I prefer to mix my leavening in a three-pound peanut butter jar, which holds just enough to raise four full loaves of bread.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/KAYROS STUDIO
Regarding the potato water bread recipe in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 24: I thought you might be interested in a slightly adulterated version . . . one my family of six enjoys very much.
Miriam Bunce, author of the original potato water bread recipe, suggests that the starter be made in a quart container. I prefer to mix my leavening in a three-pound peanut butter jar, which holds just enough to raise four full loaves of bread. (Should the starter sit too long, incidentally, it's best rejuvenated by the addition of one package of active dry yeast.)
On the eve of baking day, I pour all but one inch of the starter into a large mixing bowl — plastic, because this material helps the sponge to "cook" and the dough to rise faster and more evenly — and add two cups of water and four to five cups of white flour to make the sponge. (At this point only, it's necessary to use white flour for the elasticity provided by its high gluten content.) I then beat the mixture for two minutes with a wire whip so that it's smooth and free of lumps, and leave it to rest overnight.
The next morning I place in a large kettle or mixing bowl six to seven cups of white flour and one to one and a half cups of home-ground whole wheat flour (made by running hard, red winter wheat once through the fine grinder of a grain mill). I then add one cup of rolled oats and a half a stick of butter or margarine, and work in the shortening with a pastry blender (the job is less messy done this way than by hand!).
At that point I return to the waiting sponge and add to it one cup of honey and one and a half teaspoons of salt. The mixture is stirred well and dumped all at once into the bowl of flour. I then knead the mass for 20 to 30 minutes, adding flour or water as needed to form a soft dough . . . which is left to rise until double its original size. (Don't rush this first — and most important — rising, but don't let the dough stand longer than four to five hours.)
From here on the instructions are the same as those given in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 24. We've found by trial and error that our revised method produces tastier and more nutritious bread and still keeps costs way down.
Other Breadmaking Tips
 Raw wheat germ inhibits the action of yeast and should be toasted before you add it to your batter.
 Always add at least half a cup of white flour to dark breads, to raise their gluten content and produce a larger, more attractive loaf.
3] If you allow dark bread dough to rest 15 minutes before kneading, you won't have to use so much flour.
 Finally, if you like to include soybean meal in your baking, add a quarter of a cup or less for each five cups of flour in the recipe.
As long as I'm writing, I may as well pass on a jerky recipe developed by the California Beef Council:
Beef Jerky Recipe
1 flank steak (brisket, flatiron, or chuck fillet are also suitable)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper*
Trim away all visible fat from the beef, and cut the meat with the grain into long thin strips no more than 1/4 inch thick. Combine the soy sauce and seasonings, pour the mixture over the beef, and toss the pieces to coat them well. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and arrange the strips so that they touch but don't overlap, (You may need two pans for a large flank steak.)
Set the baking sheets in the center of the oven, no closer than four inches from the top or bottom, and bake the meat at low temperature (150 degrees) for 10 to 12 hours or overnight. Store the finished jerky in an airtight container at room temperature.
Beef jerky should not be crisp — brittleness indicates that the cooking temperature was too high — but should be thoroughly dry. A product which is slightly moist may show white specks on its surface after a few days. This is a harmless mold which can easily be wiped off. If all fat has been removed, the meat should keep indefinitely. I haven't tried this recipe myself, but it sounds great for backpackers, hungry kids, and thrifty housewives . . . and the, finished product presents no storage problems at all!
On to dessert. The following recipe — a favorite of mine — doesn't really have to include all those raisins and whatnot . . . I just happen to be a nut (?) about good fruitcake. This version, incidentally, is eggless.
Best Sheep Wagon Carrot Cake Recipe
1-1 /3 cups sugar
1-1/3 cups water
1 cup raisins or citron
1 tablespoon butter
2 large carrots, grated
I teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
2-1 /2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Mix the first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer them for 5 minutes. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for 12 hours, or overnight. (Don't skip this step! The omission will be reflected in the flavor of the finished product.) Then add the chopped walnuts and the dry ingredients. Line an angel food pan with wax paper, pour in the batter, and bake the cake at 275 degrees for 2 hours. Mmmmm!
While we're talking about sweets . . . I added a few peelings to my last batch of apple jelly and produced a rich red product without the use of artificial color.
Finally, I wonder how a homesteader might process a sugar-like substance, on a small scale, from home-grown sugar beets. I know the crop is great for livestock, but with sugar prices out of sight and those of honey not far behind . . . .
*Lemon pepper is available at supermarkets. One brand is Laureleaf, distributed by John LeCroy & Son, Inc., Camden, N.J.