Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.


Resetting the Table: Eating in the Age of Climate Change

 

As my farming season winds down, I am happy to have more time for reading. There are books and articles waiting for me on my desk and nightstand. But new things are always presenting themselves. When I found Jonathan Kauffman’s Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat (2018) by chance at the library a few weeks ago, I had to crack it open right away. (Thank you to whichever librarian set in on a display stand rather than reshelving it!) I couldn’t resist the title. Most of my life I’ve felt like I was born a few decades too late; that I would have made a good flower child.

Reading through Kaufman’s reporting on various trends in the 1960s and 70s offers history lessons through great storytelling on the one hand and cautionary tales of history repeating itself on another. I relished learning more about how foods I eat regularly like tofu and brown rice came to be staples of American vegetarians. On the other hand, the environmental and human health reasons these foods were first celebrated are still issues for us today. For example, Frances Moore Lappé’s suggestion that global hunger could be reduced if more people ate a plant-based diet—which she first introduced in Diet for a Small Planet (1971) and I first encountered in John Robbins’ Diet for a New America (1987)—still rings true. 

I’m not alone in my praise of Kauffman’s work. It was nominated for a James Beard book award in 2019. But, as in all things, I brought my own perspective to the reading. As a long-time vegetarian I was intrigued by the stories of how and why people first popularized the concept here in the United States. As an urban farmer, I was interested to learn more about the rise of organic farming practices, certification, and market growth. And as a MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader, it was exciting to see how many times the publication is mentioned throughout the book – as a space for sharing knowledge including recipes for cooking “new” foods like whole wheat bread following Haight-Ashbury’s Free Family “coffee can bread.” It’s exciting to be part of that legacy as I sit here blogging for other long-time readers and the next generation of back-to-the-landers and eco-conscious foodies.

But my perspective isn’t really all that special. We are all part of the legacy Kauffman outlines. Every time we make choices about what we eat we are making a statement about our values. The people he writes about ate by their convictions (at least most of the time). They rejected “plastic foods,” mass-processed products marketed as new and amazing but which were often, as we know from our own experiences today, tasteless or overly salted, loaded with artificial flavors and colors, and highly distanced from the land and farmers who provided their foundational substance.

Kauffman's book highlights the fact that mainstream media is just picking up on ideas the counterculture, including MOTHER readers, have long been aware of. Climate change is impacting what we grow and how we eat. One of the things I plan to read next is Amanda Little’s The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World (2019). I’m a bit terrified of what I’ll learn, but I’m sure it will inspire me to renew my commitments and set new goals for promoting local agriculture and eating a whole foods, hippie-inspired diet.

Jodi Kushins owns and operates Over the Fence Urban Farm, a cooperatively maintained, community-supported agricultural project located in Columbus, Ohio. The farm, founded in 2013, is an experiment in creative placemaking, an outgrowth of Jodi’s training as an artist, teacher, and researcher. Connect with Jodi on Facebook and Instagram, and read all of her 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.

Bread-Baking Kitchen Hacks to Save Money: When to Bake from Scratch or Use a Mix

Welcome back to the frugal baking series. In Part 1, we discovered low- or no-cost replacements for expensive kitchen gadgets, and in Part 2, we looked at ways to save on special baking ingredients. Now let’s take on those mixes.

There are mixes on the grocer’s shelf and in catalogs for all kinds of cakes and cookies, puddings and sauces. Before you invest so many dollars, check to see what you have to add and what is actually in the mix. A mix for a cake generally has flour, salt, baking powder, maybe spices and flavorings. You add butter or oil and eggs. You still have to beat and mix and bake. What did you really save?

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep an inexpensive box of cake mix in the pantry for the night your child announces at dinner, “Mom, I have to take cupcakes to school tomorrow.”  Unless you happen to have a dozen all frosted in the freezer, this could be a rescue. If you like to bake cakes often, practice making a few basics that appeal to you. Seek out method recipes in cookbooks or maybe find a book for cakes.

What to do with a failed batch of fudge? It just won’t set, no matter how long you beat it. First, buy a better thermometer; you probably didn’t cook it to a full soft ball temperature. See Part 1 about thermometers.

Next freeze the fudge in a container for another day another use. Next time you make a cake that needs chocolate, use about half the failed fudge for the best-ever filling. It’s very rich so you’ll want a regular light butter cream frosting for the top. I loved this in a chocolate spice cake.

So-called pastries and coffeecakes, cinnamon buns and all in the grocery are so disappointing and always so over-priced. They never seem to be fresh and the dough is so ordinary. Making your own really delicious sticky buns, raisin snails or even pannetone is a snap and a major saving with this method for fresh, out-of-the-oven treats.

I never find time to make full puff pastry. It’s one thing I will buy, though I wait for the beginning of the holiday season when pure butter puff imported from France is available at Trader Joe's; last year it was only $4-per-pound package, so several came home to my freezer. Look in your local store for  puff made with butter.

