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Orange Mulled-Whiskey Cider


Winter and Christmastime seem to call out for a hot cider drink, preferably spiked, for sipping by a fire or with a good movie, like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This recipe hits all the high notes in my opinion, with cider, maple syrup, orange flavour, spices. And whiskey. What’s not to love?

The orange really sets this hot cider drink apart with just the right amount of citrusy accent to give it a twist. If you are short on vanilla beans, in a pinch, you could substitute with Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract, but the bean really adds a nice touch. The sweetness of the cider doesn’t really require much of the maple syrup, but by all means, include some. It does round out the taste nicely. As mentioned below, I used Canadian Club whiskey, but whatever your favourite is, certainly use it if you wish. 

If you’re not familiar with Nielsen-Massey extracts and flavourings, you’re in for a treat. I have been using their vanilla for years in baking among other things, but they also make a fine line of other extracts as well. Almond and lemon are more of my favourites. Almond and cherry pie are almost indispensible in my book. They are also one of the few companies that still manufacture rose water, which I’ve used in cookies and puddings, just to name a few possibilities.

So, if you are baking this Christmas, it pays to use the very best in vanilla extracts especially, as the fake stuff (artificial vanilla) just doesn’t compare. I cannot be stress this enough. Now, on to some pure sipping yumminess!

Orange Mulled-Whiskey Cider Recipe


• 2 quarts apple cider
• 1/2 cup 100-percent-pure pomegranate juice
• 1/3 cup 100percent-pure maple syrup (adjust maple syrup if cider is already sweet)
• 1 Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean
• 1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Orange Extract
• 3 large cinnamon sticks
• 12 whole cloves
• 5 whole allspice berries
• 1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
• 2/3 cup whiskey (I used Canadian Club)
• 1 large Gala apple, thinly sliced (garnish)


1. Add apple cider, pomegranate juice and maple syrup to a large saucepan; heat over medium-high heat.

2. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise with the tip of a small knife. Scrape both sides of the bean with the knife’s dull side and add the seeds and bean to the saucepan.

3. Add the orange extract, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries and cardamom seeds to the saucepan; stir to combine.

4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

5. Strain mulled cider through a fine mesh sieve.

6. Add whiskey; stir to combine. Serve with a fresh apple slice. (I might be inclined to use a cinnamon stick too.) 

Serves 6


Nielsen-Massey Vanillas Inc. Last accessed November 25, 2016. They have a whole section of recipes on this website — it’s fabulous.

Sue Van Slooten teaches cooking and baking classes at her home on beautiful Big Rideau Lake, Ontario, Canada. She specializes in small classes for maximum benefit. Follow her homesteading adventures and check out her class offerings at If you wish, you can email Sue at She would be thrilled to hear from you! Read all of Sue’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.

Salmon Recipe and a Delicious Holiday Tradition


We might be joining others in a Yuletide Tradition.  Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and The Osthoff Resort provide a Christmas past, present and future.  My son and I took a break from our wood-chopping and winter preparations last year to savor a feast of flavors and experiences at one of Wisconsin’s greener accommodations, The Osthoff Resert, touched upon in my earlier ecotourism-related escape to the area during the warmer months

This shares a few of our festive highlights as we head toward the Winter Solstice, featuring a recipe for Salmon en Papillote with Grand Marnier Orange Beurre Blanc, straight from our five-course traditional French Christmas Dinner at the L’ecole de la Maison cooking school at the Osthoff Resort.  The cooking school is a memorable treat for any farmstead chef and the dish is perfect for a holiday meal with family or friends.

Cooking at L’ecole de la Maison

Upon arriving to the spacious, state-of-the-art kitchen with a large center island, our small group of nine foodies made a quick study at the L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School under the calm guidance of The Osthoff Resort’s Executive Chef Scott Baker.  Different parts of the made-from-scratch meals were gathered in each work area with proportioned ingredients, any tools needed to get the job done and an instruction sheet and recipe.  Some of the ingredients actually came from The Osthoff Resort’s own growing fields on the property.

