Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stored food Night - Chinese Savory Beef (Venison)

As promised, this is the first installment of "Stored Food Night" recipes.  One thing that you have to take into account when cooking and baking with stored foods is the amount of time needed to prepare them.  Unlike the majority of food we are used to eating, stored foods take time to prepare properly.  And truthfully, it is not that stored foods take a long time to prepare, it is that preparing "real" food takes time, just ask your Grandma.

For dinner this evening, I made Chinese Savory Beef (although it was actually canned venison), Sheepherders rolls, long grained rice, canned green beans and canned peaches.

I started with grinding the wheat to make the Sheepherders Bread and Rolls.  This is an old recipe that was given to me by my wonderful friend, Lady Titus II.  Her dad used to make this bread all of the time in a dutch oven over an open fire.  I used Hard Red Winter Wheat, as it has a sufficient gluten content to produce wonderful yeast bread.  This bread recipe is perfect for a stored foods supply because it uses no fresh ingredients!

I ground some of the grain in our Diamont hand grinder (with help), although, most of the wheat went through our electric Nutrimill grinder.  We can grind the grains by hand if we have to, but I am very thankful to have an electric grinder!  By the way, always grind your grain right before you want to use it.  Wheat begins to lose its nutritional value within 24 hours after you grind it.

Miss Calamity and the Diamont
(It would take about an hour and a half to grind
18 cups of flour grinding continually)
Freshly ground flour in the Nutrimill hopper
Dough after first rising
Rolls, fresh from the wood cookstove

Sheepherders Bread, crusty from the wood heat

Sheepherders Bread (Rolls)

6 C. Warm Water
1 C. Vegetable Oil
1 C. Honey
4 tsp. Salt
4 Tbl. Yeast
18 C. Flour (freshly ground wheat)

Combine the water, oil, honey, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl.  Stir to dissolve the yeast.  Allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes (sponge) to proof the yeast.  Add 15 cups of flour.  Turn out onto floured surface and knead.  Add flour as needed (dough gets very sticky).  Knead for 10 minutes (by hand - if you have a Bosch or other mixture, knead for 8 minutes).  Put dough into a greased bowl to rise.  Cover with a clean towel.  Let rise until double.  Punch dough down.  Let rise until almost double.  Punch down again.  Form into loaves or rolls.  Let rise until double.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until tests done.  (For raisin bread, I add 2 T Cinnamon and 1 C. raisins).

Bread takes practice.  The amount of flour that you use in any bread recipe depends on the amount of humidity in the air.  I always start with less flour than the recipe calls for and continue to add flour until the dough "feels" right.  It should be soft and pliable, slightly sticky but not sticky enough to stick to your fingers.  It is hard to explain, it is more of a feel thing, but with practice, you will learn the "feel".

After making bread dough, I put the jars of peaches in the snow to cool.  My family much prefers chilled fruit to room temperature fruit.

Later in the afternoon, I put the Chinese Savory Beef on to simmer.  I used canned venison rather than fresh meat, which requires very little cooking time.

Draining the liquid from the canned venison
Putting the meat into my Dutch oven
Putting in dried garlic and onion
Pouring the soy sauce
Pouring in the cornstarch (for thickener)
And here you have it!

Chinese Savory Beef (More with Less Cookbook)

Heat in heavy skillet or Dutch oven:
  2 T. oil or minced fat from beef
Add and quick-fry until brown:  (I didn't have to do this using canned meat)
  2 lb. lean beef, cut in 1 1/2" squares (may use very tough meat)
Add and quick-fry a few minutes:
  3 scallions, chopped OR 1 onion, chopped
  2 cloves garlic, crushed
  (I used dried onions and garlic from storage)
  1 C. soy sauce
  1/8 tsp. pepper
  6 C. water
  (I double the original amounts of liquid called for - I have already doubled it in this   recipe)

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 hours (I simmered mine for about 1 hour due to the meat being canned).  Add more liquid if needed.  Just before serving thicken with small amount of cornstarch stirred into water.  Serve over rice or noodles.

When fresh vegetable are in season, I love to put fresh cut broccoli in the Chinese Savory Beef at the last minute.