Rough puff pastry is quite another story. It’s fun, you make it in the food processor and you can turn out pastries that morning. You can use it in most any recipe for full puff, though it is a bit of a cheat. However, this is the way pastry is made in Denmark and all over Europe.

When Danish pastry is apt to be disappointing unless it’s priced at $2 or more per small pastry, it really pays to make your own. It’s fun, it’s easy.

Now, on to several recipes that have saved me from relying on mixes time and again.

Baking Popovers from Scratch

A mix for popovers that you have to add the eggs and milk to? You’ll still need to follow directions to mix the batter, grease and heat the pan, and bake them for 35 to 40 minutes. What else is in popovers? Well, flour and salt.

Yields 6 to 8 popovers

Ingredients:

Butter to grease the pan
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

Note: Start an hour and 15 minutes or more ahead of when you want the popovers ready. Yes, you can bake these in a toaster oven just fine.  I do. Double the recipe if you have two muffin pans and need a lot of popovers for a crowd.

1. Mix popover batter in a 4-cup measuring cup. In the measuring cup, beat the eggs well with a small whisk, check the level and add the milk to make 1 cup more. I had just under 4 ounces of beaten eggs, so carefully poured milk to just under 12 ounces. Add the salt and then the flour. Whisk well to fully mix in the flour. The batter will be as thin as pancake batter.

2. Rest the batter for at least a half hour. Refrigerate if you will wait one hour or more before you bake. Whisk the batter from time to time while it rests.

3. Grease a muffin pan with butter very generously (do not use pan spray – it burns) and put it into the oven while you preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oven is up to heat and the pan is hot, open the oven and pull out the pan, close the door.  Carefully and quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling about 3/4 full. Quick, back into the oven. Do not open the oven to peek. Set the timer for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake another 20 minutes. Check for doneness by removing one popover to see that the sides are firm. If underdone, the popovers will collapse from the bottom. Give them a few more minutes if needed to be firm.

4. Serve popovers hot from the oven with a little good butter or jam and enjoy the $4.00 you just saved. Don’t make popovers ahead, they don’t hold well. Eat them hot.

If that was fun for you, try adding about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese to your next batter.  

Yorkshire pudding? Use the same batter. Pour it into a hot pan with either hot beef fat, olive oil or butter. Bake just the same as popovers. A fun little supper my mother used to make back in the 1940s when Dad was out of town: pigs in a blanket. Put some little breakfast sausages into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake them in the 450-degree oven until almost done and the pan is really hot. Pour the popover/Yorkshire batter over the sausages and quickly pop back into the oven. Same baking times. This would be a nice breakfast meal, too.

Easy Biscuits from Scratch

Biscuit mix is generally inexpensive and it is handy, but the brands often have an odd flavor — a giveaway that the mix was used and, really, you still have to add milk, mix, form and bake. We won’t even go into the canned biscuits that aren’t really biscuits. So, make biscuits from scratch. It’s actually just as easy and you can use better flour, organic if you prefer. If you like to bake biscuits often, you can stir up your own mix by adding baking powder and salt in proportionate amounts and keep your mix in a separate canister ready to go. What I like so much about this recipe is that you don’t have to cut in the butter or lard. Just skip that task and go on to the next.

Yields six to nine biscuits

Ingredients:

• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 Tablespoon baking powder
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• 1 - 1/2 cups whipping cream – divided use

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix the baking powder and salt into the flour or use just the 2 cups of self-rising flour. Stir in the cream, holding back some for the tops. Mix only until the flour is taken up. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, flatten it and fold it over on itself a couple times. Use a light touch with biscuits; don’t really knead, just fold over.

3. Pat the dough out into a rough 8-inch square, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut it into 6 or 9 squares. Biscuits can be square. Cutting rounds wastes dough. Push the corners of the squares in if you must have round, but I kind like the rough rustic look that says these did not come from a can.

4. Put the biscuits on a baking sheet greased or lined with parchment or nonstick foil. Gently brush the tops of the biscuits with the cream you held back. Rest a couple minutes and brush again with the remaining cream. Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven about 12 to 15 minutes until a lovely dark golden brown.

Biscuits split open better with a fork, same as English muffins. You can also make English muffins for a whole lot less than $2.50 or $3 for only 6 muffins.

Martha’s Pastry Cream Recipe

I once spent several dollars on a mix to make pastry cream, or as they casually refer to it on the television cooking shows: Crème Pat. The descriptions I’d read of the terror of curdling eggs and proper chilling had me reluctant to try.  Well, the mix was so awful I chucked the whole mess in the garbage. Not money well spent. Then, on the Martha Bakes PBS show, I watched her brilliantly stir up a perfect batch of Crème Pat, no nerves, no curdled eggs. Here is her success method. I figure even with premium organic eggs, milk and butter, it’s a big saving, plus you know what good, fresh organic ingredients are in your Crème Pat.

