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Crafting Distilled Spirits at Home

Photo by Getty Images/ManuelVelasco

In recent years, I’ve started to take an interest in good liquor and what goes into making one’s own distilled spirits. This interest either coincided with or was brought about by – I can’t remember which now – when I started working for some side cash in a tiny “speakeasy” in my hometown. The world of craft cocktails was opened up to me, which got me even more interested in the distilled spirits that make such delicious cocktails. Plus, my favorite show is MASH, and I always got such a kick out of Hawkeye distilling gin in his tent.

Just like cooking or baking, there is a fascinating science – and history – behind crafting good quality distilled spirits, and I wanted to read all about it. The book that took me down this rabbit hole was Craft Distilling by Victoria Redhed Miller. She starts off by delving into the history of home hooch making, as well as the when, how, and why it was outlawed, which the history buff in me really enjoyed. And Miller has a firm grasp on the intricacies of distilling spirits and liquor laws, which can get a bit cloudy, but she cleared it up easily.


Miller is true a hands-on person, and she thoroughly explains the ins-and-outs of how to make hooch at home. Reading what she had to say on the distilling spirits process was such fun. To echo her sentiments early on in the book, the whole process of making and distilling spirits seemed mysterious to me for so long, but she lays it out plainly and easily, i.e. distillation isn’t the making of the alcohol, that happens in the fermentation process. Distillation, when it comes to making alcohol, is the heating of the liquid and essentially concentrating it down by removing much of the water and other non-alcoholic “stuff.” This is where you also fine tune the flavors of your spirits.

 A person can even make their own copper still, and Miller shows you how in a chapter on making your own column still. I always err on the side of safety, and to avoid becoming one of those headlines about an exploded alcohol still that was poorly designed and made, I would advise to always abide by safety first and follow instructions thoroughly. And it goes without saying that generally speaking, be sure you are well versed on laws and regulations. It isn’t wise to go making booze willy-nilly.

 The really fun part to me was reading about which grains to get the type of distilled spirit you want. Wheat, corn, rye, or barley? There’s more than just these that can be used for making spirits, but these are the most commonly used. Miller outlines the making of rum, gin, vodka, tequila, and, of course, multiple types of whiskey – and there are a lot. When it comes time to age your distilled spirits, Miller lays out this process, too.

Once you have all your homemade liquor, it’ll be pretty tasty either neat or on the rocks, but I would also suggest perusing through the craft cocktail recipes in Craft Distilling. With a bit of experimentation, you might even end up with your favorite twist on a classic cocktail. My parents have taken a shining to making cocktails at home, and my father is particularly proud of a cosmopolitan made with black cherry juice instead of cranberry juice. I tried it the last time I was over for a visit, and I must admit I might request my cosmos with black cherry juice from now on when I’m out for the occasional cocktail.

I think I’ll start my distillation endeavors with rum, as this is another favorite of my parents, and also at the top of my own personal spirit list. When I move on to gin and perfect this, maybe I’ll have Hawkeye over for a drink.

Craft Distilling is a unique resource that will show you everything you need to know to get started crafting top-quality spirits on a small scale – and do it legally. Sure to appeal to hobbyists, homesteaders, self-sufficiency enthusiasts, and anyone who cares about fine food and drink, Craft Distilling is the ideal offering for independent spirits.

A New Crop for Organic Farms


Styrian Pumpkins

I call it a Chai Tea moment.

When I went to India for the first time in December of 1993, I met Chai.  I had never heard of it and loved it.  I thought it would be a great product for the US market.  But… I was doing other things and now the US market for Chai is huge.

Remember when there were no soybeans?  By gosh, you’re as old or older than I am.  Let me tell you.  Once upon a time farmers grew corn.  Then came soybeans.  Although they were introduced to this country in the 1700’s as a ship ballast it was not until the late 1940’s that soybean cultivation took off.  By 1973 soybeans had become America's number one cash crop, and leading export commodity, ahead of both wheat and corn.