We made long grain white rice to go along with our Chinese Savory Beef.  It makes a wonderful accompaniment and most people have a supply in their stored foods.  We don't measure anything when we make rice.  We pour the appropriate amount of rice into a pot (generally about 3/4 C. per person) and fill the pot with cold water.  We wash the rice about 3 or 4 times, or until the water we pour off comes clean.  We then put water in the rice so that it measures one knuckle (on your index finger) over the top of the rice.  When we cook long grained rice, we fill the water to about 1 1/2 knuckles.  Put the rice on high (uncovered) and bring it to a slow boil.  When the rice boils, stir, cover with a tight fitting lid and scooch over to low.  Let the rice cook for 20 minutes (25 for long grained) undisturbed.  After 20 minutes, your rice will be cooked to perfection!

Measuring the water level with a "knuckle"
Stirring as the rice reaches boiling point
Perfect rice!
It is essential to cook with your stored foods.  Don't wait until you have to.  Store what you will use and like and know how to prepare it!  Your efforts will be lauded by your family and you will have confidence in your abilities when the grid goes down!

The Government Can!

This might take a while to load, but it is well worth waiting!  It sums up our currently political climate so nicely.

The indoor Pantry

Most of our stored foods, we keep in our container.  We just don't have room in the shouse for barrels and buckets and bags, oh my!  We do, however, have a set of racking in our bedroom (of all places!) to keep canned goods that would freeze in the container.  Over the months, it becomes a complete and total mess and I am left with no idea of what we have and what we don't have.

Generally speaking, we use what we can ourselves, but there are occasions that we run out of home canned goods.  Also, we like to stock up on grocery store canned items so that, in the event of a natural disaster, like an earthquake, we have something canned that won't break.

After cleaning and organizing our shelves (I know, I should have gotten a "before" picture!), I know what to put on my shopping list for my next day in town!

I cover the shelving with curtains
(it needs to look pretty, you know)

As you can see, we are woefully
short in some departments

Wood Cookstove Maintenance

For the past month, I have been using our cookstove for ALL of my baking and cooking needs.  I have been wanting to become very competent using the wood cookstove so that in the event that I have no choice, it won't come as a shock to my system.  I have used my stove off and on for years, but when it came to doing certain things, it was easier to use my propane oven.  I could just set a timer and go on about my business.  With a wood cookstove, you have to be actively involved in your cooking or baking.  You have to rotate pans, adjust drafts, cover foods so that they don't get too dark and sometimes even prop the door open when the oven it too hot.

I've been noticing that I have been having a hard time getting the bottom of whatever I am baking done at the same time the top is done.  The other night I made pizza's that were perfect on the top and nothing but dough on the bottom!  (Now I think I will cook them in a cast iron skillet on the top of the cookstove first and then pop them in the oven to finish baking!)

I was explaining my dilemma to Sir Knight (O.K., so I might have been complaining!) and he said, "I probably need to clean the ash out from under the oven so that heat can get through".  Of course.  Why didn't I think of that?

This is what we found when Sir Knight commenced cleaning...

The ash clean-out under the oven

Putting the ash clean-out door back in place

Lo and behold - the bottom is cooking so much more evenly!  I guess that even my trusty wood cookstove needs maintenance from time to time!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stored Food Night

I have recently been reflecting on the plethora of information regarding what foods to store for your preparedness lifestyle, but am noticing a huge void in the "what to make/how to make it" department.  In that vein, I am planning a "Preparedness Recipes" series that will give you an idea of what we store and how we use it.  In the following weeks, I will introduce a sampling of our recipes made entirely out of our food stores.  In the meantime, enjoy this glimpse into other folks "Stored Foods Night".

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
                                                           Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

The Blessings of Providence

God multiplies blessings upon blessings in our family.  We had the great joy of having my folks up for Thanksgiving.  The weather was cold and frightful, but our shouse was cozy, full of laughter and filled with blessings.  We reveled in the blessings of our family and our faith.  We thanked God for the ability to gather together, to pray and to enjoy one more Thanksgiving with blessed abundance.

Our stuffing in the "outdoor fridge"

Getting ready to put the extra stuffing in
the oven (yes, Mom brushed the snow
off first!)

Taking the turkey out of the oven

We made everything in our wood cookstove
this Thanksgiving.  Use it, use it, use it!
A thankful family gathering to pray
The aftermath!

We thank God every day for the abundance He has blessed us with and we pray that He will give us the wisdom to be good stewards of this abundance.

Canning Cream Cheese

NOTE:  Canning dairy products is not FDA approved.  These are my own experiments and not recommended for anyone else.  Do not try this in your own kitchen.

A few days ago, I posted random pictures of our life in a shouse and have found out that there are a lot of other people that would also like to can cream cheese.

