Real Food

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Food preservation can be an energy-intensive proposition for any homesteader. If you freeze your harvest, you rely on electricity to keep those chest freezers running all winter long. You also risk losing everything if there’s a power outage and you don’t have a generator. Even if you do, it takes a lot of gas to keep that going nonstop, as well.

Luckily, lots of fall crops can be stored in a root cellar for a low-energy way to keep them crisp and fresh. This old-fashioned method of food preservation is one of the simplest ways to keep traditional storage crops like onions, winter squash, apples, pears and root vegetables like turnips, carrots and potatoes. These foods last for months in a cool, dark place, and a root cellar is a great project to make your homestead a little more green this winter.

Designing Your Root Cellar

In an old farmhouse, a root cellar may have been simply a dark corner in the cool basement. A windowless tone foundation and dirt floor mimicked natural conditions underground – the perfect environment for tricking root vegetables into thinking they were still at home in the garden.

Root cellars were also dug into the sides of hills or excavated in the ground, and this is still a good plan today if your house is too modern and well insulated to have a damp, cool basement. Choose a spot near enough to your kitchen that you’ll be able to access it easily during the winter. The area should have relatively sandy soil and drain well – a slope is ideal.

Consider how much room your crops would take up if stored in bins and barrels, and consider how large a room would be required to hold it all. A root cellar will basically be this underground room. You can line it with wooden shelves, but do make sure that it’s spacious enough to move around in. It’s better to go a little bigger than you think you may need – you never know when you’ll have a bumper crop!

Building Your Root Cellar

The first step is to excavate the hole for your root cellar. With the right construction equipment, this should go quickly. Tamp the base for a packed earth floor to allow for natural temperature and humidity, but build cinderblock walls on all four sides of your underground room to support the earth.

If you build your root cellar into a slope, you can add a door to one side to walk in. If your root cellar in on flat land, you’ll need a door and a ship’s ladder to access the area from outside. Though your food should all be stored below ground level, it’s perfectly fine to build a roof of cedar, corrugated metal or stone that rises above ground to accommodate an entryway.

Once you have a door, you just need to add ventilation, which is crucial for keeping your food from spoiling underground. It’s easy to add a couple PVC pipes through the roof and cap them to keep out the rain. For better humidity control, consider a louvered vent that can be adjusted to open and close depending on conditions.

Once your root cellar is built and filled with your harvest, be sure to check your produce regularly to remove any bad apples or soft potatoes. This will keep any rot from spreading and ensure a winter’s worth of healthy food – without adding to your carbon footprint.

Photo by tookapic/Krzysztof Puszczynski

James is green builder and home improvement blogger who focuses on sustainable living via his family blog Homey Improvements. He also enjoys sharing his recent discoveries with DIY projects, home tips and organic gardening. James is "Alaska Grown" but now resides in PA. Connect with him  on Twitter at @DIYfolks. Read all of James' 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.


One of my all-time favorite foods to prepare is a smoked and cured salmon. Every time I pull this from the cure, rinse it, dry it and slice it for that first taste, I just smile, make a slightly audible, “Mmmm” and mutter, “Man, that’s good.” Every. Single. Time.

The recipe and preparation is pretty straightforward. I smoke the salmon first using a stove top smoker, then cure it using a gravlax-styled cure for 3 days. We usually prepare extra and freeze it for consumption at a later date with almost no loss in flavor or texture. This is a great crowd pleaser as an appetizer for any dinner party or served with fresh bagels and cream cheese for a special breakfast especially around the holidays. Believe me, this will blow them away.

The Salmon

Start with a good cut of salmon. We have tried wild and farm-raised, and both work well - with the texture of the wild being slightly firmer. You might as well start with a full “side” (half) of a salmon since it is a long process and the extra freezes well.

Salmon Filet

Leave the skin on and remove all bones. I cut the half of salmon crosswise in half again (to make two pieces that are almost square) for ease of handling and so it fits in the smoker. Notice the head end of the filet is thicker than the tail end. If everything is done the same, the tail will be smokier and saltier because it is thinner. Always keep this in mind. Rinse and dry the filets with a paper towel.