Now Chai and Soybeans are known throughout the land.  So what’s the next big crop and potential food source for the American market? There is a food grown in Austria and surrounding countries that is found in every restaurant and on every dining table, available in every grocery store and gas station, that is compatible with soils and climate in the upper Midwest.  It is the Styrian Pumpkin. The seeds have no shell and they are larger and much easier to process than other varieties of pumpkins.  Styria is a province in Austriaand the center of pumpkin production. 

I propose that based on the fact that the seeds and oil taste so good, are so healthy, and are everywhere in Europe where food is sold, that the Chai Tea moment for Styrian Pumpkin seeds is now here.  I’m writing this article in hopes that an enterprising generation of new farmers will take up the challenge to bring this food to the US market so we don’t have to go to Austria to get them.

Below is part of a harvest of Styrian Pumpkins from my backyard in Wisconsin.  At their peak, these plants grow 9-10 inches a day.  It’s quite a sight to go out in the early morning and then return at sunset to see the result of a days growth.  It seemed the vine was going to cover our lot and the neighbors as well.  They have a thick shell which is good for compost only.  After splitting them open with a hand axe, the seeds can be spread on screens and dried.

Nutritional Data

Besides being one of the best foods for prostate health, consider these facts:

1. Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil has, one of the highest concentrations of mono- and polyunsaturated fats of any oil. (uo to 80%)

2. A high vitamin E content (averaging 29 mg / 100 g), that means one portion of Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil (10 ml) can cover up to 20 % of our daily dietary needs (the recommended vitamin E intake for an adult is, according to current sources, 12 mg per day) This fat-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and, in the human body, plays a role in the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Furthermore, it prevents the oil from spoiling or going rancid too quickly.

Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil naturally contains high concentrations of oleic acid and linoleic acid, both of which are unsaturated fatty acids. In addition, linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, meaning that it cannot be synthesized by our bodies. The substitution of unsaturated fatty acids for saturated fatty acids contributes to a healthy diet and can help maintain a normal blood cholesterol level. Though, naturally, as a part of a varied and balanced diet in combination with a healthy lifestyle. Linoleic acid can positively affect the blood cholesterol level at a daily intake of 10 g of linoleic acid. There are about 4 g of linoleic acid in every portion (10 ml) of Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil. Recipes


Austria has 173 to 229 frost-free days, depending on the regions.  Depending on the heat and the varieties, you can finish the growing cycle within the range of frost-free days.

You can check the climate data in Austria for the cities of Vienna, Graz, or Linz to cover the most important growing areas to see if it aligns with your location.

You can see the planting process here:


This is a real kick 

Styrian Pumpkin data for Austrian climate and soils

Below, I will present the data relevant to planting, harvesting, seed sources, and the potential profits from a developed market of the seeds and oil of the Styrian Pumpkin.

When I run the numbers, it appears to be a crop that would outperform both corn and soybeans in a developed market. I am not an agricultural economist but the data below seems to suggest that in a mature market oil production would approach $2,000 per acre, and seed production would approach $6,000 per acre with an oil price of $20/liter and seeds at $12/pound.  Spreadsheet calcs can be seen here.         

Seed Yield

Average in Austria is 600 kg/ha (8 % of humidity), with a variation from 400 kg/ha to 1,200 kg/ha.


18.000 kernels/ha

Single corn planters such as used for corn or soybeans with a different set of discs can be used. Very common is the Monosem precision vacuum planter.

Days to maturity(140-150 days)

For frost free days in your area go here

Styrian Pumpkin Seeds, where to get them and a comparison

Below is a photo that shows the Styrian Pumpkin seed from my crop on the left compared to pumpkin seeds available in natural food markets.  The Styrian seeds have a nut like taste, are softer to chew and are not as dry as the pumpkin seeds currently available.  As I said up front, I’m writing this article in hopes that an enterprising generation on new farmers will take up the challenge to bring this food to the US market.