We reviewed the notes for our prep station, then received some tips and coaching from Chef Baker or two of his attentive staff.  Then they turned us loose on dicing, slicing, shredding, mixing and blending.  From duck stock to clarified butter, we embraced our farm-to-table experience, looking to hone our skills and have a delicious time doing so.

For the first few hours, we worked in amazement as the different elements of the elaborate holiday meal came together.  Consomme with profiteroles.  Arugula salad with roasted beets and hazelnut crusted chevre.  Coquilles St. Jacques au gratin.  Roast goose with clementines and madeira sauce.  Garlic potato duchess.  While our group ranged in age and cooking experience, no task was out of reach or couldn’t be done with a few pointers from the pros.

With the enticing smells overwhelming us at times, we were eventually invited to grab a seat about three hours into the cooking session at a long white linen-covered table, take a sip of wine and enjoy our first course.  Seeing how the many different parts of the meal came together without having to prepare each one was a treat.  We took turns sharing what we did and how we did it.  By the second and third courses, the wine was flowing as readily as the conversations.  Our meal was on par with the finest of 5-star restaurants.  Perhaps better, since we did it ourselves.


Getting in the Holiday Spirit

While the L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School was my favorite way to usher in the season, it wasn’t the only way to do so.  Reminiscent of Nuremburg’s Christkindlesmarkt, we browsed the aisles of specialty shops overflowing with nutcrackers, glass ornaments and handmade jewelry at the Old World Christmas Market set up in a spacious, heated outdoor tent.  We savored German Nuremberg bratwurst and chatted it up with Old Saint Nick.    

Not to miss is the Christmas celebration hosted by The Wade House located along Highway 23 just outside town (first two weekends in December).  For some homesteaders, cooking over the wood-fired hearth and riding on the horse-drawn wagon over to the sawmill and 1850s Wade House Stagecoach Inn may be quite familiar.  But being greeted by carolers in the New Wade House Visitor Center, a Travel Green Wisconsin certified Wisconsin Historic Site, does put you in the mood, especially as we later sipped warmed cider and sampled Christmas pudding at the end of a guided tour of the Wade House.  We even enjoyed the lighting of a freshly cut and decorated tree, flickering with hand-lit candles.

Back at The Osthoff Resort, on weekends, families with kids can also join the brunch with Santa, where everything, including the hot cocoa and pancake bars, is served from three-foot-high tables, perfect for the young ones.  For the grown-ups looking to unwind before the holidays, treat yourself to a holistic and organic treatment at Aspira Spa.

Now this is a tradition worth starting.

Salmon en Papillote with Fennel and Orange Recipe

From L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School at The Osthoff Resort

Yield: serves 8


• 2 tbsp butter, unsalted, softened
• 8 sheets parchment paper cut in heart shape
• 8 each, 5 oz. salmon fillets, boneless, skinless
• 3 tbsp butter, unsalted
• 1 each, fennel bulb, thin julienne
• 3 each, carrots, thin julienne
• 1 each, leek, thin julienne
• 3 each, plum tomato, peeled, seeded, julienne
• 2 tbsp fennel fronds
• 2 tbsp orange zest
• to taste sea salt
• to taste black pepper

Grand Marnier Orange Beurre Blanc (following recipe)


1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.

2. Prepare parchment by rubbing soft butter on the center of the parchment hearts, leaving about 3 inches around the outside.

3. Heat a saute pan with straight sides, add 3 T. of butter, when foaming add the fennel, carrot and leeks. Cook stirring until softened (about 5 minutes).  Let the vegetables cool, then add the julienne tomato.

