet, one inch apart. Gently coax the slices into a round shape. Brush the tops with butter. Sprinkle each with some of the coarse sugar.

4. Let rise until more than doubled and very puffy looking. Bake at 350 degrees about 25 minutes or until dark golden. Remove from the sheet promptly and cool on a rack.

T5. hese freeze nicely. I like to pack them in sandwich baggies and then freeze all the individuals in a freezer bag, handy to grab just one.

Italian Panettone Minis Recipe

Makes about 12 muffin-sized buns


• 1 recipe refrigerator dough made with 1-1/2 tsps of grated lemon peel**
• 1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel***
• 1 cup gold raisins (other dried fruit if desired)
• Melted butter


1. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Pat out and then knead in the fruits.

2. Form the dough into a log and cut pieces into 3-1/4 ounces each. Form each piece into a smooth ball.

3. Put each ball into a muffin cup (either silicone or paper lined). Let rise until doubled.

4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until dark golden. Brush with butter, remove from cup and cool on rack.

*SAF Gold yeast is better suited to doughs rich in sugar and butter. It is available from King Arthur Flour. You can use regular instant yeast, but it may take longer to rise. Two scant tablespoons of bulk yeast is about the same as two packets.

**I always have grated peel on hand in the freezer. I use a potato peeler to take just the bright outer peel from an orange or lemon, toss this into the mini processor with a couple tablespoons of cane sugar and process until very finely ground. Store in a glass jar in the freezer — handy and frugal.

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 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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