Agronomically, there is no distinction between pumpkins grown for seed or oil. I obtained my seed from John Sherck in Bristol Indiana.  Click here for more information.

They can also be obtained from Strictly Medicinal seeds here. Saatzucht Gleisdorf Ges.mbHis a plant breeding company in Austria that provides Styrian Pumpkin seed.

Seed Varieties and Characteristics


The new classical

oil content: 46.1%

maturity: early


The one with dark green kernel

oil content: 47.6%

maturity: medium


Winner in the category grain size

oil content: 48.5%

maturity: medium - late


The drought tolerant

oil content: 47.0%

maturity: early - medium


The proven

oil content: 48.4%

maturity: medium


The traditional

oil content: 46.4%

maturity: early - medium

To order large quantities of seed contact  Saatzucht Gleisdorf Ges.mbH 


Saatzucht Gleisdorf Ges.mbHprovided the following information from recent Austrian crops.

12,000 – 16,000 plants/ha.  NOTE: 1 ha = 1 hectare = 2.47 acres.

Every plant makes 1-2 pumpkins on average.

Average 18,500 pumpkins/ha

85 g of pumpkin seeds each

Average 600 kg seeds/ha (8 % of humidity)

Oil – 2.5 kg seed/litre sell for - 17€/litre.  = $19.34 USD goherefor up to currency conversion

Seed - € 21.90/Kilo  = $12.50 USD/pound

2016 Austria harvest 

45,000 ha of oil seed pumpkin were planted in Austria.

By comparison, rapeseed, sugar beets, potatoes have an average 40,000 ha.

Average yield of 750 kg/ha

33,750 tons were produced.

The farmers or contractors, windrow, harvest, wash, dry and pre-clean the seeds. The dried and pre-cleaned seeds are filled in BigBags. These BigBags are bought by the oil mills or retailers.

Average market price

Over the last 10 years was 3.33€/kg. This price is topped up with organic production (1-2 €) and/or in the original production region (0,1 – 0,3 €). Oil is sold for 17 €/l right from the farm to the end customer. In stores, 22 €/l in average.

In the United States you pay dearly for Styrian Pumkin seed oil but it is available here at $60/litre.

I was also told by the local parish priest who is from Poland, that I might find seeds and oil in a Polish food store in Chicago so I assume that would hold for other Polish food stores if you can find one in your area.


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Roundup is Making Us Sick: Part 3


Suggestions for Avoiding Roundup

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we read about how pervasive Roundup is and how it damages our health. When things feel too big for me to handle, I remember a dear friend’s advice to just keep chipping away at it. Protecting ourselves and our families provides the motivation we’ll need to make continual small changes in what we eat. Here are some suggestions that have helped me avoid Roundup:

Eat organic foods when possible: The organic label is the only label that guarantees no herbicides or genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. That means no Roundup was used in either GE plants or in “drying down” other crops. Any “certified organic” meat, dairy or eggs cannot come from animals fed with food containing Roundup. When you know local farmers who grow food without herbicides, you’ll want to support them even if they’re not officially certified organic.

Avoid all GE foods: Even if GE foods haven’t been found to be intrinsically harmful, most GE crops are “Roundup Ready” and therefore contain Roundup. Unlike 64 other countries in the world, the United States does not require GE labeling on its food. Congress passed a bill in 2016 which required GE labeling, but since then the USDA’s only recommendations have been a bar label that can be read with smart phones or a deceptively smiling sunflower with a “BE” (“bioengineered’) on it. “Bioengineered” is not a common term for GE food. This attempt at deception means we consumers need to keep aware.

GE foods include soy, corn, canola, sorghum, sugar beets and potatoes.

Avoid non-GE food that may be dried down with Roundup: If not organic or from a farmer you know, it’s best to avoid all wheat, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, safflower, barley, rice, sunflower seeds and cane sugar.