4. Divide vegetables evenly between each of the parchment sheets, placing them onto the right side of the heart.

5. Season both sides of the salmon with salt, pepper, orange zest and fennel fronds.

6. Place salmon fillets onto the vegetables.

7. Close the parchment, seal tight and place on a sheet plan.

8. At service time, bake in the oven until pouch is golden and puffed (about 6 to 8 minutes).

9. Remove and carefully cut open pouch (steam will be released).

10. Transfer the fish and vegetables from the pouch to serving plates and finish with Grand Marnier orange beurre blanc.

Grand Marnier Orange Beurre Blanc Recipe

From L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School at The Osthoff Resort

Yield: 1 cup


• 1 tbsp shallot, minced
• ½ c. dry white wine
• 1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
½ c. orange juice (fresh squeezed)
• 2 tbsp Grand Marnier
• 1 tbsp heavy cream
• ½ lb. butter, unsalted, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 2 tsp parsley, minced
• to taste sea salt
• to taste ground white pepper


1. Combine shallots, white wine, lemon juice and orange juice in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce almost dry and syrupy.

2. Add Grand Marnier and heavy cream.

3. Start whisking in butter cubes on a medium-low flame.

4. Add one or two butter cubes at a time, managing the heat by pulling the pan on and off the heat as needed.

5. Whisking constantly, incorporate all of the butter, maintaining a creamy sauce consistency (the sauce should not look clarified or separated).

6. Add the parsley, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

7. Use immediately or hold in a warm place until ready.

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. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.

Brining Turkey During the Holidays


Well, here we are, in the midst of the holiday season. One of our favorite aspects of the holidays is gathering with family and friends and sharing an abundance of food. Fortunately we have a couple of beautiful turkeys we raised sitting in the freezer for a couple more feasts for the year.  Turkey is certainly one of the highlights of our feasts and brining your turkey makes it even better!

I want to discuss what a brine is and why I think you should brine your turkey. WORD OF WARNING: if you purchased a turkey, make sure it is not already salted or brined. Many Turkeys you buy are already brined, if you brine it again you will end up with a VERY salty bird.

What Is a Brine?

A salty solution used for marinating and improving moisture-retention in lean meat.

Why Brine?

Brining improves the turkey’s ability to retain moisture during cooking. Denaturization happens during cooking, which means that muscle proteins are broken down causing the muscle fibers to contract and bind together leading to loss of moisture. This denaturing process can be also be started through the use of salt which allows for retention of moisture between the muscle fibers before cooking. Basically, once these proteins are dissolved by the salt, muscle fibers lose some of their ability to contract during cooking therefor less moisture is lost. There is some controversy concerning brining, whether there is benefit or not, from experience I can say there is definitely a noticeable difference as long as you have used the correct ratios for a traditional brine and you allow adequate time for brining. Brining also has the added benefit of seasoning the bird more deeply than simply salting just before cooking.

Traditional Brine

Since I started brining my turkey, I have relied on a very basic traditional brining recipe using only salt and water. The last couple of years I used apple cider and broth and added other ingredients such as orange peels, herbs, peppers, garlic, etc. But I found no added benefit from the addition of those ingredients. It increased the work involved and required many more ingredients with no real noticeable difference in taste. Now if you have a favorite brine recipe that includes a plethora of ingredients then, by all means, feel free to continue using it. The key with traditional brining is ratio of salt to water and the time you allow. The chart below shows the concentration as well as time for different types of meat. The concentrations listed are for Diamond Crystal kosher salt. For table salt cut salt amounts by 1/2; for Mortons kosher salt cut amounts by 1/4. brining If you plan on doing the traditional brining method, may I suggest using a roasting bag or large plastic bag to keep your turkey in? This ensures every part of the turkey is submerged in the brine and makes clean up a lot easier! You can keep it in the bag in a cooler or a 5 gallon bucket.


Dry Brine

This year, I am stepping out of my comfort zone and actually doing something a little different. I am going to try a dry brine. From my research it will have the same effect on the muscle, the difference here is that it causes retention of the turkey juices rather than absorption of the brining liquid leading to a deeper, more flavorful turkey. Now, I may find that the traditional brine is better, but I’ll never know unless I experiment, which is something we like to do on the homestead!