Yields 2 ½ cups of pastry cream

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup non-GMO cornstarch
• Pinch of sea salt
• 2 cups whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• Optional 1/2 teaspoon almond extract if desired
• Optional teaspoon of espresso powder stirred into the sugar makes coffee flavor
• Optional tablespoon cocoa stirred into the sugar for chocolate
• Optional citrus zest flavor, peppermint, rum. Endless choices

Directions:

1. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk together milk and egg yolks in a 4-cup measuring cup. Add milk mixture to the saucepan, along with the butter. Cook, whisking, over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer. Whisk while the mixture cooks; not frantically, but use a whisk to stir all over the pot, into the sides and across the center. I use a figure eight pattern and that does the trick. Continue to cook and whisk until it comes to a boil. Let boil one minute. Remove from the heat and add vanilla and/or other extracts.

2. Strain pastry cream through a finemesh sieve into a bowl. Just in case there’s a tiny lump. Push the crème through with a rubber spatula and scrape off what’s on the bottom of the sieve. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.

3. Refrigerate until chilled, at least two hours or up to two days. Just before using, whisk until smooth.

Save the egg whites for meringue kisses, sponge cake, a soufflé, or pie toppings. They freeze well for a month or more.

Basic Pie Crust (Patè Brisee) for a Two-Crust Pie

I wouldn’t use a store bought refrigerated pie crust for anything other than pumpkin pie that always has a soggy bottom.  They aren’t very good and they are expensive.  Save 50% or more and have a good crust.  It is so simple to make buttery, flaky pie crust, especially if you have a food processor.  Make several batches and keep it in the freezer.  Put flattened balls to make a single crust in sandwich bags and put them all in a zipper freezer bag.  It is a joy to know the crust is ready to go and will defrost in the time you slice up some fruit for pie. Roll the dough cold on a generously floured board.  

Ingredients:

• 2 - 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, ice cold
• 5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Note: You can replace some of the butter with lard if you like.

Directions using a food processor:

The directions seem long, but just read through and then start. It all takes about 2 minutes. You’ll work fast.

1. Fill a glass with ice water. It must be ice cold. Pie crust is made cold.

2. Put the flour and salt into the bowl, give a pulse or two.

3. Cut the sticks of butter in half lengthwise. Turn it over a quarter turn and cut in half again so the butter is cut in quarters. I use a bench knife for this because it cuts straight down. Now, cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Make sure the butter is still ice cold.  If it has warmed at all put it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Start dropping the butter into the processor. Drop some, give one pulse, drop some more and again so the butter isn’t all in one place in the flour. Now, pulse several times, looking to see the butter distributed but in pieces about the size of a pea.

4. Now, add the water, same as the butter, a tbsp in, one pulse, another and another. Add water only until the dough comes together.

5. Turn the dough out onto a cutting board. Use the heel of your hand to smoosh it across the board. Use your bench knife to bring it back together. Repeat. You should see discreet pieces of butter smeared through the flour. If you’re making a pie now, chill the dough until it’s cold again, then roll out for your pie today.

6. There are several different pie crusts you can make; some use sugar and egg. You can also choose to add ground nuts or grated cheese to a dough. Cheese pie crust is excellent with an apple pie. Use a very dry cheddar, grated or cheese powder. Ground almonds or pecans in the dough complement peach. I figure if I’m going to make this mess, make several batches, it’s no more mess.

When you clean up, remember dough dissolves in cold water. If you try to wash up with hot water, it’s harder.  Use dish detergent and cold water and soak.

Sweet Crust Recipe (Pasta Frolla) for Two Crusts

This crust is most often used in Italian sweet pies. American or French Pate Sucree uses half the sugar and just one whole egg.

 Ingredients:

• 2 - 1/2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 cup cane sugar
• grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
• 2 sticks ice cold butter
• 2 large egg yolks

Directions:

Follow the directions above, using the egg yolks as the liquid and just adding them in all at once, then adding a tablespoon or two of ice cold water only if needed to bring the dough together. This dough is easy to manage, very forgiving. Keep it cold.

Speaking of Italian sweet pies and we mentioned soggy bottoms (horrors!), Lidia Bastianich has a trick for that. After you lay your crust into the pie plate, add a generous layer of  bread crumbs. It soaks up the excess moisture and tastes fine saturated with the pie filling. Don’t mix the crumbs into the filling, use just as a bottom layer.

Consider using your homemade crusts to make rustic galettes, fruit or savory, for nearly instant pies. You can cut up fruit or just use preserves you’ve made.

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 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.

3 Ways to Preserve Late-Season Cherry Tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are like the Energizer Bunny of the tomato world. They start producing early, and just keep going – long after their larger siblings give up for the winter. But there are many ways to save and use late-season cherry tomatoes, before the frost finishes them off for another year!