Avoid processed foods: Over 90% of the food we Americans buy is processed, so this is indeed a tall order. But because most flour and sugar contain Roundup, we might begin by buying these ingredients as organic. I appreciate that even our rural grocery store now carries organic brands of both flour and sugar as well as other organic ingredients. If bread and cookies are part of the family’s fare, we can bake our own! Processed food is convenient, but it is not convenient to be ill.

Grow what food we can: As urban, suburban and country folks gain knowledge about the contents of corporate food, it may now seem feasible to grow more of our own food. Mother Earth News offers continuing tips how we can do this, no matter where we live. Those who haven’t yet begun may start with some tomatoes and basil plants around the house or in patio containers. Adding a raised bed for vegetables in the lawn may be the next step. If you lack the building skills and tools to build your own raised bed, speed this project along by buying a raised-bed kit. When increasing the size of your garden is taken in annual increments, your knowledge and pleasure will grow along with the amount of home-grown food on your dinner table.

When growing your own chemical-free food seems too overwhelming, having community support may be the answer. Groups like Food Not Lawns, an international chapter-based organization, can assist you with the knowledge, tools and community that may enrich your life with chemical-free food as well as community. Similarly, community gardens offer space for gardening, information and group support. Growing our own food can enrich our lives in many ways.

Consider having drinking water checked for glyphosate: I live in a rural area where the farmers use a large amount of Roundup. It’s tempting to just avoid drinking water from our relatively shallow, 55-foot well, but buying water in plastic containers is a poor option for our planet. It’s somewhat reassuring that our water is filtered through reverse osmosis because this method should provide good removal of glyphosate. Just to make sure, I had our drinking water tested and no glyphosate was found.

If you choose to have water, urine or breast milk tested, there are a few things you should know about what laboratory you choose. Furthermore, results aren’t always easy to interpret and acceptable levels of glyphosate in the United States are higher than in Europe. The bottom line is that regardless of results, we want to avoid ingesting Roundup using the methods I’ve listed above.

In conclusion: The corporate food system gradually elbowed its way into our kitchens by promising to make the “housewife’s” work easier. Perhaps we didn’t see how processed food would take over our dinner tables, or perhaps we trusted corporations to give our health priority over their profits. When we read about how damaging Roundup is to our health, we can feel either victimized or empowered. I believe I alternate between these feelings depending on my mood. But in gathering and sharing this information, I’m hoping we will all be better able to take back control of keeping ourselves healthy.

Mary Lou retired is a physician and now homesteads with her husband, Tom, south of Columbus, Ohio. Her book explaining how to grow your own food, Growing Local Food, can be bought through Carlisle Press at 800-852-4482.

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.

Simply Abundant Living: Frugal Food Edition

My pantry 

Are you searching how to live on less due to limited funds, retirement, experiencing a job loss or simply want to live a lifestyle of sustainability? Spending less on food is vital. That doesn’t mean you have eat cheap boxes of fluorescent orange macaroni and cheese boxes along with ramen noodles. . .you can dine very well on a few dollars a day! It requires a little work but is so worth it. Here is how I do it. . .

I live with just my husband and dog now that our sons are grown – but throughout the past 30 years – we have budgeted just $2 per day per person for food.  The key is – you have to cook your food from scratch. That makes it so much healthier and cuts the cost. Read informative blogs and articles, watch YouTube videos, etc. for detailed how-to’s on practically everything food related!

For example –

1, Instead of buying a bag of chips that lasts for a short time – buy a 5 lb. bag of potatoes for the same price. From that bag you can make chips (just slice super thin, season, put on parchment paper, then bake or microwave until crisp), mashed, baked, or hash browns – YUM.

2. My sons loved plain rice with soy sauce as a snack – so I would make a pot of it a few times a week and keep in the fridge for them to grab when hungry between meals. Not the boxed instant rice – the real rice from a bag that you simply cook on the stovetop, instapot or rice cooker.

3. For beverages – make a pot of ice tea using just a 2-3 bags of tea of choice (or mint/herbs from your yard) and some sweetener if needed for a half gallon of tea for just pennies versus expensive soda. PLUS – free drink filtered tap water is my favorite.