The Cure

The cure is simple – mix 2.5 parts Kosher salt to 2 parts light brown sugar. I usually use 2.5 cups Kosher salt with 2 parts light brown sugar. Keep any extra cure to use as a rub for a pork roast or ham. Since this is a gravlax cure, I also use some vodka, about 0.25 parts (or ¼ cup in this case), but DO NOT mix it in with the salt and sugar. Use dill, fresh or dried, but fresh works better, or any herb you prefer. No need to mix it in with the dry cure. 

The Process

Step One – Smoke the Salmon

I smoke my salmon using a Cameron Stove Stop Smoker with alder wood chips. I plan to experiment with other smokers, and might even make my own, but this is what I use at present.

I use 2-4 tablespoons of wood chips. The key here is to infuse the salmon with smoke flavor, not cook it. Using one filet half at a time, lay it on the rack in the smoker skin side down and partially close the lid. Turn on the stove and watch for smoke. Once you have a good flow of smoke, close the lid completely taking care not to burn yourself. Briefly leave the heat on to build up smoke in the smoker then shut off the heat and let the closed smoker sit for 10 minutes.

Stove Top Smoker

When you open the smoker, an orangey-brown pellicle or film should have formed on the filet, giving it a lightly smoked appearance. Repeat with the second filet. The first time you do this, do each filet the same then observe how thickness impacts the flavor. You are now ready for the cure.

Step Two – Cure the Salmon

Lay out and overlap two sheets of cling wrap on the counter. Sprinkle on a little cure and lay the thickest filet on the cure, skin side down. Cover all remaining surfaces of the fish with cure and press it into the fish slightly to try and hold it in place. Sprinkle about half of the vodka on the cure. I use a spray bottle to evenly apply the vodka. Cover with dill.

Ready For The Cure

Apply rub to second filet, not worrying about the skin right now, and spritz with vodka. Flip it over on to the other filet making a sandwich with the dill in the middle. Sprinkle a little rub on the exposed skin and cover any areas where the rub has fallen off. Tightly wrap the salmon, cure and dill sandwich in the plastic wrap then put in a large zip lock bag and close, removing as much air as possible.

Put the wrapped salmon package on a shallow tray (I use a quarter sheet pan) and weigh it down with something - a couple of large cans on tomatoes will work. Refrigerate for three days, taking care to flip the bundle daily.

The ”Mmmmm” Moment

Lots of liquid will be pulled out of the salmon and will be inside the plastic wrap. Do not worry and do not unwrap the fish during the cure. On day three, remove, unwrap, rinse and dry the salmon. If you go longer than three days, the fish may come out a little too salty.


The outer slices will have more intense flavor than the inner slices. Slice the meat, not the skin, thinly, cutting across the grain if possible, then taste. See, see what you did there, eyes rolled back, you muttered something profane, and thought “I may not share this with anyone.”

Photo credit, 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.



One person’s weeds are another person’s dinner, and burdock (Arctium) is a perfect example of this. Although it is routinely weeded out as an invasive species, in Japan it is cultivated as the delicious root vegetable gobo, and you can sometimes find it for sale as a gourmet ingredient at farmers’ markets. It is delicious in stir-fries (see recipe below).

Identifying and Harvesting Burdock

Burdock root can be harvested anytime from spring through fall. A burdock root is shaped like a slender carrot, but brown on the outside and a lighter color within.

In addition to being eaten as a vegetable, the root is also the part of the burdock plant that is usually used for medicine. Burdock roots have been taken internally as a blood purifier, digestive aid, and to treat chronic skin problems including psoriasis. They also have a reputation as being good for hangovers!

Burdock grows in sun or partial sunlight. It is a biennial that grows a rosette of leaves in its first year of growth, then flowers and goes to seed the following calendar year.

The leaves can be huge, up to 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. They remind some people of rhubarb plants, but unlike rhubarb’s leaves, burdock leaves have a felt-y, fuzzy texture and are whitish on the undersides. Although untoothed, the margins of the leaves are wavy, almost ruffled.