  • America’s favorite backyard garden plant is the tomato. And the easiest tomatoes to grow are cherry tomatoes.
  • They mature quickly, so you can grow them even in a short season environment. They don’t take up much space so you can grow them in a pot on the deck or balcony.
  • They come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors so you can grow a rainbow with just a few plants.
  • They are prolific so you will almost always have enough for a salad or snacks.
  • They are long lasting, so you will have ripe tomatoes in June, and still have ripe tomatoes in September or October – maybe even November if it’s a warm year.

They are also enticing. Each year I vow to plant fewer cherry tomato plants – yet it never happens. This year I planted at least one plant each of: small red cherry, black cherry, orange cherry, yellow cherry, medium green cherry, and a medium red cherry. Plus, I had a red grape cherry volunteer plant that had produced all season – smack dab in the middle of the blackberry patch. Let’s just say, I have had a lot of ripe cherry tomatoes over the past few months.

Winter is threatening early this year though – at least here in the Mid-Columbia region. So, I am busy harvesting, refusing to let Jack Frost have my late season tomatoes. Of course, a huge container of cherry tomatoes will only last so long – which means it’s time to get creative and either use or preserve them now! Just what can you do with an abundance of cherry tomatoes?

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

Sweet cherry tomatoes, right off the vine, are delicious. Keep that flavor, if not the crunch, all year long by roasting them. Layer washed cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, salt, and herbs if desired, and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

After they cool, I package them in freezer containers and freeze to use later on pasta or soup. Find the complete directions on my site: Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

It may seem to be a lot of work – cutting cups of cherry tomatoes in half. But dehydrating cherry tomatoes is well worth the time. The drying process intensifies the sweet tomato flavor, and the end result is better than any dried tomato product you can purchase at the store.

Dry cherry tomatoes as much or little as you like; crispy or soft and chewy. Don’t forget that dehydrated tomatoes should be conditioned before storage. Find out how at: How to Dry Cherry Tomatoes.

Cherry Tomatoes in Oil

For many years, it was not considered safe to can tomatoes in oil at home. Luckily there is now an approved method. Bathing dehydrated cherry tomatoes in oil, is not only a wonderful way to preserve your harvest, it’s also fantastic hostess or holiday gift. 

Find out how to safely preserve your late-season cherry tomatoes in my previous post: Make Your Own Dried Tomatoes in Oil.

Good luck with your own late-season cherry tomato harvest. Now I need to get busy preserving!

Renee Pottle is a freelance food writer and author. She writes about canning and cooking at SeedtoPantry.com and about food business issues at PenandProvisions.com.You can read all of her blog 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.

Apple Crisp Cookies

 

Ah, fall. Most of us would agree that this is the best season of the year. The kids are back into the routine of school, things have calmed down in the garden, the weather hasn’t turned too bad yet (in fact, we’re having near-record temperatures in Central Ohio), and the countryside is erupting in the most beautiful colors on Earth.

It’s also that time of the year when all the coffee shops around town are boasting PSLs, and it frustrates me a bit that I even know what a PSL is. If you don’t, just google it, and you’ll find an array of flannel-and-legging-and-puffy-vest-and-knee-high-boot-clad millennials frolicking in a corn maze and holding green and white latte cups, which is some sort of status symbol nowadays. Pumpkin spice drinks, pumpkin spice desserts, pumpkin spice beer (OK, my husband brought a few bottles of this home, and I must admit, was pretty good), and pumpkin spice everything is on the menu.

But I’d like to take a moment to give my favorite fall flavor a shout-out: apple! A few weeks ago, I harvested some really nice “State Fair” apples from my humble orchard. These apples did the best for me this year, thriving on my total neglect. I had enough apples to make a pie or two, which to me, is a victory, considering the obnoxiously rainy spring we had.

“State Fair” apple trees are hardy to zone 4 and, because they aren’t too particular about soil type, grow well in a variety of landscapes, even urban settings, as long as there is good drainage and full sun. A slow to medium grower, these apple trees usually grow to about 20 feet tall, with a 20-foot spread. 

Be aware that for good fruit set, “State Fair” should be planted near another apple variety. Apples are ready for harvest around the beginning of fall, or mid- to late-September. There seems to be mixed reviews online regarding the storage time of “State Fair” apples, but most references probably average around two months. I’d rather just make a few pies or red candy cinnamon apples for the freezer to have on-hand for a quick dessert when I’m short on time, or use these to make cider or combine with a sweeter variety to make applesauce.

After all that baking, I was down to a couple apples that didn’t quite make it into a pie. Now, “State Fair” apples are akin to those “Granny Smiths” we all know and love for our baking. They’re acidic and tart, and to me, too tart to eat alone. And I really didn’t want to buy apples just to make another pie.

So I came up with this recipe that really reminds me of the crunchy, delicious topping that makes apple crisp so, so good. It’s a great recipe for when you’re down to your last apple and you want a decadent treat. It’s full of butter, sugar, spices, and flavor! I’m sure once you get a taste, you’ll dump that run-of-the-mill PSL and give apples the recognition they deserve. 

