Friday, March 23, 2012

Sauerkraut the Easy Way

A friend of mine in Ohio got me interested in trying sauerkraut when we visited their family last month. She had a simpler (read: less scary )method than a huge crock with somewhat smelly contents so I thought I would give it a try. I'll save mass production for another time!

The first step is to drill a hole in a Canning jar STORAGE LID. I measured the rubber bung and drew a circle on the lid as a guide and drilled accordingly. Drilling from the inside of the lid out (which is opposite of how I took the picture) seemed to give me better control of the bit but it still wasn't dead center which doesn't really matter. I recommend a scrap piece of wood underneath your drilling area or a huge stack of newspapers which is what I did.

This is a common item in wine making stores called an airlock. It gets filled with water to create a barrier so the sauerkraut can ferment and gases escape but no air can get in to cause spoilage. The airlock is a very "expensive and sophisticated" piece of equipment costing all of $2.50 in total but was free for me because my friend gave it to me! A way to a friends heart...

Insert the airlock... into the bung... into the hole.. into the lid - sounds like a kids song coming on! Remove the plastic cap on the top and add water to the line that is midway down the airlock. Replace the cap.

Grate your cabbage to whatever size you prefer. I choose to go middle of the road and was able to use my madolin slicer to quickly do the job. A food processor with an attachment will work as will a sharp knife and a cutting board.

I used a 1.5 litre canning jar for this project and I was able to fit almost an entire head of cabbage in it. Layer the cabbage with a sprinkle of salt ( I used a combined total of approx. 1 Tbsp.) and use something to tamp it down to help release the juice. The salt will also help the juices to release. I was able to repurpose a wooden pestle from from fruit strainer but a wooden spoon or the end of a rolling pin could work too if it fits in the jar.

The picture above is what it looked like when I just finished packing it. It needs to be packed down tightly! I used a leftover piece of cabbage and cut it to form a plug at the top of the jar and then added a little bit of water to get the process going. Then I added the lid and waited.

I was told it would be ready in a few days but I've had mine going for almost two weeks. I suspect that temperature has something to do with it. It has been quite cool in the house. I also discovered that it needs to ferment in a dark place - or be covered up. Oops I didn't do that but it seems to have turned out fine. You can leave it as long as you like.

The taste test has revealed a sauerkraut that is far more crunchy and delicious than the rather soggy store-bought-in-a-jar kind. I like it but I'm going to leave it another week or so and check it again. When it has reached your desired level of crunchiness you just remove the lid and put on a regular storage lid and keep it in the refridgerator. It will last for months.

Sauerkraut literally means "sour cabbage" in German. This traditional method of preservation (in large crocks) was a way to keep cabbage over the winter. Fermenting also preseves the vitamin C and other vitamins and aids in digestion.

It's good for you, it tastes good AND it's a great preservation technique - what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to De-Skunk A Dog

Well - the inevitable happened. I worried about this many times over the years perhaps more than most "normal" people - and last night was THE night.

The trouble begins when Levi the Dog had to do his business at 3am. We trade off on night duty because no one likes to get out of a warm bed so DH let him out. We've TALKED many times about using a leash at night because we were worried about a skunk-encounter but you know how it need to find a rope and a clip and remember to hook it up in your half sleep-induced state - it SO-didn't-happen.

Since DH let him out I was in charge of letting him back in. OH oh. The dog came racing into the house and jumped up on his favorite chair before the aroma hit DH and he started to holler - GET-HIM-BACK-OUTSIDE!!!!

I was the lucky one who had to carry him back out and tie him to the cistern pump while he struggled to get away and I furiously tried to figure out what-we-were-gonna-do-now! Now the part this story that makes it especially interesting is the fact that I do not have sense of smell.  I looked up the official term: Anosmia (syn: anosphrasia)­ The medical term describing the total absence of the sense of smell, i.e., the inability to detect or recognize any vapor (including skunk-stench!).

Yup - that would be me - in the smell department.