Let me say, I have never canned cream cheese before this experiment.  I happened to come into a rather large quantity (35# to be exact) of cream cheese and was at a loss as to what to do with it!  Cream cheese does not freeze very well (the texture is never the same) and I have no way to use 35 pounds of cream cheese at one time, so I had to get creative.

My 35 pound block of cream cheese
I scoured the Internet and finally came up with an obscure reference to canning cream cheese (buried in another canning article) and thought I would give it a try.  I have changed the directions a bit (I found the other method to be more than frustrating!), but, so far, I have been very pleased with the result.

First, as when canning anything, wash and sterilize your jars.  My preference would be wide-mouth half-pint jars, but I used whatever I had on hand, which were mostly narrow mouth pint jars.

Sterilizing my jars
The canning instructions that I read, said to cut the cream cheese into chunks, put it in the jars, put the jars in an open bath canner with hot water almost up to the top of the jars and melt the cream cheese, adding more cheese until the jar was full.  After four hours and no noticeable difference to the cream cheese - I rejected this concept!  Instead, I turned my generator on and melted the cream cheese in the microwave.  Had my wood cookstove been on (I canned the cream cheese a couple of months ago) I would have put it all in a pot on my stove and melted it that way.

Preparing to melt the cream cheese
After the cream cheese was sufficiently softened, I scooped it into my sterilized jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace.  I wiped the jar rim, put freshly boiled lids on the jars and capped them off with a ring.  Then I put the jars of cream cheese into my water bath canner (filled with water), brought it to a boil and boiled the cream cheese vigorously for 40 minutes.  I then removed the jars from the canner and set them on a counter to cool.  That's all there is to it!

In the canner

Just out of the canner

The cream cheese canned wonderfully.  When you open a jar and stir your cream cheese, it becomes silky smooth and perfect to use in any of your recipes that call for cream cheese.  As I said, I only canned this cheese about two months ago, so, as of yet, I cannot attest to the long term survivability of home canned cream cheese, but I can say that, at this point, I am very pleased.

The next thing I am going to try is home canned Devonshire Cream (thanks for the idea Mom).  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Friday, November 26, 2010

There is a price to be paid...

Ten years ago, Sir Knight and I went off-grid.  We had toyed with the idea for years, but never seriously considered an off-grid life.  And then, we met the representative from the power company.

In order to have power run to our new shop, we had to hire an engineer from the local electric cooperative to tell us how much it would be to bring in power.  He met my husband at our property, shot the distance from the service hub to our shop and said that it would be  $9,899.00 for power and an additional $125.00 for his services.

We had budgeted about $5,000.00 for electrical service, not $10,000.00, so Sir Knight asked if we could hire a contractor, dig the ditch and run the lines ourselves.  The engineer said, "Nope, our equipment, our lines, our easement.  That way, when we want to run power to your neighbors house and cut across your property, you can't tell us to ***** off".

Sir Knight and I had a decision to make.  We could either accept the power company's demands, or we could stand on our principles.  We didn't believe that the power company had the right to dictate to us what they could do (and what we couldn't do) on our property.  We chose to make our own power.  We have paid the price.

We spent our first year and a half with no electricity.  We paid the price.  We spent thousands of dollars on generators.  We paid the price.  We spent more money on fuel than we ever would have for power.   We paid the price.  When our power goes out, we can't make a phone call and expect power to be restored.  We paid the price.  We continue to pay the price for our principles every day.  We made a choice.  That choice came with consequences.

I often wonder how many people are willing to pay the price for the choices they make.  Are people willing to stand on principle - or are they content to bellyache about their lot in life?

Unfortunately, it seems that people want to have their cake and eat it, too.  They want to complain about rights being ripped from them, but are unwilling to make a stand.  They want to protest and write letters and proclaim their displeasure, but they sure don't want to inconvenienced by actually standing on principle.

As I watch our rights being eroded by the very people we put in place to ensure our liberty, I mourn.  I mourn, not for the rights we once had, but for the character of the people that have allowed this tragedy.  I mourn the death of the American citizen that would rather die than forfeit liberty for security.  I mourn the staunch character that embodied this once great nation.  I mourn the fortitude of a people that would choose "right" over "easy", and were willing to pay the price for their choices.  I mourn our Nation.

Our country needs a few good men.  It needs men willing to say "this far, and no further". It needs men willing to stand on principle.  It needs men willing to pay the price.

As quoted in the painting above:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.  A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does his personal safety is a miserable creature  who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by exertions of men better than himself."