In the spring of its second calendar year, after overwintering, burdock sends up a stalk that will eventually bear brush-like purplish flowers. These are followed by the burrs from which the plant gets its common name. Burdock burrs are what inspired George de Mestral to invent and patent Velcro.

The immature flower stalks are another excellent vegetable this common plant provides. Similar to the Italian vegetable cardoon, burdock stalks should be harvested before the plants flower, which is usually in mid to late spring.


Burdock (Gobo) Stir-Fry Recipe

Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish. Add tofu or chicken to make it a main course. Serve over rice.


• 1/2 lb. burdock root
• 1/4 lb. carrots
• 1 tbsp sesame seeds
• 2 tbsp mirin
• 1 tbsp white wine
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tsp honey
• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil


1. Peel the burdock root and julienne it into matchstick sized strips. The peeling is optional. If you do peel the roots, you will have a milder dish. For a strong, mushroom-like flavor, wash but don’t peel.

2. Soak the burdock matchsticks in water for 30 minutes.

3. While the burdock is soaking, peel the carrot and julienne it into matchsticks as you did with the burdock root.

4. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium low heat, shaking the pan often, for a few minutes until fragrant and just starting to color. Do not allow them to burn. Set the seeds aside.

5. Mix the mirin, white wine, soy sauce, and honey together in a small bowl.

6. Drain the burdock in a colander. Spread on a kitchen towel and pat dry.

7. Put the vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok over high heat.

8. Add burdock and fry for 2 minutes, stirring.

9. Add carrots in the hot pan and fry for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly.

10. Stir the soy sauce mixture into the vegetables. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

11. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

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

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



Between my CSA, favorite farms, our local Co-op, and farmers market, I end up not buying much at the conventional grocery store, but I still find myself there from time to time. There are few things that I love that I cannot get locally grown or produced. As you may know, avocados do not grow in Vermont and I think avocados are pretty much the greatest thing to add to salad, make into spreads, stuff into sandwiches and just eat. This week I found that avocados were on sale at the conventional grocery store for pretty much as cheap as we ever see them here in Vermont which is about a dollar each. Sometimes the grocery store will have bulk deals, but I never end up using them up fast enough that some do not go bad and thus the deal in the supermarket is foiled by the home cook. Today, they were being sold individually!

Last week, we had the first frost and this has been followed by most nights going down into the 20s. Many days have been nice alternating between warmish rain and clear but crisp days. The kale and brussel sprouts still look okay, but everything else that has not been picked and taken in has the sad droopy look of freezing through. The basil leaves are black and look wet; the tomatoes are just stringy stalks. I now have a glut of food waiting for processing (apples, squash, and basil) or that I cut and brought inside in an attempt to have it past the freeze (parsley).

When I saw the avocados, I knew that guacamole was in my future even though I need to work with what I have now to make it. I usually use tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and a dash of salt. I have onions, lime juice, and sea salt from a friend in Maine. Tomatoes and delicate cilantro are long past. Additionally cilantro did not do well this year as it was so dry. I just could not keep it wet enough and am disappointed to say I have no home-grown coriander seeds to crush up into this winter’s mexican fare. So those are out for the recipe. I decide to replace it with parsley. I have a huge bouquet of parsley in the kitchen. I likely won’t get through it before it all yellows. After tending it all summer,  I just couldn’t leave it out to freeze, so I brought in too much.

I looked around to see what I have that’s still good. My kitchen is swimming in apples gathered in my neighborhood. This year, I even ended up asking my across the street neighbor if I could gather apples from an ancient and always productive tree on his property (rather than just picking up those that fall over his fence which I’m hoping he never noticed me doing). He said yes, and that he finds the glut of apples to be somewhat of nuisance. He just rakes them into a bucket and doesn’t use them. My neighbor probably thought it an odd request, but he was happy for the help with getting rid of them.

These are late-season, green to yellow apples. The tree is untended, but the apples are always a good size and remain crisp late into the fall. It is a variety that is both good for eating and cooking. It is one of the most productive trees in my neighbor each year even without any care. They get a black scaling on them, but a little washing with a soft vegetable brush gets it right off. I’m positive the tree is not a commercial variety, but I don’t know what it is. I’ve promised myself that I will look into what kind it is over the winter. I’m too busy now.