So here is the recipe and ingredients for the dry brine.


• 1/2 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 6 tablespoons Morton’s kosher salt)
• 2 tbsp baking powder
• Dry herbs (optional)
• Pepper (optional)


1. Mix ingredients in a bowl.

2. Pat your turkey dry.

3. Generously sprinkle the mixture on all surfaces of the turkey. The turkey should be well-coated though not completely encrusted. (I plan on loosening the skin and rubbing some directly on the meat. particularly on the breast which tends to dry out more readily)

4. Place the turkey in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for 1-3 days. (I intend to leave it for 3 days since I read that the longer it sits the better it will be) Roast it WITHOUT rinsing it.

You can follow any recipe but omit the salt since it is already on your turkey. NOTE: You can include dry herbs in the dry rub brine if you wish, which would allow you to simply cook the turkey as is with no additional work before baking – not sure if I’ll do this ahead of time or not, but maybe. Dry brining is supposed to lead to a very juicy bird with a crispy skin.

I am a fan of fried turkey which we have avoided the last few years due to the expense of peanut oil (the only kind I like to fry turkey in) so I’m hoping this will have the same kind of results! If you do not want to take up space in your refrigerator here’s an idea – put a couple of bags of ice at the bottom of a cooler and set the baking pan on top. Check the cooler once in a while to ensure the ice isn’t melted. I will be keeping mine in the garage which should keep it cool enough.


A great book on raising poultry! Check out our online community for ways to learn about turkeys, homesteading, permaculture, medicinal herbs and much more. Sean and Monica are available for consulting work regarding property analysis & design, personal coaching and speaking engagements. 

Sean and Monica Mitzel homestead with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and methods for the property. The homestead is a demonstration and education site where they teach workshops and raise dairy goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted food forests, guilds and enjoy wildcrafting and propagating plants. Sean and Monica can often be found podcasting or speaking and teaching at different events. Listen to the podcast and to learn more about the Mitzels, visit The Prepared Homestead. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

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.

Sustainable-Skills School Target of Misguided Animal Rights Campaign

Wild Abundance, a woman-led school committed to teaching skills for sustainable living in Barnardsville, N.C., is facing a fierce campaign of harassment from a national misguided animal rights organization.

Misunderstanding of Traditional Skills Leads to Controversy

The national organization responsible for the attacks, One Protest, whose campaigns usually focus on exotic trophy hunting and farming industry animal abuse, has organized a movement against this small, rural school because of a class in which a single sheep will be harvested, for educational purposes and as part of a weekend intensive focusing on meat preservation for small-scale family farms.

One Protest, and its affiliate, the Let Live Coalition, are a troubling example of how a large national organization can pull together lots of resources to mislead the public in an attempt to “make an example” out of a small-scale, local educational business that empowers participants with the hands-on experience to live self-sufficiently.

Natalie Bogwalker, the mother of a 3 week-old infant, director of the Firefly Gathering, and director of Wild Abundance, a school near Asheville NC that teaches  Permaculture Design Courses, and classes on Homesteading, Natural Building, Women’s Carpentry, and Organic Gardening, began receiving a flood of emails and phone calls at all hours demanding that she cancel an upcoming class on ethical butchering. The aggressive vegan activists are waging “a multi-pronged outreach and protest campaign” to “make an example” of Wild Abundance. Some of the calls have even been threatening.

Humane Slaughter of Livestock Attacked

During the class, Cycles of Life: Humane Slaughter and Butchering, which ran November 19-20, 2016, adult students learned how to take responsibility for their choice to eat meat, putting it in the context of cultivating a healthy and spiritual relationship with their food, as their ancestors have done for thousands of years. Wild Abundance appreciates and accommodates vegetarians and vegans, who make up 15-30% of class participants.