Thankfully my worrying in the past paid off because I had come across an article a few years back on what-to-do in the case of a skunk-encounter (that didn't include the use of tomato juice which I know everyone SAYS will work but most of the reviews after the fact said it didn't help much at all and was very messy). I was thankful to quickly find the info which I had saved on my computer in OneNote (which is an amazing MS program!) under Disaster Preparations. How appropriate.

Secret De-Skunk Sauce Recipe:

1L bottle (large) hydrogen peroxide
1L of water
1/2 box of baking soda
3 tablespoons of dish washing liquid (Dawn apparently works best but I only had Palmolive).

Stir together and start soak the dog in it - do this outside - by wetting his fur thoroughly and continuing to work it through with a rag for a minimum of 15 minutes keeping it away from his eyes and mouth. We took pity on his freezing-furry-behindy and did the final long rinse in the bath tub. He came out clean-as-a-whistle and they tell me he smelled great - like he's just had a bath - no skunk smell at all! I don't think it was a direct hit - that might have required a double application and a clothespin for DH.

Of course he smelled fine to me to begin with! Imagine for a moment if I had been home alone...

Another disaster averted. My son asked me if I thought this would end Levi's skunk-chasing days...somehow I doubt it. The lady whose recipe I used said she was thrilled with the de-skunk sauce and she knew it worked really well because they'd already used it 4 times on their dog.

OH dear. Time to get that leash hooked up and resupply the De-Skunk kit.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Manual Grain Mill and why you need one.

My manual grain mill is finally set up in the kitchen. I decided on the Diamant after test-driving a few models in person at the store. I've heard many great reviews about the Country Living Grain Mill and it is a less costly choice but I decided on the Diamant because I liked the cast iron heavy duty-ness of it. It also turned with less effort than the Country Living. I was buying this one to last a lifetime and feel I have one that will be handed down to my kids. There are cheaper and simpler options and any option is better than none in-my-opinion while you're saving for the one you really want.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I have been wanting a grain mill for a few years. Most non-prepper-people would question my sanity at this point - what on earth for??? Stores carry huge bags of flour - if you really wanted to start baking your own bread - WHY NOT JUST BUY FLOUR OR BREAD AT THE GROCERY STORE?

Well - here are a few good reasons.

Flour purchased at the grocery store has a shelf life of about 4 months. If we assume for a moment that the flour was ground the day before it arrived at the store and you purchased it that very next day you would then have 4 months till it went rancid and that would be under optimal storage conditions. Most people don't even know what rancid flour tastes and smells like - that's because most people can't tell. I can't either just by looking at it. I can however tell when I've eaten something with old flour in it!! I have a wallop of an allergy attack.

In an earlier blog post I mentioned this article...Scientists have revealed some shocking truth about packaged flour ... Reports say that 50% of the nutritional value of grain is lost within first 24 hours of making flour, and of the remaining; another 50% is lost within the next three days. (

From a strictly financial standpoint buying wheat kernels and spelt kernels etc. in bulk is much cheaper than buying preground flour and it lasts for years in it's whole state without loosing nutritional value if properly stored. I buy mine in 25kg bags and store them in mylar with O2 absorbers.

Even OUR FAVORITE-UP-TILL-NOW cheap healthy bread made with whole grains and fiber is never less than $2.50 a loaf.

A manual grain mill doesn't require electricity - it does however require human-power and I was working my muscles to grind the 4 1/2 cups required for the Irish Soda Bread I made yesterday. Sorry - we ate 1/2 of it before I took the picture. It tasted great! I did bake it in the oven - not cook it on the stove. The mill could be electrified but what fun would that be!

The Diamant is able to grind all kinds of grains, rice, spices, sugar, nuts, seeds and coffee -someone asked me if it was a coffee grinder having never seen a grain mill - ah yes - but that would be a LOT of coffee!

Being prepared for periods without electricity and still being able to make my own bread etc. in the long term appeals to me. No electricity means no electric oven either but bread can be baked in a dutch oven over a fire or on a camp stove as well.