Back to the guacamole: I know I’m going to use the avocado, parsley as a substitute for the cilantro, and I have local red onions stored. Lime juice is one the things I get at the conventional grocery store and I have some. I cut the avocado in half, take out the seed and mash it up in a small bowl.

I then finely chop up 2 tablespoons of parsley (it’s as much as I can imagine having in a guacamole without it tasting like something Italian) and 2 tablespoons of onion. I add these to the avocado with some lime juice and a pinch of sea salt. It’s not quite right - it needs something to bulk up the recipe and punch it up. I turn to the only thing I really have - those little green apples. I rough chop into small pieces one small green apple and mix it in.

The apple guacamole is not only a fine substitute to traditional guacamole, but it is lovely in its own right. It’s flavor is subtle, but complicated. It tasted great with homemade nachos. I can even imagine experimenting with different kind of apples for different flavors. The green apple gave is a sour punch, but a sweet apple could work too for a different effect. I liked the green apple, because it disappeared with the green guacamole, so you not necessarily know you were eating apple.

Apple Guacamole


• 1 avocado
• 2 tbsp parsley chopped
• 2 tbsp red onion chopped
• 1 small green apple chopped
• 1 tbsp lime juice
• pinch of salt


1. Cut avocado in half, take out seed, and remove pulp into a bowl.

2. Mash it up.

3. Add parsley, onion, apple, lime juice and salt.

4. Mix until incorporated.

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.



A great way to take advantage of local orchard apples or a bumper crop from your yard is to make applesauce, and then preserve it in one of several ways. You can freeze applesauce, prepare shelf stable product by canning applesauce, or stock up on delicious homemade snacks by making fruit leather from plain or flavored applesauce.

Apples, along with pears and quince are pome fruits—fruits that have a tough core encasing a group of small seeds. The core is surrounded by fleshy edible fruit. One pound of apples, pears, or quince is equivalent to 3 medium fruits or 1-1/2 to 2 cups sauce. Use any of these pome fruits interchangeably in the following recipes.

Basic Applesauce Recipe


• 2-1/2 pounds (7-8 medium) apples*
• 1 gallon soaking solution**
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/2 to 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon, or to taste (optional)
• 1 to 4 tbsp sugar or honey, or to taste (optional)
• salt to taste (optional)

*Some of the best apples to make applesauce are Cameo, Gala, Fuji, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, and Mutsu (Crispin).

**Prepare an acidic soaking solution to hold cut fruit and delay browning. Use one gallon water and 3,000 mgs crushed plain ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) tablets OR 4 teaspoons (5 grams) citric acid. Or, use one gallon plain apple juice.


1. Wash apples, cut into quarters, and remove the peel and core. (A countertop apple corer/peeler can be purchased for around $20; a good investment if you plan to make applesauce in quantity.) Place prepared fruit in the soaking solution, allow to soak no more than 5 minutes, and then drain in a colander.

2. Place drained fruit and water in a saucepan, cover, and cook over medium heat about 20 minutes, or until very soft. (Hard, unripe fruits or quince can take up to an hour to soften completely).

3. If spiced applesauce is desired, add pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon to taste before pureeing sauce. Using a potato masher, hand blender, food processor or stand blender, puree softened fruit until chunky or smooth, as desired. Add sweetener to taste. Some cooks also like to add a pinch or two of salt.

4. Cool, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage. For shelf stable product, process in a boiling water canner. Applesauce may also be used for making fruit leather. Makes about 1 quart applesacue; recipe may be multiplied.

Recommended variations: For Quince-Applesauce, use 1/4 quince and 3/4 apples. For Pear-Applesauce, use 1/2 pears and 1/2 apples.


Three Ways To Preserve

It’s Easy to Freeze Applesauce

Make applesauce recipe and cool it thoroughly. Package applesauce in freezer-safe containers, such as freezer-safe plastic that won’t crack at freezing temperatures, canning jars or other tempered glass jars with straight rather than tapered necks that won’t crack in the freezer, or thick zipper-style plastic bags designed for freezer use. Freeze applesauce up to 12 months.