Apple Crisp Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum extract (OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (OR raisins)
  • 1 small apple, chopped

Instructions

1. Combine softened butter with sugars, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. 

2. Mix in eggs and extract.

3. Add flour and oats, stirring to just combine.

4. Add chopped cranberries and apple.

5. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to firm.

6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Scoop one-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. I like to slightly flatten the cookies.

8. Bake 8 - 10 minutes, or until just set in the middle.

9. Allow to cool, and drizzle caramel sauce, or add a squirt of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream just before serving.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.


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 Oils: The Good and the Bad


Photo by Mauro Pezzotta

The following is reprinted with permission from Judy’s cookbook and healthy eating guide From Chronically Ill to Vibrantly Well: Recovery Through a Plant-Based Diet

A strict whole-food, plant-based diet doesn’t contain any added oil because oil is considered a fragment of the whole food it is derived from. I ingest much less oil than many, but I personally haven’t given it up completely. Without a doubt, if anyone in my family had high blood pressure or any signs of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer I would stop using even small amounts of oil for salads and cooking. This cookbook contains a mixture of no-oil and low-oil recipes. If you’re going to consume oil, it’s important to make the healthiest choices based on the following: plant sources, extraction and processing methods, whether the oil has been hydrogenated or not, and smoke points. All oils are not created equal!

Sources of Cooking Oils

Stay away from oils produced from GMO crops –– namely canola, corn, soy, and cottonseed. In addition to being genetically engineered, these crops are all heavily sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate (the next chapter goes into more detail). Canola oil is particularly troublesome and has permeated our food chain. It comes from a hybrid of the rape plant. Rapeseeds were originally grown for their oil during WWII to supply lubricant for ships and steam engines. After the war, there was no more demand for rapeseed oil. The plant was then hybridized to be lower in erucic acid so the oil could be consumed by humans –– and canola was born. A recent animal study shows significant weight gain and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease from chronic consumption of canola oil.1 Others show it depletes vitamin E. 2 Sadly, this cheap oil is used heavily in processed foods, prepared foods, hospitals, schools, cafeterias, and restaurants; it is even contained in some of the foods sold at health food stores.

I suggest using olive oil as your “go-to” oil in the kitchen. It has been safely consumed for centuries and has been researched extensively. Olives and thus olive oils contain antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin K, and essential fatty acids. It is primarily a monounsaturated fat. Please note that fraud is a real problem in the olive oil trade. The bottle may say olive oil but it may in fact be diluted with canola oil or other oils! Only buy olive oil that has a respected stamp of approval such as COOC (California Olive Oil Council) or NAOOA (North American Olive Oil Association), EVA (Extra Virgin Alliance), or Italy’s UNAPROL 100% Qualita Italiana. Also, if the olive oil has won contests you know it is pure. The annual NYC award winners can be found online , and so can the CA winners.

Refined avocado oil has the highest smoke point and is a good choice when cooking at high temperatures. Choose avocado oil that’s been refined without chemicals. Sesame oil has a sweet, nutty flavor and is well suited for Asian cuisine. Coconut oil is touted as being a healthy choice, but it’s 90% saturated fat and lacks omega 3, vitamins, and minerals. For those reasons, I rarely use coconut oil and wonder if it will eventually be looked at as a fad.

Extraction and Processing Methods

Man has been mechanically pressing the oil from fruits, nuts, and seeds for centuries. Cold-pressed oils are mechanically pressed without chemicals or heat; this is the most desirable method for extraction. Expeller-pressed oils are also mechanically pressed without chemicals, but there is friction involved which creates heat, destroying some of the nutrients.

Most olive oil bottlers use a centrifuge to extract the oil from the olives; the traditional cold-press method is less commonly used. If bottled in the US, the label can still say “cold-pressed” even when centrifuged; Italy has stricter standards and doesn’t allow such misleading labels. “Extra virgin” means the oil has superior aroma and flavor, “virgin” being a notch lower. If the label doesn’t state “extra virgin" or “virgin,” it means the oil has been chemically refined.

Using chemical solvents to extract oils is a relatively newer technique. In the US most canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, soy, and sunflower oils are extracted using a solvent called hexane. Hexane is a by-product of gasoline refining and considered neurotoxic by the Centers for Disease Control. 3 These solvent-extracted oils are also treated with additional chemicals such as bleach and deodorizers. Certified organic oils cannot be extracted using solvents.


Photo by Alaettin Yildrim

Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenation is a chemical process that converts unsaturated liquid fats into a solid through the addition of hydrogen. Fully hydrogenated oils become saturated fats, and partially hydrogenated oils become trans-fatty acids. Both increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.4 Partially hydrogenated trans fats actually double the risk by raising LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowering HDL (good cholesterol). These unhealthy fats are found in a lot of processed foods. Be aware that products can boast “trans-fat free” if the amount is less than 0.5 grams per serving. This is an example of why it’s important to carefully read ingredient labels and not just the marketing claims. The only plant oils that naturally become solid or semisolid at room temperature are coconut oil and palm oil; both are high in saturated fats. All other solid or semisolid plant oils, such as vegan spreads and sticks, are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.