4. For late night snacks we pop real popcorn on the stovetop using a little oil, salt, and butter. Delicious!

5. Brew coffee in a large pot rather than a pod system. It is better for the environment and saves money. You can put in a thermal pot to save if needed or use leftover coffee in baking as a sub for a liquid. It really enhances anything chocolate.

6. If your fruit is starting to go bad – make banana bread, applesauce, etc. For veggies – make soups, broths or veggie burgers. If you don’t have time – wrap and put in the freezer for later.

7. Use food rebate/bonus sites such as Ibotta, Saving Star, and Checkout 51. Make sure to view before heading to the store and check off item before purchasing. Just submit receipts after shopping and get money back that can be paid out via check, PayPal or as gift cards. The savings really add up.

8. Coupons . . . if you have access to Sunday paper inserts – use them if needed. Many libraries have them available to you – sometimes even clipped by volunteers. I have a hard time justifying spending 3.50 on a paper just for the coupon however. If your store has online coupons – check those off too before shopping.

You don’t have to grow your own produce – but it helps. I budgeted in a CSA 24 week share (Community Supported Agriculture) for the past two years while we were moving and had to rebuild a new garden.  Sometimes you can save on a CSA by helping on the farm in exchange for a weekly share or take advantage of early pricing. You can also buy produce at the store or farmer’s market– but watch for sales. When you find a great sale or have excess from the garden or CSA – freeze, can or dehydrate to preserve.

Proteins/Fats can be in the form of nuts, dairy, meats, eggs, beans, tofu, oils etc. We are in a society now that focuses on excessive amount of protein. Whatever you buy, try to use it as more of a side dish/condiment rather than the main part of the meal. It will save money and is healthier for you.  So much protein can come from beans and vegetables!

Here is a breakdown for a family of four $56 budget ($2 per person per day) as a guide. I live in Western New York – so prices may vary in different locations.  Make it your own and tweak as needed. If you find really great sales – spend more in one week and less the following weeks. It pays to stock up when the price is rock bottom and builds up a food stash for lean times.

Beverages – coffee, tea, milk, creamer - $5 week
Proteins/Fats – meat, dairy, eggs, tofu, oils, nut butter - $14 week
Dry goods – cereals, oats, flour, sugar, rice, dried beans, seeds, spices, breads, pastas - $15 week
Produce - Fruits and Vegetables– lettuce, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, popcorn, corn, peas, spinach, herbs, bananas, oranges, apples, CSA weekly share - $17 week
Misc. $5

Note: this budget does not include toiletries, pet food, etc.

Start slowly and don’t beat yourself up over a failed recipe or going over your budget. It takes time but once you learn what works for your family – you will spend so much less on food!

Tina T. Ames is an artist, homesteading and blogger and simple living instructor in Western New York State. Connect with her at Simply Abundant Living, on Facebook and Etsy. Read all of Tina’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.

Touchdown Tortillas

Make enchiladas with homemade tortillas. 

We’re deep into the football season, which means anything Tex-Mex is on my family’s weekend menu. Bottomless pots of chili, taco bars, and queso dip just seem to go hand-in-hand with televised sports and cold beer.

But I just can’t bring myself to buy tortillas. Just reading the ingredients list makes my toes curl. Mold inhibitor potassium sorbate, dough conditioner sodium metabisulfite, sodium aluminum sulfate, monoglycerides, hydrogenated oils, fumaric acid, and calcium propionate are just some of the ingredients listed on a package of soft tortillas. And all of these ingredients have been approved by the FDA, and have been deemed safe for consumption, but that does not mean that I want my family to eat them.

So, I spend a little extra time in the kitchen and make my own tortillas. It’s not hard, but does take a little skill. My friend Tesa asked my advice on how to make tortillas, and I just told her that if they don’t turn out right the first time, don’t get discouraged. You’ve got to get a feel for the dough and learn how to cook them on a skillet to get the right browning. It took me a few times to get the right thickness (or thinness, perhaps) so that they didn’t resemble more of a flat bread.