Natalie Bogwalker, holding her tiny infant shares, "In order to reconnect with the earth, we have to understand where our food comes from, and we have to build and support a local food system. We hope that Let Live and its parent organization, One Protest can redirect energy toward the source of the mass cruelty inflicted on animals in this country through factory farming, and toward educating consumers about the repercussions of the choices that they make at the grocery store. We should be working together to stop hate crimes, Big Ag, and climate change, not squabbling over personal dietary choices.”

Sustainable Meat and the Human-Animal Connection

Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt, a vegetarian student in Wild Abundance’s Essentials of Permaculture and Homesteading Course shared, “I do not have the desire or the strength to slaughter an animal myself, and so I do not eat them. But if I did, I would do so this way. I would face the life and the death, and I would have Natalie Bogwalker there to teach, guide, and show me the way.”

 “In a grocery-story dependent culture, most people rarely see where their food is grown, and never see the factory settings that mass produce 99% of meat, milk and eggs sold on the market. Humans used to be intimately tied to their food system, and animals were raised and slaughtered on family homesteads. There was a relationship between human and animal, and culture and landscape, a spiritual bond and connection that is being lost today; replaced instead by convenient and invisible food systems that are deeply corrupt, producing meat from animals who are tortured, sick and suffering.”

Biodiverse farming, ethical meat, whole-animal utilization are keys to sustainable food. For example, domestic animals finished on grass have the potential to sequester up to 5 tons of CO2 in the soil per acre per year. Additionally, animals fed diets in line with their biological needs are better able to digest and assimilate nutrients, leading to less enteric fermentation and methane production.

Education about whole-animal butchery enables consumers with budget constraints to access protein that has been left out of the marketplace, and even wasted in the most grievous examples of factory farming. The lack of dialogue and research about farming systems that integrate plant and animal agriculture, and diverse eating has given too much power to narrow agendas. Animals have a place in a dynamic farm ecosystem, and in the ecosystem of our bodies.

Making a Safe Space for Differing Food Beliefs

Emily Bell, Assistant Director of Wild Abundance shares her experience,“Some people choose to eat meat, we want them to have a full understanding of the consequences of their choices. My body, especially during pregnancy, thrives on meat being part of my diet. Others’ bodies may not. I respect others’ choices. I hope that others can respect my choice.

“Some folks might take the class, and when encountered with the gravity of death, might choose not to eat meat. I expect this class will give all the participants the experience to find out what they personally need and what they want to be responsible for.”

For further details, please Contact Natalie Bogwalker at, or text to arrange a phone call at 828-775-7052.

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.

Cooking when Living Off Grid


One of the first things we figure out when in a survival situation is how to make a fire, as there is something at the core of our being that understands the satisfaction of having a cooking, a heating, a bug chaser, and a soul-warming source.

As I was growing up, we had many ways of producing this fire, and it has always amazed me the huge, full meals my mother has made on a tiny campfire or on a wood stove. Over time, I have developed the skills to do it myself but for some people, like my mother, the patience and skill comes naturally. I remember once camping in the desert near Yuma Arizona where my mom got a few twigs of sage brush and made a satisfying, filling meal for six of us over an absolutely tiny fire.

Mom’s fires always tended to be very small, efficient but effective. Mostly she cooked things that people nowadays would use a slow cooker for. Even later in life, our family’s summer kitchen (not wanting to heat up the house) had a stone circle campfire to cook up the big pots and a BBQ grill.

Experimentation in Building Solar Ovens

The first solar oven I built was not that great but could get temperatures of 170-180 Fahrenheit. I made that one just using two different-sized cardboard boxes (one inside the other) with newspaper stuffed in the space between for insulation, aluminum foil on the flaps of the bigger box as reflectors to concentrate the sun into the box and plastic wrap to keep the heat it.