Canning applesauce in a boiling water bath canner.

Make applesauce recipe and while apples are cooking, wash pint or quart canning jars in the dishwasher and hold on a heated cycle. Alternatively, wash and rinse canning jars, fill with hot tap water, and place in a boiling water bath canner.

With or without water-filled jars in it, fill the boiling water canner about half-full with hot tap water. Place the canner over a large burner, put the lid on, and turn the heat on high. Heat the water to 180 degrees F (not quite simmering). When the water reaches the correct temperature, turn the heat down and maintain it.

Keep applesauce hot while filling hot jars; remove air bubbles and adjust headspace to ½-inch. Clean the rim and secure the lid with a screw band. Place filled jars in the canner.

Be sure jars are covered with water by at least one inch. Cover the canner and bring water to a full rolling boil over high heat and process pints for 15 minutes or quarts for 20 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet). After processing time has ended, turn off heat, remove canner lid and cool 5 minutes.

After cooling period, place jars at least one-inch apart on a dry towel or wood surface away from drafts. Cool the jars naturally for 12 to 24 hours.

Remove the screw band, hold the jar steady and try to lift the lid off using your fingertips. If you cannot lift the lid off by pulling on the lid, the seal is good. If jars do not have a good seal, refrigerate and use the product within 3 days.

If the jar is sealed, wipe with a clean damp cloth, including the bottom, sides, threads, and lid. If there is a lot of sticky deposit, it is sometimes easier to rinse the jar under warm running water. Dry the jar. Label each jar with the product and date (for example, “Sweetened Applesauce Oct 2015”). Store jars in a cool dry place (50 degrees F to 70 degrees F). Best used within one year.

Making Applesauce Fruit Leather

Making fruit leather is a good way to use culls, ripe fruit, slightly bruised fruit, or fruit left over from making jam or other preparations. Prepare applesauce recipe and use any of the following variations:

• Leave the peels on during cooking and puree with the fruit.
• Use little or no sweetener, since flavor concentrates during drying.
• If desired, add 1-2 tsp lemon juice while preparing the applesauce to brighten flavor of fruit leather.
• In addition to spices, finely chopped nuts, coconut, or dried fruits are another nice embellishment. To one quart applesauce, add ½ cup finely chopped toasted almonds, toasted coconut or dried cranberries. If desired, add 1/8 tsp almond, coconut, or lemon extract. Stir ingredients until well combined.

Before making fruit leather, preheat an oven or food dehydrator to 130°F to 140°F. Line the drying tray with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Spread prepared sauce 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick on the liner.

Dry for 4-8 hours, or until leather is evenly pliable and firm with no soft spots. (In humid climates, or oven drying with low circulation, drying can take two or three times as long.) Peel fruit leather from liner while still warm. Cut and roll into serving pieces. Leathers studded with solid pieces (like nuts, dried fruits, or coconut) may not roll up without breaking; cut these leathers into strips and leave flat.

Cool thoroughly before wrapping pieces individually in parchment or foil. Fruit leathers stick together; be sure to wrap individually for storage. Store in an airtight containers in a cool, dry place up to 2 months. Freeze for longer storage.

There you have it. Several ways to enjoy applesauce — frozen, canned, and dried homemade snacks—for enjoyment throughout the season. Any of these preparations can also be used for pears or quince.

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.



This tastes like the absolute best apple pie you ever drank! Here is how I preserve the goodness of apples laced with sweet spices.

After the first of the crisp fall apples have started to soften, I love to have a sip of this for dessert on a cold winter’s night. You won’t waste anything here — all the apples eventually find their way into more delicious desserts.

Buy the tastiest fall apples you can find, but if they’re fresh, even windfalls and “seconds” are fine, because you can cut around any damaged spots. What really matters is the flavor. A mix is good: Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious and Honey Crisp, if you can afford them. If you are so fortunate to have apples from the Northeast, these have more flavor than what we can grow here in Texas.