And in no way are these tortillas authentic. It’s the best this Midwestern Germanic lady can do. If a latina grandma would like to adopt me for the day to teach me how to make traditional, old-school tortillas, I’d be down for that. In exchange, I’ll teach her how to make something German, like sauerbraten.

And don’t worry if they’re not perfectly round like those store-bought tortillas. Mine turn out in a variety of shapes, but I like to think of them as cumulus clouds: They’re all kinda round, but each is unique. Then again, I’m not a pretentious television food critic. I only care about taste and a good texture.

However, I will warn you that once you start making and eating homemade tortillas, you won’t want to eat the store-bought ones anymore. If you’re like me, you’ll open the bag and it smells like a plastic/rancid oil odor. And the texture is, well, rubbery. That’s the best way I can describe it. Even the taste will be “off.” So, I don’t buy them anymore, or order wraps from restaurants.

Another point I’d like to make here is cost: It is simply cheaper to make your own tortillas. Even now, close to the holidays, flour is on sale for $1.29 per five-pound bag. At 17 cups per bag, that’s about eight cents a cup. I purchased a 33.8 fluid-ounce bottle of grape seed oil for $3 at a food-salvage store, which comes to about five cents a tablespoon. So, I estimate this recipe costs me about 25 cents to make, and another 40-ish cents in cooking oil, or 65 cents, versus $1.59 for a package of 10 medium tortillas. So, not only are there fewer ingredients in homemade tortillas, but it’s more economical for those of us who need to watch our pennies.

So the next time you gear up to watch a game with your family, give this tortilla recipe a try. I’ve used them to make tacos, quesadillas, and (my fave) enchiladas. I dare say that they’re mighty tasty, especially when compared to those packaged tortillas.

Touchdown Tortillas


2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 tablespoon flavorless oil (I use nonGMO grape seed, canola, or safflower, whatever is on sale)
¾ cup warm water


1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder.

2. Add oil and warm water. If the dough appears “shreddy,” that is OK.

3. Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and not too sticky.

4. Pull small handfuls of dough and roll into balls. I usually get 10 dough balls.

5. With floured rolling pin, roll the balls into thin circles. The thinner, the better. But make sure it will fit into your skillet (don’t make them too large that the sides come up over the pan).

6. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil (I like grape seed, but any is fine).

7. Place one tortilla in the skillet, careful not to splash the oil.

8. Cook on one side for a minute or two, or until the tortilla is golden brown.

9. Flip tortilla to the other side and cook for about a minute.

10.Remove from heat on to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

11. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all tortillas are cooked. You may not need more oil for every tortilla, just add a little to have something in the skillet if it’s dry. Again, this is something you’ll learn after you’ve made them a few times.

Serve immediately, or keep warm in the oven, set on low/warm. Yields 10 medium tortillas. I find that leftover tortillas become tough, so I make this small batch so that we can eat them all in one meal. If you need more than 10 tortillas, simply double the recipe.

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.

25 Basic Kitchen Tools You Need to Cook Real Food

Using my box grater 

A Checklist for Camping, Tiny House Dwellers, or Beginner Cooks

We moved across provinces recently, from the big city to our homestead in rural British Columbia. In order for us to realize our dream of starting a homestead, we had to cut costs everywhere. That meant camping out while we were moving to our farm! So, I have had to pare down my kitchen essentials to almost nothing. Really down to basics. I had to ask myself, what can I survive on? 

I thought others might be interested to know what basic kitchen tools you need to cook meals from scratch (as I do for every meal...even when we’re camping!). If you are just learning how to cook healthy food and you don’t know what kitchen tools you’ll need, this is the list for you. Also, if you are planning on living in a tiny house, my checklist will help you to avoid buying extra tools that you won’t use very often.

1. Small pot or saucepan - surprisingly you can do a lot with a small pot. You can boil eggs, make applesauce, boil potatoes, make rice, and steam small amounts of greens/broccoli/cauliflower in the small pot. All large meat + veggie dishes can be cooked in the slow cooker.