For my later renditions, I cut a door in one side to put the pot in and used a pane of plexiglass or glass to replace the plastic wrap. There are many great plans on how to do this on and on I have built one that got up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit using an old window and wood. Eventually, I researched the different types of commercially available solar ovens, bought and tested a few, and became a dealer for, which are made in Northern Illinois.

Using Solar Ovens for Dehydrating and Slow Cooking

Solar ovens are good for dehydrating food as you can’t burn food only boil the water away. One thing I have learned over the years (I think we have been cooking a major part of our meals with the Sun Oven for over 12 years now) is to preheat a thicker metal (like cast iron) pot in the solar oven and then add what you want to cook. This cuts down on cooking time.

If you think of the solar oven as a slow cooker, it is easier to understand how to cook with it. You can bake in a Sun Oven (I have seen 360 degrees), but you have to move the oven every 15 minutes or so to track the sun to keep the temperature up. As a slow cooker, just point in kind of south and it will slow simmer the best stews, pasta sauce or apple or peach butters using the sun’s heat. It doesn’t matter the outside temperature if your solar oven is well insulated but it does have to be sunny.

Although I do remember us having a camping Coleman-style stove, I don’t remember us using it much as I assume the gas cost too much money when we had free wood. We did get a regular propane gas stove which used a small gas grill like 20-gallon tank. We only used it inside when it wasn’t hot, during spring and fall. It would just get too hot in the “house” in the summer if we cooked inside.

I remember once hauling the propane stove outside to use in the summer kitchen. Generally we used the sun oven in the outside summer kitchen unless we were preserving lots of food and than we usually used wood either in the campfire setup or in the BBQ grill. Besides summer is a time of cool mint sun tea and salads.  If it was really hot who wants hot food.

Winter Cooking Off-Grid

In the winter we had a woodstove which served dual purpose: heating and cooking. I to this day think that hickory smoke is the most wonderful smell and am looking forward to the day when that is an available men’s cologne. I remember many a winter day our whole family was cloistered around the wood stove soaking in the radiant heat while we read, listened to the radio, wrote or studied. There was always a pot of tea or stew slow cooking on the stove. Sometimes it was just a large pot of hot water to humidify as the wood stove tended to make the air very dry.

My dad always said wood heated you 3 times — when you collected it in the woods, when you cut it up and split it, and when you burned it. We had a very good method of getting 6-foot-long logs out of the woods in the summer but not cutting them up and splitting them until it is needed in the winter. We set up a saw horse by the house and using an electric chainsaw, anybody in the family could quite easily prepare a pile of wood before a storm.

I always dreamed of having one of those outdoor wood furnaces when I had to haul so much wood inside, stoke the fire, and clean out the ashes (which we used to make hominy, see below). However, looking back, I would have missed out on the wonderful smell of the wood burning, and getting that direct radiant heat.

When I design off-grid homes now, I try to make sure that there are three methods of cooking (like electric, solar, wood). Although a “dual fuel” (like electric and gas) system is okay, I feel the more options the better.

Wood Ash Hominy

If you grew up in the South, you know what grits, or corn hominy, is. Many people just buy the quick grits, but let me tell you how we made it from complete scratch growing up to make massive amounts of food for next to nothing.

First what is hominy? It is corn that has been popped/cracked in a boiling process using lye.

Our family made the lye using hard wood ashes. Whenever we would clean out our woodstove we would put the ashes in a bucket. It is important that you don’t burn any trash in the stove, just good hard wood. We had a special bucket that had a few holes drilled in the bottom. Put that bucket over something to catch the water as it slowly percolates through the ashes. First you just want all the ashes to be damp. The best way is to put a couple inches of ashes, dampen by sprinkling water, and then do another layer. The slower you can get the water to go through the ashes the more lye you get. Be careful with this liquid lye as I remember once getting some in my eye and it hurt for days even after I flushed it out well with clean water.