Scout out some big jars. I noticed the half-gallon jars available this summer. If you can’t find or beg gallon jars, you can order them from ULINE. It’s an investment, but you’ll have them forever.

Be sure to cover the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap under the lid so the lid doesn’t corrode. And don’t even consider plastic gallon jugs from pickles or mustard; you never get the smell/taste out and everything will be ruined. Yields 1 gallon.

Spiced Apple Cordial Recipe


• 6 to 8 chopped large apples, or more if they’re small (you’ll want at least 3 quarts of chopped apples)
• 2 sticks of cinnamon, or about 4 inches
• 1 tbsp whole cloves
• 1 tbsp whole allspice
• 1 tbsp whole coriander
• 1 whole nutmeg, broken with a hammer into 3 or 4 pieces
• small, 1-by-1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, or 1 tsp ginger puree
• 2 cups brown sugar
• 2/5 bottle of gold rum (double bottle)


1. Peel the apples, core and cut into half-inch wedges.

2. Put them into a one-gallon glass jar or two half-gallon jars, interspersing the whole spices.

3. Dump the sugar on top of the apple-spice mixture, and then pour in the rum. (If you’re using the 1/2-gallon jars, divide as you go.)

You can make another jar with just the cores and — if the apples are organic — the peels as well. I usually make as many jars as I can; the cordial makes nice holiday gifts, poured into  empty wine bottles that I scrubbed the labels from and re-labeled in a festive manner.

4. Cover the top of each jar with a doubled layer of plastic wrap and then put the lids on. You need a tight seal.

5. Turn the jar(s) upside down, leave it a day, turn it right side up, wait a day and then repeat again until the sugar is completely dissolved.

6. Put the jar(s) back in a dark cupboard and leave it at least a month.

7. After a month has passed, strain out the apples and reserve them. Serve the apple cordial at room temperature in small cordial glasses. You’ll also find yourself adding this to other apple desserts, maybe a drizzle on Apple Bread Pudding?

The rum-soaked apples can be put into the food processor and pulsed to make a coarse applesauce which will keep for months in the refrigerator. It’s delicious by itself, maybe warmed up, and even better with a scoop of ice cream.

Bonus Recipe: Rum Applesauce Cake Recipe

Here’s my favorite way to recycle those spicy rum-soaked apples.


• 4 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (grapeseed, sunflower or a nut oil)
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 1-3/4 cups organic sugar
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1cup A/P flour  (or I use all King Arthur white whole wheat – 2 cups)
• 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
• 2 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1+ tbsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
• 1-1/2 cups chunky applesauce made from apple cordial apples (see above)
• 1-1/2 cups pecans
• Optional: raisins and a bit of coarse turbinado sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. This is easy with your food processor; you could also use a hand or stand mixer: Put the eggs in the work bowl, pulse a couple times, then add the oil and process 30 seconds.

3. Add the vanilla, pulse and then the sugar. Process another 30 seconds. You should have a foamy, light yellow mixture.

4. Measure all the dry ingredients into a bowl: flour, leavening, spices. Add these all at once, pulse a couple times, then add the applesauce, pulse a couple times and finally the pecans. Process another 30 seconds. The applesauce and pecans will nearly disappear into the batter.

You can add more if you want big pieces. If you add the optional raisins, just pulse once or twice or stir in by hand.

5. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with parchment. Turn the batter into the pan and give it a quick shimmy and a tap to level out. Sprinkle very lightly with the turbinado sugar, if you like, for a touch of crunch.

6. Bake about one hour. Ovens differ: watch after 45 minutes; when the cake is done, it will spring back from a light touch and start to pull away from the side of the pan. Be patient! Let it cool to just warm before cutting.

I don’t frost this cake. It’s already so sweet with all those apples, I think more sugar would curl my teeth. If you must, you must, but keep it light. A spoonful of whipped cream, labenah or crème fraiche works better for me.

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.



Some of the complaints I hear from people about making their own bread are: “I don’t have time,” “it’s too hard,”  “I don’t like kneading,” “I’m gluten sensitive (intolerant, etc).” Well, I’ve finally come up with a solution: an easy, no-knead, minimal-ingredient Einkorn sourdough bread that’s easy on the tummy. It can’t get any better than this!