Here's one of my favorite basic recipes for Irish Soda Bread - you can use wheat instead of spelt and regular milk or powdered milk instead of almond milk and oil instead of butter so the recipe is quite flexible. These ingredients are very simple to store in quantity on the shelf so it's perfect for planning your food storage. I try to mix up the flours and grains we use to create variety and to get the benefits of some of the less common grains.

Now - get cracking with your food storage - what's in YOUR pantry?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Predictions of WW3

Most of you know me well enough by now to know that there are two topics I avoid discussing...religion and politics. The reason being is that neither of these topics seemed to be linked into the BASIC prepper mindset. Well, as far as politics is concerned, my opinion has now changed.

We are all aware of the predictions of 2012 being a turning point in human history. It has also long been predicted that WW3 would begin around this time, precipitated from the middle east. Well, now we have Israel itching to bomb the crap out of Iran in a preemptive strike to protect itself from a perceived threat of nuclear attack. When you take a look at the predictions, then a look at what is happening in the world today, it makes one stop and think.

Let's just assume that Iran has been developing nuclear technology for the sole purpose of energy. What would a military strike on these installations mean? Japan's recent disaster must have taught us something! And on the other hand, if Iran has developed nuclear weapons, the impact of military action would surely mean dire consequences.

It would seem that WW3 is a real possibility in the near future, should cooler heads not prevail in the current political arena. Am I trying to alert Canadians to the treat of nuclear missiles dropping on our heads? Absolutely not. But we can take a look at history and remember what war time has brought in hardships in the past. As military spending skyrockets, social spending suffers. Women began taking on jobs reserved for men back in the wake of the last world war. Metals and other resources needed to keep the war effort on track became scarce and rare to the population. Food shortages were a concern for all and frugality became the rule of household economics.

We, as preppers should be ready for what may become a reality. Remember your basic prepping and self reliance. Gardening, urban farming, cash and food know the list well. I in no way am saying that the world is about to be annihilated in a cloud of nuclear fallout, but that current political instability cannot be ignored.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Homemade oil lamp

I am a creative kinda gal and when I saw this idea I was intrigued. It's a homemade oil lamp made up of mostly things you might already have laying around the house and it's a simple 5 minute project.

I am concerned with the indoor air quality of our home and because I suffer from allergies to chemicals I was really excited to try this and see if I had a reaction. There's no scent (according to my kids) and it doesn't bother me at all! A perfect alternative to cheap tealights and much cheaper than purchased beeswax candles.

The idea came from an oil lamp kit I bought recently at Lehmans. (  The kit contained the wicks and a metal holder. The total height is about 3.5 inches. The circle on the bottom is important because it keeps the wick centered in whatever container you choose.

All you need is:

1. a heat proof container...a small tealight holder, a recycled glass jar or a pottery container would be perfect.

2. a wick - which is just cotton thread and if you don't have an offical wick around the house you could experiment with twisted cotton yarn or a rounded (as opposed to flat) cotton shoelace - the only downside is they may burn down quicker than a "real" wick.

3. the wire device as seen in the picture above or a large paperclip or a roll of wire if you're creative with the pliers.

4. some olive oil - expired oil works just fine and it's a good way to use it up. Other oils will work as well but some will produce more smoke than others.  Do NOT use kerosene in this lamp!

Thread the wick through the center of the wick holder and leave about a quarter inch showing. It should be snug enough to hold the wick with out it falling out but loose enough so you can pull the wick through it to adjust the length of the wick.

Make sure the wick will burn in the center of the container. The handle part is essential in re-lighting the lamp. It's important that the wick stands straight up - if it's crooked it doesn't burn as brightly or as long.

Add oil until it's about a 1/2 inch below the wick. Let is sit for a few minutes to soak up the oil and light with a BBQ lighter - matches will burn your fingers :)

This little lamp is about 2.5 inches high. It started out with about 1 1/4 inches of oil. It's already been burning for 5 hours and not even half the oil is used up. I am guessing it would run at least another 4 or 5 hours before it runs out of fuel.

As with any open flame use caution and common sense as to where you place your oil lamp and never leave an open flame unattended. For a layer of added protection place the jar inside a glass bowl or a crystal candy type dish.

Emergency lighting and so cute to boot!