2. Small frying pan or skillet - this is essential for cooking eggs, pancakes, making quesadillas, frying farm greens, stir fry, etc.

3. Box grater.

4. Kitchen shears

5. Chef’s knife (8-9 inch blade)

6. Paring knife (small - 3 to 4 inch blade)

7. Silicone spatula

8. Small metal spatula

9. Oven mitts

10. Soup ladle + an oversized spoon

11. Can opener

12. Percolator for coffee (also serves as a teapot)

13. Big cutting board

14. Some glass Tupperware for storing food + any good recycled food containers. I re-use big empty yogurt containers to mix up pancake batter, muffin batter, for soaking beans, tossing salads, or to hold veggies I’ve chopped up so they don’t clutter the cutting board.

15. A Slowcooker/Crockpot 6Qt size

16. A 1 cup measuring cup - you can make any recipe with a 1 cup measuring cup as long as it has other measurements below the 1 cup line.

17. 1 tbsp measuring spoon + 1 tsp measuring spoon - I find that all other measurements can be estimated with these two tools in a pinch.

18. A small funnel - for making salad dressing. I use an old olive oil bottle to shake it up.

19. If you bake bread, you need a Dutch Oven for an awesome crust + a serrated bread knife + a dough scraper.

20. If you bake muffins, you need a muffin cups pan. But I make sweet bread with the muffin recipe and then I don’t need to get fussy with filling muffin cups, buying muffin paper cups or greasing each cup individually. Instead I use a standard bread pan (pyrex), or a cast-iron bread pan for a camp stove.

21. A small pair of locking tongs, silicone handles

22. A Digital thermometer for taking meat temps

23. A small wire mesh colander/strainer with a stand or one that rests on top of sink

24. A large mixing bowl

My Grandmother's Rolling Pin

25. If you make pies or crackers, you’ll need a rolling pin (I’ve got my grandmothers!)

Optional: A small food processor (I use a baby-food grinder) - allows you to make small batches of hummus, salsa, tomato sauce, raw brownies, etc.

Rosemary’s Tips

Does your recipe call for a whisk? Use a fork in a pinch.
Need a garlic press? Just smash the clove with the side of your chef’s knife, then chop fine.
Need to peel fruit or a vegetable? Use your paring knife and go slow. But if you’re not practiced, get a Y-shaped peeler, it’s not worth cutting yourself.
Need a timer? Get a stopwatch! I love mine and use it all throughout the day. I never have to go searching for my timer, it’s always on my wrist.

What are your favorite kitchen essentials? Can’t live without your blender? A dear friend of mine uses her immersion blender almost every day. Some folks can’t survive without their instant pot or juicer. I agree that all of those appliances are super handy, but in an off-grid situation (or when you’re camping), my list of essentials will help you cook healthy meals without having to pack your whole kitchen.

Rosemary Pure Living

Rosemary Hansen is an Author, Homesteading Mama, and a Chef. She has spent the last 10 years “homesteading” in the city. She and her family have just started their off-grid homestead in rural British Columbia, Canada. Her books, Grow a Salad In Your City Apartment and Rosemary’s Natural Cosmetic Guide are a great way to ease into a healthy, pure lifestyle. You can connect with Rosemary at her website: or on her YouTube channel.

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Bring California Terroir to your Table with this Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing Recipe

Aerial view of Jordan Vineyard & Winery

When you have high-quality ingredients in season and farm fresh, often a simple recipe is all you need to really showcase flavor of freshly harvested produce. Such is the case with this Simple Salad Dressing recipe from Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Healdsburg, California, as their wine-making success builds on this idea of appreciating the terroir of a place, celebrating the flavors of the land from vineyard and growing field to wine glass and plate of fresh greens. 