Bread has been around for a long, long time. For about 30,000 years, give or take a few, if I can believe what I read. But lately, at least in this new millennium, bread has become, while still exceedingly popular, the “problem child” of the modern diet. Ancient bread was made with whole, unadulterated grains. Prehistoric women did not have to rush to work in the morning or get the kids off to school, so they had the time to make their own. The nutritional value of our bread has plummeted. Wheat and gluten have become gut-irritants for multitudes of people and no one is sure why. Could it be due to wheat grains being hybrid beyond recognition? Could it be the USA’s practice of spraying Roundup on wheat before harvest? Could it be leaky gut syndrome? Commercial yeast is another issue: just one more unnatural component in our foods. There are even some indications that commercial yeast creates a yeast imbalance in our bodies. Longer rise times, done with sourdough starter, helps break down gluten.

Last year I became aware of an ancient grain called Einkorn.  Einkorn has never been hybridized. It’s delicious, bakes really well and a lot of people with gluten sensitivity DO NOT react to it, myself included. I buy mine directly from the Jovial Foods web site. Their grains are grown in Tuscany, Italy. And anything grown in a GMO free area is all right with me.

I’d been experimenting with sourdough (no added yeast) bread for more than a year. The final result is the easiest—and best—bread I’ve EVER made or tasted. I mean seriously, I’m so excited about this recipe!

I started by re-working an old no-knead recipe using Einkorn rather than regular flour and baking it in a great, economical, Ikea 3-quart no-stick cast iron covered casserole, which cost about $40 (take THAT Le Creuset $300 casserole!). The loaf was gorgeous: crusty, fragrant and delicious, but on the small side and the process included some work that I thought could be eliminated. The next time around I simplified the process by skipping two steps and was blown away at how perfectly easy this recipe had become. All it takes is mixing, rising (waiting) and baking. And this bread is to die for! So, here’s my recipe. I think I’m done improving it, there’s nothing I can think of that would make it faster, easier, more delicious or nutritious. If you come up with any suggestions, please let me know.

If you’re new to keeping a sourdough starter, you can get an idea of what’s involved here.

Easy No-knead Einkorn Sourdough Bread

This recipe is especially great for people who work full time, it takes 10 minutes in the morning to throw this together and then it's ready to bake 8-12 hours later. You could also throw this together at night, and bake in the morning.


Makes one 3-1/2 lb loaf of bread

•  1 cup or more* proofed/bubbling sourdough starter
•  6 cups Einkorn flour
•  2 to 3 cups room temp filtered water
•  1 tbsp sea salt
•  1/2 tsp citric acid, totally optional, it’s to increase the sour flavor. You can also add some flavoring ingredients such as rosemary, asiago… whatever. Get creative!
*1 cup is all that’s needed, but if you add more, you’ll get a more sour-tasting bread. Just use a little less water if you’re using extra starter.


1. In a large bowl (preferably one that has a lid), add the flour, sourdough starter, water and salt and mix until blended. It should be a gluey thick batter, a little thicker than brownie batter.

2. Cover and let it rise in a warm spot for about 8+ hours, or until bubbly and doubled in size. In the winter, I turn my oven light on for warmth and keep the bowl in the oven for rising.

3. Once the dough has risen sufficiently (8-12 hours, depending on ambient temps), remove it from the oven. Place your empty covered casserole in the oven and set the oven temp 450 degrees F.

4. Once temp is achieved, remove your casserole from the oven. CAUTION: HOT HOT HOT! Remove the lid and gently pour the dough into the casserole, being careful to not disturb too many bubbles. Cover and bake for 60 minutes. PLEASE NOTE: You may have to experiment with bake time due to altitude differences. Being at almost 6,000 ft., I bake for 80 minutes.

5. Remove the bread from the oven and remove lid. After 10-15 minutes, dump the bread out of the casserole, place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely before slicing and serving. I usually leave it on the counter over night to cool and dry a little and then cut it in the morning with a meat slicer. If it makes it through the night, lol. Don’t forget the Kerry Gold!

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.

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