This lye has to be stored in a non corrosive container. Metal or lower quality plastic will break down due to the corrosive nature of lye. We used old pickle buckets we got from the local school cafeteria. I know this lye can be used to make soap but although we did make it a few times I remember not liking it as it was a strong harsh soap good for doing laundry but not for washing myself.

Once you have the lye water you cook any type of field corn. I remember buying the 50-pound bags of animal feed corn for $2.00, cleaning out the stones and debris, washing the corn well and using that for making hominy. Another time, we talked to a farmer and gleaned the field of a bunch of ears of corn, but that added all the labor of having to husk and get the corn off of the cob.

A few times, we didn’t have time to make the lye water or didn’t have any lye water and just put the ashes straight in the pot with the corn to cook it but this make corn that took forever to cook and forever to clean all the ashes off of. If you don’t mind some ashes, this is a down and dirty way to make hominy. The chemical of the lye causes the corn to crack open and it almost looks like a big popped corn.

How grits are made, they take this cooked popped corn, dry it, and than grind it up. That is too much work, so we would just eat the whole, cooked kernels; savory with oil or butter, salt and pepper or sweet with honey and cinnamon. I really like it stir fried, with eggs, like someone would fry grits.

I do remember a few times running it through the hand grinder to make a masa-style flour paste to make tamales or cornbread. I look forward everyday to the interactions I have on my Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page and hope you will join the discussion there.

Aur Beck has lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Reality Project, a fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous International and a talk show co-host at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page, and read all of Aur's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.

How to Cook Corn in a Cooler

What is cooler corn? Well, it’s corn that’s been cooked in a cob inside of a cooler! Making corn in a cooler is an excellent way to serve a large crowd where any other size of pot would just not be enough. Through this ingenious method, you can cook a lot of corn at once even if you don’t know how much you would need to cook for the crowd.

This is one of those genius ideas that people are hesitant to try for the first time, but once they have done it, they go all like “Wow! Why didn’t I do that before?” And all you need is a regular size cooler; you know the kinds you take on your camping trips to keep the beer cool or in sporting events.


Who Discovered This Genius Method?

While we don’t know who exactly thought of this idea first, the word is that a handful of camping sites first mentioned this way on their blogs. This probably proves the first person who cooked corn inside of a cooler, did so out of lack of resources.

But don’t worry — you don’t have to love camping to make corn. All you need is the best cooler you've got and a whole bunch of maize to feed the hungry crowd.

Materials and Directions

One of the very reasons this corn cooking method got so popular in recent times is that it doesn’t require any extra tools. All you need is a bucket load of corn, a cooler container, and boiling water to pour inside of the container along with the corn. Yes! It is that simple, and it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to get soft and yummy corn that is ready to serve.

Cooking corn in a cooler has to be one of the greatest discoveries, because the regular cooking method involving a hot stove with multiple pans boiling is too time-consuming. To make your own corn preparation that looks and tastes beautiful, follow these simple steps:

1. Properly clean, remove husks and silk from the corn

2. Boil a couple of water kettles depending on the amount of corn you plan to cook

3. Give the ice chest or cooler a thorough wash so that it’s completely free of dirt and other germs

4. Spread out the corn evenly at the bottom of the cooler

5. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the cooler and then close it with the lid

6. Wait for 30 minutes or so before removing the lid, and you’re all done!

Serve normally or with butter and flavored salts for the best taste. If making the perfect corn was that easy all along, we are sure that people would have eaten a lot more corn all these years.



Get Cooking Now!

Cooking corn in a cooler is not just an effective way to make this preparation for a large crowd, but also to impress people along the way. Just be careful while choosing a cooler as the wrong size may produce undesirable results. Be ready to face numerous questions when you pull out the cooler because guests who haven’t heard about this method are bound to give you looks of astonishment.

Be ready for conversations, happy faces, and compliments about your exceptional culinary skills once you serve this dish hot. Or better yet, let your guests use tongs and to grab their own.