“When most tourists visit wineries, they don’t see much more than the inside of a tasting room, but here at Jordan we want you to fully experience the land and what we’re all about,” shares John Jordan, the second-generation vintner who now manages this winery started in 1972 by his parents, Tom and Sally Jordan. “Sonoma County is first and foremost a community of farmers and that agricultural heritage plays a big role in building the wine reputation Healdsburg has today.”

Rows of grapes at Jordan Vineyard & Winery  

A commitment to quality drives Jordan Vineyard and Winery. From the start, their focus has been on perfecting just two wines: A Cabernet Sauvignon inspired by the finest French Bordeaux and a not-your-typical California Chardonnay, crafted with crisp fruit flavors, vibrant acidity and a lingering finish. As you wind up the road leading to the main winery building in the middle of 1,200 acres, you time travel to a regal era of France as the main building is elegantly designed in the chateau tradition. From the polished woodwork to custom crafted tilework, every detail here is thoughtfully executed.

“Jordan has two personalities: the stately and pretty French chateau and the wild, rugged beautiful land and we wanted to make sure folks experienced both,” explains Lisa Mattson, Director of Marketing and Communications at Jordan Vineyard and Winery. “We added in the Estate Hikes a few years ago to expose people to the full Jordan experience.”

Yogurt with fresh fruit at Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Joined by my photographer-husband, John Ivanko, we jumped at the opportunity to join this hike and explore this field-to-glass journey at Jordan in mid-November, where the amber leaves on the vines after harvest created ripples of gold and auburn throughout the fields. The hikes cover about four miles and take about 2 to 2.5 hours to complete. It includes an initial breakfast stop to sample items like yogurt with candied kumquats and honey pollen from Jordan’s farm and apiary.

Autumn colors at Jordan Vineyard & Winery  

The hike concludes with a wine tasting paired with a bountiful buffet back at the chateau, including local charcuterie from Journeyman Meat Company in Healdsburg, quince paste with fruit from the orchard, and garden greens tossed with their Simple Salad Dressing. Even the roses on the table come straight from the field, with the farm and gardens run by the husband and wife team of Nitsa and Todd Knoll.

farm and garden manager with roses at Jordan Vineyard & Winery  

The heart of Jordan beats a commitment to sustainability. After a lengthy six-year committed effort to reduce energy consumption as low as possible, a 454-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system maximizing southern exposure sunshine now produces enough electricity to meet over ninety percent of the winery’s electricity needs. Native plantings surround the on-farm apiary to provide food for the bees during the leaner winter months. 

“We make wine here, but we try to do more than that,” says Jordan. “We are working to preserve Sonoma County in its original form and do it in a way that makes it accessible to people, which is why our experiences are designed the way they are.”

“We also have a soft spot for animals needing a home,” he adds with a grin, as he greets the menagerie of rescue animals on the farm – from miniature donkeys to goats.

 Simple Salad Dressing served on fresh greens at Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Simple Salad Dressing

Courtesy of Jordan Vineyard & Winery

The perfect addition to any fresh green salad or grilled vegetables, this simple salad dressing recipe is a favorite vinaigrette in the Jordan kitchen year-round. A pure olive oil dressing, it also complements the structure of Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay and frames its bright acidity. Feel free to cut the proportions back to your needed quantity. For a crunch, add some toasted almonds on top.

Yield: 4 quarts


• 2 tbsp Dijon mustard

• 1 small head of garlic (12 whole cloves, peeled)

• 2 medium shallots, roughly chopped

• 1½ cups sherry vinegar

• ½ bunch Tarragon, stemmed

• 1 tbsp salt* 

• 2 tbsp granulated sugar*

• 1 tbsp ground pepper*

• 2 cups Olive Oil, Jordan Extra Virgin recommended
* salt, sugar, and pepper can be adjusted to taste


1. Combine mustard, garlic, shallots, sherry vinegar, tarragon, salt, sugar and pepper in a blender.

2. On low speed, slowly incorporate the extra virgin olive oil to emulsify. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Note:  this vinaigrette dressing can be placed in tightly sealed containers and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam and millions of ladybugs.

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.

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