Photo by MarkoBr

Smoke Points

Oils have various smoke points –– temperatures at which they begin to degrade and literally emit smoke. Don’t heat oils to the point of smoking. If this does happen, let the oil cool down, then discard and start again. Harmful fumes and free radicals are created when oil is overheated; vitamins and antioxidants are destroyed. 5, 6 As a point of reference, when sautéing over medium-high heat, the oil heats up to approximately 250ºF.

 

Table 2. Suggested oils and their smoke points.

Oils

Smoke Points

Avocado, refined without chemicals

500ºF

Avocado, unrefined

350ºF - 375ºF

Olive, extra virgin, low acidity

405ºF

Olive, extra virgin

320ºF - 375ºF

Olive, virgin

410ºF

Sesame, unrefined

300ºF - 350ºF

 

1. Lauretti, Elisabetta, Domenico Praticò. “Effect of Canola Oil Consumption on Memory, Synapse and Neuropathology in the Triple Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Scientific Reports, December 2017.

2. Sauer, FD, et al. “Additional vitamin E required in milk replacer diets that contain canola oil.” Nutrition Research, 1997;17(2):259-269.

3. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, US Department of Health and Human Services. “Public Health Statement for n-Hexane,” July 1999. 

4. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, US Food and Drug Administration. “Final  Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils,” 2015.

5. Neghab, Masoud, Mahdieh Delikhoon, Abbas Norouzian Baghani, Jafar Hasanzadeh. “Exposure to Cooking Fumes and Acute Reversible Decrement in Lung Functional Capacity.” The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, October 2017.

6. Svedahl, Sindre, Kristin Svendsen, Torgunn Qvenild, Ann Sjaastad, Bjørn Hilt. “Short Term Exposure to Cooking Fumes and Pulmonary Function.” Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, May 2009.

Judy DeLorenzo is an author, organic garden aficionado, and plant-based diet coach foodie. More information can be found at www.ALifeWellPlanted.comRead all of Judy’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.

Bread-Baking Kitchen Hacks to Save Money: Special Ingredients


Jars of citrus zests, ginger, and boiled cider.

This is Part 2 in Wendy Akin’s frugal-living baking hacks series. Read all parts here.

Next to grab my attention were the prices of special flavor ingredients. If you’ve followed my posts over the years, you’ve already seen some of these.

Boiled cider. Don’t waste money on boiled cider at $15 for only 16 ounces: For $6 or $8, buy a gallon of really good cider. Drink a couple glasses, then pour the rest into a stock pot or Dutch oven — a wide one if you have it — and boil the cider down. Reduce the cider to about one quarter. Your house will smell fabulous all day.

I freeze my syrupy boiled cider in an old peanut butter jar. They won’t crack, they’re wide mouth and fit on the freezer door shelf. When I need some, it’s easy to spoon out, because a syrup doesn’t freeze hard.

A good splash of boiled cider will make your best ever apple pie. Use your favorite recipe, put the floured and spiced apples into the bottom crust, then drizzle a couple spoonfuls of boiled cider over the apples. Cover and bake as usual.

Cornstarch. Not a money saver, but if you use cornstarch as a thickener in your pies, be aware that cornstarch is most often of genetically modified (GMO) corn. Happily, a new organic cornstarch has appeared on your grocer shelf.  It’s made by Clabber Girl; it’s in a green can about the size of baking powder cans and you’ll probably find it next to the baking powder rather than next to the big yellow box.

Ginger puree. It seems so wasteful to buy a big piece of fresh ginger root for just a spoonful in a recipe. Freezing it over and over ruins it. Never mind, just buy a nice piece of fresh ginger when you see some silky-skinned fresh pieces. Roughly peel it, slice about ¼-inch thick, and toss it into the mini-prep food processor. Chop, then add about 2 to 4 tablespoons of cane sugar and process to a lovely slush. Store this is a half-pint jar on the freezer door shelf.

Use this ginger puree in everything that calls for ginger: stirfry, pickles, even cookies.  The dry kind is just hot with no flavor. The little bit of sugar to make the puree slushy is too little to make a difference in any recipe. You won’t taste it in a stirfry.

Crystallized ginger shouldn’t cost $20 per pound. Buy really pretty ginger when you see some, usually in during fall. Consider looking in an Asian grocery, where shoppers use a lot of fresh ginger in their cuisine. Peel it and slice. Make up a sugar syrup of 2 cups of cane sugar to 2 cups of water. Add the ginger slices and bring to a slow boil. Cook gently until the ginger begins to be tender. Attach a candy/jelly thermometer. Bring the temperature up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring. Cool, then you can either drain the ginger pieces and roll in sugar or just put them with the syrup into a canning jar. Again, on the freezer door shelf. Or in a zipper freezer bag with the rest of your holiday ingredient goodies.