Ann Katelyn is a homesteader in Alabama whohas dedicated most of her life to gardening and botanical study with growing interests ranging from the popular, world-class roses to the rarest and most exotic orchids. She is currently trying her best to become well versed on plants found in desert areas, the tropics, and Mediterranean region. Connect with Ann on Twitter and her website, Sumo Gardener. Read all of Ann's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.

Considerations for Drinking Raw Milk and the Threat of Leucosis and Johnes Disease


Personally, I have absolutely no doubt that raw milk that comes from healthy cows and is properly handled and cooled is safe — period! Just remember to shake the container in your refrigerator once in a while.

If you are trying raw milk for the first time, ease into the tasting. It is so delicious you might be tempted to drink too much! Give your digestive system time to adjust.


Threat of Leucosis and Johnes Disease

Unfortunately there are other very real public health concerns regarding the safety of the milk supply in the U.S. Two bovine diseases are quickly spreading through dairy herds across the nation. One is a virus, commonly known as Leucosis or Leukosis, and the other is a bacterial infection commonly called Johnes. Both can be fatal for dairy cattle and the infection rate in the U.S. is extremely high, likely close to 90% for both diseases.

Currently, they are officially not considered to be an economic threat to dairy herds in the United States because both diseases are not always fatal and if they are it usually takes more than 5 years for an infected and sickened cow to die. The average lifespan of a cow on a commercial dairy is 4.5 years.

However, recent advances in microbiology have allowed researchers to determine that Leucosis can and is being spread to humans, seemingly at an alarming rate. Though no specific disease has been attributed to the Leucosis infection in humans, a recent study done by the CDC has discovered a potential link between the infection and certain forms of breast cancer.

In addition, research has indicated there is a possible link between Johnes disease in cattle and a Crohn’s like disease in Humans. Inexplicably, there are currently no meaningful or effective efforts being undertaken to control the spread of either diseases in cows or humans. In contrast, several European countries have recognized the threat and have eradicated Leucosis from their dairy herds.


Pasteurization’s Role in Controlling Disease

The official position of the Dairy Industry in the U.S. is that standard pasteurization kills both diseases in milk. Although research suggests that pasteurization methods called HTST and vat pasteurization may not kill the Leucosis virus.

Ultra-High Temperature pasteurization (which is heated to higher temperatures than HTST and vat-pasteurized milk) appears to do the trick. All forms of pasteurization appear to kill the Johnes bacteria.

For reasons unknown, farmers who produce raw milk for human consumption are not required to test their cows and milk for either Johnes or Leucosis. Most are required to test their cows for other much less common bovine diseases, such as Brucellosis and Tuberculosis.

I strongly urge all farmers to test their cows for both Johnes and Leucosis, even if you don’t sell raw milk. If you do sell raw milk, I think you owe it to your customers to have your cows tested. I test all my cows for both diseases routinely including every cow I buy - before I agree to buy them. I tell my four kids and five grandchildren to only drink raw milk that has tested negative for Johnes and Leucosis - or - milk that has been UHT pasteurized and it says so on the label.

Safe and delicious milk — it takes work but at the end of the day, it is worth the effort - especially if you are selling your milk directly to your customers. Excellent flavor and a long shelf life can give your milk a strong competitive advantage! If you’re looking for further tips, click here for more articles on best practices, tips and dairy advice.

To learn how to clean dairy equipment, control for disease, and better influence milk flavor profile, read “How to Produce the Safest (and Most Delicious) Milk on a Micro Dairy”.

Steve Judge is a long-time dairy farmer and micro-dairy expert at Bob-White Systems. Driven by a passion for the Slow Food movement and a desire for communities to enjoy locally produced, Steve's goal is to create appropriately scaled dairy technology and equipment that will give small-scale dairy farmers the opportunity to sell safe, farm fresh milk and dairy products directly from their farms to friends and neighbors. Read all of Steve's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.