                     John Stuart Mill  1806-1873

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Blessings

I send a heartfelt "Thank You" to all of my wonderful readers this Thanksgiving day.  Perhaps I am a bit prejudiced, but I am quite certain that the folks who share in our life adventures through this blog, are very possibly the true salt of the earth.  Thank you all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

--William Bradford
Ye Governor of Ye Colony

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our life in Pictures

My impossibly cozy living room

A few pictures of life in a shouse....

Miss Calamity with her Pie Crust Cookies
(baked in the wood cookstove!)
Our Thanksgiving bounty of pies

Freshly canned cream cheese

Sir Knight teaching Master Hand Grenade
to sharpen knives

Venison right out of the canner

Master Calvin ran out of gas

Here is the rest of the story

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Loyalists and Patriots

In response to a reader's request, this is a repost of an earlier blog....

Miss Calamity (our eleven year old daughter) stunned me the other day with an incredibly astute observation.  She informed me that ours is a family of Patriots.  Now that statement, in and of itself, may not seem earth shattering, but it got me thinking.  If we were patriots, what were the people who staunchly support the entrenched establishment?  After thinking long and hard, I came to the conclusion that the supporters of the status quo must be called "Loyalists".

Looking up the definitions of both Loyalist and Patriot, I made a startling discovery.  The definition of a loyalist is:   One who maintains loyalty to an established government, political party, or sovereign, especially during war or revolutionary change.   Conversely, here is the definition of a patriot:  One who loves and loyally or zealously supports one's owncountry.  Do you see the difference?  One supports the established government and the other supports their country!  What a revolutionary idea!  Literally.

As I watch our State and Federal governments in action, I see a wholesale group of loyalists.  They are loyal to their programs, they are loyal to their pet projects and they are loyal to their pocket books.  Ultimately, they are loyal to themselves.  Nowhere do I see a loyalty to their country or their countrymen.

Patriots have become icons of terrorism.  They have been labeled as enemy combatants and dissidents.  They have been marginalized for their love of country and staunch support of the ideals on which this great country was built.  We, as Patriots have become the enemy.

We are a country divided.  The terms "Republican" and "Democrat" no longer apply.  We are either Patriots or Loyalists.  Lovers of government and tyranny or lovers of country and freedom.  We are being thrust into a new era, that is, in fact, but another chapter in the story of liberty.

As said by one of the Great Patriots:  Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

We stand on a precipice.  Patriot or Loyalist. Tyranny or Liberty.  Security (supposed) or Freedom.  We all make a choice, either consciously or passively.  Choose you this day who you will serve - the author of oppression or the Father of liberty.  Will you meekly serve your masters or are you willing to suffer and perhaps even die in the name of Liberty and Freedom.  Choose you this day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Essential Preparedness Tools of the Trade Part V - Attitude in Adversity

The generator pulled my chain this morning - again.  It's a great little beast, however, it does have some carburetor issues that need to be addressed.  Sometimes our generator purrs like a kitten and sometimes, no matter what I do, I can't keep the thing running.  Today, was one of those days.

My great desire is to be a woman with a quiet and gentle spirit.  I long to meet adversity face to face, smile gracefully, and do the next thing.  The reality of me is something different.  I get frustrated and irritated and start murmuring.  I think "no one else has to mess with their stupid generator" or "if only we would have taken care of this when we should have, this wouldn't have happened".  I become discontent and my focus becomes "poor me", making me ineffective in taking care of the business at hand.

As I sat stewing about my current problem, I started thinking about the life that we have been preparing for.  We have been stocking up on food, communications equipment, weapons and ammunition.  We have been cultivating skills to serve us in a grid down situation.  We have been canning, shooting and deepening our faith.  But, have we been molding our attitudes to deal with adversity?  Do we meet adversity with quiet faith and a can-do attitude, or do we moan and complain and say "it's not fair"!  Do we stomp our feet and throw a fit or do we stare adversity down and come out victorious?

Today, I decided to quit stomping my feet like a spoiled child.  A broken generator and living 10 years off the grid have taught me that adversity is a way of life.  Much more important than the adversity that comes my way is how I handle that adversity - that is the real test.  

It occurred to me that one of our greatest assets for a preparedness lifestyle is our attitude.  We can all have a great attitude when everything is going well and life runs smoothly - but the rubber meets the road when the difficult things happen.  We can choose to make our life easier or more difficult when adversity comes our way.  We can choose to throw a temper tantrum or we can choose to make the best out of whatever life throws at us.

Later this morning, after I had talked to God about my attitude, I tackled the generator again.  I filled it with fuel, leveled it out and pushed the power button.  You know what?  It purred like a kitten!