Ginger syrup? Ten dollars for just 8 ounces? Well, how much sugar and water is in there? Here’s your ginger syrup for free. Leftover syrup from making crystallized ginger is ginger syrup. You could also just add some sliced ginger to the simple syrup and cook it down a little. It makes great homemade ginger ale, just add sparkling water or club soda.  Remember also that ginger and ginger ale are very helpful for easing nausea. Mix a little ginger syrup in sparkling or still water and sip. Ice cold is also calming to a roiling tummy.

If you love ginger and you’ve found some beautiful pieces, go another one and make this stunning marmalade. Wait until you find some really silky skinned fresh roots.

Lemon or orange paste at $12 for just 4 ounces? Do this instead and save your $12. Buy six nice, clean, skinned lemons or two bright oranges, organic if you find them. Scrub, then peel with a potato peeler. Toss the peels into the mini-prep (what would we do without this wonderful little $30 workhorse?). Chop, then add maybe ¼ cup of cane sugar and process to a paste. Again, put this into a half pint jar and store on the freezer door shelf. The sugar helps get it slushy and prevents it freezing too hard.

For all these neat little pastes, use a white plastic lid, not the two-piece canning lid. It won’t stick or rust and you can rinse it easily. Less than $2 for a dozen, they last for years. The citrus zests, ginger and cider line a shelf of the refrigerator freezer, close at hand for frequent use.

I use a lot of lemons for the zests for cooking and baking and also for making limoncello.  So, I keep fresh-squeezed lemon juice in a bottle for when I need a tablespoon and don’t have a fresh lemon.


This is absolutely as delicious and fattening as it looks. Tastes like fresh, sweet cream, but solid as you can see.

Clotted cream costing $8.95 for a tiny 6-ounce jar is just too expensive. Earlier this summer, I had a happy accident. I’d bought whipping cream and somehow it was missed and left in the car for two days. When I found it, I opened the carton and found it was still fresh and sweet! So I put it in the fridge but when I got the cream out the next day, it was solid. Clotted cream?

Unwilling to believe this, I purposely repeated, leaving the cream on the sun porch where the temps rise over 90 degrees these hot summer days. Two days in the heat and then overnight in the fridge, again I had solid, delicious sweet cream. Because the cream was unopened and pasteurized, I won’t worry about bacteria. Over the price of a small jar of clotted cream, I figure a saving of about $18.00. The cream won’t be shelf stable for a year, but I prefer a natural cream over whatever preservative is used in the jar stuff. And, it is so yummy.

What will I do come winter if a craving hits? Pour the cream into a pint canning jar, fill the crock pot halfway with hot water, set it on “keep warm” and incubate my pint of cream for two days. I’m pretty sure it will work just as well.

Almond paste. You can buy 8 ounces for nearly $5 or make 34 ounces for about $10.  See my recipe here. It makes a lot of sense to make your own and it is a kinda fun thing to do. One little hack I’ve learned since I posted the recipe back in 2015: Instead of buying whole almonds with skins and spending the hour skinning them, I found slivered almonds that have no skins. Saved an hour. I do toast the slivers for about 10 minutes at 300 degrees just to freshen them. Get some almond paste made in early October so it will be ripe and perfect when holiday baking starts.

There is a difference in almond filling for pastries and almond paste. Last year, I made some almond filling to use in my Christmas Stollen. It’s easier to make, as it uses just confectioner’s sugar instead of boiling up a sugar syrup, but in the end, we all preferred the almond paste.

Superfine sugar can be had at $12 for 3 pounds. Four pounds of regular white cane sugar is under $2.50 just about anywhere. Just superfine it: Pour about 4 cups into the big food processor or blender and process until it’s superfine. Make about a quart at a time and store in a jar, ready for those fussy, fussy recipes that call for it.

If you forgot to buy confectioner’s sugar to make cake frosting, do the above superfine process and add a couple tablespoons of cornstarch. Be sure to have the non-GMO cornstarch on hand.

Vanilla beans prices have skyrocketed to $12. We know about the crop failure a couple years ago that caused prices to soar, but shop around. I see several online stores that offer good Madagascar beans for around $3. If you see a super buy for a larger quantity, see if you can put together a group of friends to split it. Or just put them all into a tall glass jar filled with vodka or brandy. Make sure the beans are fully submerged.

You’ll always have a fresh bean for a special recipe. I pick them out with the little jar lid picker. This makes nice vanilla extract in a few months which is nice. Do not leave the beans dry — they will self destruct into powder. I did this with a few. I did put the powder into a spice jar and use it, but it was a mistake to leave them dry.

Spices. Grocery store prices for little jars of spices at $4 or more are ridiculous. First, you don’t need a new jar every time and second, they will fade before you use them. If you have a nearby store with a bulk department, go there and get just the ¼ cup or even just the tablespoon you’ll actually use before it looses its oomph. If you don’t have such a store, but a friend does, ask.

In early December, I spend about two hours in the bulk spice department of Central Market in Dallas filling herb and spice orders for my sister’s wide circle of friends. We save a fortune on expensive spices, blends and dried mushrooms.

If there’s no such bulk department within reach, reach out to friends and neighbors who probably also hate spending $4 for a tiny jar of inferior grocery store cinnamon. A pound ofpremium Vietnamese (Saigon) cinnamon for $6.95 is too much cinnamon for one household, but split that among four friends who get 4 ounces each, and everybody has enough best cinnamon for the season’s apple pies and cinnamon bun for less than $2.

Likewise, all the spices when bought in bulk. Even good salts are available in bulk and do not go stale. Kept airtight, salt is forever. A pound of Guerande Grey salt can be had for $6.50. Eight ounces of precious Fleur de Sel can be bought for $15.75. Split among four friends, each of you gets 2 ounces for less than $4. That will sprinkle a lot of peppers.

Look at Atlantic Spice and San Francisco Herbs Co. Check Amazon and do a Google search for herbs and spices. Search before you buy and save money. Look at the same sources for a matching set of spice jars, which makes an attractive and orderly spice rack.

Wine. Anybody can buy a great bottle of wine if they’re willing to spend $30, $50, or $100. I have more fun and bragging rights for finding a really good bottle for $10 or less. Look at some of the wine sellers online at Last Bottle and Wines Till Sold Out. Both offer free shipping with a few bottles. Last Bottle has a marathon event each year when you only have to order one bottle of each wine you want. Fun and a great way to try something different or indulge a yen for Chateauneuf.  Just don’t get carried away.

To be continued in Part 3.

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 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.

Make Salt-Cured Egg Yolks to Grate Over Dishes

salt cured yolks

How beautiful are these golden, jewel-toned yolks! A few years ago I came across a recipe for Salt Cured Egg Yolks and gave them a try. It’s a fun way to preserve extra yolks, a tasty way to finish off dishes with a little extra flavor, and they make great gifts for all of your foodie friends and family.

Salt curing is nothing new, it's a very traditional way of preserving food. I found some recipes that had mostly sugar, with a little salt; some with mostly salt, with a little sugar; some with flavored salts.

I'm kind of a puritan when it comes to food, if you use good ingredients, there is no need to complicate a good thing. For me, simple is best. For example: I like chocolate-chip cookies, I'm not really a fan of chocolate chip-pumpkin-caramel-butterscotch cookies. It's too much, just keep it simple friends! So for this recipe, I stayed simple: salt and egg yolk. That's it. You can do what you like, this is just how I did it.

The result is nothing short of delicious! Just as you would grate Parmesan cheese over a dish, grate these salt cured yolks over meat, pasta, salad or veggies for a salty, savory and rich garnish. In addition to flavor, you’ll get added nutrition as chicken egg yolks are rich in healthy saturated fat, phospholipids, antioxidants {such as carotenoids and phosvitin}, Vitamins A, D, E, B1 {Thiamin}, B2 {Riboflavin}, B6, B9 {Folate}, B12, Choline, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc and Selenium.

Salt Cured Yolks

Ingredients

Pastured egg yolks, any quantity {chicken, duck, turkey...any yolks will work!}

Kosher salt, a lot!

Directions

1. In a baking dish/cookie sheet, spread salt to cover the bottom of the dish with 1/4"-1/2" salt. You can also make indentations in the salt with a spoon to help the yolk stay put.

2. Crack the egg, separating and discarding the whites for another recipe. Gently, without breaking the yolk, place the yolk on the salt bed. If a yolk breaks, just mound up the salt around it to form a barrier to keep it from spreading.

3. Once all your yolks are in the salt bed, cover each yolk completely with about 1/2" of salt. Don't leave any yolk showing.

salt cured yolks

salt cured yolks
4. Place uncovered in the fridge for 10 days. The salt will soak up the liquid and concentrate the yolks.

5. Check your yolks at 10 days, they should have the consistency of a gummy candy. They may still be a little sticky, that's OK!

6. Once you have that gummy candy consistency, rinse the yolks in cold water to remove the excess salt. Place the yolks on a cooling rack (sprayed with non-stick spray) and place in a 170 degree F oven for two hours.

7. Once two hours has passed, turn off the oven & let yolks remain inside the oven until cooled to room temperature.

salt cured yolks

At this point, the yolks should be very firm. The best part - they are now ready to use! Using a microplane or fine grater, grate the egg yolks just as you would grate Parmesan cheese over your food. Keeps in the refrigerator {covered} for 6 months, possibly longer, enjoy!

Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then she has run California based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs, pasture based poultry and sells goats milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

 


 

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